30 Sept 2014

Social Media Week 2014 Offered Answers to Most Questions Related to the Online World

How to create engaging content? What are the biggest challenges in faced in content marketing today? How are companies using the online space to design products specific to target audiences? How to brand yourself using social media? Answers to these questions and more were offered in the Social Media Week held in Mumbai.

Many digital enthusiasts were looking forward to this event. Held from 22nd to 26th September, this event would feature renowned speakers and influencers focusing on the online world is evolving and how we can adapt to it. Since I had stepped into this world recently, it wouldn’t be wise to give SMWMumbai a miss. Some friends had attended the event held in 2013 and were impressed.

The event flagged off with a ride on Sunday 21st September. Many riders (including yours truly) had assembled at Fountain Hotel and rode from there to Talasari. While I didn’t go for the ride, I heard it was fun.

Thanks to Blogadda, I got a pass to attend the event on 23rd and 24th September. Unfortunately, I could only attend on 23rd. Thanks to April broadcast, however, a lot of people (including me) got to view the event even if we couldn’t make it to the venue.

Ah! The venue. Novotel Hotel in Juhu. Step out in the hotel’s open spaces and you were greeted with the sound of the ocean. And the view of the ocean over the swimming pool and the verandah outside the seminar halls was a sight to behold.

The volunteers at the event were helpful and spontaneous. When I told them I had come through Blogadda and didn’t have a physical pass, they promptly made one and handed it over. No questions asked. They also informed me of the events being held in specific seminar halls at that time.

The seminar for engaging content was conducted by Payal Karwa and Varun Duggirala. They spent an hour providing us with insights on creating engaging content. They elaborated on aspects like story telling, creating an emotional bond and understanding the brand’s USP and designing content accordingly. Varun further kept us engaged by asking the audience to describe the brand as if it were a person and then simulate how it would behave on each platform. He did this by making the audience interact online and offline. It was interesting, unconventional. The ‘engaging content creation’ seminar kept us engaged right till the end.

Lunch was great, albeit somewhat spicy. The chicken pomegranate chaat was delicious. Plus I got to meet Manish Pandey and Amit Panchal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - those guys work like they’re on Red Bull all the time!

The next seminar was conducted by Navneet Kaushal of PageTraffic. It was on content marketing and the challenges faced. He rightly pointed out that the biggest challenge for social media marketers today is content distribution, not creation. It’s no use creating great content which just sits around waiting to be discovered. You have to be proactive and innovative in your attempts to reach out to people. He educated us on content curation tools to write articles which people want to read. Further emphasis was placed on sticking to a content calendar, stock images (some of them cost just $1) and being versatile. Posting the link to a 1,500 word article on SEO on a Sunday doesn’t make sense. Photos of happy puppies do, which make people celebrate the Sunday. And to an extent, you need FB ads to promote your content and increase page likes and website hits.

What Navneet Kaushal talked about are strategies followed by many online influencers like Neil Patel, Sean Ellis and others. It made complete sense. Navneet has been blogging for SEJournal and ClickZee since long now. Audience asked him how it helps in conversion, and he said that it doesn’t directly help. Instead, it helps build the brand PageTraffic and establishes them as an authority. And authority breeds trust, which then helps in conversion. Words of wisdom which should be heeded and adopted by us all. For me, Navneet Kaushal’s session was the highlight of the day.

I then walked into IBM’s session of how the digital space is helping brands profile potential customers and create products catered to their needs. Since I walked in while the session was almost over, there isn’t much to share. But it reminds one of the algorithms used by Target, the supermarket, to profile shoppers and send them e-mails of products which customers will find relevant. It’s amazing how much the digital world is advancing. A few people voiced their concerns over brands able to peek into our personal lives, but it was rightly countered with the view that brands can only access information which we have posted online. The less we share about ourselves, the less brands will know. Hence, the onus lies on us.

The final session was the one I was looking forward to most. I was intrigued about how people can use social media to brand themselves online. But it turned out to be quite generic. Tanvi Bhatt made it a typical personality development session with just the last 15 minutes spent on how to use social media. Plus her tips were for novices; those who haven’t used Twitter or LinkedIn or don’t blog. It may have been useful for a lot of people there, but I feel it could’ve been more specific and detailed.

