Author Archive for Pradeep Chopra

The Future of Search (Wall Street Journal)

It was Sunday and we were planning to go out for ice cream. I recalled someone talking about Cocoberry, a frozen yoghurt chain. I searched for “cocoberry” on Google and saw the link to Cocoberry’s page on Facebook.


I visited the page and saw numerous comments by many of their satisfied customers. I could also see that they recently opened a store near my home. The decision was made. We had a great evening.

Similarly, I was looking for details about the movie “Dabangg.” I was amazed to see the results shown by Google when I typed in “dabangg.” The first result provided me with a list of cinemas by location along with the timings for the next shows. The next result was a news story about Dabangg beating Aamir Khan’s “3 Idiots” in gross earnings on the opening day.Scrolling down, there were results with images and videos related to the movie.

Finally, a live Twitter stream with real time (i.e. tweeted a few seconds ago) reviews and opinions.

Within minutes, it was clear to me that this was a must-watch movie. I also knew the places and times for upcoming shows.These examples clearly show the direction in which search is heading:

1. We will see more social media channels (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs) among top results on search engines. In other words, what others say about you will be more important than what you will talk about yourself.

2. Search engines will continue to throw up the latest and real time information. Again, the searcher will have access to better results.

3. Depending on the location (or if location-specific keywords are included in the search), results on search engines will vary. That’s another logical shift to provide more relevant results to the searcher. For example, searching for “pizza in new york” on Google, I get 569,433 businesses listed on Google Maps.

4. The results will include a mix of media (i.e. images, videos) beyond pure text. This will further add to the quality of the results.

In addition to the fundamental changes above, there are a few other big changes happening in search:

1. People will search for information beyond search engines: YouTube is already the second-largest search engine after Google. Similarly, Facebook is increasingly taking a share of searches online.

2. Search has already gone beyond your computer: Search on mobile devices (cell phone, iPad etc.) is gaining popularity and will continue to do so. For example, Twitter CEO Evan Williams wrote on the company blog recently that mobile usage of the site has gone up 62% in just over four months and 16% of all new Twitter users are starting out on mobile devices.

3. Search is instant now: With the launch of Instant Search by Google, the speed and the quality of search results will undergo a dramatic shift. And instant search is no longer limited to Google; a Stanford student, Feross Aboukhadijeh, has launched YouTube Instant to search videos on YouTube instantaneously. It was interesting to see one of our videos start playing automatically the moment I entered “Digital Vidya” in the search box on YouTube Instant.

What does it mean for businesses that want to be found by their customers when searched by relevant keywords on search engines? Will it create new opportunities for businesses to be discovered beyond search engines? What new techniques and tools should a business adopt to win in this new search paradigm?

I will answer the above questions in my next article on social search. Feel free to share your thoughts, other relevant experiences and related questions in the Comments.

This article was originally published at WSJ’s India Chief Mentor

The ‘Cost’ of Facebook Marketing (Wall Street Journal)

There are frequent debates in our workshops about whether the time and effort spent on building a Facebook marketing or brand experience is worth it. Is it really positive when it comes to return on investment?

Let me walk you through an interesting example of an ROI evaluation of an Indian brand’s community on Facebook. Ching’s Secret’s Facebook community has around 120,000 fans.

According to Ajaay Gupta, chairman and managing director of Capital Foods Ltd., the brand owner of Ching’s Secret, Smith and Jones and Raji brands, this is how he compares the ROI of its community on Facebook with the ROI of advertising in print:

1. A half page ad in a city tabloid (with a circulation of around 100,000 readers) costs around 200,000 rupees ($4,350). The “opportunity to see” as defined by the same tabloid is around 300,000 (100,000 multiplied by three, the average number of readers per household). In reality, only a fraction of readers actually see the advertisement.

2. The OTS of any message posted by an administrator of Ching’s Secret’s community on Facebook is 18,000,000 (120,000 multiplied by 150, an average number of connections on a Facebook user page). Surely, this number is theoretical and will never happen. However, to whatever fraction you may want to discount this number, the final number of people who will see the message will still be much larger than the reach of an advertisement in print.

But the real ROI of the Facebook community, based on the parameters below, is extremely positive when compared to other competing advertising media:

–Recurring Cost: To reach out to the same readers they reached earlier through print, they will need to pay for every new advertisement. In the case of Facebook, it doesn’t cost them any money for a new message.

–Engagement Level: The quality and quantity of engagement on Facebook far surpasses the potential engagement opportunity in print. According to the company, they can expect 0.5% to 1.5% of fans to engage with their message on Facebook. In the case of print, if they present an opportunity for readers to respond through an SMS, they can only expect 0.2% as the response rate.

