Tag Archives: Social Media

Social Media Crossword – Answers

7 Mar


Just to remind you, the clues were:


How many cracked it?

Social Media Crossword – Just For Fun

5 Mar

Try and solve 🙂



Answers tomorrow 🙂


How to Create Social Media KPIs : The Science of Indices

27 Feb


Yesterday my nephew, who is an earnest young brand manager in a lifestyle/ accessories Indian brand, was staring at his computer. When asked why he was looking so perplexed, he said – We’ve created this really nice campaign on facebook, which is engaging as well as makes a very powerful brand statement. Its also a first of its kind we think. Problem is – I am not sure how to figure out whether it’s doing well, and my bosses – all they are saying is – have you doubled your “likes”?


As we all know, he is not in a minority – everyone on Social Media is chasing the ROI holy grail.

But, I really think in our quest for this elusive target, we are tending to overcomplicate Social Media.

Sure, “likes” is too unilateral and limiting – especially when facebook doesn’t allow dislikes. Everyone also knows we should also measure sentiment – positive or negative. But then comes “response” which signifies “engagement”. And then there is also “relevance” – given that Social media has a) so much spam, but also b) so much that’s just random thoughts/ opinions/ rants that either don’t give you an insight into your brand, or don’t meet the objectives you have set out for your campaign.

So, what do you do? Its simple! You create metrics for each such that you can individually measure each parameter that you want to measure.

But ofcourse, there’s the C Suite who want your elevator pitch on – how are we doing? (3 seconds does NOT allow you to say – weeellll, on likes we are better than January, but on engagement we are slower…and sentiment is half positive – half negative – and the rest neutral (yah yah I know – it doesn’t add up!). Your CMO is going to walk right out of the room.

Hence, you create this snazzy sounding “Index” – you can name it ANY godd#$% thing. Integrated Performance Index (sounds even cooler as an acronym IPI ☺ )/ Social Media KPI/ Virality Index (I used that in the old days)/ Brand Health Index… / Campaign Success Index

What is the Index finally? It is a multi attribute weighted number (remember I had said that most management professionals must be grateful to BCG for the 2 by 2 matrix? So also should a lot of folks thank the guy who invented this decision making methodology. So, you take whichever parameters you think you should measure, ascribe weights to them, and derive your index out of the weighted average of these numbers.


Simple? A-ha! The complexity really resides in WHAT parameters to choose and, more importantly, WHAT weights to ascribe. (A quick google to get some actual statistical validity here brought me to this complex article called “On the convergence of multiattribute weighting methods” in the European Journal of Operational Research – for those who are so inclined, please delve into the advantages of the ratio vs. the swing weighting vs. the tradeoff vs. the pricing out method ☺ )

But statistical theory apart, this above is what is the most important factor in getting the relevance of your index or KPI. The weights of each parameter really depend on a few things:
a) The marketing objective of the campaign/ channel – Is it to spread awareness, to engender better knowledge, to direct towards trial, purchase or loyalty – different objectives will have different weights
b) The product category itself – Is it an introductory/ launch category; a growth one or a stable one – where exactly in the PLC does it stand
c) The competitive scenario – how active or inactive are competitors (both category competitors and mindshare/ walletshare competitors) in the social media space – what is the clutter out there that your campaign has to break!
d) How much effort – time/ money/ people are you investing behind the campaign – actually, this is a bit of a circular function as this will to a certain extent depend on the marketing objective – atleast in the ideal scenario

All the above will help deciding weights – the allocation is however likely to be a bit of an iterative situation.

So there you have it – your quick and easy guide to creating your perfect unified/ integrated KPI for your Social Media Campaign (or for that matter any other). Where’s my consultancy fee?

Meanwhile, lemme go see if my young nephew created the right algorithm to keep his bosses happy ☺


Customer Experience “Through the Looking Glass” – It’s the Last Mile that makes the Difference.

12 Feb


Caught a matinee today – awful really. Made far worse by the 3D glasses we had to wear. This is probably the nth 3D movie I watched – and not a single time has my experience with the glasses been anything but horrible. Isn’t it a huge pity that technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, the 3D tech has made movie making/ watching so supposedly pleasurable – but the entire experience is completely and utterly spoilt by one tiny detail – the glasses (oh btw, these glasses are rented – so I pay for them – which adds insult to injury!)

