Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are Indian Businesses Ready for Social Media?

Consider this: India ranks among the top twenty users of Facebook in the world. Among the seven major metros in the country, Delhi leads the pack with approximately 39 to 40 percent Facebook users, followed by Mumbai with around 25 percent. About 66 percent of these users fall under the age group of 19 to 40 years. Typically this is the age group that influences purchasing decisions.  Social media reaches out to nearly 60% online Indians.  So are Indian businesses ready for social media?

With numbers like these, they sure ought to be. 

Most businesses in India are still too unsure or shy of testing the social media waters. Unless of course they are youth oriented brands like Fastrack, for instance. A major reason could be the building of a new team to handle the online activity. In most large corporations, where people have pre-defined roles to the T and several channels for decision making, setting up a separate wing for social media management requires additional cost and can take quite a while.

Having said that, there are those who have successfully entered and made the most of the social media arena- Maruti Suzuki took to various online forums and networking sites announcing the launch of Ritz while Tata Nano interacts with several users on Orkut and Facebook. Grant Thornton’s International Business Report notes that 64 percent businesses in India use social media in some capacity- usually for advertising or for the purposes of consumer interaction. As an emerging market, it is perhaps easier for the country to adopt a new marketing phenomenon as compared to developed economies which seem to have already exhausted many such avenues. Indian businesses are most certainly geared to make the most of social media. To what extent, is a wait and watch scenario.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why it’s time to shift your B2B marketing from “traditional transactions” to “Social engagement”?

In my decade long career one thing that I’ve learnt about business and moreover marketing is that they are more or less synonymous to being social. This engagement has been taken to a much stronger levels with the acceptance of Web2.0 and Social Media as the most powerful and efficient communication channel today. My fellow marketers have completely ensured that their brand is visible on every possible social network available today. What possibly worries me is that a majority of them still have the primary use of Social Media as just another channel to push messages to their so called “target market”.

I think that there is a huge gap amongst brands in terms of using the available social media tools and having an effective strategy to monetize their efforts. This was proved by a quick survey where majority of the CMO agreed that they are struggling in context to the below 3 challenges in addressing their social media marketing woes:
  1. Lack of skilled resources
  2. Lack of defining a proper ROI on their Social Media Marketing efforts
  3. Lack of an effective engagement methodology to enable positive sentiment

One marketer I interacted with recently believes that Social Media is only useful for B2C marketing and the gimmicks that B2C marketers use would never work for B2B. In fact this made this person assume that Social Media is not ment for B2B marketing. To some extent I must confess that the first half of the statement is true but would strongly disagree to the latter half of the statement as B2B and B2C marketing is both about people-to-people communications and eliciting emotional responses, which social media is perfect for doing. At the same time I must emphasize the fact that I’m not advocating the “One-Size-fits-all” mindset; every organization is unique in its own ways and has its own dynamics at work. This is where an effective strategy fueled by the right data plays a vital role in monetizing your business goals the social way!

Yet another interesting incidence that I’d like to share was when I was giving a presentation to a marketing team a few days ago and one of the senior member representing the company said that their buyers are too old, too senior and too busy to be on Facebook or any Social Network for that matter, but we were able to show him that their demographic of buyers do use or want to use social media if they are learning about business solutions the company sells. A recent whitepaper by Forrester on B2B initiatives shows that business decision makers use social media for business purposes, and when it comes to creating content and sharing opinions; they do it more for business than personal reasons.

Social Media can be harnessed for generating demand, but you have to recognize how it is different from other marketing channels. One highly distinguishing advantage Social Media has is that it has a two way dialog between the buyers and sellers unlike the other marketing channels which are monolog in nature and have a longer ROI as investment is heavy.

To summarize on how B2B marketing goals can be achieved via social media – Social Media is all about relationships and sentiments, it requires one to engage in two way interaction and engage regularly; it is realtime and so one needs to be monitoring the sentiments and conversation to consequently take necessary action and tactical strategy; it enables to amplify traffic and ROI to other channels – this according to me is the icing on cake advantage of Social Media as a Marketing and Communicating channel.

B2B marketers that take a more systematic approach have a huge opportunity to cast a wider net than ever, and use the fact that people are connected to the things and people they care about to reach people, draw them in, and build brand preference early in the buying cycle. But to do it, one has to be more systematic and strategic.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Social Media makes the Brands Tick! Find out how...

Why should brands embrace Social Media?
Internationally, more and more brands today find social media marketing a great way to establish a personal connect with their customers. And though the trend is beginning to pick up here in India only recently, the past year has already proven its power to change marketing tactics.