After the event, I got to meet Apeksha Harihar, Meera Rai and Hitesh Rajwani from Social Samosa and Sachin Uppal. Had a lengthy discussion about the online space with them which was just as good as the seminar itself. I missed the rest of the days - was looking forward to hearing Kunal Jeswani and Jeff Bullas… maybe next time…

The event was a great experience. It was wonderful to see people share insights and bond like they’ve known each other for long. Passionate discussions, networking and information exchange made the event fun. And the venue was the icing on the cake.

Thanks Blogadda for letting me attend the event. I had missed it last year and wasn’t prepared to give it a miss this time. The event is recommended to everyone who is in the digital space - whether you’re pursuing a career in the field or not. 

26 Sept 2014

Do You & I Have a Role to Play in Modi’s FDI?

While launching the ‘Make in India’ campaign, Narendra Modi provided 2 definitions of FDI. One is for Indians to ‘First Develop India’ and the second is to encourage Foreign Direct Investment. He exhorted Indian organizations to invest in India and develop it so that foreign MNCs see our country as an attractive location to invest in. Modi targeted 25 sectors where, according to him, India can be leaders in manufacturing, which include railways, pharmaceuticals and airlines.

There is clamor that what Modi said is nothing new, that these points were already brought up by the UPA and that the latter was trying to implement these albeit on a small scale.

The Bhagavad Gita says that ‘Actions speak louder than words’. Never before had India been so bullish about improving sanitary conditions. Nor has a PM come out with a proposal to build on what he said in such a short time (the ‘Make In India’ program was launched within 45 days of Modi’s Independence Day speech). The man’s mission was clear the day he pressed his forehead to the stairs of the Parliament. Plus we haven’t seen even 1 senior member of the current government trying to take credit for the Mangalyaan success. No political battles, no trying to hog the limelight… Modi and team just gave it to whom it was due.

These go to show that (at least for now) we can assume that Modi’s intentions are noble. He wants to recover some of India’s lost glory, and is putting in effort for it too. The latest of his efforts is ‘Make In India’ where he has portrayed FDI in 2 different ways.

Do we have a role to play in Modi’s first definition of FDI i.e. First Develop India? By we, I mean anyone who doesn’t own a large business capable of heavily investing in India’s infrastructural development. You and I. Well, we do.

Make In India - Modi's Latest Program

If you are reading this article, you are fortunate enough to have been endowed with good education; education which many Indians don’t get. How is India going to grow when most of our employment is still in the unorganized sector? How is it going to grow when the biggest complaint of the corporate sector today is the lack of skilled manpower?

The onus lies on you and me to educate the coming generations. By education, I don’t mean teaching what’s in the curriculum (although if you can, it will be amazing). Education here means improving the skill levels of the population which is about to enter the workforce. The chasm between academics and corporate is glaring. Many employees (freshers & experienced) are unable to communicate properly, think of ways to grow business and reduce costs, use basic tools to even make data look presentable, let alone look at it from different angles. They’re unprepared for leadership.

What can you and I do? Well, we can find time outside our busy schedules to spend with these youngsters who need our help; youngsters who are the future of our country. One day of working less than 11 hours or skipping 1 party a week will not hurt. On the contrary, the time you spend educating students and young professionals will give you an immense sense of satisfaction. Plus, if you make a difference to even 1 person’s life (directly or indirectly), you will have contributed to the development of your country.

Here are 3 things you can focus on teaching students/youth:

  1. Soft Skills - Skills which improve the EQ (Emotional Quotient) of youth. These include time and people management, the ability to write and speak fluently and other factors which positively impact their careers. These skills in employees will increase the output of organizations tremendously, which will in turn help in the growth of the country. These organizations can then FDI.
  2. Lateral Thinking - One of the key factors missing today in people is the ability to think laterally. Parents and teachers want students to stand out in a crowd by doing the same things which the crowd is doing. Is it possible? Teach students to think laterally, to expose themselves to varied situations, to read about successes/failures outside their domains, and these students will develop risk taking capabilities. They will start thinking unconventionally and challenge the status quo, which, ultimately, will help the business which they’re working in.
  3. Mindfulness - A common term used in the corporate world today, mindfulness is a mix of techniques to calm the mind. Through yoga, meditation, focus and other exercises, people start think clearly. This saves them from acting impulsively and unethically. Youth will learn the importance of respect, introspection and integrity. It also helps to steer the youth from distractions like smartphones, Big Boss and lets them use their time for better purposes.