This experience reminded me of an article I’d written nearly 10 years ago in a newspaper (you can read it here) on how so many products fail – not so much because of the products themselves – though such examples abound (including in the article) – but because of the other elements (4Ps a-la-Kotler) of marketing – it could be distribution/ advertising/ pricing…and increasingly nowadays…customer service.

OK, since it looks like this is becoming a “nostalgic” post, I pulled up another article I’d written in the same newspaper even longer ago (actually that was my first published piece ever – so I still remember the thrill it gave me to look at myself in print!) ON customer service – or, the lack of it, in durables. (again, if you have time on your hands, you can read it here). Two things struck me – a) my writing style hasn’t really changed much! 🙂 b) In the customer service world, things havn’t changed much either! Witness bad quality 3D glasses!


Think about it – with the advent of social media, there’s this big hullabulloo about customer service; customer experience; reputation – these are now very dynamic/ very fragile/ very potentially viral properties. While Twitter is the new customer service helpdesk, it is also the crisis escalation firebell! One Dell Hell, One United Broke My guitar, or, recently, Findus/ beef lasagna/ horse meat controversy, and you’re stuck with a big big big problem on your hands. People are now getting paranoid about reputation. But you know what, this whole customer service shindig – hinges on really SMALL things – the last mile almost. It’s the guy at the cash counter who is counting bills while you are waiting/ the system that asks you for your problem for the nth time as you complain about bad internet bandwidth for the nth time when each time you’ve explained the origin and history of the problem/ it’s even the barman who didn’t smile when he handed you your pint, and most importantly, it’s the rant tweet that went unattended for 2 days when you complained about the above!

That’s why companies are investing in listening, and then responding. There are “Social Media Command Centers” being set up – not only to proactively engage with customers, but to respond to customer service issues. But it’s a scary thought – one rogue tweet that went unattended – and your command center is useless…

So what does one do? Apart from the obvious ones like – get a listening program in place (but how do you find out what’s important), have someone manning your social media properties for customer service related issues (but how do you make sure that one rogue tweet/ youtube video is not unattended), have a proactive policy of crisis handling?

The answer is the 5 Ts

Social CRM

Technology – I’m talking futuristic here – lets get Social CRM stuff – this is the utopican (currently) smart help desk that knows you when you buy/ call/ chat/ tweet/ rant – and can connect all the dots (see my older post on this by clicking here – I do believe that sCRM even as a concept needs much understanding currently – many people think its just an evolved form of listening. Its NOT!)


Training – Seems really obvious. The best tech cannot obviate human beings – and human beings cannot be let loose unbridled in the social media world – just like any contact center operation, social media helpdesk management requires policies and training – continuous, iterative, dynamic, flexible training. Best Buy did this best with their Twelpforce – they mobilized almost their entire organization as customer service agents, trained them but had the appropriate tech platform backing them.

Tracking – Make sure you have ways of finding out who can potentially be the bomb – so influencer identification strategy is important – keep a trace on big people on social media, and track them continuously. Remember, “influencers” can trigger virality quicker than mere mortals. Remember also however, that someone else’s pussy cat may be your influencer and vice versa!

Triggering Mechanisms – Make sure you have ways of putting in place traces of issues that are escalating – so a virality alert – that makes you get on the crisis fighting mode sooner rather than later. It could be a spike in negativity/ an unusual pick up in a competitor’s chatter/ unprecedented buzz on one site..just keep an eye on the trigger

and finally,

Transparency – Lets face it – the best will and technology in the world, may not be able to avert a customer service disaster. The best thing to do in such cases is – basically eat crow. Open your kimono, say you’re sorry, get the ranting raving customer be atleast a sympathetic ranting raving one. After all, most folks realize good intentions and appreciate that if you goof up and own up that u goofed up, a lot is saved!

As for my matinee movie, I read here back in August that we should be able to watch 3D movies without glasses soon – may the day arrive sooner rather than later. Samsung/ Sony – you guys listening?

India – Greenfield Opportunity for Social Media in HealthCare and Pharma.

8 Feb

Meds India

The other day while looking at an RFP from a potential client, I was struck by this almost damning statement – “Currently there are no formal regulatory or legal obligations specific to social media and guidance from the FDA is not expected in the near future”.

Everyone in the Healthcare/ Pharma world has been complaining about the lack of adequate regulatory guidelines – whether it is from the FDA or the NHS – for Digital/ Social Media participation, but also for listening/ research purposes for Pharma and Healthcare companies. Its true, the regulatory bodies have been languishing – but whats happened is, that after a period of acting coy about it, most US based pharma companies have decided to be proactive (albeit in different degrees) about pharmacovigilance, and therefore have started self regulating.

