Socialmedia Catalyst

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Web Influence

Few things that will rule in the social media scene this year:

From plug-ins to location-based marketing initiatives to the move to higher bandwidth and putting updates highlighting a cause or an event, there’s plethora of change in the world of social media.

Audience will have control: Brands will have to have some presence in the online world. If a brand doesn’t have a presence on social media consumers will still talk about them. In particular, consumers will demand corporate social media presence.

Booshaka: This recent startup offers real-time look at what’s trending on Facebook based on open search keywords, as well as via topic if you’re interested in more a general browse. Listening will become even more important, even before marketing and engagement.

Moving to Higher Bandwidth (4G): The use of higher bandwidth will not only be a necessity but a demand from busy consumers.

Social media policy in offices (it might actually be enforced): If the company you work for doesn’t already have a social media policy in place with specific rules of engagement across multiple networks, it just might in the next year.

Educational institutes’ adopting social media strategies: What was earlier shunned is now readily accepted and gaining popularity. Teachers themselves are getting updated with the latest news about social media so that they too can incorporate it in their learning.

Social Media trends in India

Our communiqué, interactions, online business, blogging has all changed in one decade owing to the tremendous growth and innovation in the online world. Social networking websites are now a widespread means of the way people converse everyday and also the way many youngsters earn money.

More importantly Social Media is not a Fad, it a paradigm shift which is the accepted way of communication.

The use of internet has undergone a fundamental change with anyone creating content and sharing it with others using platforms like Blogging, Social Networks, YouTube etc. People have started easily ‘connecting’ with others via tagging, locations, content creation,

Some trends identified in social media are:

Social Scanning
Smartphone owners have the world at their fingertips. As grandiose as that may sound, advances in mobile barcode scanning technology have given rise to applications that allow for comparison shopping, QR code place checkins and ultimately a social experience around product barcodes.

SMS-based mobile social network
Even as we see several innovations in location based mobile social networking internationally, the adoption of such services in India will be minimal, even with the launch of 3G and flat data rates. 3G will be restricted only to smart phones initially, before people start adopting it.

Gaming and location based applications
Foursquare.com already allows 4 million users to track the locations of their friends on their smart phones. Also gaming elements like Mayorships and badges attracts a lot of loyal followers, old and young alike.

India is not for behind the social media and tech revolution. Indian companies are focusing on growing Indian middle class, which has the fastest growing internet user base in India. Hence, one thing is sure that in this digital age social media trends and marketing will play an important role in determining any products success as well.

Facebook and the new Q&A

Yahoo Answers was the first Q&A site that i was exposed to. When it had started, it was exciting to see for any given question, you always had someone answering it. Someone who has the expertise or the experience in answering the question. Then there was the country editions that were started. Each country had their own Q&A sites like India had Rediff Q&A. This was the time, when we were just graduating from Chat systems to better and easy interactivity to off beat questions.

Need to be social
The intent of an individual to be – social – You create a social networking site. All sites began to gather momentum to

Then you provide people to become ego-massagers through interaction – You create the sharability feature

Then you provide them with resource of information – Search – via Google, first, then via Bing

and now bring in more interaction and kind of AI – through Collaborative research, big competition to Vark and Yahoo Answers.

What Next?
Google Answers has shut down!! But they bought Vark, where they wanted to integrate the real time and social search in a way that it becomes more sharable

FormSpring – Another Social QnA which created a whole new way of leveraging Facebook, Twitter and even Blogging platforms.

Even though there are so many social platforms that are available to answer your query. But the best part is that there is an inherent quality in us that we want answers, provided we have the right questions.

Brands start using Listening Platforms to monitor Conversations

400 million active users + thousands of fan pages + friend lists of at least 100 people + status updates and comment options = a whole lot of conversation. Facebook chat may suck, but that doesn’t constrict the amount of chatting on Facebook. People talk about all sorts of things, their lives, their partners, the past day, shopping, your brand…..

Social media is the most valuable resource currently available that gathers customer opinion without any specific effort on the consumer’s part, even. Surveys are too much of an effort, and have too many hazards of bias. Social media, on the other hand, is open, free, and puts no pressure on the consumer to like or dislike your brand. Twitter is the new Opinion column in the Mumbai Mirror. Bad service, pushy staff, unavailability of products – irritated customers proclaim their dissatisfaction on the microblogging site to their followers. The customer also alternatively tweets about the wonderful time she had, the great dress she bought, the rocking grill at the food-court and the gig in the car-park.

Monitoring social media can help you capitalize on this availability of information. It includes collection as well as a comprehensive analysis of web opinion. Consumer opinion just got so much more accessible.

