Archive for the Social networking Category

Train of Thought

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Social networking with tags , , on July 14, 2008 by manuscrypts

Social media enthusiasts are often quizzed on the ROI that it delivers, and in many cases,  ‘conversation with customers’ is met with a lot of skepticism. which led me to wonder about the kind of ROI this activity would generate.

“Max New York Life Insurance has signed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) pact with the Indian Railways. From July 8, Chennai, Bangalore and Trivandrum Rajdhanis will sport Max New York Life advertising on its exterior.” It would provide upgraded services like high quality flooring, soap dispensers, tissue paper dispensers…. and so on. Great, I have always wanted that in those Harappan age railway compartments, though I always had a feeling Max was into insurance.

I can understand SBI having a co-branded card with IRCTC, Citi having a card for Delhi Metro etc, but the revenue/communication model that this venture of Max falls in, I fail to understand. Unless of course, Max will send an insurance advisor in the compartment. The ‘potential customer’ is trapped with him for the entire journey, and might buy a policy just to get rid of him.

Meanwhile, a couple of thoughts came to me when I read this post on Mumbai’s local trains. Every now and then, there is a horror story of how a gruesome accident occured in one of these trains. Doesn’t it make a lot of sense for an insurance company to do some contextual communication here? How about tapping this entire community which is so prone to such occurences?

The other thought that came to me was from a conversation on twitter on how religion is one massive social network. Unlike schools and colleges, which have a real life basis for networking, religion is spread across geographies with most users unaware of each other, and even has user generated versions springing up every now and then. Even the local trains in Mumbai offer a platform for a social network (no pun intended). I guess there are vertical networks like that all around, the only trick is to satisfy a set of needs and then be able to monetise it.

until next time, maximising social media

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Kwippy quips

Posted in India, Internet, Social networking with tags , , , , on July 1, 2008 by manuscrypts

Move over microblogging, here comes nano blogging. Have been exploring a new service the last couple of days. Most of you would have heard about it by now, it goes by the name of Kwippy. This gives a great intro to the service. (a Kwiki, if you will)  While it is definitely related to the Twitter / Plurk clan, its distantly related, at least a cousin, and definitely not a clone. And its desi manufactured 🙂

I got hold of an invite by just asking for one, the response was prompt. And that, from my interactions so far, has been the hallmark of the Kwippy team – timely and efficient response.

Kwippy can be made to work in sync with your GTalk or Y! Messenger, or like me, if you easily get sick of the GTalk alerts (i have disabled twitter because I couldn’t take the constant blinking) you could use the web interface. And using that, you can Kwip your status messages, share bookmarks and more or less do most of the things that you would do on IM with your friends. Ah, friends, thats another key thing, because unlike say twitter, where we add a lot of people who are not known to us, the IMs usually have friends we really know. While this may become very twitterlike when the crowd pours in, for now its friends and friends of friends, more so because its on ‘invite’ mode.

So you might ask, THAT’s the differentiator from twitter? No, the difference maker for me, is the threading. Unlike Twitter, but like Friendfeed, you can comment on my Kwip on Kwippy, which means we can keep having conversations on a post, but open up other threads simultaneously, and most importantly, easily keep track of all this.

So I’ve been reasonably impressed with the service so far, despite a few 500 errors. Dammit, twitter got funded, and still has problems,  and we still grin and bear, so its okay!!