Segue away to India – the 3rd largest pharma market in the world (from a volume perspective) and maybe the largest in generics?. Question – what is the state of Social Media for Healthcare here. Answer? umm – ground zero pretty much 😦

Lets look at some facts for Social Media/ Internet for Health Care. Given low penetration of computers/ internet, this is an ever debated issue. But, of all people online (and many folks as we know are now online thanks to mobiles not so much internet) – figures for those seeking medical/ health related info are fairly high – as high as in western countries (we are talking the 70s/ 80s here). Some older figures can be seen here


Now lets look at where Health Care is going in India in general –
a) Burden of disease is shifting from acute to chronic diseases – so therapies are changing
b) Focus of medicine/ the mindset is still very “reactive”/ treatment oriented – though that is changing a bit, with “wellness” coming into the picture. (I remember doing a country clustering exercise for a client some 4 years ago – based on scientific vs. alternate treatment types/ and “proactive”/ vs. “reactive” type of healthcare mindset. No surprises – India was at the peak of both axes).
c) Doctor patient ratio remains abyssmal – some 6 practitioners apparently for 10,000 people (add a rural-urban skew and numbers will be appalling)
d) Patient communities still non existent almost

Given this, does Social media have a role to play? (despite the usual/ global fears of – confidentiality/ liability/ responsibility/ authenticity of content/ potential crisis that Social Media always raises when spoken about in conjunction with Healthcare) Yes ofcourse – specially in building communities/ advisory forums for therapy as well as proactive lifestyle management. Sure, it wont be the 100 bil people – but can we atleast reach a percentage of it incrementally? Are we doing that?

Incidentally, where care is concerned – i saw a great example recently when I took my dad to get his eye treated. There was a youtube video playing of a (I assume) complicated eye surgery done in Bangalore – and this apparently had been streamed to a remote location when a less experienced doctor had been faced with it!

I did my usual research.

Top Indian Pharma companies:

#1: Ranbaxy
#2: Cipla
#3: Dr. Reddy’s Labs

Ranbaxy has popular OTCs like Volini, Revital, Chericof, Pepfiz. Revital has a facebook page, with some 27K odd likes. Fairly active – contests running, tips etc on bones/ diet, frequent updates. Also a mobile app. Looks like some of the other brands are beginning their Social media journey too.

Cipla has a dedicated portal for HCPs (Ciplamed) but no facebook page. The doctor resource seems fairly unidirectional in terms of messaging. It does have carebeyondcure.org, a palliative care and training center.

Dr. Reddy’s has a facebook page – some 60K likes. Talks about Cancer/ world cancer day. Vitamins/ diet/ symptoms of dyslexia/ airborne diseases/ tips etc – also fairly active.
Has also many microsites – friends forever for alumni, for the legacy of Dr. Reddy’s (drreddysjourney) – (that even has a twitter handle), an ebusiness portal Vikreta2DRL, one for its R&D organization.

But, I couldn’t find any evidence of communities which these brands were sponsoring/ active on – so looked like they are just using facebook as a “connection” medium, more unidirectional tips etc – good for first steps, but leaves a lot to be desired.

I thought I would take a look at global pharma’s presence in India. In order of revenues, the top 3 big pharma in India are: GSK, Abbott, Sanofi.

GSK doesn’t have any India specific sites, (they do have US and other countries for their brands – Calpol/ Alli being the main ones). Neither does Abbott or Sanofi. I did see a facebook campaign called Bluediwali for Sanofi – on diabetes, but all their other properties were global/ other countries. Thinking maybe this is part of their strategy (keep unified global properties) I ran a check – it’s not true, they do have lots of country specific sites – mainly Mexico and Turkey specially! For a decent look at Social Media properties, check out this wiki.Note how many country specific sites/ communities exist that are being sponsored by the global pharma?

So this I don’t understand – large untreated patient population. Sure, low internet penetration. Also trend shifting to chronic treatment. Also, everyone says medicine is a very “local” issue – then why aren’t the global majors more active here?. Regulation on this practically doesn’t exist (even otherwise Indian regulation scenario is complex – its split between the Center and the State for one) but given largely self regulation in the U.S., certainly the pharma companies can extend that here.

