Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

There was a very interesting happening in the social media space recently, when a customer put out a promoted tweet, to sound out his frustrations against British Airways.  Perhaps the first instance of this kind, this was a topic of a lot of discussions, including this interesting debate that happened on my own timeline.


In fact, there was more deliberation on the subject, as Karthik Srinivasan did a blog post on the subject, cuing it with the above-referred discussion on my timeline to begin with, and sharing his details point of view on the subject. More opinions were expressed as Karthik shared the post on Facebook and Twitter.

So, as always, Karthik does a good and thorough job of putting together facts and his viewpoints on the subject, and I fully respect the same. I agree with most of the points he makes in his blog post.

Why do I still see the need to make some additional comments here? That is simply because, I believe, the point that I was trying to make, via my FB post, and the conversation that I had, mostly with Paul, on my timeline as referred above, was slightly different. And which I want to bring out and highlight hereunder.

First things first, and specifically in reference to Karthik’s blog post, let me clarify:

1. I am definitely of the opinion that the power shift has happened into the hands of the consumer, with the advent of social media. And I am all for it. I talk about this to my clients, almost everyday, and also at speaking events, often. Personally, I have had a few occasions when I have had to take my battles with certain brands on to the social media spaces, after having tried all other traditional means, and not managed to make any impact on the brand.

So I recognise the need and the relevance of consumers using social media channels to put out their perspectives about brands, especially the negative ones. This is happening, will happen more, and I have no issues with this trend.

2. I also do NOT believe that social media platforms would prevent some kind of content about a brand coming on to their platforms, because that brand is also an advertiser, and they would fear that the advertising revenue will be lost. No, I don’t believe that would be a motivation for the social media platforms to stop a piece of content coming up on their platforms.

If these are not the issues, then what else are the points that I was making, when I had some concerns about the trend of consumers putting out anti-brand / negative content, via paid digital advertising methods?

1. As Karthik has sighted in his post, there ARE certain guidelines that platforms prescribe, in regards to advertising content. I will quote from Karthik’s post itself, with examples of Google and Facebook:

a. From Google: 

Google AdWords doesn’t allow the promotion of “discrimination” or violent concepts, such as the following:

Ad text advocating against an organisation, person or group of people

b. From Facebook: 

Ads may not insult, attack, harass, bully, threaten, demean or impersonate others.

Why do they even want to put some restrictions of this kind, if they have no liability towards the advertising content?

Why do platforms have a process of “reviewing” the ad content, at all??

I believe they DO have some level of liability, even if it may be a grey area of sorts, and due to which reason they would want to not let things go totally out of hand.


2. So do I believe that a genuine customer, making a genuine case about a brand, can take things ‘out of hand’??

No, certainly not. My point was in regards to potential abuse of the system, due to allowing such anti-brand advertising. Few days back there was this rumour floating around, about how Delhi police had issued a warning to not consumer Frooti, as it caused AIDS!! Obviously a hoax, but an extremely damaging one for the brand. The company had to take very strong action, as you can see here.

This hoax could have been someone’s mischief.

It could have been motivated by a unscrupulous competitor. The spread of a rumour of this kind, in a country like ours, could seriously knock off market share of Frooti?!  And which would be hard to recover back.

A prankster who does it for fun, and puts out a blog post or a post on his Facebook page, or a review on some customer review site, will generate x amount of reach. Bad enough for Frooti, but not AS damaging as it could get, if one actually put out paid ads on various platforms propounding such misinformation!

AND if there was a competitor’s hand at the back, and where crores of rupees of market share is involved, does it stop the unscrupulous competitor putting out several lakhs of rupees, to have this come out as an ad, and put out in the name of a consumer?!

The damage caused by an activity of this kind can end up causing substantial damage to Frooti, before it is picked up, and recovery efforts are put in place.

And to think that, it would be so easy to achieve something like that? Today, Frooti, tomorrow Nescafe or Cadburys or whoever.

And if a few thousand crores of “loss” happens, does the brand have ANY hope to sue that fronting consumer, and expect to recover even a fraction of that amount?

Would they then make the platform also a party to the legal damage caused? Perhaps…


3. The question then could be, that if damage had to happen, it can happen with organic content also, and not just with paid content. So if we cannot stop organic content (a user’s FB post / her tweet / her blog post / her posting on a customer review site, for example), how and why should platforms stop the paid type?

Yes, there’s clearly a thin line here. My view is only motivated from the fact that these platforms HAVE some process of guidelines for advertising, for ad reviews, etc. So there is an element perhaps, of an involved liability, which will force them to not accept rank potentially derogatory advertising, from anyone. If Twitter does not have guidelines of this kind, maybe they will also create some. In the absence of guidelines and in the absence of scrutiny of ad content, things could get chaotic out there?!

