Hey hashtag, may the force be with you

There has been a lot of buzz earlier this year about how Twitter is probably going to die soon. Several things about Twitter make us almost want to believe that the time has come for this social media giant, but has it really?

At The White House Correspondents’ Dinner just a couple of days ago, US President Obama mentioned Kendall Jenner, the Kardashian sister with over 17 million Twitter followers, admitting “I’m not sure what she does but I’m told my Twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.” When the most powerful man on the planet cares about his Twitter status, it’s reason enough to think twice before shunning your own Twitter presence.

Twitter isn’t just a battleground for political parties and public figures, people like me, or millennials, mostly start using Twitter to keep a track on what their favourite brand, celebrity or influencer are saying – all in real-time.

Initially, I personally treated Twitter as a public diary of sorts, where I shared all articles (even videos) I read up on-line. This way my followers could see what I was interested in and have the option of initiating a conversation with me too. Over the years, I’ve realized that Twitter can be your morning newspaper, your copy of Cosmopolitan and so much more beyond that.

What does Twitter have that others don’t?

Apart from real-time updates, Twitter is more about organic reach than any of the social media giants out there (thanks for the next-to-zero-organic-impressions, Facebook). It is also one of the few platforms that gives the audience direct access to decision-makers and even intrude conversations taking place between strangers.

In fact, people can utilize this platform to connect with people who have similar interests and goals. For instance, early April I participated in a #PRGuru Twitter chat on gender balance in Public Relations. This was a great opportunity to engage with people in the industry I look up to and better yet, share my views with them – directly. Connecting with role models and people who are making a name for themselves in the same industry as yours, gives you the chance to network and make new links – quicker and smoother than ever before.

This brings me to the main question of this article – Are brands wasting their time on Twitter advertisements or is it worth it?

On Twitter, brands have the chance to:

  1. Create a one-on-one connection with the customer
  2. Understand the audience demographics and online personality
  3. Build a long-term relationship with its audience by welcoming feedback at any given point of time, personalized customer-care services, engagement through media campaigns and interest generation via social media contests, new product launches and more

Is trending everything?

Every brand, big or small, wants to be seen. One approach is to trend on Twitter. But how useful is a trending hashtag? There are several digital marketing companies that generate engagement through conversation between a group of people or ‘influencers’ on Twitter. They use the required hashtag in their tweets to increase hashtag visibility.

No doubt, there are some ridiculous hashtags out there. In fact, I encourage you to share some of the most absurd ones you’ve come across in the comment section below for entertainment purposes, of course. Having said that, trending does serve a purpose, if done right. There have been several noteworthy viral hashtags like Housing.com’s #LookUp campaign, Prime Minister Modi’s #SelfieWithDaughter campaign, and the much-celebrated #ShareTheLoad campaign by Ariel – which was even shared on her social media by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

While trending might be the big prize in the end, it is important for brands to focus on the quality of content which prove to be the essence of media campaigns. As a brand, be sure to understand the audience contributing in creating your trending hashtag and the nature of the trending conversation.

Are you on Twitter? Follow me here.

Image courtesy – Pexels

Digital Transformation in India: Better late than never?

1.3 Billion vs. 1.4 Billion

In 2012, I was studying Mandarin in a part of Beijing known as a student’s hub – Haidian district is home to over 15 significant universities including Baidu headquarters. When you’re living in China, it’s hard to miss how the fashion sense of the locals grows on foreigners. The Chinese like to express their individuality through their appearance. And what better reason to shop when the clothes are cheap and there is too much variety?

I vividly remember thinking to myself about their obsessive shopping from Alibaba-owned TaoBao – a shopping haven similar to Amazon and eBay. Even on a freezing snowy morning on my way to class, I would pass minivans dropping off ‘packages’ right outside the university, creating obvious heaps of brown cartons.

In China, online purchases generated approximately $121 billion in sales in early 2011 and about 80% of all transactions were done on TaoBao. Were people in India ready to rely on online platforms to shop? Was a China like digital transformation possible in India? Even though there were companies that established similar platforms in India as early as 2012, I can hardly recount a friend or relative shopping online. But there’s always a first time for everything, right? Cut to today, everything from my shoes, clothes, electronics, even my next doctor’s appointment is booked online. But are we really there yet?

Here’s a fact that’ll tell you exactly how far we are – Out of 20 top Internet companies in the world 5 are Chinese, one each Japanese and English while the rest are American. Even though India ranks third globally in terms of the number of startups, why can’t we find ourselves in this list? Two major factors contribute to this – digital access and digital capability.

