cleartrip.com, expedia.com, MakeMytrip.com, Social media, social media marketing, social media strategy, travelocity.com

I’m Your Friendly Neighborhood- TravelWebsite

The genesis is interesting. During one a gyan loaded knowledge session with an agency, I realised that some of the points are worth considering. And so did I, after 3 days, started thinking on social media, community, travel application et al and collected some of these threads (at the fear of loosing them).
First some usual stuff about the social marketing buzz. It is fashionable to be on Facebook (the no of fans decides the success) and twitter (“how many followers you have dude”). Undoubtably, Social media marketing is the most potent jargon to get attention in seminars these days. Truly, there isn’t a dearth of social media evangelists.
Also some and fact (as a marketer)- there are handful of successful case study on the subject of social marketing. Social Media does gives an opportunity to interact and engage with the consumers (for the first time in history of marketing real time) but will you as a marketer consider as an arsenal to drive your campaign. How much time is required, is the next question and “no” is decisive answer for this question as well. And the performance benchmark? Social Media doesn’t have all the answers as of now.
Evangelist would differ, and are hopeful, they would say (Starbucks has 3.7 mln & Coca Cola has 3.5 mln & Facebook 4.4 mln fans on Facebook as we speak). Is the number of Fan the only performance benchmark?
Well all that is ok, but where does social media feature in online travel, where the bread and butter (for majority of vc funded travel site) is traffic acquisition and its performance. Online traffic needs to have a healthy ROI. Each channel is measured. So, where does the social media fit in with limited credentials as a case study and with no estimate of time and resources.
So coming to core of my thoughts. If I were to have an objective for social media plan around travel what will it be? To be on facebook and get million fans, to be on twitter and get million follower or to start a blog and get zillions of people to recommend…
Nice start, but not enough. The objective should be derieved out of the service offering, business goal and brand gene/goal. It may sound simple, however difficult to execute. Starting conversations is not easy.
At the cost of being repetitive, the idea should be to get the social media flywheel going (Dave Evan’s). This is the magic of social media, where for the first time marketers can actualy work in complete circle. Unlike earlier, as in tradional marketing, the cycle doesn’t stop with campaign and stimulus. The responsiblity of marketing goes overlaps with operations, encourages recommendations by the users and in process creates brand advocates. The vetran social media strategist Chris Bogan, calls them as trust agents. His mantra is to use web to create influence, improve reputation and earn trust.
Travel is no different from this global approach. Ideally, if the brand can convert more and more people into ambassadors, the brand will witness positive effect on conversions. There has been some activity around this…
1. MakeMyTrip.com: has Offisial atyachar.com (http://offisialatyachaar.com/, holiday promotion platform) with a fan page and makemytrip on twitter
(http://twitter.com/makemytripdeals). Check out the Anthem on offisialatyachaar.com; it’s a complete riot! Some work in the category.
2. Cleatrip: Innovative in social marketing sphere. Quite active on twitter and facebook. The Kiruba incidence has put their recognition right there.
3. Travelocity: is driving the social media through “The Roaming Gnome”. (He was in San Diago yesterday with an interesting video)
4. Expedia: Some presence here and there, but the focus is not as pointed as cleartrip or travelocity.
There is also example of Cleatrip is clearly the thought leader in the travel vertical and is doing a commendable job from marketing perspective. Right from the corporate blog, to twitter presence and the interacting with the fans, Cleatrip has it act in place. The updates are regular, informative and entertaining. Cleartrip is setting a great precidence and creating a web of social interactions through conversations, leading to relationships.
Maybe a lot of thinking and now a time for to act!
Cheers!
PS; Check out Fan page of Lord Ganesha on the Facebook
Here’s a great list of travel twitter apps from PhocusWright blog.
reputation engine, reputation management, Social media

