The Social Networking Phenomena

DQC News Bureau
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Twitter, Facebook, Orkut-these are names that most urban youth are very

familiar with. In fact their social lives often depend on it. Chancing this as

the best medium to get in touch with their customers, most companies went

headlong into social networking, creating websites, profiles, pages-everything

they could think of-to be able to get closer to their buyers. Some of them even

recruited social media gurus to plan these ventures, which were then launched

with great fanfare.


Social networking has been around for a while. As the Internet started

evolving, consumers are becoming more web and marketing savvy, e-mail marketing

campaigns and bland websites are becoming less effective. It's important for

businesses to embrace and leverage new technologies in order to continue

reaching their target audiences.

This is relatively a new way to create, publish, and distribute content,

photos, audio files, and other relevant information online. This collaborative

platform enables users to communicate openly and collaborate on the Internet.


Social networking media can provide the possibility of finding not only

customers but also the best deals with suppliers. Facebook was started with

teenagers connecting with their friends. Today, it is being used by the working

class, business people not only to connect, but also to develop business


Another networking site, LinkedIn Groups, has become an efficient medium for

connecting with the corporate world, where starting from hiring people every

activity of a company is updated.

“In the past six months, I got three projects

where the software was sold by some other partner but the customer came to

me for implementation, based on the buzz around my company's expertise in

online media”

Suresh Ramani, CEO, Techgyan

“I have generated more than Rs 1 lakh from

social networking contacts, which might not be a huge amount. But having

tasted this initial fruit of success, I plan to start commercial activities

in a structured manner.”

Sampath Iyengar, Director, Sam7 India


Even Bollywood actors and politicians could not stay away from this new-found

tool and tried to use to it to promote themselves. It's a well known fact that

Barack Obama owed a great degree of his success to presidency to his apt usage

of the Web 2.0 platform.

Ingenious channel partners in India too decided to dabble with this medium

and though their numbers are small, quite a few of them have even been able to

use it to generate business for their companies. Thus social networking has now

opened up another stream for lead generation for them, a welcome sign at a time

when the traditional ways of doing business were rewritten.


Starter's Guide to Social Networking
Listen and understand what

people in the network discuss before you step in
Always focus on developing

two-way communication. Avoid broadcasting URLs of new additions on your

website on networks like Twitter, as it will not have any takers in the long

Be active on multiple

networks that target your own industry, as well as in networks that have

target audience to get the best results
Social networking is about

sharing information, not solicitation alone. If one solicits, they will

quickly find themselves shut out — so, never SELL directly
Avoid social media if yours

is a niche business and your clientele is countable, or they are in rural

Remember that business

development through social media efforts need people, money and time. This

platform has no concept of office hours. It is 24x7, 365 days and building

trust/reputation takes time
From a brand perspective, it

is not a platform just to get your message out. It is more about hearing

what others have to say about it
Create an official page and

suggest customers to become fans of that page. Most customers go to the Web

2.0 to see the actual truth about the product/service; keep your pages live

and updated
The strategy of a company

using social networking should be in line with its objectives, namely, brand

building, keeping in touch with business partners, increase traffic to

website, generate new opportunities, hiring resources etc
Content creation and

management are the most important aspects. These are the social networking

forums, so open solicitation of business can be counterproductive

Partners Who Caught On Quick

One solution provider who prides on his ability to having used social

networking is Mumbai-based TechGyan's Suresh Ramani. With his presence on most

Web 2.0 platforms, he has already been able to use it to build his brand recall

and widen its reach by regular updates on various sites.

“In the past six months, I have got three projects where the software was

sold by some other partner but the customer came to me for implementation based

on the buzz around my company's expertise in SMB space. A good part of this buzz

came from my active information feeds on various social networking media,” says


Social networking sites have seen massive

acceptance among the corporate world as well as personal users. A business

entity should formulate strategies to keep their pages live and updated for

users to use them often

Chetan Shah, MD, Xpress Computers

“LinkedIn has proved effective for my business

of importing third party software and plugins. Though not frequently, I do

get leads for business from across the country”

Gaurang Bhatt, CEO,

Ignition Infotech


Ramani uses LinkedIn Groups extensively to facilitate communi-cation between

International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP) India members.