Whether Modi is able to bring about the change he wants is not the point now. The point is that he has given the country a much needed shot in the arm after half a decade of poor governance by the UPA. It is our responsibility to support a PM whom we have elected by contributing in any way we can. And no way is too small in relation to what transpires in the cosmos. So stand up. Give your country what you can. Here’s your chance to contribute to its progress. Don’t let this moment pass you by. For all you know, you may find your life’s true calling.

You may agree or disagree with me. That’s fair. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments.

18 Sept 2014

The Chinese PM Visits India - Interesting Psychological Lessons

One of the most talked about news in India currently is the arrival of Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping, and the promises which he brings along. This post will not focus on what Modi should’ve done, or analyze the economic and political outcomes of the meet. Many articles and discussions will cover those. Instead, I’ll talk about small psychological factors which are evident in the events as they unfold. How those aspects have the potential to change the way we think, how some of them are being used for better results… 

A report in Economic Times read “Deals worth $100 billion are said to be in the works, compared with a mere $35 billion from Japan.” So the Japanese investment news, which until now was being hyped by the Indian media is now being termed ‘mere $35 billion’. Why? Because, according to them, the amount China proposes to invest in India dwarfs the amount which Japan. By no means is $35 billion a nominal amount. But in comparison to $100 billion… well, you get the picture. This just goes to show how comparison clouds our perception. How when we compare 2 things, the smaller one may start appearing insignificant (so to speak) while it may actually be so.

2 critical concerns between India and China are not being discussed in this meeting. The Arunachal Pradesh border conflict and streamlining of processes for faster visa approvals. Many people (especially the Congress) are disappointed that these issues are not being raised. These are sensitive issues and should be addressed as soon as possible, right? Not quite. Being the shrewd tactician that Modi is, he seems to be deploying what is known as the foot-in-door technique. You make the person in front comfortable and then gradually start discussing sensitive points. Then you raise bigger concerns and can expect the person in front to be more receptive, thereby dramatically increasing chances of a positive outcome in your favor.
How Modi is extending the red carpet to China

Day 1 for Xi Jinping was spent experiencing flavors of Ahmedabad - visiting Sabarmati Ashram, savoring a full-course Gujarati thali, witnessing the infrastructure and growth of the city. Modi ensured that he displayed excellent hospitality to a politician of a country which we’re hostile towards. By doing so, he made the Chinese PM comfortable and reduced instances of the proverbial ‘cold air’. Plus, by showcasing Ahmedabad, he focused on an area which he knew as well as the back of his palm. Thus he eliminated all chances to be pointed out instances or asked questions which embarrass him. Modi was in control of every situation all the time.

So you see, however celebrated the profiles of people may be, small aspects which shape our perceptions come into play everyday. These aspects can make or break a relationship or a business deal. Keep in mind that when whether you are implementing a process, attending a meeting or doing mundane chores with your spouse, you are essentially interacting with people. Pay attention to psychological factors because they play a major role in how the person in front responds to you. Mind you, these are not to manipulate anyone; they are simply to ensure everyone walks away satisfied emotionally; no one feels like they lost out.

Are there any tips which you have to share with other readers and me? Of course you do. Share them in the comments section.

2 Sept 2014

5 Free Twitter Tools Which will Make You A Pro

Most celebrities are on Twitter. Some like Amitabh Bachchan, Riteish Deshmukh and SRK are avid users, while others like Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Amir Khan use it sparingly. But they are all present there.

Then why is only about 15% of India’s remaining internet population present on it? And why do brands (read their agencies) fail to capitalize on this awesome tool to establish their online reputation?

Well, for one, many brand managers don’t understand how Twitter functions. They simply bombard the platform with self promotional tweets and expect a hoard of followers. Even now, most people consider their Twitter success to be directly related to the number of followers. Secondly, because of the vast amount of content being shared on Twitter, users can feel all at sea. Making sense of things on Twitter can be quite a task.