Building The Brand "You" Online

My colleague Rajat, told me about a bizzare incident that set me thinking. Rajat’s friend, a teacher, came rushing to Rajat one night and needed help; someone had written negatives comments about him on wikimapia. He was speachless because his reputation was being tarnished.
This set me thinking if it were to happen to us. The most important brand is “You”, which requires as much effort as it would required for a multimillion brand.
People search and background checks are common ways to find out about the reputation. With Google at your fingertips, doing this has become easier (know more here). Not just your name, Google will show all such instances where you have been mentioned. Good or bad, Google is a reputation engine, and it does it work by bring you the most relevant result.
Protecting this area will become as important as getting good recommendations for your job/college course. Good news is that there is already a number of social networking sites, which help you with things to start with.
I’m listing simple points that you should keep in mind…
1. Go with your complete name: Make it as extensive as possible. e.g in linkedin, choose a linkedin page with your name e.g
2. Create a blog/microblog: If you don’t have time to extensively blog, join twitter, which people call mindcasting. There are number of ways in which you can connect them with other folks and tell them about stuff you like of don’t like.
3. Be Transparent: DON’T EVER FAKE your identity on the net. Sooner or later your lie will be unearthed. Article on Fake Nandan Nilekani is a great read on this.
This also goes with your promises, weigh your words before you send them out, there is nothing like “off the record”. It is not surprising to find that your words start appearing on the blogs/quotes etc.
4. Create a impactful online impression: Good photograph with a complete profile are necessary. Inlcude links, comments from other people who know you. Make the profile complete with contacts. If possible make this profile sharable. Google Reader has a great way to share your subscriptions along with your profile. Better still if you can have a podcast/Video of your
introduction.
5. Monitor Your Online Reputation: You can do a simple search of search engines such as Google/Yahoo/Bing and get to know the mentions. For more popular entities (such as Mr. President Obama) Twitter is a much better source. The number of follower determine the popularity and reputation.
Final piece of advice, put some effort and start investing in your reputation now and before
the-shit-hit-the-roof kind of situation.
Margaret Mitchell rightly said…
“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was”
Cheers!

dave evans, Social media, social media marketing, social media strategy

Dave Evan’s Social Media Marketing Seminar


Another article on the latest fad. Social media and what not!

And on twitter, which is growing by 1444% (nearly 19 Mln users)

I was at Dave Evans seminar organised by 2020 Media (#2020media on twitter) on 22nd June 2009. Quite good things at the event and unlike ones organised by IAMAI. The participation was from traditional marketing teams such as Pepsico, PR agencies and Traditional Agencies. Good turn-out to start with, but didn’t get to meet active guys at the twitter forum, except Gaurav Misra (@gauravnomics).

Maybe I need to be more active on Twitter.

So what is in for a service oriented e-commerce enabled travel intermediary, focused on providing lowest airfares to its visitor in social media. True to it’s performance DNA, measures ROI and benchmarks conversion and uses state of the art optimisers, tools. More over e-commerce as a category is one of the largest spenders on Google and has liaisons with other ad networks which gives it close to 20% reach in the digital world.

Life is good. Product managers are making the user experience better.

Not just loads of academic social media MARKETING concept at the event, there were few sparks of implementable solutions.

Two of these I found blog-able…

1. The Social Flywheel

Traditional Purchase cycle ends at conversion. Look at this cycle…

Acquisition —-> Consideration —-> Purchase/conversion

Marketers work at every stage of this funnel and a traditional business would “optimise” every step. Conversion once done, the retention cycle (classic CRM) takes over. Customer repeat rate or satisfaction index would be a measure of the marketing efficiency. This is our traditional marketing cycle.

Dave has extended this cycle, and in the realm of new media opportunity, this becomes…

Acquisition —-> Consideration —-> Purchase/Conversion —–> Product Trial —-> Word of Mouth/Recommendation —–> Purchase/Conversion

The last part of this funnel, Daves calls as the “Social Flywheel”, and has a positive impact on the conversions. The social media plan works on this flywheel and keeps it going to better the conversion. Not just acquisitions but also post purchase word of mouth is the key to strong competitive.

2. Marketing and Operations don’t work in silos, they have areas in common.

Marketing doesn’t end once the costumers has purchased the product, it is only the start of the experience. More true in service category where the product is not tangible. Traditional Marketing companies have embraced this fact and are first to realise the customer needs and wants. Pay a huge emphasis on customer needs and wants and listens to customer conversations.

Service companies, relies on the CRM and after sales support for the same objective. Here, marketing can’t wash it’s hands off and needs to equally connect with customer so that it positively influences the purchase cycle.

Take for example a typical case of flight ticket purchase from a typical website. The onus of marketing wouldn’t just finish after the new customer acquisition; it would need to put a similar effort to resolve any issues related to date change, refunds upon flight cancellation to create a great word of mouth. Else the customer would get a sense of being fleeced.

Two great actionable points and worth trying out, I thought.. Like a complete strategy. To start with, I’m active on Facebook.

It is all about conversations!

Cheers!

2009 Elections, Digital Strategy, India Elections, lkadvani.in, Social media

BJP’s Cyber Strategy- An Audacity of Hope?

