Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Rethinking Social Networking" by Ashish Kulkarni

It’s all the rage nowadays, and hardly anybody is left unaffected.
The new, new measure of success isn’t the bottom-line anymore – it’s the number of
followers you have on Twitter, or perhaps the number of friends you have on
Facebook. Firms the world over were a bit late in joining the bandwagon, but once
they got in, they’ve entrenched themselves.
Every corporate Tom, Dick and Harry is hell-bent upon having an online presence, and
have set up entire teams for managing Twitter Feeds, Facebook Pages and
what-have-you’s.
Here’s the worrying bit – hardly anybody has stepped back to ask a couple of basic
questions.
The first question: why are you doing this?
Forget the how – there are a million consultants out there with fancy-schmancy
presentations that will tell you about the how. It’s the second (oft-hidden)
question that is resolutely ignored – why? If you haven’t thought this through, you
might well end up with ten thousand followers… but very little else.
And in effect, you’ll end up with the online analogy of having put the cart before
the horse.
First, have a clear idea about what you’re going to do with your followers – are you
trying to find a community? Or are you trying to give voice to a community that was
otherwise offline, and disparate? Are you marketing via your online following? Or
are you marketing to these communities, or are you depending on these communities to
do your marketing for you?
If these questions haven’t been answered as part of your online strategy, you’re
going about it the wrong way – take it from us.
The second question: what next?
So let’s assume you have a strategy, and let’s assume that it’s worked. It’s six
months down the line, and you have a big fan following, and it’s with a specific
purpose.
The problem is, an online presence is a double-edged sword. That fan following is as
likely to interact with each other as they are with you – social networking makes it
easy to attract people, sure – but it also does not prevent these folks from talking
to each other. Be warned – your tribe is as likely to do negative marketing for you,
as they would be willing to spread the word if you do something well.

- Ashish Kulkarni

(Ashish is currently working on his PhD from the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics. He teaches Economics and Statistics at various colleges in Pune. He runs a boutique consulting firm, BPD Consultants, specializing in data analytics and training.)
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