Posts Tagged ‘social media’

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..

Yes, I run a Social Media business, and to an extent, I understand the dynamics of the space.

But that does not mean that at the smallest provocation of a personal problem, I run to Social Media, to complain about brands. In fact, quite the contrary.

I’d rather wait for the normal course of service, to get problems resolved, if they can get resolved. And perhaps wait a little more after that.

It is only when the patience totally runs out, after a long wait, that I actually vent it out, on Social Media.

But I have unfortunately seen, in 3-4 cases over the last few months, that the service urgency, at the service provider’s end, only started, after I vented out my frustrations, on Social Media!

And which is sad.

By the time, I am out there, screaming and shouting, on Facebook and Twitter and the occasional blog post, the brand has already got badly hurt. Even if I were to go back later, and give a confirmation of matters getting sorted out, the damage would have got done.

Why are brands not responding well, in the normal run? Why does it take that embarrassment on social media, to wake them up?

Back in September, 2010, I ranted about the terrible service experience with Lenovo. After the blog post and my cribs on Facebook, and thanks to a couple of friends taking the story to Lenovo’s management, the matter got addresses promptly. And a quick resolve happened. The problem was clearly not unsurmountable, but it needed this push, for them to give me the solution. By that time, enough of #LenovoSucks had already happened, and perhaps many retweeted also!!

It was the same experience with Citibank. After the blog and the tweets and what not, Citibank “heard”, and matter was resolved quickly. Why did they not resolve it earlier? Why did they test my patience and wait for me to scream and shout, albeit virtually, before resolving the case??

More recently, I went to town after waiting for THREE WEEKS for the Tata Photon Wi-fi unit to be repaired. After having my person run from one service center to another, and not getting service anywhere, I was finally fed up, and cribbed on Twitter. Instantly, there were a lot of people who sympathized with my cause, as they had gone through similar challenges. The tweets got momentum. Finally in the course of a few hours, I got a response on Twitter, that they are escalating my problem.

Ok, so why does it take them 3 weeks to “escalate”??

Or more precisely, why does it take them, this embarrassment on Twitter, to THEN escalate??

But they did escalate.

So far, when we called their customer service, they had refused to do anything except ask us to go to their service centers. And perhaps, this product has a fundamental problem. As NONE of the service centers were willing to repair it. Perhaps they KNOW that this is irreparable. Yet, the customer service call center would only direct us to their service centers.

Now, with the Twitter push, suddenly, they found someone to come to our office to look at it. And after spending some time on the unit, and not being able to do anything with it, he replaced it! But there was still some hitch of authorizing the unit or something. So it still did not work.

So I got a call from a senior person, who profusely apologized and requested me to bear with them till Monday, by when they will get the unit replaced.

Just like I had got a call from Lenovo Bangalore, when I had complained on Social Media, about their pathetic service.

WHY do they wake up only after the ruckus? Are they fundamentally NOT equipped to service all the calls they get? Do they all believe that “if you ignore the customer long enough, in most cases, he will just go away”??

I feel sorry for the Lenovos and the Citibanks and the Tata Photons, as they all want to get a public spectacle made of themselves, before they will take action. Well, if it harms their reputation, I guess they are getting what they deserve, considering their service policies and priorities..

I have been invited to be a faculty at a half day seminar on “Social Media for Corporate Communication and Marketing” being organized by the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This will be held on November 27, 2009 at 10 am at the Y B Chavan Centre, Nariman Point, Mumbai.

The seminar should be interesting to many of you, and I would urge you to attend, and also share the information with others in your network.

Seminar-on-Social-Media-ADFurther the program details are as under:

Social Media for Corporate Communication and Marketing

Friday, November 27, 2009 from 10.00 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.