With election just round the corner, there is hardly any buzz in media. There seems to be no “India Shining” or a “High-decibel-clash-between-national-party” media campaigns.

However such is not the case on internet. One of the most prominent faces that you might see on these days on net is that of Mr. LK Advani. In addition to his ubiquitous banner advertising across different websites and search campaign, he is promoting his personal website lkadvani.in. A few words on this website- it is neat and progressive in its vision. The welcome note- “Welcome to my website…” is engaging. Currently, the website has two language option (Hindi and English) and also promotes the other BJP websites- Mr.Narendra Modi, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan. The home page is updated and follows Advaniji’s latest happening (he met the family of 7 that attempted collective suicide). The website also has other 2.0 features; it lets you subscribe Advaniji’s latest blogpost (through rss feed & email), has a number of discussion forums, and enables you to leave comments (You can read my comments on his blog here…). Completing the chain is the presence on Youtube, Orkut and Facebook.

Pretty much everything what a digital medium has to offer (well they missed out twitter!). The strategy seems robust considering what this project is set out to do- engage with 100 Mln new voter, who are primarily young and embrace digital media. BJP is following the footprints of US election, and aims to get more number of new generation folks (the so called IT generation) involved with the elections.

If so, this election might be hailed as the first “Digital Election”. Blogger, Gaurav Mishra has created the first comprehensive coverage of this action in his blog and wiki site (hats off!). He writes…

Shaken by the 11/26 Mumbai terrorist attack, and inspired by Barack Obama’s success in the US elections, the young urban Indian is likely to step out to vote for the first time in India’s recent electoral history. As a result, both BJP and Congress are targeting young, urban voters like never before. BJP and Congress, however, have adopted different tactic to appeal to this audience. While Congress is banking on the youthful appeal of Rahul Gandhi, the 39 year of scion of the Gandhi family, BJP has embarked on an aggressive 360 degree campaign, inspired by the Obama campaign (Chicago Tribune/ AFP/ Indian Express/ TOI/ Reuters). “ Read full article here

Gaurav Mishra’s wiki site, which also has insightful articles by other bloggers of repute (If social media interests you, you will find Sampad Swains article stimulating…). The 2009 elections is also exciting for us digital marketing folks, because it may deliver another success, thus enhancing the credentials of digital media coming as mainstream marketing. Mr.President Barack Obama showed the way in Nov 2008, a strategy that brought out possibly the maximum voters in US history, 67%, most of them young (some interesting statistics on Sampad Swain’s blog.

The question is whether a similar campaign will bring out the 100 Mln new Indian Voters and give BJP the first mover advantage in this space? Will this campaign encourage new voters to come out and vote? My guess is that it won’t.

My hunch lies the unique things about us, Indians. We don’t express ourselves, come forward and contribute and that our opinions count. We leave this job it to a few folks, whom we deem corrupt, self centered, and pro-minority politicians. In India, Facebook and Orkut would still be popular, because we are very social by nature and love to interact, discussion and debate (as infamous “Argumentative Indian”). We also may express our negative experiences in mouthshut.com or indiamike.com, but going out of home and voting is a different story. Can internet influence us to change?

Why I think that digital media will stand short of influencing, is also due to our media usage. Our media consumption for opinion depends largely on press and sensation Hindi news TV news coverage. The TV coverage is similar to a Bollywood action movie and entertainment is too much big an influence in shaping up our views. Digital media is different. We depend on reader, and point of view. Given a total of 45 Mln internet users, this seems small compared to over electoral base. Even in this small segment, a large majority would love to read blogs, but won’t even leave the comment behind. We are not conditioned to take that extra step. And this is why I think, digital medium used in this election will be short of pushing people that extra mile. However, will be a great marketing case study, academically. Influencing people to take decisive action is a difficult thing.

But there is silver lining. Efforts are being consistently on getting the urban middle realise the importance of their participation- Tata Tea’s “Jaagore.com“, is a great thought provoking commercial, which based on a great insight on our lazy educated urban middle class. Other campaign, such as Times of India’s “Lead India”, is also a stimulating step in a positive direction. If fortune favors the brave, we might see emergence of a new media during this election.

My intention in no way is to undermine the efforts behind the project. Hindi website, which connects to larger section of population, is a great step. This might be the precursor to language content inflexion point, which we have been waiting for a longtime and will catalyse the internet adoption on the country. This also might help to take social media off internet into more realistic ground level activity (efforts such as friends of BJP and its local chapters, which help activate the issues). The success of this campaign will also mean an large behavior change in our outlook as Indians. A great news for marketers, who are interested in new opinion forming vehicles. In fact, the more party follow this suit, the better it is for the media, which will help internet connect to deeper into tier2 towns. But alas, only if our other politicians had a vision for new India!