We have fought a fierce battle for one of our clients, where as a market leader, they were attacked by one of their upstart competitors, by relentless, fake accounts based complaints lodging, on various consumer review platforms. It took a massive effort to quell them down, and clean up the space.

I shudder to think the level of damage that paid advertising of anti-brand reports could have caused then..?!


4. So am I sounding very soft and sympathetic towards brands, in my stand here?

No, even though I earn my bread and butter from working for brands, on social media, this post is not to bring sympathy for brands. They do have enough money, many do enough wrong, and when necessary, we need to go after them, and expose their failures.

My concern is about the playing field becoming one mega chaos where then, you cannot distinguish fact from make-believe.

Let’s visualise a scenario, especially after seeing this promoted tweet case of the customer, against British Airways.

That say, every grieved customer who has a few thousand rupees to spare, goes out and creates such promoted tweets or promoted posts, or Facebook advertising.

Add to that, a certain breed of agencies (of the kind that buys you millions of fans from anywhere in the world, or who black-hats your SEO.. you get the drift, right, about the kind of agency I am referring to?!) who will start offering to companies, a route to ‘bring down their competitors’ for a few lakhs of rupees. So we see a huge surge of similar anti-brand advertising emerging from such agencies (with a front name of a consumer…).

Are these difficult to imagine? Not to me at least.

What would this result in? Mayhem on the advertising platforms, and consequently, disaster for the brands.. ?!

Yes, it could generate more moneys spent on digital advertising (or “anti-advertising” to be more precise), and due to the damage caused, more money spent on ORM.

But would it be healthy?? Would the platforms and the media itself lose credibility as a consequence??

THAT is my fear. Once opened up, can the tap be shut? I doubt it..

If you will go back to my Facebook timeline and my discussion with Paul, the specific concern that I raised there, and which I have elaborated here, IS about misuse and not about genuine use, by genuine customers!

Perhaps my concerns are unfounded…

Perhaps anti-advertising will happen, but will be used with more discretion by consumers…

We will have to wait and see.

Hope I have made my point of view a little more clear, at least, now..

I change my Facebook Display Picture, also known as the DP, every once in a while.

There is no system, no pattern, no specific period. Just when I feel like it. Perhaps when some new photos have been taken, and I find one of those interesting enough, to make it my DP.

Most times when a new DP is chosen and the update goes out, there are a few likes, a few comments, on that post.

A very typical reaction, that one.

However this time, it was different.

Few days after the Social Wavelength party recently, I put up one of my photos taken then, as my DP. This was the photo that I used:

The responses I got on putting this photo as my DP, were truly surprising.

While there were the usual likes and “nice pic” kind of comments, there were other stronger reactions.

One of my friends wrote: “Hate”

Another said “it was a bad ass photo”

I was told via a comment that “a person of my stature should not be endorsing smoking..”

Again, another said, “Bad message, Sir..”.

Besides the few comments on FB, there were three direct messages on FB suggesting that I should remove this pic.

And TWO SMS messages too!

And finally since Diwali was just following, there was a card that I got, where a dear relative also added her wish, that “may I give up smoking this year”.


Yes, I do smoke the cigar, perhaps 3-4 times a year. Okay, at most 6 times a year. But that’s it.

I don’t smoke cigarettes. And I smoke nothing else, the whole of the rest of the year.

So the reaction, on Facebook, via SMSes, and that card, were all surprising, to say the least.

It was not the first time that I have used a pic with a cigar on Facebook. There have been other photos in the past such as:

At no time in the past, have I got anywhere close to the kind of reactions that I got this time.

So I wondered about the possible reasons. What’s changed this time?

  1. Is it really about some kind of stature thing, and giving some kind of message?
  2. Is the anti-tobacco consciousness grown a lot more, and people are just a lot more verbal with their strong views, which they express now?
  3. To my smoking the odd cigar or to my putting up some kind of photos, I had always got reactions from my very close family in the past. But this time, it was beyond the close family. So I wonder if the regular exchange that we have on this medium, on various topics, makes a lot of us “feel” closer in terms of our relationships? Do we feel it to be okay to make some suggestions / comments to our friends, which earlier might have been a little more ‘personal’ type, in nature?
  4. Do these people just care for me a lot? All of those who said that the pic was not good, are very dear friends. And they are my well-wishers too. So it could easily have been their genuine caring for me, to want me to not indulge in habits of this kind.

I am not sure what was or were the reason(s) for the responses that I got.

I considered changing the DP quickly, on reading those responses. But I did not change it.

At one level, I do want to be free of the ‘responsibility’ that my actions need to be a “message” for others. I certainly want to live life on my terms, as much as possible. If I had taken off the pic immediately on seeing those reactions, I would have placed myself in the position of having to keep a certain appearance. Which is largely acceptable to others. But which I may NOT be.