Check this out- based on the number of fans, followers, likes etc., the Social Media Brand Equite Ranking (SMBER) index by NM Incite revealed
  • Samsung generated enough online buzz to topple India’s favourite cellular giant
  • Nokia, from its popularity pedestal in 2011. 
  • In the automobile industry, Ford tipped Maruti.
  • Flipkart seemed to have cemented its presence as the desi ebay.
Not only do these brands have a strong presence on social media sites, they are as active in engaging visitors as any other international brand. Of course there are a few more things they can do to match the competition. For instance,

The Viral video
The success of Kolaveri has introduced the average Indian to the concept and grasp of the viral video. Sure, there were those few that crop up every now and then, like the True Roots video that managed to plug in 277,287 views, but nothing quite like Kolaveri. The song created a brand for the movie much before its release.

Dove’s ‘real beauty’ campaign too was very popular on social media sites. And I think it’s time more Indian brands used this medium to match the might of its international counterparts. 

A Challenge
Dare your Facebook and Twitter users with a challenge and see where it leads. It’s not about the grand reward here. For the users, the invitation is belonging to a clique; for the brand, it is the free word of mouth publicity.

Okay, no rewards is no good either! Fastrack- a leading fashion retail chain store for the youth- decided to celebrate its fan base of 1 million on Facebook. They held a one day only flat 50% discount sale at all their exclusives stores across the country.  The news was promoted only through word of mouth on their Facebook fan page.  And the result:  stores at many places ran out of stock in just a few hours and the traffic police had to be called in for crowd control in Mumbai.

In what other ways do you think Indian brands can use social media to their advantage to compete in the global services market?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How Virtual Classrooms Impact Education

Learning has taken on an altogether new meaning and approach with virtual classrooms or, as I often call it, distance education in real-time avatar. Skype, Youtube, Schooltube and a plethora of other learning tools today is helping classrooms move towards creating a global education community.

Consider this- a school in the United States that is learning about say, Mahatma Gandhi, logs onto Skype in the Classroom and connects to a class in Mumbai that is studying about the freedom struggle. Not only are they exposed to information that is perhaps more authentic, both the students and the teacher can pose their questions to their learning partners here in India and receive immediate response.

You can also connect through sites such as to share and engage students in group activities just as on Facebook or Twitter, providing a safe virtual environment for children to learn.

Virtual classrooms such as this can help create a web of educational interconnectedness that can only make the students smarter.

Because students participating in a virtual classroom not only increase observational power and acute understanding of things, they are motivated to actively seek out information online then hunting through a big fat encyclopedia. It makes learning fun. Period.

A virtual classroom doesn’t take away from the effectiveness of the physical classroom. If anything, it only makes it more fun and adds to the lecture. Play a pre-recorded video of the day’s session. Pause the video if a student has a question and get back to session without losing enthusiasm or your train of thought. You can then use the rest of the class time for activity, worksheets or exercises relating to the subject.

I wish…
That schools here in India upgrade their systems to include virtual education. We don’t have the concept of a field trip in this country. It’s too much money spent and too much responsibility for the teacher. Which is why virtual field trips can do really well here. Imagine the entire fifth grade of a school in Pune visiting the Niagara Falls without budging from their seats. It certainly would make subjects like Geography a little more engaging, don’t you think?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why Your Employees Should be Social Media Savvy

Are your employees active social media users? About 15 years ago, when computerization boomed its way into corporate houses in India, executives were put through training so that they could discover the life altering ways of Microsoft Office, Lotus and Google. I think it’s time to put employees through training programs to tap the business effective and ethical use of social media at the workplace.

How often have you come across angry rants by employees against their bosses, or casual sharing of classified information on networking sites? These are precisely the sort of things you need to caution your employees against rather than punishing them by swearing off social media completely. I find that a tad regressive in an age when social media features so prominently in our day-to-day affairs. Recent findings have shown that Microsoft and Google have some of the most social employees. Doesn't seem to have come in the way of them being corporate giants now, has it?
  • Set up a company network to encourage knowledge sharing. Your workplace after all is a community too. And social media has more to it than sharing photos and ‘what-I-just-ate’ updates. Exchange of relevant information on networking sites helps make your office smarter, increases communication and cohesiveness and, creates a healthy work atmosphere. Workers may find it a better way to send memos and notices through Facebook or Twitter. And appreciating an employee on a social networking site can be a great way to boost morale too.
  • It is innate human nature to socialize with colleagues and peers in an organization. Friending or following an employee online doesn't get in the way of productivity. Rather, studies have found that workers who take short breaks on the internet are more productive than those who don’t. Let your employees be your brand ambassadors by posting regular news and updates online. Market surveys too are quicker through online polls; and sharing comments helps to know what your consumers are really looking for.

Social media can positively impact your workplace, if you know how to work it to your advantage. Train your employees to use it better and your business is sure to benefit from it too. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Social Media Can Help You Be Fashion Forward

You know I often wonder that if designers had the means to gauge public opinion in the pre-social media era, would fashion crimes such as baggy pants, platform sneakers or shoulder pads, ever exist?