With my Voter-id card done, I’m ready to cast my mandate in this election and pray that new India also has the audacity to contribute to this “change” and “hope”.

Cheers!

Digital Marketing, Social media, Viral Marketing

Are you on Facebook, eh!

It was 26th January, the date I started to recieve a number of B’day wishes. I got about calls, each of these callers had a common source- Facebook. I’m not a very active facebook user (as I have mentioned in my other posts), but I would have been one of the first guys to register on Facebook.com. Since it was a new site, I registered with a dummy date of birthday (26 Jan). I guess my non-sociable attitude, laziness and unmanageable application are the root cause for this paranormal behavior. However, the other folks feel otherwise.

Facebook, though a very popular website, in India is behind Orkut by a big margin, 12.6 Mln (Orkut) Vs 4 Mln (Facebook). The difference is even more stark when one compares the audience duplication between the two sites. The duplication between Orkut & Facebook is to the tune of 3 Mln (therefore, it means facebook has only about 1 Mln unique visitors compared to 9.7 Mln of Orkut. However, the growth of Facebook is impressive about 150% growth in Dec’08 when compared to Dec’08 (which means Facebook is only next to Blogspot now).

The numbers might be small, but Facebook has a huge impact on the friends community. Recently, during my younger brother’s wedding, I was asked by a 50 year old Auntie- when will you put up the pictures on Facebook? Impressive indeed, Facebook has a great word of mouth. Thanks to the folks at comScore for the data!

Just stumbled upon this link on HindustanTimes.com.

Not trying to prove a point 🙂

Cheers!

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facebook in India, orkut in India, Orkut Vs facebook in India, Social media

Are you on Facebook, eh!

It was 26th January, the date I started to recieve a number of B’day wishes. I got about calls, each of these callers had a common source- Facebook. I’m not a very active facebook user (as I have mentioned in my other posts), but I would have been one of the first guys to register on Facebook.com. Since it was a new site, I registered with a dummy date of birthday (26 Jan). I guess my non-sociable attitude, laziness and unmanageable application are the root cause for this paranormal behavior. However, the other folks feel otherwise.

Facebook, though a very popular website, in India is behind Orkut by a big margin, 12.6 Mln (Orkut) Vs 4 Mln (Facebook). The difference is even more stark when one compares the audience duplication between the two sites. The duplication between Orkut & Facebook is to the tune of 3 Mln (therefore, it means facebook has only about 1 Mln unique visitors compared to 9.7 Mln of Orkut. However, the growth of Facebook is impressive about 150% growth in Dec’08 when compared to Dec’08 (which means Facebook is only next to Blogspot now).

The numbers might be small, but Facebook has a huge impact on the friends community. Recently, during my younger brother’s wedding, I was asked by a 50 year old Auntie- when will you put up the pictures on Facebook? Impressive indeed, Facebook has a great word of mouth. Thanks to the folks at comScore for the data!

Just stumbled upon this link on HindustanTimes.com.

Not trying to prove a point 🙂

Cheers!

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Search Engines, Social media

What is your Knol?

google-knol-say-always-what-you-think-mashed-up-from-tommyblue-dot-it-grande_coraggio-4001

A bad question to start the post for an interesting product :). The though came after a good question (rather answer) was popped during an internal quiz- “What is the unit of knowledge?”

An avid follower of Google myself, I couldn’t even attempt the question (though my able colleague did). And thus started my pursuit of KNOL, a unit of knowledge.

For the late starter, such as I, Knol is an article written by experts. Just as the information on Wikipedia. These are authoritative articles written by experts. An interesting starting point is this article in Google blog which says- 100,000th knol published (wow, I didn’t know that it was that big?).

Knol has been dubbed as the “Wikipedia killer” (Actually one of the polls on the web that I came across deems it otherwise. There is a huge loyality for Wikipedia). Now, coming back to Knol, the author who creates the knol, can accept or reject the edits made by the person writing the review. Sometimes it is also compared to Squidoo, which is also created by specialists (read authorities) and be rewarded for it. However, it has to go a long way when you compare it to 2.7 Mln content pages on wikipedia.

You can log onto knol.google.com and get a first hand experience yourself!

Go get yourself a knol 🙂

Cheers!

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