The X Factor – Personal Branding

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even SnapChat are social media giants being used by individuals to connect with others, network and create their own image, ultimately, develop their own brand. Going back to how I got familiar with Personal Branding, when I was working in a startup’s Public Relations department, it was up to to me how we got out there – what we said, how we said it and what the company image looked like.  This was my first dive into Corporate Branding.

Within a short period of time, it was quite evident that creating a brand out of a healthcare organization was going to be relatively tougher than it is with others since the making of a health related brand requires the utmost level of human trust. This comes from ticking a bunch of checkboxes one of which being personal connection with the customer.

Paarul Chand, Editor, PRmoment India mentions the emerging significance of Personal Branding, “Among communication consultants, I am seeing a rising trend of professionals maintaining their own brands online. No longer are they content to be just behind the scenes coordinators. I often find such platforms useful sources of information about the world of PR. In a world where emotional connect matters as much as the sales connect, it is inevitable that the personality of the person doing the selling will come into play.”

Do you have what it takes?

Saurabh Uboweja, Founder, CEO and Chief Brand Strategist, Brands of Desire recently launched a first-of-its-kind online learning platform called Branding Institute to educate entrepreneurs, leaders and managers who want to build dominant organizations using the power of branding. He said, “There are many areas where a person might excel but the struggle remains to take the call and choose one. This is because being a jack-of-all-trades is the biggest downside for someone building a personal brand. When a person does set his mind to develop his brand around a specific domain, it should be something that comes natural to him – there’s absolutely no beating around the bush.”

Why Personal Branding?

People trust brands because they are brands.

But foremost, people trust people.

According to a survey conducted by a New York City based social media agency called Brandfog, CEOs who are active on social media are perceived as better leaders who can build better connections which employees, customers and investors.

Personal branding is synonymous with reputation and that’s what makes it so powerful.

The idea is to customize the product or service according to the company brand.  Taking a brand like Facebook, where Sheryl Sandberg oversees human resources, public policy, and communications among other departments, her personal branding revolves around women empowerment – further making use of her position to raise the issue of equal pay at workplace. This is a clear case where personal branding can be seen influencing the existing face of company to a more gender-friendly brand.

Paarul further adds, “With the entry of the start-up culture in India has come the concept of personal branding that helps sell a product, a service, an organisation. It’s hard to separate the personalities of co-founders of organisations such as FlipKart, SnapDeal from the organisations themselves. Internationally, too, you can see this in the impact storied entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk have on their brands like Telsa. It’s not surprising then that this is percolating into the non-start up world as well.  When it goes well you have brands such as No Nasties (where the personal commitment of the founders towards helping cotton farmers is tied strongly with the brand’s value proposition), Ratan Tata (whose personal integrity has a strong impact on the trust with which Tata companies are perceived) and Raghuram Rajan (whose personal credibility lent so much to RBIs policies). When it goes wrong you have a Rahul Yadav (Housing.com), a Donald Trump (who is doing incalculable damage to the idea of American democracy).”

Personal branding is subtle yet the results are extraordinary.

A brand is created over timeThere’s a lot of ground work that goes on to bring the focus on the brand:

  • Developing and working around a real-time calendar on industry news and trends;
  • Creating content around researched keywords relevant to anything from personal experiences, country and global concerns;
  • Persistent efforts and long-term commitment to these tasks with the help of social media platforms increase readership among the target audience, which facilitates customer loyalty and indirectly impact company website SEO and ultimately revenue.

 

When compared to corporate branding, personal branding is rather unpredictable.

Does it matter how many times a founder publishes an article on LinkedIn in a week? The answer is no. Prior planning is not instrumental, in fact impromptu ideas are more than welcome. In conclusion, personal branding is unpredictable especially since it’s based on how a person interacts with another.

No medium is the right medium.

Some medium might work well for one, while another medium may work well for someone else. A brand that comes to mind – Shradha Sharma. After the launch of YourStory, she came out as the real storyteller. Through self-written articles she shares on LinkedIn, she is honest, inspiring and down-to-earth.  She is active on all social media giants, especially Twitter where she has over 52K loyal followers. She is the perfect example of how Personal Branding aids Company Branding. Not that YourStory needs it (116K followers) but the fact that the founder is so vocal and focused on what she aims to achieve with her company is what makes it so appealing.

More and more influencers from all over the globe are focusing on developing themselves as a brand. While corporate branding is indispensable, Personal Branding is key in helping a person stand out in a sea of people and emerge as an expert in his domain. But does the increasing importance of personal branding mean that one day it might overtake the significance of corporate branding? Only time will tell.

 

Originally posted on Inc42 media.

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.

Modi in Silicon Valley 2015 – What this means for the Indian Startup Ecosystem

Were you aware that the Indian startup ecosystem has reached approximately 2 million high-tech employees in about 14,000-19,000 startups?

With these staggering numbers, India has earned its reputation as the global tech Mecca (according to a U.S.-based research firm’s Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking).

The Indian startup boom is hard to ignore and caught the eye of our very own Prime Minister.