What is a brand missing out on, if it isn’t monitoring conversations about it? A whole lot of things: opportunities for interaction, low-cost customer service, promotion at an opportune moment (If a tweeter tweets asking about Gucci purses available in Bombay, the brand can tweet back updating the tweeter on their store at Nariman Point), knowing mass perceptions of your brand, and of course, crucial information.

Social Media has caught on rabidly and it is best if brands and companies join the band – if only to watch.

Social Media ROI becomes important

Social Media ROI is a rather complex concept, I’ve observed. Unlike more direct forms of marketing, its indicators may not include actual sales. This has resulted in a lot of skepticism about its impact and hence relevance.

With Social Media, you can touch your stars. I wrote to my favorite writer, I’m ‘following’ my favorite actors and I know what the politicians I hate are up to now. I’m also a follower of the Dell blog, the retail chains I ‘like’ and the events I’m ‘attending’. Truth be told, Shoppers Stop and Bingo! Chips are as big stars to me as any actor. The fact that when I comment on its Facebook page saying a particular brand of clothing wasn’t available, Shoppers Stop replies informing me of the outlets it is available at, is strangely reassuring and encouraging. And I’m not going to deny the sudden high of having Shahrukh Khan (twitter) reply to my question on Twitter.

Which is all great and all, but how are Shah Rukh and Bingo! (Or Lays) profiting from this? Writing to SRK on Twitter is no assurance that I’m going to be watching Ra 1.

Well, they’re not. Not monetarily, anyway (even if sales do increase, but it’s impossible to relate that to any one cause). But Social Media Marketing is great PR, even if that is a slight contradiction in terms. Which means ROI needs to be mentioned in nontraditional ways. Fitting, since Social Media Marketing is nontraditional.

Social Media ROI is most important when it comes to actually measuring non-quantitative indicators like the audience reactions to new plans, satisfaction with customer service and referring to the brand as an expert on a particular concept or area of service. A few thousand people who ‘like’ your retail chain/restaurant/bookstore come online everyday and tell you what they think about you, what they want from you and how they will respond to a new t-shirt collection/event you’re introducing, and who they’d rather have performing there – everything you want to know, really.

ROI goes past money, here. It can actually affect the number of people who like your brand enough to buy from you.

Real budgets for Social Media Marketing

Nothing on an average Facebook feed lasts more than a minute on top. It’s full of people: talking, sharing links and pictures and stories, taking random quizzes – making their presence felt. Social media has incredible potential in terms of presence – otherwise fulfilled by marketing and PR. Unlike other mediums of marketing, social media’s fabulous interactivity makes it invaluable in both customer service and brand value.

Social Networking on the web has caught on furiously. The fact that on Facebook, you can watch videos and have whacky conversations about them somehow makes Facebook so much attractive than TV to ‘Gen Y’. Youngsters watching 90210 log in to post “I <3 Navid” statuses ( or ‘Dil Mil Gaye’ and “I <3 Armaan”), people make political statements on status updates (short of standing up before an audience, there are few ways you can get a message across to 200 people at a time; and this is way more graceful) – basically everyone is there. Day and night. Marketing professionals would have already identified the potential of Social Media, then – possibly greater than that of advertising, because of the huge extent of time and numbers involved. However budgets for Social Media Marketing are still planned hesitantly, with an air of dubious puzzlement. For some reason, belief in the power of Social Media seems tentative and shaky. In my experience, this trend is more than a trend. The Indian Gen Y has higher self-esteem and more freedom than previous generations – they sanction and relish the exhibitionism of their lives on the web. Their obvious gratification in comments and conversation over any chosen facet of their lives tells me that Social Media is here to stay. Social Media Marketing requires truly consequential attention and considerable budgets. Think of it as an untapped reservoir in a water-starved Bombay. Corporations – big and tiny – need to turn their consciousness to it. Social networking is now too big a media to be ignored.

Audience Control in Social Media Marketing

We’re in the age of the listening parent. Children and teens don’t repress their desires for lack of money or fear of the parent anymore, and astutely enough, the parent’s methods of regulation and culling the best out of their children have changed correspondingly. Today I can see an educated breed of parent who neither smacks nor whips but ‘has a talk’ with her/his child to make the child aware of behavioral transgressions. This breed grows progressively.

Wonderfully, this trend of liberalism seems to be seeping into marketing. So long has the product been the manufacturer’s dominion, subject only to the general demands of the customer. The question then, was: Will they buy, or not buy? (Of course, there are notable exceptions – the Tatas and some international brands have relied more on building open, perceptive, dependable brand images)

Today, the question is: Do they want to buy or do they not? Today’s audience is the charmingly spoilt child. Cross them, deny them something and they react by scorning your brand. If you plan to use social media platforms to promote your business, you must be reasonable, kind and democratic in your approach. The one-sided, self-selling approach is neither appreciated nor tolerated. However, in this case the child has some great chocolates to give. A good recommendation by a consumer on a social media platform visited by hundreds is worth a hundred advertisements, in my opinion.

