Confessions of a brand social media manager

socialI won’t trade my area of work for anything in the world. (OK, may be owning an ice-cream store, or being a travel and fashion reporter! 😉 ) After years of experimenting and trying different stuff in marketing, countless hours spent in the meetings inside conference rooms wondering why the hell I’m there and having the urge to tell everyone in the room that the business strategy they are discussing is BS (at least, in my brain 😀 ), I stumbled upon social media marketing after doing a few social media projects and have really enjoyed it so far.

Working in social media professionally for a brand or a business comes with its shares of pros and cons, moments of ecstatic joy and sheer frustration. Others outside your field form different and ‘interesting’ (read condescending and demeaning 😦 ) opinions about your job. For some, you are this cool person with access to all the social networking sites even at work and they think you must be a really creative and smart chap blossoming with ideas. They come to you when they want to discuss about something intriguing they came across on Twitter, or that video that went viral, and quite often you feel flattered when they come to you to seek your opinion on new and innovative ideas they have about social and mobile apps.

Then there’s another set of friends and acquaintances (painfully, they are in the majority!! sigh!) who think your job description is so lame. Most of them openly criticize and make fun of your job in social gatherings and after a point you give up on explaining to them that your job is a lot more than pretty pictures and 140 characters! Not that conveying a brand message in 140 characters or through a picture is an easy job. A lot of time and effort has gone behind that picturesque Tweet or Facebook post on your timeline.

What you also can’t explain to people is that what is fun, addictive and a relaxing activity ‘away from work’ for most people, is actually work for you! You don’t scroll through your own timeline during free time anymore to see what your best friend Tweeted, or where is your crush holidaying on Instagram, or how many people liked the Facebook profile picture of your frenemy vis-à-vis yours. Since you work on social media round the clock, it sort of kills all the fun elements for you. Yes, it’s your dream job and you like that your work is so creative and instantly gratifying. But you don’t see these social media platforms in the ‘fun’ way like others do to spend time while not working, and constantly feel the need to find other ways to spend free time online or offline.

What’s empowering and really satisfying part about this job is that you (along with your team) are responsible for creating this brand image online that zillions of people across the world would come to perceive and base their opinions on about the brand  – via a single Tweet, picture, or Facebook post. The fact that you have been given this responsibility to create that brand image and perception online, is really a powerful position to be in.  Again, this is something that you can’t explain to the naysayers and the haters. 🙂

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Image Source: http://jeremywaite.tumblr.com/post/73311947985/17-great-social-media-quotes-from-jay-baer

American Airlines.. Engage, React, Respond

This post is about American Airlines and I am attempting to analyze the reasons behind the brand being among the Top 10 in Headstream Social 100 Brands Report 2013.

The report studies three social platforms for every brand – YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I had a look at the American Airlines’ social channels and its online activity.

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What did strike me about American Airlines instantly when I started browsing through its various channels, especially on Facebook and Twitter, was the amazingly and insanely high level of engagement with the online followers. The tone of communication even online is friendly and human and not as expected totally stern, monotonous and professional language.

The level of interaction with followers is kept high by frequent polls, contests and quizzes on their Twitter and Facebook page. Another amazing aspect of American Airlines’ online marketing is the way in which it relates to the customers by making them a part of their branding strategy. There are pictures of real customers and not actors having a good time in their lounge / taking wedding photographs in the lounge and during many memorable moments showcasing how American Airlines has touched the lives of many customers. This one here is really touching.

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https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151709835601078&set=a.357237131077.161299.7003656077&type=1&theater

The one specific that touched me was picture of a small child who lost his soft animal toy an owl on the flight. The attendant found it and the little one’s smiling picture was featured. It is definitely a win-win relationship for both the customer and the brand. Author Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As per the guidelines, I didn’t go through the ranking methodology of the report 🙂 After carefully, studying the social presence of American Airlines – trying to do as much hair splitting analysis as possible – I had a look at the methodology for ranking and the KPIs across each of the social media platforms. Not surprisingly, response time taken by the brand to reply to user comments and response rate i.e. no. of posts / comments replied to by the brand were significant engagement factors for Facebook and Twitter. Other than the standard ones like no. of views, like / dislike ratio, subscriber base, fan / follower growth rate, mentions etc.

And this totally makes sense because a social presence is not about just talking – for that there are traditional forms of marketing. Listening, reaction and response are inevitable aspects of marketing online. Great Learning..
P.S.: What followed after the post when this post was auto shared to my Twitter profile – instant response from American Airlines! 🙂 Amazing online engagement.. see the conversation snapshot below
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Smart Technology..Stupid People..??