Actually, if you ask me – even more so than company pages/ handles, India is pretty much greenfield opportunity to activate and then “own” patient communities – as support for therapeutic conditions. These may not entirely replace “Dr. Google”, but will certainly lend well directed, authentic support to the teeming millions. I can also see development in apps for adherence – which actually is a big area for Pharma even globally. (I downloaded a cardiograph on my iphone the other day – helps me monitor my heart rate 🙂 – nice toy!)


Another area would be support for Doctors – like a U.K> company’s fortnightly twitter journal aimed at peer to peer conversation (or Sermo in the U.S. or Dooox in Germany). Most urban doctors atleast have computers in their clinics nowadays – and I am sure they can use the peer network support. (Will hopefully shift the burden of weekend medical conferences/ train the trainer programs etc to semi urban and rural areas which sorely need them!)

Net net, reservations and all, there is immense scope for Social media in the Healthcare and Pharma sector – from Govt. bodies using it, to Practice Management committees, to Pharma companies and finally Patient Advocacy groups.

Wonder who will be the first to step up and become “early entrants” in this 13 billionish market!


Of Goals and Gamification, and “Agile” Development a la Bubka!

7 Feb


A big influence on me growing up was Ayn Rand – (I just realized that my husband spent his youth reading/ talking and believing in largely left oriented – socialistic stuff, and I reading/ talking/ believing in Ayn Rand! This may have been an offshoot of city vs. small town living, or natural proclivities to one side or the other during the cold war! but, still point to ponder at the next marital discord session!. However, I’m getting sidetracked here – let me get back to the point!)

One of the scenes that stayed in my mind was when Dominique asks Howard Roark if his life was more a series of “stops” i.e., did he just live everyday in a “continuous” stream, or kind of progress from one point to another in “discrete” intervals. I forget what the point of that question/ and the context behind it was, (I tried googling and found many “quotable quotes” from Fountainhead, but not this one – I should borrow it from the library and see what my adult self thinks of my youth-time obsession – but, if I run true to Rand’s philosophy, then “There’s so much nonsense about the human inconstancy and the transience of all emotions. I’ve always thought that a feeling which changes never existed in the first place. There are books I liked at the age of sixteen. I still like them.”).

But, again, to get back to the point – that scene I do often remember, coz that’s certainly the way I live. You have a fairly humdrum life in general – getting more and more routine and frustrating everyday, – as little peccadilloes keep piling up and irritating the hell out of you. But what makes you survive is those “golden moments” that you keep looking forward to. So, it’s the next nice lunch with your friends that you havn’t met for a while, or the great concert you are going to, or the next time you complete a new algorithm; or the time when you close a deal…small milestones achieved, leading to rewards…

Its kind of like my friend Shoma, who “signs up” herself and her family for every single class going – mind reading, guitar, drama, robotics, tennis, dance, yoga, basketball, ….- as long as that class has exams to pass! So a lot of time on her weekly schedule consists of going to Lamda/ Gandharva Mahavidyalaya/ U-14 play offs – blah blah blah.

I have to confess the greatest kick I used to get out of one of my kids’ classes was the martial arts one. That guy had his business model down pat – charge for the monthly class, but every 2 – 3 months hold a “belt test”. This was held early in the morning in a school far off from home – there were excited kids of all ages dressed in the traditional white whats-it-called dress, sleepy eyed parents, the master – and many coloured belts! After an hour of waiting, there would be a 10 minute “test” (euphemism for vague arm waving by kids en masse), and then the “belt award ceremony” – where each child got a belt of the next higher color. Incidentally, for each belt test – you coughed up more money (this belt test fees increased in correlation with order of belts!) Fantastic, wasn’t it? But it’s understandable – as someone once told me, you put me in a masters program, I’ll do really well. Put me in a PhD – I wont ever make it! Translated, most of us react well when we have achievable goals, and then opportunity to celebrate those goals, in front of us. So, discrete movements – not continuous stream 🙂

I’m often asked about running a company – when did we make a business plan (answer – never really till we were selling it off!); how did we set our vision (answer – my partner Debjani just “set it down” one day as we needed one for the website); how did we decide we wanted to move onto the social media space (anwer: we didn’t really, we were using existing data for research, it so happened that Social Media started becoming bigger – we were in right place at right time, so hopped onto the bandwagon…) (you may remember from my post, entrepreneurship was pretty much “thrust upon us”). But, allied to vision, is the issue of “goals” – and that I think we took a pragmatic view of. While we did have the grand “end vision” of making the next Google (we wanted to be the B2B search engine – ie, you need a business question answered – we will answer it for you – from EXISTING data!); but in everday life, we really set ourselves small goals – baby steps. There’s a lot to be said for that – it makes sure you set yourselves enough challenges, and yet award yourself the chance to feel happy/ fulfilled and therefore motivated when you achieve that goal. As life is all about moving forward, you then repeat the cycle by setting another set of baby goals, and then go bust to deliver that, reward yourself and others when it’s done – repeat cycle again and again.