–
Visibility: In the case of Facebook, they have complete visibility of their audience’s profiles while they get negligible visibility through print.

–Virality: Finally, the opportunity of their existing Facebook fans bringing new fans or influencing other people’s decisions toward their brand almost doesn’t exist in the case of print but is exponential on Facebook.

These are smart rules of thumb that can be applied to any business, small or large, while measuring or planning a Facebook presence in a marketing plan. I look forward to hearing about any arguments or models of evaluating Facebook effectiveness for business growth.

This article was originally published at WSJ.

Tracking Your Company Facebook Page (Wall Street Journal)

In my previous posts on community building on Facebook, I mapped out a way to create a Facebook strategy and promote your company’s Facebook Page.

Monitoring it continuously and making sure it occupies the right position in the consumer’s mind, though, will require you to use the right analytics.

Your business objectives for launching a community on Facebook will define the metrics you use to measure and optimize the success of your community.

For example, if you are building a community to promote your brand, you may want to measure the number of relevant target users that are part of your community and the quality of interactions with those users.

Similarly, if your objective is to generate leads for your business, you may want to track the number of relevant queries you receive through your efforts to build a community on Facebook.

How will you know that you are on the right track?

“Unexplored India – A Treasure Hunt” is a travel community on Facebook that was launched in one of our workshops and stands out as a niche yet, strong example. Within the first three weeks of its launch, this community grew to over 2,000 fans with an exceptionally high degree of engagement (i.e. over 600 interactions per week).

Examining the data more, it also became clear that:

–With around 400 page views per day (out of which half were from unique visitors), this community had a high proportion of repeat visits –With over 250 photo views per day, it is evident that pictures of unique places are one of the most popular pieces of content offered –Also, with a gender ratio of 70:30 (male to female), it is clear that this community is currently used more by men

Practically, this gets translated into the following trends on Facebook Insights (a free metrics dashboard available to all Facebook users):

1. Fan Growth: The number of fans (as well as unsubscribed fans) on your page over a period of time. In the latest version of Facebook Insights, you can also see where fans came from.

2. Demographics: Given that Facebook is aware of the demographic details of its users, it provides highly relevant and useful demographic information comprising age, gender, location (country as well as city) and language.

3. Interaction: The extent of interaction is measured by page views, number of wall posts, likes and comments, which also tell you about the engagement pattern of your page. You can also get insights into what kind of content (text, photo, video etc.) is working or not working.

At a macro level, there are a few interesting tools which help you assess the value of your community on Facebook and allow you to do a thorough competitive analysis as well:

1. Facebook Grader: A tool designed by HubSpot to help you assess the ranking of your company’s Facebook page among other pages.

2. Social Page Evaluator: A tool designed by Vitrue to help marketers get a better understanding of a Facebook page’s ”value.” Although it is not a perfectly scientific tool, it can be used as a good indicator to compare two Facebook pages. Here is another study by Vitrue to help you gauge the dollar value of each fan on your company’s Facebook page.

To summarize the complete process of launching and nurturing a community on Facebook, let me give you a framework which you can use as a guide to connect all the pieces of community building covered in this article series.

I would like to end this series by encouraging you to continuously experiment and evolve your strategy as you move along in the community-building process on Facebook. I will be writing next on “Online Reputation Management.”

Do let me know the topics in digital marketing you would like me to write about.

This article was originally published at WSJ’s India Chief Mentor.

Why Will People Come to Your Company Facebook Page? (Wall Street Journal)

Communicating the presence of your company Facebook page and keeping users or readers engaged is a second important part of building a company page on Facebook. I had written last week about developing a strategy and an execution plan as a first step. After you’ve identified your community-building objectives and the target audience, the key question to answer is: “What’s in it for them?” The success of your efforts to promote your Facebook page resides in having answers for these questions: Why will a person join your community? And why will that person participate in the community on an ongoing basis?

Which brings us to the fundamental question: “What causes engagement on Facebook?”

The answer is central to the phenomenon of community-building across social media platforms.

To answer this question, I thought of using the power of community, by posing this question to people in my Facebook network. The result was some valuable consumer insights into the content that users look forward to.