During one of the classes on the Squared Online program last week, Aiden mentioned the shocking statistics “57% of people talk to people more online, than they do in real life.” This did force me to think and reflect back upon my own social behavior both online and offline. Though I am in love with the digital world and internet marketing, the reason I am trying to make a career out of it.
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Everyone of us have read articles on how Facebook is making people narcissist i.e. someone in love with themselves. Whenever I read such articles I used to think, “Oh! That’s for the teens and my social behavior is totally under control.” But there have been days when I talk to people more online, be it Official Messenger Tool at workplace, or Whatsapp, Gtalk, Facebook Mobile Chat on my smart phone. And that really makes me wonder, Do I really have a social life? Like Brian Solis mentions on his TED video “I love my social life!” after he enacts a day in his digital life.

One of the Social Media Pet Peeves (Yes, there is a term already :O ) I can easily identify of my own is online checking in of my location when I’m in a really happening place, and some of my friends present with me physically do get irritated by this behavior. Thankfully, I am not among those aspiring photographers who capture everything on their smart phones.

The fact that social media is changing our psychological behavior can’t be denied and sometimes we may not be even aware of our own behavioral change. This is scary! And being a millennial, I can’t even imagine how the future generations are going to behave like.

P.S: Do watch the TEDx video of Brian Solis if you haven’t..I’m a huge fan of his! 🙂

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Truth is out there…. on the internet!

If you would shut your eyes and pretend not to see, hear or bother about what’s happening around you, it would still happen, it would still be the truth and the reality that you would so like not to be there. Rather if the truth or the reality discomforts you so much, isn’t it logical that you do something about it and change it. Well, only if our politicians were this logical.

This week started off with the unfathomable ire of Indian government against the social network giants worldwide. The reason being that some people in the government can’t take criticism in a good spirit and they have so much of free time that they read each and every post about themselves on Facebook, Google or other blogs. Gosh, now we know why the government is so dysfunctional and is working at a snail’s pace. Only if the people in the govt. understood that life is not a popularity contest, rather its about the way you do your work and change the world around you. Well, the govt. is definitely changing the world for us by making it even more difficult due to inflation, scams and corruption. Therefore, shouldn’t these and numerous other existing issues of the nation be concentrated upon, rather than the govt. behaving like a teenager and complaining about its popularity on Facebook!!

Another way to look at this is aren’t we going the China way in curbing the freedom of the media and internet, and is this justified!! Then why do we even call ourselves democratic, for the way the govt. has behaved in the past with some of the anti-govt. processions doesn’t normally happen in a democratic set up. If you would ask me, I feel the Indian govt. is behaving like a mad bull, desperately trying every move to save its face, popularity and gather support but quite opposite happens every time it does so.

What I am quite curios about is what comment or post exactly hurt the Congress govt. so much!! Is it the sea of information available on the internet about the Gandhi family, starting from secrets of Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi’s Italian stories or Rahul Gandhi’s passport name!! Wasn’t much of it known to the public even earlier, if not all.

The point I am trying to make is that it doesn’t really matter to the public who are they governed by, if the governance is good. Its plain professionalism at work, if you are really good at your work no one would really bother about what you are doing in your personal space or have done in the past. The greatest example to prove this would be the infamous Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair, where Bill Clinton accepted his mistake and was also re-elected for the second term not only because he was honest about his mistake but also because all that US citizens expected from him was good governance!

The war is still on..

Wow.. just when Facebook thought that no matter how many products, its rival, Google comes up with – Google Wave, Google Buzz – no one can challenge the dominance of the organization, set up by Mark Zuckerburg merely in his 20s, Google came up with a product which created a never before like stir in the market – Google Plus.

With Google plus, the search engine genius has been lucky finally in its third attempt creating visibility in the Social Media scene. Earlier two attempts – Google wave could not create any ripples, let alone gigantic waves and as they say Google buzz didn’t quite buzz. But Google plus is different. Somehow it feels right!!

Especially seeing the circles and how easy it is to create them, gave me a huge sense of relief, “organized-ness” and protection. On FB, I would rather not post some updates or some thoughts that I just wanted to blurt out fearing that an unintended person would read it. And.. here comes Google plus.

The wall looks nice and clear. Another, great thing about Google+, it connects with my other Google applications instantly like GTalk, Picasa, etc. It gives me the feeling of completeness because I need not go or rather login to any other site for my personal stuff. I guess this was the prime idea behind Google wave, to integrate all Google apps at one place.. but that didn’t quite work for some reason.

A very interesting case is that FB is deleting/blocking accounts of people putting ads of their Google plus profiles on FB. (which reminds me that my own WordPress account is linked to FB 😛 ). Clearly, the street smart Zuckerburg isn’t taking the Google Plus threat lying down. And why not, in its first month (not even 30 days precisely), Google+ surpasses 10 million users and the +1 button has already been added to more sites than the “tweet this” button.