Yashwant B. Chavan Centre, Nariman Point, Mumbai



10.00 am       Registration/Tea


10.15 am     Welcome: Mr. Suresh Pai, Chairman, Media and Corporate

Communications Committee, Bombay Chamber and

Executive Vice President (Corp. Savings and Communications)


10.25 a.m.    Keynote: Mr. Sanjay Mehta, Jt. CEO, Social Wavelength

11.25 a.m.    Question/Answer Session

11.40 a.m.    Tea Break

11.55  a.m. Mr. Sabapathy Narayanan, Co-Founder, DJargon Consulting

12.55 p.m.    Question / Answer Session

01.10 p.m.      Summing Up: Mr. Madhukar Sabnavis, Co-Chairman,

Media and Corporate Committee, Bombay Chamber and

Country Head- and Plg. and Regional Director, Thought Leadership,

Ogilvy & Mather Pvt. Limited

01.25 p.m.     Vote of Thanks: Group Captain Achchyut Kumar, Co-Chairman,

Media and Corporate Communications Committee, Bombay Chamber

and General Manager – Realty and Corp. Communications

01.30 p.m.     Lunch



Also the registration form is hereunder:


Social Media for Corporate Communication and Marketing

Friday, November 27, 2009 from 10.00 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.

Yashwant B. Chavan Centre, Nariman Point, Mumbai


Mr. S. Iyer, Joint Director-HR

Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Mackinnon Mackenzie Building

Ballard Estate

MUMBAI  400 001




We request you to register the following representatives of our Company for the above programme.


NAME                                                 DESIGNATION


1. ————————————————-       ————————————————–

2. ————————————————-       ————————————————–

3. ————————————————-       ————————————————–

4. ————————————————-       ————————————————–

Fees: Rs.750/- per participant  (for students Rs.500/-)


Cheques may please be drawn in favour of BOMBAY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY.


  • Our cheque/demand draft for Rs. ___________  is enclosed.





Company  :


Address     :











Business Card(s)

of Representative/s


Signature ______________________


Participation fee is non-refundable.


In recent days, I have followed a few discussions at different forums, debating the possibilities or the lack of it, for monetizing Social Media. There has been an extended discussion on the Web 2.0 group at LinkedIn. Then there was the post by Robert Scoble, and there have been others too.

At the end of the churn, the jury remains out still. No clear answers, and anyone who emerges with a brand new monetization model will be hailed like Google was hailed for creating revenues out of search!

I posted a comment at the post of Robert Scoble, which was somewhat inspired, in as much as it related Social Networking to offline Social Clubs (known by different names in different communities), and seeing if a parallel could emerge there. I am reproducing part of that comment here:


1. We are looking currently at known methods of monetization. The answer will more likely emerge from methods that are unknown today. The monetization of search that Google did, was a thought out of the box. Amazon Cloud Computing is also a different direction from known methods. Twitter and others may also discover a model which will only become a new method and a new standard, thereafter.

2. I try to relate web models with similar offline businesses / models. The social media online is most similar to a social club offline. My understanding of these clubs are:
a. They are cheap – which is how large numbers find it easy to congregate there,
b. There are few expensive and more exclusive types, but they offer significant value in terms of ambience, luxury and services, and for which the elite are willing to pay the price,
c. Social clubs do not meet out their costs, from the members’ contributions; there have to be other ways to supplement their incomes,
d. What they end up doing is to run a good restaurant and give out the contract for the same, to someone who pays them a good chunk of money; or they give out the space that they have built, every once in a while, for others to use as a banquet location; or they charge a decent sum for a one time membership fee, which is usually a lifetime fee then.

Mapping some of these observations to the online social media, it might indicate that:
a. Social media sites will not be able to charge the members, especially if they are going after the mass markets,
b. A few exclusive ones, with seriously high value added offerings, might manage to keep exclusive usage, and charge a good fee for the same,
c. The typical social media property, might be able to contract their platform to the “restaurant” (some paid service equivalent, that is reasonably universally required by the users), and charge them a good fee for giving that exclusive access, for the particular vertical (“food” in case of the offline restaurants); such engagements can be for a period of time, just like the restaurant contract in an offline social club would be say, for a period of 2 years at a time,
d. Then there is the equivalent of the social club giving out its space for a one-day banquet event. The analogy here could be banner advertising on all Twitter screens, for example.
e. Finally there is the one-time fee from members, that a social club can charge. I am not sure if the analogy can be pulled off on the online social networks. But seeing that users spend $1 to send virtual gifts on Facebook, there could be an option to ask members to pay say, $10 (or $50 or whatever that makes sense) as a one-time fee for being members at Twitter. I am not sure, but its an idea again..


As I said earlier, the jury is still out. Whether Social Networking can be monetized and to what extent remains in the realm of inquiry at this time.