Even though there’s not much of a difference when comparing the number of people in the 2 countries, at the end of 2014 India had approximately one-third of the total number of internet users in China. The government has finally expressed the desire to promote the Indian startup ecosystem and we have a long way to go before the Internet reaches Tier II and Tier III cities. Clearly, digital transformation is still in-the-process of arriving in our country.

Coming to the digital capability gap, a staggering 25% of the Indian population cannot read and write compared to China’s 5%. Taking this into account, it’s safe to say that making Internet accessible for all Indians is more a need than want.

Digital transformation: Ready or not, here I come

Digital transformation is the development and implementation of strategies that help captivate and engage digital customers.

Here’s a simple way to describe why digital comes first today:

Say I move to a new city and plan my housewarming party, I hire a party planner. After the party, I look for a plumber. To find all these, I go online and search for the nearest service expert available and I come across Urbanclap, a platform that allows a person to find the best service professionals.

Here’s another example, I want to consult a doctor, but I want to be sure of his capabilities and expertise so that I know I’m going to the right one. What’s my first step? I Google search him. I will probably come across hospitals where he works, his LinkedIn profile or better yet his own website.

The previous generation was alien to the whole idea of going online to find the right people. While they relied on services they found via word-of-mouth, things have taken a digital bend today. We don’t need to talk anymore. All we need to do is ‘search’ online. And we open a world of patient reviews, years of experience, work locations, accomplishments and so on.

Pure convenience on your fingertips.

According to reports and statistics gathered over the years, digital transformation not only helps improve customer engagement but the sort of one-on-one experience that digital channels offer lead to a high percentage of customer satisfaction. Big companies, like Myntra and Paytm or startups like Innerchef and Fassos make sure they respond almost immediately to customer concerns with packaging, delivery or even service quality. Direct customer relations with the company not only help resolve issues fast but provide instant organic feedback from hundreds, thousands or even millions of customers.

Did you know that most companies do not have preconceived blueprint and execution protocol for content strategy? To engage customers, companies require fresh content on traditional and social channels. And to achieve the utmost level of customer satisfaction, the focal point doesn’t just fall on customer experience but additional rich sources of expertise from company culture bred employees and leaders, who create quality content that acts as a catalyst in building the company voice and brand.

Since this transformation is still in-process, we face an obvious roadblock when it comes to old-school company campaign strategies. To engage a customer, companies now need to allocate budget keeping in mind digital marketing besides offline marketing. The creation of an event is not just about location, sponsors and footprint but also about social media presence, Google Ads and online content. Turns out Paid Social is an integral part of digital transformation as it helps reach target audiences and build brands by retaining ads on social media giants.

Overcoming these limitations and evolving with new-age digital strategies will help companies build a brand, create engagement among their customers and deliver smoothly. Much like Huawei who recently announced innovative solutions for 4.5G, Internet of Things (IoT), 2K/4K video and Safe City. Question is – in a country where less than 2 companies out of 5 have taken their business online, how far is the digital transformation dream?

Originally published on BWdisrupt Businessworld.

Tweeting, Posting, Pinning – How Social Media is Changing Healthcare

An upper-class married woman in her early 30s’, Mrs. Kapoor (name changed) was surprised and slightly taken aback when she received a friend request from her help, Krishna. The story doesn’t end here. Since Mrs. Kapoor lives in a joint family, Krishna regularly uses Facebook messenger to ask everyone what they’ll have for breakfast from the comfort of his kitchen.

If this sounds alien to you, you will be shocked to know that according to Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the usage of social media in urban India has grown by 35%, (about 118 million users), while it has grown a whopping 100% in rural India (reaching over 25 million people) in one year. To further break it down, 96% of the masses are on Facebook, shortly followed by other social media giants like Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

We shop, we check our bank accounts, and we also check to see if the rash bothering us isn’t deadly – all online.

HealthWorksCollectives, the world’s best thinkers in healthcare, have some numbers for you. Out of 4 and a half hours that an average internet user spends each day online, about 3 hours of his time is spent on social media. Imagine the amount of content consumption! It’s not surprising that the healthcare industry has begun working its way into social media. To add to this, sources claim that about 40% of consumers believe the health information they found on social media.

Healthcare in social media is here to stay for more reasons than one: Medical professionals are interacting via social media to spread awareness on diseases, preventive methods, among other topics while patients are using this platform to share doubts, questions and receive health information. On a larger scale, public health agencies are using social media tools to schedule important campaigns and announcements.

Facebook – who doesn’t use it?