So far, the social media market has just one major player and some tiny ones (Orkut, MySpace, etc.), which led to FB bending the rules of the industry. In a recent interview Mark Zuckerberg had said that the age of privacy is over in social media. That is quite an arrogant and condescending remark from the owner of the firm which creates trends in social media. However, just when FB thought that privacy is no longer important, Google plus showed them that it might be too soon to tell.

This is the beauty of competition, even the no. 1 has something to learn from the rival. In a competitive market, you have to learn and innovate everyday even if you are the leader. May be Zuckerberg is taking notes already.. after all why else does he have an account on Google plus, or wonder if that’s a fake!!

The drawbacks of Google Plus.. I think the one that I found most irritating that friends are not updated in the profiles, in my circles and vice-versa when I add them or they add me. I do get a mail intimating me that they have added me but I can’t see them on my profile.That is a huge one if you would ask me! Rest looks neat so far, just waiting for all my friends to join Google plus.

Its too soon to tell who’s gonna win but Google plus definitely had a stunning start and Facebook can’t help but stand up and notice. In terms of number, FB does have the advantage which can be used as a strength in future strategies.

Another interesting observation after the launch of Google Plus, since October 2009 Google had an agreement with Twitter to include their updates in search results through a special feed – Google Real Time. But after that agreement expired on July 2 2011, Google is no longer interested to renew it, to promote its own Google Plus updates. Interesting case of forward integration in social media.

The war just got bigger and better..would be an interesting watch!

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Thou shalt not Facebook..!! Holy crap??

The new idea – “Though shalt not Facebook”, (not an official commandment though) was making headlines a couple of months back, when a New Jersey pastor was propagating against Facebook. He was asking couples to delete Facebook profiles after there were multiple instances of problems in marriages, believed to be majorly caused by Facebook. However, that may be just one dimension of looking at the whole social network revolution and it would not be prudent enough to miss the bigger picture.

Had the above statement officially been among the commandments of modern day bible, 95% of you reading this write now or using internet would be sinners as per that. That tells all about the outreach of Facebook and social media networking.

Twitter and Internet being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, signifies the depth to which social media has penetrated our day-to-day lives. (On a different note, the nomination does sound a bit bizarre!! But, on second thoughts its alright, considering Barack Obama actually won it last year which took even him by surprise. 😉 )

Some interesting Facebook facts:

>> Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months!! (500 million users in 4 years)

>> If Facebook were a country it would be the 3rd largest by population globally!! (After India & China)

>> Facebook offers more than 70 translations. (And, still counting!)

>> 83% of all companies use Facebook.

Remembering the non-Facebook days a few years back, I realize how it has impacted our lives drastically. Sometimes I wish I had a “Real-life Like button” which I could press, on every single activity happening around. Also, it would be great if we could read people’s minds in real lives the moment we saw them like Status updates. Ditto for relation ship status and about me ;). One look at a person and a mini-biography is available for your reference, enough to make your mind about the person and decide if you want to be friends.

Its incredible when one notices how easy Facebook has made networking and communication for us. One line from your beloved ones and you get to know that they are doing alright. During the recent uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, and natural calamities in New Zealand and Japan, social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook have proved to be of good service in practical situations.

The social media world full of netizens has become so overpowering that either you are on the bandwagon or you are living in the stone age!!

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” ~ Jeff Bezos, CEO at amazon.com

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Watch your words..

One bad thing about having decided not to blog about my work is that I miss out writing on so much stuff and venting about numerous incidents happening throughout the day. But a good part is that I get to focus on the other things I would actually love to write about; else my blog would become just a gossip ground. ;)

A bad day at work can really shoot up the mercury of your stress meter. And that's when my blog is my relief, my hideout. Most importantly, it makes me realize that my work is not the only prominent thing in my life. It helps me forget about the outside world (non-digital). Till the time I work on my blog,  my world is the Internet and my country is WordPress.

This reminds me about various organizations coming up with their Social Media Policies, restricting associates to discuss work online and elaborate on work related issues on different social media platforms. (This might explain another important reason why I do not blog about my work!! I don't wanna lose my job ;) )

Anyways, it is quite amusing and ironical at the same time, to witness how the power of social media has threatened mighty corporates and business giants. Any kind of publicity on social media (coming from employees, particularly), may not always be a GOOD PUBLICITY!! ;)

As rightly said by  the rock band Alter Bridge, Watch Your Words!! Enjoy the song..I absolutely adore the guitar intro.

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