I did not want to go there.

Just because social media makes us a little more visible (of course, to the extent that one desires oneself to become) does not mean that one’s every move needs to be subject to scrutiny.

For the record, I do NOT smoke all year / all day round, as I have clearly mentioned.

I do NOT believe smoking does any good to people. I am concerned about the number of people in our office who smoke a fair number of cigarettes daily. I am concerned for them, for their healths, for their future. I wish they’d start giving up the habit.

For now, I still retain the desire to have an occasional cigar, and indulge to that extent. I may choose to give it up some day. That day hasn’t arrived just yet..

Oh, and by the way, I HAVE changed the display picture now.. much after the reactions came!

We have a really vibrant and interactive discussion group, of our VJTI class of 1985. We have an amazing set of guys who are keen and active, and every now and then, we see very interesting discussions, spanning a very wide range of topics. And contributions coming from across the world!

Recently there was an innocent question from one of the members whether we should consider shifting our group to Facebook, from the yahoogroups location where it has been running for many years.

And the few quick responses that came by, were emphatic and unanimous. That “no, we don’t shift to Facebook, and we are fine on yahoogroups”!

An interesting message right there, isn’t it? Just when we thought that all community type communication and interaction would be best done on formats like Facebook, there is a clear conclusion here. That we are better off with a plain and simple yahoogroup.

Lest you think that our group is one of ancient phobies who don’t know a shit about Facebook and hence, we prefer to stay with yahoogroups, let me assure you that it is far from the case. Some of us are Social Media professionals, and most of us are deeply engaged in social networking and microblogging and everything that is ‘in’ these days.

Yet, we rejected Facebook for this group.


1. Privacy. There are a lot of conversations on our group, which would border on controversy, which would upset the senstivity of people, which may sometimes be embarrassing if shared with outsiders. We as a group, know each other for nearly 25 years now, and are almost without inhibitions. We also understand each other well, and don’t take much to heart. But there is a fear that if these conversations landed up with anyone other than the group concerned, it may not be healthy. And with all kinds of “sharing” and “liking” that Facebook provides, we don’t know what conversation will end up landing where.

2. Chances of losing members. Like most groups, there is a mix of active participants, observers and lurkers. And observers and lurkers are always a far larger percentage. These not-very-active members perhaps receive digest versions of the email group. Which also, they might be seeing not-that-regularly. If we move out to another destination, they may not even realize it. And they may also miss all the instruction emails that we send, asking members to move to a new destination. We’d drop members, in short.

3. Why fix what’s not broken. We are quite happy with the pace, we’ve got used to the yahoogroups emails, each of us has would have worked out our own schedule or method to manage the flow. So why change. And its not a change for one person. Getting the whole group, located all over the place and connected only virtually, to make a shift, is challenging, to say the least. Best left untouched.

So we continue to be on yahoogroups.

But speaking of privacy especially, it is an interesting thought.

There was a time, when we would hesitate putting sensitive things on email. Because emails were so easy to be forwarded and our sensitive matters could land up in the wrong hands, accidentally.

Now, we find email safer. From that point of view. We do not forward nor receive many forwarded emails anymore. Oh, its such a pain to select the forward option, then find our friends from the address book, and take all that effort.

Now if it was Facebook, it was another matter altogether. One click to “share” and we are done.

How times change.. 🙂

This has been a long break for a blog post here. Is it because I did not have things to say? Guess not.

a. Have been sharing small thoughts more regularly via Facebook and Twitter.

b. I have been very busy. Is this the most busy I have ever been? Not sure, but at least for a long time.

Anyway, this is not about how busy I have been and why. This is about other random thoughts for a Sunday.

Like without the cricket season, without tennis, besides cricketers, the sport journos may as well take a break. What’s there to write about? And who cares what is written out there these days!

Like I have not got into the details, but would love to be enlightened about how the Railways could go from excellent profits and cash reserves (so Lalloo claimed) to empty coffers (as Mamata claims now) in a matter of weeks??

Like isn’t it a terrible terrible shame, the amount of hours and days that we, as a nation, spend on absolute trivialities of life? And which come at the cost of more important things that we do not do hence?

And I am not just speaking of politicians and party members (they are leaders on this ground, of course – statues and protests, name changes, why Kalam was frisked etc. etc. being prime examples!), but we, as a people, in general!

So many times, I want to stop conversations – personal and on phone – because they are meandering on nothingness. And yet we go on and on. And lose those seconds, those minutes of our precious life. I am not saying we should only talk shop. Far from it. I am just against “fretting the small stuff”!

Like slowly but surely it seems that everyone I ever knew in life (and in 45 years, you know a LOT of folks) might connect with me on Facebook. We are not quite there, but we will approach it (remember school maths: ‘tending towards infinity’ etc.!) in the foreseeable future. Isn’t that creepy?