Once upon a time, this was a thing for youngsters. Facebook’s demographics are getting old, further giving accessibility to all age groups to health campaigns that are shared by hospitals and healthcare providers to create engagement and awareness. Credihealth, a healthcare startup, is one such example making a point to cover all health days and health awareness months, catering to both national and international audiences. Their most recent campaign was on World No Tobacco Day that used smart creatives to discourage youngsters from smoking.

140 characters of important information – Welcome to Twitter

Doctors, Hospitals and patients (or better yet twitteratis) are using this simple yet fast sharing platform to connect with like-minded people. Craig Hashi, who heads healthcare at Twitter revealed some intriguing statistics when he shared that 44 million cancer related tweets were sent out in the past year, even more so during Breast Cancer Awareness month.

“Pharma companies are the ‘slowest of the slow’ when it comes to changing their marketing strategy because they are so heavily regulated, but some are catching on to the trend of online video – Hashi said, giving examples of Novartis and AstraZeneca that have increased their presence on social media in the last 18 months.

There are new apps in the market like Periscope and Meerkat that allow people to stream live video through their Twitter accounts – this could be something that could change the direction of the market in the near future. In what sense? Well, for starters, any entity from the healthcare industry could advertise interesting content from a conference anywhere around the world in real time.

Social media on mobile phones is convenient, fast and influencing how people consume information resulting in a trend itself.

What’s trend-ier than sharing pictures of food, cats and clouds?

Instagram and Pinterest are the fastest growing social networks, no doubt. The healthcare industry players are sharing behind the scene snaps to establish a more personal touch with people. This also includes sharing patient journeys, promoting fundraising events and even medical techniques and procedures. While not everyone in healthcare is fully convinced to use Instagram, it’s hard to ignore 300 million monthly active users.

The future is expected to see healthcare companies integrating social media information to make customer interaction better and public health organization to reach out to the public quicker about important issues like vaccinations, new policies, diseases outbreaks and more. This will bring a sense of crisis readiness which means social media will act as an agent in informing doctors and hospitals almost instantly when a devastating event occurs endangering the lives of people.

After all, isn’t making lives better the whole point behind creating a technology that connects us?

Previously published as a guest post on iamWire.

5 Reasons Why People Reject Your LinkedIn Invite

Don’t deny it. You reject a few invitations on LinkedIn based on criteria you got going. Here are 5 main reasons I find myself and my friends put off by some profiles.

1. No Picture

Or even worse a picture with sunglasses. What’s the point? Noone can see your face and apparently this is the only “professional” picture you have of yourself.

Another reason could be that Mr. or Ms. Professional didn’t care enough to put up picture with the right resolution. Even worse, a group picture. This is not Facebook. LinkedIn is a professional platform, professional pictures only please.

2. Name?

Is it just me or some people don’t even find time to type their names properly?

Example – rajesh sharma or Rajesh S.

Mr. Rajesh did not bother signing himself up in capital first letters. Very professional Mr. Sharma, nice to meet you too. (not)

3. Designation

Okay, while this isn’t my criterion per say, it does say a lot about how people want to build their LinkedIn network. Some people don’t like to add people of a lower designation than their own. Ouch.

4. LinkedIn Profile

Is it complete?

I personally take out time to go through my fellow inviter’s profile page. It helps to see experiences & qualifications, in addition to a few lines in their summary. For me, personally, more the number of recommendations, more the credibility of the concerned person.

5. Are you from my field?

Again, some people are more open to accepting invitations from people from their own industry. Doctors have more doctors on their list, healthcare professionals tend to have similar people with similar backgrounds on theirs.

It most definitely helps to see a few familiar faces as mutual connections.

Does this trend seem familiar?

Of course, different people have different reasons to accept or reject invites. If you’ve faced many invite rejections, don’t forget that rejections are a part of life and… well, there are plenty professionals in the sea. What’s the worst thing you could do? Send an invite again. Don’t be that guy.

Image source- flikr

2015: All About Your Social Profile

Back in 2014, how did I get my job as a content developer? Not my graduate degree, not even my super oriental Diploma – but the blog that I starting writing while studying (and traveling) in China got me a job.

Living in the internet-era, it has become increasingly important for a person to have a social media standing. For example, a friend of mine graduated in a journalism course and it turns out the first few questions her boss asked her whether she was on LinkedIn and if she had an active Twitter profile.

Surprising right?

Today, YouTubers have a career earning much more than what they could have with their degrees. Take for instance, Jenna Marbles who fake cries every now and then with her degree wrapped around her arms, all in good humour. With millions of subscribers and fans all over the world, Jenna Marbles is doing more than great. All thanks to YouTube.