Today, networking sites, style blogs and such other social media avenues have given shopping for clothes a real facelift. Trends can catch on as fast as a viral video thanks to online sharing. And designers too acknowledge the voice of the consumer rather than simply thrusting a creation in their face.
I couldn’t help noticing four significant ways by which social media helps lead fashion trends.

1. Almost all the major fashion houses, retail chains and independent designers actively engage consumers through regular posts and updates on their latest collections. By encouraging comments from viewers they may also be able to determine the success rate of a trend even before it is introduced into the market.

2. Many designers and retailers today intelligently use the medium to find out and give the people precisely what they are looking for. Take Marc Jacobs and Ann Taylor for instance. After several consumers tweeted about wanting plus size clothing from Marc Jacobs, the designer decided to launch a line dedicated to women over size 14. LOFT by Ann Taylor too introduced a range of sizes in pants after women posted comments on Facebook pointing out that the said pair looked great on tall skinny models alone.

3. With a constant eye on the latest fashion hits and misses, celeb style watch and, attractive hauls & giveaways, several women on Youtube have been able to establish themselves as fashion gurus. These women are not only popular but somewhat opinion makers too. Style blogger Dulce Candy was even featured in Seventeen magazine.

(Source: You Tube)

4. I think the best thing about social media and fashion however, is the way it has opened doors for many young designers looking for inexpensive ways to reach out to potential customers. With an online existence, constant sharing of ideas and ready feedback, small scale designers can establish a sustainable business with the help of social media.

In what other ways do you think social media can influence fashion trends?

Introducing TheSocialPeople's Facebook Time

Facebook rolled out Timeline for brand Pages and coming March it would be opened to all. TheSocialPeople welcomes this new change & is proud to update ours.

Since the time when Facebook launched its timeline version for personal profiles we’ve closely chronicled reactions to the switch. While there are many people out there who are disappointed with Facebook’s new avatar, the change to Timeline has been eye-opening and emotional for others.
We must admit our experience lines up with the latter.

Upon adopting the timeline version Timeline, we rediscovered the fact on how much loved TheSocialPeople has been amongst our fans and their 2nd degree network. We also realized another fact that our Brand Page is just 3 months old but still has over 60 and growing well wishers on a daily basis; this is truly overwhelming and an emotional realization for us. We learnt that our fan page has done everything from being our biggest brand ambassadors to being an outside advocate to help be become better and better every day by touching lives and businesses. With adopting the new timeline we’re excited to form our digital scrapbook in real time — right along with you.

Without you, TheSocialPeople wouldn’t be what it is today.

In the coming weeks, we’ll update our cover photo to represent our thought leadership ideas about how social media would make a difference to our individual lives and businesses. We belive it’ll be an easy and appealing way for you to empathize our passion towards what we do – Social Media Strategy & Analytics.
Also do let us know on what do you think of our new Timeline so far? We’re always open to suggestions, so please let us know what kinds of posts or cover photos you’d like to see from us in the comments below. We look forward to connecting with you via Facebook Timeline!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Digital Learning- Youtube in Classrooms

Growing up in the 90’s, there weren’t a lot of audio visual aids in schools to supplement learning. Educational videos played on the VCR were restricted to nursery rhymes and basic counting.

Cut to the present- Youtube makes a grand entry into classrooms giving students access to a plethora of information from around the world.
Take Youtube Edu for instance. It hosts hundreds of videos from several universities that include lectures, research and speeches by world famous personalities. Often online lectures are part of the university coursework and one can gain access to such material from leading institutions like Stanford, MIT or the Indian Institute of Technology.

Teachers too seem to find it a great way to further explain a subject. Youtube for Schools draws material from Youtube Edu, giving access to school teachers to create educational playlists. Children can watch these videos minus the distraction of cartoons, music or adult content unsuitable for their age. Teachers can also save plenty of search time on Youtube Teachers where educational videos are segregated according to subject and grade levels. By streamlining what children can view online, it provides a safe and vibrant learning atmosphere.

One may record a math or science lecture and upload it on Youtube for the students to review at a later time. If you’re learning about say the ancient Harappa or Greek civilization, a video can help explain better than a textbook. Even those who may not otherwise fare well have been found to respond better to audio visual content and do better than before. You could also prescribe videos for students to watch at home and use the time in school to answer doubts and questions. Whether it’s Show and Tell, class presentations or even guest lectures- Youtube is a creative, fun way to learn. And best of all, it’s free.

I wonder though how feasible this movement would be in India where basic infrastructure needs to catch up let alone internet access in every class. Although a few select schools might be taking baby steps towards a digitized classroom, do you think such a model would work well in the Indian context?