These were some top categories:

  1. Contests and giveaways
  2. Quizzes, surveys, polls, requests for feedback so every relevant question attracts an answer (i.e. engagement)
  3. Humor, jokes and trivia
  4. Controversy or debate
  5. Patriotism (especially in countries like India and Japan)
  6. Real-life stories or examples
  7. Breaking news
  8. Unexpected information
  9. Interesting pictures and videos; in the U.S. and other developed nations, where Internet bandwidth is not an issue videos are viewed even more than pictures

Drawing from the above, I would say that “relevant, interesting and easy to consume” content always draws engagement. However, the process of identifying the relevant content isn’t always logical. For example, at our digital marketing learning community on Facebook, we’ve seen that Digital Media Cartoons and Jokes, which have no direct relevance to “learning,” are among the most engaging content.

Digital Media Cartoons and Jokes

Chip and Dan Heath have captured all of the above distinctions very well in the “SUCCESs” model in their highly popular book “Made to Stick.” According to the “SUCCESs” model, any idea (or content) which has the following traits in it causes stickiness (or engagement): Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories.

I’ve seen this model working amazingly well for any form of communication (Facebook wall post, Tweet, post, a proposal, or a business presentation) on any medium (online as well offline.)

Interestingly, you don’t need to create all of the content you would want to publish in your community. For almost every business vertical, there is an abundant amount of free and readily available content across various digital avenues such as search engines, blogs, video channels (e.g. YouTube), document channels (e.g. SlideShare), photo channels (e.g. Flickr), discussion groups (e.g. Google Groups), Twitter search, Wikipedia etc., which you can aggregate in a useful and copyright friendly way for your audience.

The best part is you don’t need to search for this content. It can come to your mailbox if you use smart tools such as Google Alerts or SocialOomph (a keyword alert tool.) Further, using tools and applications (such as SocialRSS), you can automatically republish your content from other channels (e.g. a blog post or a tweet) to your Facebook fan page.

The process so far will ensure that you’ve laid an extremely solid foundation to build a live and engaging community. Your job then is to scale up and you can use some of the promotional opportunities below:

  1. Facebook advertising: This is one of the most powerful and least understood and explored opportunities to build a critical mass for your community. We’ve used it for over 20 communities on Facebook and it has helped us acquire relevant fans on Facebook for as low as one U.S. cent per fan.
  2. Facebook applications: There are numerous freely available Facebook applications such as Poll, which allow you to continuously engage your audience and encourage them to promote your community within their network.
  3. Integration with other digital channels: You can embed your Facebook Fan Page Box or a widget in your website or blog. Similarly, you can promote your Facebook community through a presentation on SlideShare, YouTube, and Email signature, or through a tweet.
  4. Leveraging offline channels: Inviting the target audience to join the community by publishing the link of your Facebook community on a business card, restaurant menu, billboard, print ad, or product packaging is increasingly becoming a trend even in India.
  5. Search engine optimization: With the inclusion of Facebook fan pages in search engine results by all major search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN), you can optimize your fan page to attract more community members. The rules of optimizing a Facebook page are similar to the rules of optimizing a web page. The common elements of SEO such as inclusion of keywords in the page content and URL and incoming links from other relevant sites should be continuously leveraged to generate organic growth.

In the next post I will explore the metrics or consumer signals that you must regularly track.

This article was originally published at WSJ’s India Chief Mentor.

How to Build a Great Company Facebook Page? (Wall Street Journal)

“Does your company have a Facebook page?”

In order to be truly successful in building a live and engaging community on the web, you need to have both a positioning strategy and an execution plan in place. To formulate a strategy for your online community, you need to answer a few critical questions before you begin.

Ching's Secret FB Page Why should I create a community?

A community can serve multiple purposes and can be very powerful provided you have a clear objective. Some of the objectives for you to consider include:

  • Brand building and promotion. Coke’s community on Facebook has more than 5.7 million members
  • Customer feedback. Starbucks’ community has more than 7.5 million members and the community decides the flavor of the brand’s next coffee.
  • Lead generation and online sales. Gunpowder restaurant in New Delhi does much of its table booking through its Facebook fan page
  • Online reputation management. Dell’s Facebook page for small and medium-sized businesses is a great tool for the company to continuously strengthen its reputation as a brand that is committed to customer service.

Read complete article at Wall Street Journal.

Dotcom has Enabled ‘Choice Entrepreneurship’ in India (From WSJ)

PhokatCopyIt was September 2000 and I was waiting for my U.S. work permit to join one of the big five consulting firms. Obviously, I was excited and had already started dreaming the American Dream.

Interrupting the day dream was a call from one of my Indian Institute of Technology batch-mates – “We are opening a new company tomorrow. Would you like to join us?” asked Kapil Nakra.