Similarly, other YouTube celebs like Superwoman, JusReign, Ray William Johnson have made a brand out of themselves. Each one unique, bringing their own charm in front of the camera, mostly from the comforts of their homes. These social profiles not just on YouTube, but also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram- People can not get enough of people.

Jennyandteets2 aka Jason Bigg’s wife is keeping me busy laughing every now and then with her IG posts of her newborn- absolutely hilarious.She even recorded herself in labour- in the hospital- about the deliver. Now she’s happily breastfeeding and joking about her new parenting ways.

There’s one other person in this list who made it big for themselves, all thanks to her ever growing subscribers and fans, and again, from all over the world. Michelle Phan. With millions of fans and hundreds of make-up tutorial videos in her bag, she went for her dreams and started her own make-up line. Now, that’s brilliant. Bringing us back to- Social Profile. 

I started blogging out of sheer attempt to just get my opinion out there- somewhere in the matrix of the massive virtual world of the internet.

After sticking to blogging a bit more regularly, and finding myself in the middle of an alien community in Beijing, I slowly saw the impact my articles have made in building my own profile internationally. This community isn’t confined to blogs- it stretches out to all social media giants. This connectivity makes it even more exciting because it leaves the possibilities endless.

Swinging from writing travel logs to international relations to philosophical existence, I’m enjoying writing more than ever before.

5 Major Social Media Impacts In 2014

Recently Facebook completed 10 years of its existence.

Believe it or not, 10 years have gone by since you set up our Facebook profiles, filling them up with personal pictures and videos. Amidst the infinite internet matrix, seems like everyone has found a place where they can speak their minds- be it through this social networking site, or any other- like Twitter, YouTube or even Instagram. With the whole world engaged, it was inevitable that companies, small or big, started showcasing as well as promoting their products through these Social Media Giants.

Ultimately speaking, Social Media has now turned into a platform where the active display of personal interests is used as an advantage by start-ups to well-established companies to directly get to its customers.

#1 High Social Profile Government… Really?

Not just shopping but in Politics as well, Social Media is becoming an important direct communication medium with the public and the Indian politicians are beginning to understand this.
Not so long ago, then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram connected with the public through not only Facebook or Twitter, but also Google+ Hangouts. While some are keeping up with this trend like Modi who has about 2.3 million Twitter followers with 4.4 million Facebook ‘likes’, others like the Gandhis seem reticent.

#2 I Know Where Bipasha Basu Partied Last Night!

Like never experienced before, you can now get a quick news update through a tweet or your newsfeed. Celebrities have found a way through Social media to connect to fans and maintain public relations.
Be it an occasional Instagram post by Madhuri Dixit Nene sharing a moment from behind the scenes of her set, or Nikhil Chinapa updating his fans about his vacation in Cambodia on Facebook, or even just Mumbai celebs stuck in perpetual traffic jams updating their frustration in one line on Twitter, one can’t complain about how Social Media is bringing the world virtually closer.

#3 Hello Online Shopping!

I can now find several Facebook ‘pages’ selling everything from jewel accessories, gorgeous saris to even properties. Shopping portals such as Jabong or Flipcart are constantly promoting themselves through social giants like Facebook only to end up attracting hundreds, if not thousands of customers every day. Though a relatively slow pick, Indians are now happily logging in to shop.

#4 Display Your Opinion: It Matters

Our friend Facebook thinks fast. Just before the largest democracy voting, Facebook launched it’s “I voted” check-in. All of the sudden there was the need to share your finger selfie, showing your support and interest in your country’s future.

#5 Resources For Entrepreneurs

Crowd sourcing is now a major way to receive funding for your startup, through social media. Enough said.
Another Social Media giant is YouTube which has been around relatively longer than Facebook but somehow stills maintains its importance and individualistic approach to social networking.
This site is not just used to watch famous saas-bahu serials for Indian television lovers abroad, but YouTube is also being used to upload and share audio-visual projects by students. For instance, a prestigious film university based in London asks its prospective students to display their talent by creating and sharing a video. A scholarship is awarded to the most popular video, i.e., the video with maximum ‘likes’ and comments. Polls and surveys are now easier to conduct as access to the public is more convenient- faster and inexpensive.
People are using this Social medium to demonstrate their skills like singing, playing a musical instrument or even act out a role. In other words, reaching your targeted audience has never been easier.
Be it companies, consumers, customers or students, everyone is enjoying the perks of Social Media and looking forward to what else there is in store for the future.