Though I’m not a software person, I think this is what the “agile” development methodology is about – break up the task into smaller pieces, gives you an opportunity to control better, align with client’s objectives better, showcase progress to client better, and course-correct if required – also gives you goals that you can “see” – that you can work towards – and therefore, maybe, work BETTER towards.


This is also what Gantt charts enable – breaking down of larger project into smaller bite sized pieces. I think its what every seemingly impossible dream needs – it is, in my view, the only way you can move forward and not feel bogged down by the enormity of the task.

I think closely allied to this thought is that of “optimal” vs. “perfect”. My partner Kyung and I kind of had opposite–ends–of-the-spectrum approaches on this. He would work on a plan/ ppt/ pitch – and work on it again – and work on it again – annnd againnn – and againnn – till he got it completely right. It HAD to be the perfect circle/ the right color of blue on the page/ the size of the box. The end result used to be beautiful/ perfect – and, often, late! I on the other hand, would definitely work equally hard, but the point was, is it good enough for what I want? If yes, finish it, and move ahead to the next job. I’d like to believe I got a lot more done this way (if you have a people as well as client facing role, you do have to juggle many many balls up in the air as we all know). To again draw an analogy with software development – it’s like various releases of software – version 1, 1.1, 1.2….you can keep refining, but unless you RELEASE – how will you test/ get feedback/ even get ideas on making “perfect”?

So you ask the question – whats “good enough” vs. “perfect” – who defines these? Can one person’s “good enough” be another’s “perfect”? Since I started with Howard Roark, let me use one of his quotes to illustrate what he said about the guy who first made fire – “His truth was his only motive. His work was his only goal. His work, not those who used it, his creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things, and against all men. He went ahead whether others agreed with him or not. With his integrity as his only banner. He served nothing, and no one. He lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.”. But on the other side of the coin, you are taught Pareto Optimality (btw, as i was searching for the wiki link to pareto, i discovered that there’s a lot more to this than i thought – OK, homework for me after I finish writing this post!) – the 80-20 rule. Get atleast the 80 right, and you can move forward. Not perfect, see, but largely right! Eddie Rabbitt said it too – “step by step” you win her love!


So, which is right? Are these opposing philosophies? I think these are NOT opposing – but one is a subset of another. The point is – definitely strive for perfection, aim for the stars, define your larger goal and work towards it; but, MOVE forward – break it up – make smaller goals – finish them, then work on the next set of goals – finish those…(which means Kyung and I were kind of working towards the same objective – its just that I broke it up, while he eternally strove for perfection)

A common question asked by clients who are wrestling with building social media programs is, how do I set goals (actually, these are the most evolved clients – at least they are talking goals! Many don’t – just want to open their facebook page and twitter handle). But, as they devise their OGST program – objectives, goals, strategies, and tactics, they ask – we don’t have a precedent, how do we set goals? What is too big/ what is too little? How do we set KPIs such that our teams believe in them and work towards them?

Your standard/ cop out answer to such questions is – what do you WANT to do – how much effort will you spend behind it (or rather can spend?). But in a new area – how do you set quantified/ measurable goals? We had a few methods – a) benchmark similar situations for similar companies – since everyone is new to Social Media, you don’t get obvious parallels – but use proxies – e.g., when enterprises started putting KPIs for trial campaigns, what goals were set? By your competitors/ early entrants in that field/ across other industries? b) Of course, another way out was take your own historical performance, compute moving averages of say 3 month performances, and benchmark accordingly. (But if you are in a completely greenfield area, and say you bust all benchmarks in the first month itself, how do you deal with it?)

My answer, put a stake in the ground – it need not be right (remember, the search for perfection may bog u down!) – but atleast it’s something – if it’s wrong , pull up that stake, set 10 others – you have incrementally better knowledge of what you want to do – but for chrissake, MOVE!