But my common grouse with all the new services that keep getting launched applies to this one too. Most new services, with perhaps a small and partial exception – Friendfeed, take me out of the carefully created environs of the existing service, be it facebook, twitter, my blog and so on. To recreate the world, I have to wait till all my friends get there. So my immediate but (possibly) very ambitious wishlist from Kwippy or any service/ on the lines of ‘conversation enabling’ would be, for starters

  • making it easy to import friends from other ecosystems (kwippy from twitter? 😉 )
  • evolving a mechanism to have a Disqus kind of widget (thanks to wordpress’ anti javascript stance, disqus won’t work here), that would allow me to connect my blog with a kwippy site (I agree that its a nano blogging platform, but in essence, comments are nanoblogging too) That would allow me to link my blog crowd (don’t snigger, my other blog gets decent comments) with the Kwippy crowd.
  • a browser (ff) add on, to some its more convenient than IM

Meanwhile I’m awaiting an invite from LiL, it seems to be on a ‘sharing moments’ path. In case you need Kwippy invites, all you have to do is ask. 🙂

until next time, try kwipping

PS Speaking of Indian startups, this is an awesome compilation. Hats off!!

The Stage of Conversation

Posted in Brand, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on June 26, 2008 by manuscrypts

Branded networks, that’s what the new property from Nautanki.tv (read the comments section) YouTopia is going to be. (via agencyfaqs). Update –  This is going to be called spaces, and is still under development.

The rationale is that since brands, especially in a nascent market like India,  may not want to invest in the infrastructure thats required for social networks, YouTopia would provide the same for individuals and brands to create their own networks with “necessary tools or applications like instant messenger, forum and facility to upload and share videos or photos while configuring their social network”, in return for an annual subscription fee (in the case of brands).

Reminds me of Ning, though in this case, they have said that the brand can choose an independent url (so is that unlike Ning where it has to be say, nautanki.ning.com). Also, there will be an ad network, which will operate on a revenue sharing basis between Nautanki and the owners.(?) (I don’t know whether Ning has a revenue sharing mechanism) And, does the last but one paragraph in the afaqs article mean an API? Hmm

Now the question I’d like to ask is, while (apparently) every brand manager wants a Gang of Girls, is creating a social network the way to go about it, or is it more important to maintain a conversation with the consumers? The argument I have is the same as the one i had for the online communities vs groups -on -social networks post. If the conversation is already happening at a social network, isn’t it better to be a part of the conversation there and be a facilitator? Would a brand have enough meat to pull the audience to a place where it will be the only ‘attraction’, and will they be able to maintain the interest for long. A Facebook group/ page, for example, already offers most of the stuff mentioned above, and I’m sure more features will be added. People have a certain comfort level with twitter conversations, would a brand specific network be able to recreate that? Multi Brand Outlet or Exclusive Showroom?

I understand that its debatable, but meanwhile, there are efforts on to sew the conversations happening on various platforms into one interface. So we have, in addition to Friendfeed, a browser – Flock, an add on to a browser – Minggl, and the last i heard a new entity – Combo (via Startup Meme), which attempts to do this through a web based dashboard and widgets. I hope they send me that invite soon, so i can do some test drives. 🙂

Meanwhile, have you noticed a comment option in Facebook’s news feeds, quite like Friendfeed, i thought. And here’s something for you to go ogle. That was Aditi Govitrikar, now where’s that I’m feeling lucky button?

until next time, scatter or gather?

Conversations and Noise

Posted in Social networking with tags , , , , on June 3, 2008 by manuscrypts

I came across a new tool, a couple of days back. It helps you make an interactive profile card, and is called retaggr. Its got widgets for StumbleUpon, Gtalk, Twitter and many many more, and can be linked to your profiles on del.icio.us, LinkedIn, Blogger and a few dozen others too. In essence, its like a signature that keeps in touch with whatever you’ve been doing in social media – whether its tagging a photo on flickr or commenting on a blog post, and just like a signature, you can use it on the social media to ensure that other people know what you’re upto. Interesting?

Yes, but it also showed me a glimpse of the expanse of social media. There are conversations happening everywhere, on Facebook, twitter, blogs, Friendfeed ranging from meaningful discussions to trivial chit chat, but all of which are important to users. Is it possible to keep track of all the conversations you’re interested in? More importantly, how much of filtering does one have to do to keep track of only the things that interest him/her?