On social media, both the producer and the consumer have their say, and most often the consumer is more widely believed. Power of influence. What can the producer do for power? Nothing. In the words of the great Beatles: “Let it be.” And work for consumer-satisfaction.

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Geo Location – FourSquare trend catching on!!

Foursquare = pure genius. It’s odd how genius can manifest itself in ways that, on seeing, you realize were right there all the time. Foursquare is one of these manifestations. There is nothing particularly difficult to imagine or do in the concept or execution of Foursquare, yet for some reason, not even Google was able to achieve location-based networking that is this clear and successful, even though they had the feature available. So did Twitter. Cheers to Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai for that one! Despite Google buying Crowley’s initial idea, Foursquare turned out more efficient than imagined.

Combining social networking, SMM and social gaming, Foursquare is one ingenious application. Foursquare gives you multiple reasons to visit that bar around the corner. Or the one at the opposite end of town, for that matter. Not only do you gain game points for visiting it, chances are that the bar has a special offer for Foursquare users who check in there and you know by a single glance at your phone, that your friends are hanging out there.

What’s more, if you visit the same place more than anyone else on Foursquare, you get a ‘Mayor’ badge – and probably free drinks too in the offline world, once the venue starts recognizing Foursquare and your loyalty to the website and the venue. This is of particular gain to the bar-owner – he knows, simply by putting his business on Foursquare, how many different people visit on any day, the regulars if any. The gaming part practically pulls people to the business.

Daniel knows that going to Red Shoes is going to get him game points, and he is going to have a great time doing it. It’s a win-win situation for him (unless he is broke). Also, if the Red Shoes bartender makes an amazing Cosmopolitan, Nina knows through a recommendation Stacy put on Foursquare – and now she also knows where she is going to be dancing away her birthday night. Foursquare combines 3 of the things youngsters are most excited about today : nightlife, friends and achievement. Party, know where your friends are and get a mayor badge for it. What adds up here is that, you are standing on hill road, and want to know, where we can go and have a nice economical burger, someone has already added the tip that you can check it out at Hearche Bakery.

Amazing psychology combined with technology that is not very difficult to comprehend = great concept and execution. The success of Foursquare is an admirable feat, especially with regard to geo-location, a scene that has been stumbling for a while. There was a missing link there – so I know where you are?

Augmented Reality

Slick, touch-responsive, elucidative glares have long been a feature of science-fiction. The suave, dashing spy strides down a bus New York street and pauses before a man with an impassive, phlegmatic expression. Cut to the hero’s glares: a blinker appears on the top-left corner for a few seconds, after which a list drops down the screen. The suspect’ stats – vital and otherwise – have just been sourced ‘from the database’.

In a few years – heck, now, probably – these glares will be reality. Augmented reality (AR), actually. That’s the technology these glares use. Augmented reality superimposes graphics, audio and other sense enhancements from computer screens onto real time environments. What is most impressive about this, is that AR’s information is given according to subjective needs. (If you want eco-friendly bags, that’s what your AR-instrument will point you towards, in the mall.) While Pranav Mistry’s Sixth Sense technology is the most popular and promising aspect of AR today, there are also gaming, wikitude and numerous other possibilities.

This will take convenience to a new level – Look at a lake and know if it’s too deep, cold or toxic to swim in. Calorie-count will appear as soon as you look at food. Military operations will be aided greatly by AR – blueprints, night vision, detection of weaponry – all at the touch of a screen. Surgeons will have an objective, unimpeded view of the area of surgery, with constant indicators on a single screen. Not to mention that looking at a person brings up all their information on the internet.

Which begs the question: do I *want* a stranger to see the details of my Facebook and Twitter pages? Will I have the same attitudes to the guilty culinary delights if I start using AR calorie-counts? (I know I can stop using AR if it makes me guilty, but will I ever eat Tiramisu again?). Yeah, I want the Indian Army to know the enemy’s actions like it knows cricket scores, but do I want the enemy to know the same about India? Is it really a good idea to be peering at a virtual screen every few seconds?

When AR does make an appearance in the lives of the masses, it will be extensively powerful and correspondingly dangerous. However, like all other technological progress today, it will march on regardless. Preventing a virtual Hiroshima-Nagasaki is up to the users. The choice is yours are you willing to be part of the revolution as a user or as a creator?