I was shocked and I asked him to give me a few days to respond. A few minutes passed and I received a second call from another batch-mate, Purvesh Sharma, and he demanded, “Are you joining us or not?” I’m still unsure of what went through my mind, but I suddenly found three letters coming out of my mouth Y. E. S.

It’s now been 10 years and I have not recovered from the shock of that visceral decision. I am still riding the entrepreneurial wave I jumped on, a decade ago.

Read complete article at WSJ’s India Chief Mentor.

Top 6 Tips to Expand Your LinkedIn Network

LinkedIn - Professional NetworkingGiven the proliferation of Social Media, your profile on Social and Professional networking sites deserves a significant attention. Globally, people are harnessing the power of social media for varied purposes – to attract customers, partners and talent are some of common objectives achieved through professional networking.

But, not everyone is equally successful in meeting their business objectives through professional networking. Your success in the Professional Networking game is a function of many parameters – the quality (who are you connected with) and the quantity (how many people are you connected with) are two of them. How can you build an ever growing, credible network? Here are the top 6 techniques you can use to constantly fuel your professional (and also social) networking success:

  1. People You Meet Daily – Everyday, as part of your professional life, you are meeting new people you would like to stay in touch with. This includes face to face meetings (e.g. conference participation, potential customer or partner), email exchanges, telephone calls and more. The chances are many of them are already present on LinkedIn. It takes couple of minutes to request invitation to your network. For e.g., what do you do with the business cards your collect at various meetings. Don’t just stock them, directly connect with those card owners on LinkedIn.
  2. LinkedIn Answers – As I wrote earlier, LinkedIn Answers is a great tool for networking in addition to getting highly valuable advice for free. The people who respond to your questions or the ones to whom you response, are likely the ones you would want to be connected with.
  3. Network of Network – Just browse through the connections of people in your network and you will be surprised to see the large number of known people, whom you would like to be part of your direct network. So, leverage your own network.
  4. LinkedIn Groups – Throughout your life, you get to be associated with various groups – alumni networks, ex employers, conference groups, technology groups etc. Many of them already exist on LinkedIn in the form of ‘Company’ or ‘Groups’. Browse through them and be prepared to be surprised by the list of people whom you know but didn’t remember. You can join (and participate) in new groups relevant to your areas of interest and again leverage them to expand your own network.
  5. Use Your Webmail Contacts – LinkedIn allows you to check who all in your webmail (e.g. gmail, hotmail, yahoo etc) contacts are present on LinkedIn. Choose the ones you want to network with and send them an invitation.
  6. Promote Your Profile – Finally, promote your LinkedIn profile through as many avenues as possible. Some of common places to have your LinkedIn profile – your email signature, your profile at other places, your articles, your business card etc. Make sure your profile is public, provide your email id in your contact settings and allow others to contact you. For example, linking your LinkedIn profile from your website page. Also, like me you can also blog to promote your profile :) .

I am sure if you follow the above ways, you will have a HUGE pool of professionals, who can be part of your network. I’ve used all of the above techniques to constantly expand my own LinkedIn profile. But, of all the invitations you send, how many will accept your request is not a constant. I recommend that you follow these guidelines in order to successfully build a credible network on any professional networking community:

  • Customize & personalize your invitation based on the person you are inviting. Don’t use the standard invitations.
  • Don’t spam by sending invitations to professionals – just for the sake of increasing the number.
  • Build credible profile – The chance of other professionals accepting your invitation is also based on the credibility of your profile. Completeness of your profile, having recommendations, quality of your profile summary and having your photo are some of the important credibility facts. Also, give personal touch to your profile.

I hope these tips and guidelines help you expand your professional network. Please do give your feedback including suggesting more tips and guidelines to the above list.

Happy Professional Networking!

Top 3 Reasons to use LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn AnswersLinkedIn Answers is one of the most powerful and under utilized Professional Networking tools available today. Here are my take on top 3 reasons to leverage LinkedIn Answers.

1. FREE Expert Advice: Obviously, the most common reason to use LinkedIn Answers is to get free advice. Almost contrary (you still need to put effort to ask the question ☺) to “there is no free lunch”, LinkedIn Answers offers an awesome opportunity to get valuable answers from experts. So far, I’ve asked 4 questions on LinkedIn and without exception I’ve always received tremendous response from industry experts. My recent question “Are you a blogger? Did you reach your 100th post milestone?” has received close to 30 answers.