Twitter is not a self promotion platform. If you’re self promoting without adding value, you’re doing Twitter all wrong. Twitter is about being there, listening to conversations, making sense of them, providing your inputs and using posts which you read to come up with content marketing ideas. And fear not, it is really easy to do once you get the hang of it.
Free Twitter Tools as good as Paid Ones

Here are 5 free tools which enable you to become an effective Twitter user:

Bufferapp: This is one of the most popular free tools for posting on social media (especially Twitter). Renowned as a post and tweet scheduling tool, Bufferapp also lets you tweet instantly in case you are unable to access Twitter. Links tweeted are converted to bitly links by default, though you can choose to revert to the original URL. The analytics tool is handy for tracking the performance of each tweet sent from Buffer. So if you see that a post has done well in the past and are short of ideas, you can re-share it after a month or 2. Alternately, you can make use of Bufferapp’s suggestions if you’re looking for content to tweet. Plus you can tweet an article via Buffer right from your browser. Simply install the extension and click on the icon if you want to share an article. Also, if you select a specific quote from the article and click on the Bufferapp icon, the app intelligently tweets your link with the selected text as the headline. Cool huh? People also use this tool for scheduling posts on Facebook, but the Facebook’s inbuilt scheduler feature is more useful and effective for their platform. You also cannot view real time Twitter updates. For that, you have the option below.
Hootsuite: I can’t stop raving about this tool. Apart from scheduling tweets, Hootsuite also makes it convenient for you to track feeds related to your subject on Twitter and Facebook. Simply enter the keyword(s) in Hootsuite’s search box and click ‘Add Stream’ on the tab where the results show up. These streams can also be of lists formulated by you (more on lists in point 5). Your feed is updated real time, ensuring you stay well informed on everything happening in your field. Respond to questions of people, which establishes you as an expert in your field. You can also generate ideas for content marketing material by reading people’s conversations. Plus, you can not only RT a tweet, but also manually RT after adding your comments in it, just like the mobile Twitter app.
Pullquote: Ever read a quote online and liked it so much that you want to tweet it? Well, Pullquote lets you do it beautifully. Simply install the extension in your browser and use it when you want to tweet a quote from a page. The tool converts the quote into a picture and share it. You also can crop a photo and share it, adding your comments in the tweet. Pullquote is a great tool to awesome content on Twitter pictorially. The only drawback, however, is that you cannot tweet a link. For sharing a link along with the image/quote, you can take help of the tool mentioned below.
Bitly sidebar: bit.ly links, when shared, look way cooler than the conventional abc.com/xyz…. But you already know that, right? Additionally, bit.ly links can be used to track how many times your link has been clicked on. Once you’ve tweeted a link, simply compare the number of times people have clicked on the link versus the number of impressions. While it may not be an accurate figure, it may give you a rough idea of how effective what you typed while sharing the link was. More clicks (even if it hasn’t got RTs) means your ‘copywriting’ idea worked, and you can try replicating that for other tweets too. Bitly links are not accepted on some popular social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Blogadda, etc. For those, you can use the article’s original URL.
Twitter: What good would a social platform do if it cannot have some inbuilt features which make it awesome? 2 features which we must make use of in Twitter are Search and Lists. The Twitter Search is as good as Hootsuite in providing you with tweets which are related to your subject of interest. Also, if you want to know how a specific article is being discussed on Twitter, merely paste the article’s URL in the Search box. For instance, if you want to know what people on Twitter think about this article, simply copy the link and paste it in Twitter’s search box. Also, Lists is a kickass feature to get feeds from people from a specific field. So if you want to stalk the competition, you can create a list of them, keep it private and keep a tab of their tweets. On the other hand, if you want to share insightful tweets of influencers in a field related to yours, create a public list and add them to it. Let others also refer to your list and know how awesome you are.


A common mistake which many of us make is not tracking our Twitter platform’s performance (read effectiveness). We pepper the platform with promotional tweets and Twitter contests for our clients, most of which result in negligible conversions. Twitter is a far more effective digital message spreading platform than any other - Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus. It can help portray our brand as a thought leader in its field and convert viewers to followers, then buyers, and ultimately into loyalists. Using the tools above, you can listen to conversations on Twitter, create and promote terrific content and track your engagement levels. Effective use of Twitter will also give a content writer a whole bunch of ideas for the next corporate blog post.

I haven’t added many tools like Seesmic, TweetDeck, etc. to the list. I’ve found the above mentioned 5 to be most effective. Do you know of any other tools which have been missed? Do leave a note about them in the comments section. Also do share this article with others so that awareness about how Twitter works continues to spread.
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