Here’s the thought : in this crazy time-and-space scheme of things, life is like space travel. So the entire set of experiences that you are to go through in life, are already there in space. And you, like a bus go from one stop to the next, also referred to as say, childhood, youth, middle age, and so on. And each time, experience those different “bus stops” which were already there anyway.

And now, suddenly, with Facebook, all those damn bus-stops merge into one, and you are there, perhaps travelling together, with bus-stops and all! Yeah, crazy scheme of things.. isn’t it?

Coming back to saner stuff, where’s Sanjay Leela Bhansali? Long-time-no-see.. his movies, I mean! Waiting for some good ones.

And a last few thoughts about the Air Travel industry and it’s challenges:

Like historically, almost no airlines has managed to make consistent profits, most in fact, have lost money. And yet, people keep investing and putting up new ones. And hoping to make a lot of money. There must be some lure, perhaps an ego kick, about “owning an airline”.

Like with the low cost carriers serving food at cost in the flight, air hostesses have more work to do. Take orders, serve, take money, give change. All in the matter of the 1-2 hour flights on most domestic sectors. I am sure this is at no extra pay for them, in fact, with the recession and job losses, many might have taken a pay cut! But that is a representation of the recessionary times. Work harder, make lesser, survive!

Like, what’s the big deal about Kalam getting frisked? If privileges of security check waivers are given to all-and-sundry (and this is nothing personal about Kalam – he is a phenomenon), just because they have been in certain positions or are married to the positions, it only poses grave security risks, to the passengers on board. TOI reported that Robert Vadra, son-in-law of ex-Prime Minister, also grandson-in-law or ex-Prime Minister, besides other unofficial power connections, is exempt from being checked at airport security. The same Mr. Vadra, on whose farm house, his father was “found dead”, a news bit which was totally clamped down in the press. And he has security check waiver. Wonder which other ‘privileged’ folks have similar benefits?? You still want to fly on them planes??

Many questions, no answers. Like a typical Sunday. Like a typical life. By the Monday, I’d have forgotten these questions exist, and would have got back on the treadmill… C’est la vie. Cheers.. !

I caught this news early on Thursday morning, on a tweet from Guy Kawasaki. That Techcrunch was reporting about late stage talks of Google acquiring Twitter. I checked to ensure that it was not an April 1 story, and that these were indeed “truemors”!

If this were to happen, I believe it would be a good move for all parties concerned.

Let’s understand first, who are the parties directly  involved:

1. Google

2. Twitter

3. We, the users of both!

Well, there is also Facebook which went after Twitter, failed to acquire it, then started aping Twitter. And then there is Microsoft, an investor in Twitter, still trying to catch up in the social space. And other such.

But really, the main three constituents of the deal are the ones enumerated above.

So why would it be good for all of them.

Google has been struggling to find the next wave of growth. Ad revenues have been down, many of the new projects it invested in, have not delivered. There is constant pressure, at least from media and analysts, that its losing its way. And that Twitter is a big threat on account of its ability to offer real time search results.

So it would be a good boost for Google at this time, to get Twitter.

Twitter on the other hand, has been under pressure to get revenue flow started. Its clean interface without clutter of ads, is appealing, but it haunts them now, as they cannot suddenly be seen to fill it up with ads. They did raise more funds recently, but I am sure the investors were also looking for some revenue side action from Twitter. A feeble attempt to put a small ad on home pages and talk of a pro-version coming out soon, were starts  on to the revenue path. But when you start from zero, its always a LONG way to go!!

So being acquired by Google would not be bad for them either.

What does Google bring to the table then?

A working advertising model, with advertiser and publisher relationships like no other, in Adsense / Adwords.

A model of revenue sharing which is well established and which can be put in place on Twitter in some or the other way, in no time.

A huge understanding of contextual advertising model, and some ability to filter our spam from the same.

All this can be unleased on to Twitter, to generate revenues for Twitter, very quickly.

While we all like it clean and free, we also know that there is nothing like a free lunch. So rather than wait for Twitter to run out of money or get desperate, or have its service quality suffer, this may be just the right antidote.

And where does that leave the last constituent of the puzzle? We, the users of Google and of Twitter?

I think it benefits us as well.

For one, we can be sure that our favorite microblogging service is here to stay.

And our favorite search engine is more empowered now.

And that for our search, we can go to a single place, and pick up real time as well as historical data.

And can get amazing trending information, for now, and for the past.

Yes, it would be good.

I would say, its a real WIN-WIN-WIN for the three parties involved.

Where does that put Facebook? I don’t know. Maybe there would be one more interface revision of Facebook, with a Google like search (maybe powered by MS Live) to go with the Twitter like updates that they have already incorporated??!