I really don’t think its as simple as choosing your friends or followers. Yes, it helps a bit, and in time, some calibration can be done to receive exactly the kind of alerts, tweets etc that you want. But in the end, conversations can go anywhere, and need not be restricted to your circle. Is it really possible to connect all the threads, because in the end, we are dealing with people here. People have conversations, a germ of an idea happens, and they carry the conversation somewhere else and forget about the original conversation.

People are also not uni dimensional, they have multiple interests. Even after i figure out who i want to be friends with or ‘follow’, not all the stuff they talk about would interest me, and unfortunately it takes time to figure out the conversations that interest you from the ‘noise’.

Speaking of time, it flies, its been a year since I started this blog. How have i been doing, my dear one and a half readers? 🙂

until next time, don’t even think of saying GTD

Social Media Marketing/ DM 2.0

Posted in Brand, Internet, Social networking with tags , on May 29, 2008 by manuscrypts

There’s a very interesting post I read at WATBlog, interesting because while I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve not been able to put my finger on it correctly. Harshil, in his article has, and while he’s not answered his questions by way of solutions, the issues that have been raised are quite fundamental.

To summarise, it’s mostly about the ‘abuse’ of social media, by treating the platform as well as the communication on it, as commodities. The current usage, if i read it right, is that a brand manager knows he has got a filtered audience thanks to say, a common interest, but the way he communicates to them, is just another rendition of what he does through say, dm. Which essentially means branded spam. And that doesn’t bode well for social media, definitely not in the long term.

I agree, wholeheartedly. But I also feel that it speaks a lot about the times we live in. In this age, when attention spans are in a downward spiral, how many brand guys are willing to look at a long term view of brand equity? If buzz is the buzzword, is it a sustainable thing? Or is it seen as something which has to be milked for all its worth?

Most companies have a very ROI way of looking at marketing. I’m not being judgemental here, in some cases it might be even justified. To simplify lets look at two scenarios – an old product and a new product. In the case of a new product, how many stakeholders would be willing to buy the story of a social media marketing strategy whose tangible returns are in question? In the case of an old product, the immediate question would be why bother with these fads when we have TV, print and Outdoor. Oh, you are digitally passionate? Fine, adapt it for some Orkut Shorkut also.

The ideal scenario is when Social media marketing, and internet in general, would stop getting treated as another item in the adaptation checklist of a marketing campaign. because its not for campaigns, its for the brand and will span not just many campaigns, but perhaps many stages of its lifecycle also. When you have a group of passionate users (of a generic service, not even a brand) in say the ‘adventure’ space (that was mentioned in the Harshil’s post), the idea should not be to send a one way communication to them. Stop thinking of it as a messaging service, instead get them to share experiences, be a facilitator for their treks, provide free gear, get feedback, improve the product, become an active participating member in the community, figure out the long tails, make customised products for specific interests, make them feel so damn good about the product that they take ownership, become evangelists, and even recommend it to friends of their who may not even have made it to their social media group. Yes, every brand guy should ideally look at tangible gains, but are you willing to let go first, and learn some patience?

Let me also add an uncomfortable angle to this, the human one. How many brand guys would think of being married to the brand beyond say, 5 years? (and thats optimistic). So, what looks better on the resume? A measurable short term activity that yielded a quantifiable response, or a strategic long term activity thats still in nascent stages?

until next time, socialising ain’t easy

India Still Shining

Posted in India, Social networking with tags , , , on May 28, 2008 by manuscrypts

I’d written a post earlier on local sites. Happened to come across another one yesterday. Its called indiashines.com.

To summarise what the PR note had to say about the site, the need gap identified is a social network plus site which understands the “diverse language, cultural and regional requirements” needs and one that’s therefore customised to Indian needs. Hmm, so what all does it offer? The typical social networking offering of connecting with friends and family and sharing photos, videos etc along with privacy tools, a classifieds (including jobs), options to customize home pages with regional weather, photos, jobs, maps and news. And of course, how can anyone not have blogs? 🙂 They’re saying exactly what you’re thinking – “YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Craigslist, Flickr, Monster.com combined with the Weather Channel on one website” and localised. And wait, recommend it to friends, and you’ll get a rupee per friend.