This is what all these new gamification (new word for old hat) techniques are doing – the badges for “world’s best nerd”, the “reward points collected everytime you shop- with the payoff in the form of freebees (yes, these are forms of “loyalty” marketing – but see, that’s the point, it’s all related – loyalty points are a form of giving you goals – in this case shop more – with payoffs!); the Linkedin endorsements (I HATE those!), the metrics for website views, the number of “likes” you get when you post content. There are businesses being crafted out of measurement and metrics (rightly so), and they play upon a very human tendency to work towards a goal, feel fulfilled when that goal is achieved, and get motivated to strive further.


I am doing this all the time in my aerobics class (nyaah, still not got any better at it!) – when Niru displays a particularly complicated piece of choreography – while all the others follow effortlessly – I take it step by step. She helps me break it down – I get one bit right, then another, then the third and by the time everyone is repping it for maybe the 8th time, I get it right ☺. I then award myself these – I call them “Bubka badges” (remember Sergei Bubka, who would keep breaking his own record at the pole vault?). So, for every step that I got right the first time, I get the smiley one, then if I got it right in the 3rd attempt, I get the straight faced one and so on ☺. Gamification, you got it in one!

So, what do you think – perfect or optimal? While you ponder this one, let me go out and buy a few more Bubka badges – at the rate at which I’m going at aerpobics, I’ll need LOTS more!

Sergey Bubka of the USSR

Social Media in Politics – Necessary Evil, Proxy Democracy or Change Agent?

30 Jan


In the recently concluded, highly theatrical and much talked about Chintan Shivir – the strategy session for India’s ruling Congress Party, a big “action area” outlined was better use of Social Media. The party’s Young Turks said this was basically to reconnect with the currently alienated Urban Youth voters, acknowledging that Facebook and Twitter were now almost officially the “language of the urban youth” even in India.

I quickly checked accounts and found:

Facebook Likes – 71,933
Twitter Followers – Could not find official page
Facebook Likes – 811,063
Twitter Followers – 4,919

So, it was true – the congress party was woefully behind in adoption of Social Media.

Contrast with – yes ofcourse, Mr. Obama.
Barack and Michelle Obama hug photo

When he won his second year in office, he made history of sorts with Social Media – his tweet got retweeted & favorited the most times (RT – 7,03,650 times in 24 hrs and Favorites – 2,42,240), and the pic got 3.5 mil likes! His site my.barackobama.com was a key instrument in his campaign, as his Reddit Ask me Anything (AMA) site, and his youtube videos. Infact, as someone said, Social Media was to Obama what Radio was to Franklin D. Roosevelt and T.V. was to J.F.K!

Yes, I realise that the first (Congress) is a party while the second (Obama) is a politician, and many of our politicians in India have fairly active accounts even though the party doesn’t, (including Dr. Manmute Singh – how ironical is it – that he gets a voice on SM!). But the principles of usage are largely still the same for both. They do change when we look at another angle for usage of SoMe in politics – and that is when it is used as a megaphone for public opinion. Lets take a look at how SoMe is/ can be used:

By a Political Party:

a) Build awareness – Oh ofcourse – SoMe 101, isn’t it? This is one of the primary uses of SoMe (see the ABC of Social Media). But really, an easy way to spread the real message / releases / communication is open your facebook account and twitter handle. Closely linked with this, is:

b) Transparency – There is a lot of misinformation on the web, including many fake accounts. (The Indian Prime Minister was hit by one recently, causing the govt. to block a few accounts till verified for authenticity). Hence, an official Social Media presence allows you to be transparent, and released verified information

c) Increasing voter engagement – Apparently, the 2012 election night in the U.S. saw 300,000 tweets per minute. And election day/ the topic saw a total of 3.5 mil tweets! In our own India, organisations like Janagraha have been very active in voter enrollment.

d) Campaigning – These lessons we should learn from the U.S. – specially the 2012 election was the best case study in using SoMe to campaign – for BOTH parties!

The downside to this is that ruling parties can use SoMe for suppression – after all, SoMe makes the state far more porous – which can be seen as loss of control by authoritarian governments (more on this in a bit)

By Politicans:

a) The first is clearly to establish a connection/ empathy with the masses – Barack Obama did this so well. But, smaller countries have been doing this too – The Turkish President being a great example – not only does he use the channels well, he holds brainstorming meetings with Social Media experts!

b) Similar to parties, campaigning is the other use – depending on who is more powerful – the party or the politician, the relative weightages will get decided during campaigning.

c) An interesting use is because of its cost effectiveness. As this Kenyan Politician said – Social media campaigning allows them to reach out to the masses just as easily as parties/ people with richer coffers can – thus establishing equality in the hugely capital intensive political race!