2. Build Your Professional Network: Your participation (either asking the question or providing the answer) on LinkedIn Answers is guaranteed to support you in enriching and growing your professional network at LinkedIn. Coinciding with my asking questions on LinkedIn, I’ve always received invitation requests from other industry experts from across the world. LinkedIn Answers must have contributed significantly to my crossing 500+ strong professional network on LinkedIn.

3. Contribute to Your Network: Without this reason, the above two values offered by LinkedIn Answers won’t exist. Share your knowledge and contribute to your professional network by answering questions in areas of your expertise. You don’t just get the satisfaction of contributing to others profession but also stand to grow your network and take your expertise to the next level (teaching is still the best way to learn).

So, what are waiting for? Don’t tell me that you don’t have questions for which are looking at expert advice. How about experiencing the power of LinkedIn Answers yourself?

Please do add your reasons to use LinkedIn Answers.

For those of you who are yet to take the plunge on LinkedIn, I recommend checking out “Ten Ways to use LinkedIn” by Guy Kawasaki and ‘LinkedIn in Plain English‘ Video:

Power of Being Online

Voice of the CustomerAmong various benefits internet offers to its users, “Voice of the customer” is one of the most powerful tools. The notion “Customer is the King” is absolute reality in the internet age. Let me share a recent real life incident in which I personally experienced the power of being online.

Last year I bought a new Apple MacBook and I was very happy & excited when I started using it. Unfortunately, I faced multiple breakdowns – first battery crash, then data crash followed by hard disk failure. Even worse, I received horrible customer service from Apple’s service center in Delhi. More than the valuable data, I lost precious time fighting with Apple India. But they were reluctant to hear. Being an Online Marketing training provider, I thought of taking a different approach – instead of me going after them (push), let me create a pull towards me.

I authentically shared my experience of Apple MacBook and Apple India’s service at:
- Apple Sucks (MouthShut)
- Apple Sucks (CNet Reviews)

As expected, I got a call from them. They apologized for my experience and offered me a brand new and the next version of the laptop as the compensation. Although I didn’t want to but I finally accepted their request. Looking at the comments, view/read stats and the popularity of the above mentioned sites, I am sure that Apple paid a heavy price for the mistake of not listening to their customer. Since I’d given my email id in the review, I am receiving mails from people asking for my advice on whether they should buy Apple machine. Virtually, I am driving (or preventing) a part (however small it is) of their sales.

What lessons did I learn (equally applicable for you) from this experience?
1. My voice matters – As a customer, I am much more powerful today than ever before. I can and should demand the respect and service I expect from my vendors.

2. Customer is the king – As a business owner, I can’t ignore the voice of my customer or I will pay a very high price. Given the networked world (socially and professionally) today, it pays to be honest.

I can correlate this strongly to my previous venture in which we used to serve IT professionals who were strongly connected to each other through various discussion forums relevant to our services. Occasionally (especially in the very beginning of our venture), some people would say negative about our product/service. Instead of taking that as a feedback and an opportunity to grow, we used to defend ourselves by giving counter response. Till the moment we acknowledged our mistake, the problem would only grow. The moment my customer got the experience of being listened to, the discussion will end.

The same happened in this experience with Apple. The moment they called me I stopped thrashing them and when they again faltered I went out against them. This idea of writing a blog post about my experience serves two purposes – first, sharing the lessons I learnt with you and second, making Apple India realize the importance of customer service.

3. Pull always works better than Push – Whether you are selling or buying a product/service, pull always beat push. In the online world, pull is not only more effective but also more feasible.

I hope you find this experience valuable. Please do give your inputs and feel free to share any such experience you might have had in the past.

You may also want to check these 2 interesting experiences of Online Reputation Management (ORM):
a.) Ola Cabs Case Study
b.) Toyota Altis Review

 

OM Careers to Host World’s First Online Marketing Careers Conference

OM Careers is a non-profit, online marketing careers community, dedicated to addressing the challenge of lack of skilled resources in the Online/Search marketing industry. OM Careers is playing host to OMCAR 2008, world’s first online marketing careers conference in Delhi on Jan 12, 2008.

The event will be coupled with a unique Job clinic opportunity for people who are interested in building a successful career in the online marketing industry and for organizations that are interested in hiring the right OM talent.

We would love to have you participate in the event. More important, we seek your support in promoting this event and making it a great success! It would be great if you could spread the word about this event to your friends and associates.

The event details can be found at http://conference.omcareers.org. Do add your name in the participants list at http://conference.omcareers.org/participant.asp, if you plan to attend this event.

Looking forward to your participation at the event!

Wish you all a Very Happy & Fulfilling New Year 2008!