Few small things that I thought were well done –  it automatically took me to a Bangalore page, but with the option to change my city, and thats quite a lot of cities thats listed there. The weather, the map, the profiles are all bangalore. They have done a very decent job on the news, by taking feeds from sites as varied as Techtree, the Hindu, Exchange4Media, HospitalityBizIndia and all Bangalore specific news. All of these worked for Agartala too, so its a pretty good job.

The photos, music and videos are a bit dicey- though it changes with cities, the content somehow doesnt match. eg. Tamil movie trailers in Agartala. The classifieds and ‘deals’ haven’t been worked on yet because irrespective of city, apun sirf Mumbai dikhayega!! Thats on the homepage, though. Once inside, it shows local content.

The community part is very interesting. A small digression, I was able to navigate inside quite easily even without logging in, and that includes browsing profiles. Thankfully, I wasn’t allowed to judge whether they were hot or not (yup, its prominently displayed in the profile) without logging in. The layout and items inside (testimonials, upcoming birthdays etc) reminds me a lot of Orkut. But hey, they even have a ‘Poke me’ button. But wait, its not just all ‘Add to shopping cart’ from other sites eg. something very interesting i noticed – imagine your blogger account being connected to Orkut and posts coming in the newsfeed in your profile? Thats something these guys have done. Very interesting.

Now, while you have groups, the listings and ratings feature in Yahoo Local is not to be found here. But a mashup of this and Yahoo Local (hey, no harm in thinking of possibilities) would create that locality based social networking phenomenon that I’d want to see. Who do you think has better chances at getting there first (humour me, just assume they want to), the above mentioned entities or Tolmolbol?

until next time, tol mol aur bol 🙂

The Virtual Address

Posted in Brand, Internet, Social networking with tags , , on May 21, 2008 by manuscrypts

Read a very interesting argument yesterday here on how an online community is different from a group on a social network, or is it?

As i commented there, while Orkut definitely works as a way to rekindle those school crushes/ get in touch with those long lost friends, Facebook goes beyond that, thanks to its applications. I’d written about it earlier. The idea is that Fb allows you to connect on more planes with an existing contact (hey, you’re a Heroes fan too) or know people who share a common interest, like the group ‘I love trashy Hindi movies’. Facebook allows a lot more scope for activities on the group as opposed to Orkut’s polls an forums. Its way more social.

But that was not the debate I had in mind. I look at Fb and Orkut as a sort of mall in the virtual space. As in a mall, there are various sets of activities that one can done on these SN sites. As a businessman, would i rather open an outlet in the mall or would I take retail space outside? That’s a question I’d like to ask specialised websites. eg. say HolidayIQ or Burrp.

If i open the shop in a mall, I might be have some constraints imposed on me by the mall -space, opening/closing times etc, but which may not be issues in my own retail space. But think of the cost that I’d incur in getting people to come to my stand alone shop, as opposed to people coming into the mall and visiting my shop with maybe a few catchy posters/offers to boost their chances of walking in. In a virtual world, I think the cost of building my own site + marketing it would be much more than making a ‘shop’ inside say, Facebook. In Fb, like the mall, I can utilise the existing population to build a brand. This is specially true for the typical time-strapped net audience. A simple thing like a newsfeed (Manu has joined/added the group/app …..) would itself attract some ‘pull’, because there all kinds of people in an SN site – book lovers, backpackers, music fanatics, food lovers….. And if i keep doing it right, then maybe it would warrant a spin off later- an own site. The case for existing specialised sites to have an app/page on SN sites is a kind of no brainer, I’d guess.

So, what do you think is a better way – to build a specialised site in the beginning or use an existing site’s pull to build a brand, and start a site only when the audience is ready for monetisation?

until next time, a group of communities