By the People:

Social Media has proven to be the most effective way of bringing democracy to people’s homes.


After all, who can forget Arab Spring – its probably been the most powerful example of people’s activism dethroning governments, with a strong use of Social Media.

The earliest examples of digital media usage in transferring information quickly, virally to assemble people against a cause was probably Philipines in 2001 for Joseph Estrada’s impeachment – 7 mil text messages mobilised 1 mil people. Moldova in 2009 – 30,000 protestors assembled using Facebook, Livejournal, Twitter; Iran when Agha Soltan dies in 2009, The Jasmine revolution in Tunisia, and Tahrir in Egypt in 2011 – when Google executive Wael Ghonim put up a video of Khaled Said dying on youtube and sparked off the revolution that led to Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. The rate of tweets in Egypt, thanks to this subject went from 2300/day to 2,30,000/day! And then in true dominoes effect Lebanon/ Syria/ Libya started seeing signs of collapse of governments.

It’s interesting – as a Media Monitoring/ Listening company, we actually benefitted from Arab Spring – we got new business from Governments in countries like Senegal and Morocco since they decided to be more pro-active in “listening” to their people!

Ofcourse, there is a downside to this – it doesn’t always go well – the use of Social Media for activism. Specially when governments are able to apply censors – infact, in Iran, during the Agha Soltan movement, the government actually used Social Media to spread wrong information for protest gatherings, and many people died as a result! Other failures were – Belarus in Mar 2006, where post the revolution dying down, the govt. cracked down ever more on censorship; the Green movement in 2009 and the Red Shirt Movement in Thailand in 2010.

But activism is not the only benefit to people that Social Media gives – a Pew Study shows fairly high usage of Social Media, specially amongst the youth, to share political content/ views with their peers.

And finally ofcourse, people should use it for feedback to their political parties and governments – a bit like the use of twitter in business as the “modern help desk/ customer service center”. Thats why our friends in the African governments commissioned us for listening – and thats a really good use of Social Media – to be the instrument that carries people’s voices to their elected (or otherwise) representatives!

The final really interesting/ innovative use of Social Media, more in governance than in politics, seems to be in “crowd sourcing”. The 2 colest case studies for this were:

a) Iceland: In 2011, Iceland allowed its people to “create”/ “vote for” its own constitution via a Social Media referendum! This came in the wake of the “Pots and Pans” revolution, where the people of Iceland refused to pay back to Britain a debt of 2.3 billion that their erstwhile private banks borrowed; and then brought down their government! Impressive, huh? (even though they only have a population of some 800 odd thousand)

b) Sweden: Again late in 2011, the Swedish government, in a bid to promote tourism, gave over its @Sweden twitter account to its citizen journalists. Via a campaign called Curators of Sweden, it allowed different people to tweet about Sweden every week – for almost 7 months – till it all blew up in their faces when their tweeter started posting arguably offensive/ controversial content.

But think about the power of this idea – almost a wiki – constitution, or a wiki – law journal can be created – true democracy, huh?

OK, this is going on and on, but I do want to wind up by saying that ofcourse all Social Media is NOT always good for all politics – even Malcolm Gladwell contends that Social Platforms use very weak ties to form movements, and hence the motivation to keep on at any movement in a sustained fashion is lacking. If you look at how older/ longer lasting movements have formed and then taken place – they took years of fairly deep structural changes in social/ civil religious or moral fibres – and then erupted in the form of sustained movements.

Also, use of Social Media by governments has had its own gaffes – the EU’s commercial “Growing Together” drew a lot of flak as it was called racist. Our own politicians have seen downfall as a result of bad tweets.

But, net net, what one hopes that Social Media does, is initiate the people of any country atleast into “slacktivism” as a first step – and hope they climb the ladder of engagement with politics to ultimately really participate in making their own governments work better!

This is true of me, as it is I think of many of my friends – evidenced in a recent upsurge of mass/ public opinion against the government in a barbaric case of Sexual harassment leading to death of a young girl in Delhi.

Come on, all, lets raise our voices – Social media as a starter, and more active ways of change later…..what say you?