Narendra Modi might have his share of critics back home but he sure is a political celebrity among NRIs. The first Prime Minister of India to give fresh impetus to the Indian startup ecosystem, I won’t deny, I was curious to see how he would do.

At the Facebook headquarters, hearing ‘chak de India’ playing in the background as Modi and Facebook CEO Zuckerberg took their respective seats was definitely a patriotic touch that worked wonders with the present crowd. While most political officials rarely ever gather an audience in 4-digits in their home countries alone, Modi managed to attract a staggering 18,000 people at this unprecedented town hall in sunny California. While sharing a story about his initial days of struggle Mark narrated the story of how his mentor—Steve Jobs suggested he embark on a journey to visit a temple in India, while Modi revealed his insights on the marvels of technology—in hindi—which I found to be an especially interesting choice to make.

Fast forward to his speech at San Jose’s SAP arena in Silicon Valley was an unflinching attempt by the small-town Gujarati amidst tech luminaries like Shantanu Narayan of Adobe, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, John Chambers of Cisco and Sundar Pichai of Google.

Nadella modi

Nadela revealed an incident from his recent trip to a classroom in a rural setting of Nanyuki, Kenya where a group of students were engaged in a Skype conversation with another classroom located in a rural part of Andhra Pradesh, India. Satya Nadela elaborated on his vision to build data and cloud infrastructure – developing smart cities in India. This being apt to Modi’s quote on the Internet of Things “it’s been a long journey in a short time”. Think about how many doors this sort of technology opens in the healthcare sector alone. An experienced surgeon in a metro city can now instruct, guide and train doctors in Tier II and Tier III cities in real-time. In others words, it is now possible for a doctor sitting in one corner of the world to treat patients thousands of miles away through digital healthcare.

With Nadela committing to support the Indian government to provide broadband to 5 lakh villages across India, Qualcomm’s Executive Chairman Paul E Jacobs took this opportunity to announce $150 million fund dedicated to the Indian startup ecosystem. This chip-making giant is already involved in several projects in India – one such project is with the National Health Mission, to help frontline health workers assess sick newborn babies, with the ultimate goal to decrease high mortality rates. This project is one of several in the mission to change India’s current status as the top country with the highest under-5 mortality rate.

Acknowledging the vast potential of the Indian startup ecosystem, Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO accredited the progress of startups like FlipKart, Snapdeal, Zomato and Quikr – a few big names from over 3000 upcoming startups in India. He also took this opportunity to announce Google’s plans to enable Wi-Fi Internet to 500 railway stations, which will inevitably hugely contribute to Internet penetration in India.

Unfettered, Modi stood high and mighty with the tech giants of Silicon Valley with the aim to start Indian entrepreneurship and connect the country’s ecosystem with Silicon Valley. This visit is expected to digitally empower Indians, promote tech investment massively, ultimately leading to more investments and more jobs.

While it might be too soon to say that India may replace China as Silicon Valley’s frontier, the startup ecosystem is undoubtedly set to grow, generating employment for more than 250,000 people by 2020. President of the US-based startup accelerator YCombinator, Sam Altman showed his confidence in the Indian startup ecosystem by stating that he foresees India coming up with multiple $10 Billion startups in the next five years. With so much of time and most importantly – increasing dollar inflow, Modi’s stint may just have taken us one step closer to becoming a superpower.

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

4 reasons why you should bust your a## in a start-up!

When working in a start-up, you’re not just a part of the company, you’re also building it. Your list of responsibilities never end and neither do your meetings. Your boss is never satisfied, even though you put in 3 Saturdays a month. Startups are all about… well, more.

Its been 6 months since I joined Credihealth, and it has been such an adventure! Our team is consistently growing and so am I in my work. There is just so much to go around. Here is a list of what it feels like working in a start-up.

1. It’s risky (and then some whisky)

Its not news that startups are all about risks and experiments, especially if you’re trying to incorporate something as new as a healthcare portal functional in more than one city in the first year of establishment. All this and more being done simultaneously in a country where a concept like this is completely new.

Every day is new, every day we experiment and move forward trying out new methods, old methods, anything that’ll work for us. Needless to say, at the end of the day, whisky is a good friend to get us through this chaotic journey.

2. Think, think, think.

The more ideas you have, the more valuable you are to the company.

The more you think, the more ideas you have, the more you share these with your boss, the more he is bound to value you. Of course the quality of these ideas must be ranging between very good and brilliant. This requires a lot of brainstorming- be it while taking a shower or meeting new people at a party.

The company is a baby, more like your baby and it needs a lot from you. Your time and also your brain.

3. Start-up = A lot of learning

Because you’re constantly coming up with new plans, using the hit-and-trial method, you end up learning a lot. It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail, trying new things ends up teaching you more than a traditional company would.

4. Startups give you room to blossom

A traditional working environment ends up shaping you, but in the case of a start-up its the other way around. Because you’re shaping everything else in the company, you also end up shaping the working environment. The company grows around your work, letting you be more you.

Image source: Sean MacEntee/Flikr