This way he can touch base with people in an effective and non-intrusive way. In

fact, these initiatives got him in touch with people which helped him explore

offshore business opportunities, especially in drafting services to

architectural companies in the US.

Mumbai-based Xpress Compu­ters is also present on various social networking

sites. The company considers this media as a premier channel for communicating

with customers and the outside world-to announce new products, changes,

opinions, reviews, etc.

Chetan Shah, MD, Xpress Computers, opines, “I believe that social networking

sites has seen massive acceptance among the corporate world as well as the

personal users in the last one year. A business entity should formulate

strategies to keep their pages live and updated for the users to keep using them

often. Ensuring two-way communication is very important.”


Another systems integrator company, Sam7 India, offers consultancy services

to small and medium business, is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and its

founder, Sampath Iyengar believes that social networking sites are for

connecting emotionally as friends first and the business will follow. He has

generated more than Rs 1 lakh from social networking contacts, which might not

be a huge amount. But having tasted this initial fruit of success, he has plans

to start commercial activities in a structured manner.

According to Iyengar, social networking was a linear progression, but now the

usage has become exponential.  “I have friends on my Facebook profile who refer

me to their friends for various IT services. Incidentally I have crossed 1,000

friends count on Facebook, and quite a few of them are business associates,”

says Iyengar.

Putting Your Best Digital

Footprint Forward
Ameen Khwaja Director Premium Web Services Online

Advertising Group

Online Advertising Group has acquired 32% of its clients through social

networking. Ameen Khwaja, Director of Premium Web Services, and MD of the

company, gives tips on how solution providers can use this medium to their


a. Many social networking sites offer facilities for creating business

pages where you can display news about your company. But make it a point to
keep it live with regular updating. Optimize the page with apt keywords so

that it shows up faster on a search engine.

b. Create special interest forums and groups. Keep answering questions as

promptly as possible. Encourage discussions on new topics, not just on
business but on other popular and fascinating topics. Make everything

interesting enough that will make people re-visiting it.

c. Persist in posting blogs and let it surface on profile page with RSS

feeds. Also give links to your blogs on these feeds, affix notes and upload
videos and key presentations.

d.Keep posting information about recent deals and maintain straight

communication with probable clients who are part of your network.

e. Look up and invite acclaimed experts and veteran specialists. Send a

good introduction about yourself and explain your interest in meeting them.
Such contacts can give you crucial and valuable clues and advice on

significant circumstances and decisions. This can definitely contribute to

your success.


Not In It For Money

Strangely very few of the early business adopters of social networ­king did

this with a clear plan to monetize their efforts. Most of them look at it as a

way to create brand equity for themselves and their companies or to reach out to

more business partners.

Chetan Shah said, “I am not looking into monetizing my efforts with my

presence on social media. Rather my focus is on stronger bonding, faster

interaction and using it as an effective medium to communicate.”

Voicing the same view Iyengar said, “Social media should be used for creating

circle of influence and increasing brand awareness and the business will


Ramani feels that this medium is a sure-fire way to get recommen-dations for

good manpower unobtrusively and then hire people. This is why he advocates that

users should be discreet when using these sites.

Yet others use these sites just to keep track of the latest happenings in the

industry. Gaurang Bhatt, CEO of Ignition Infotech, follows DQ Channels updates

on Twitter, as the best way to be updated about news in his domain of interest

as other various technology posts on Facebook and participates in discussions

and constantly invites his friends and customers to post their views.

“LinkedIn has proved effective for my business of importing third party

software and plugins. Though not frequently, I do get leads for business from

across the country. Facebook and Twitter helps more when you are posting info

about emerging technology and your existing friends and customers contact you

for more information,” said Bhatt.

No More Limits

Earlier most users of social networking included only friends to their

network. But now this circle has extended itself to include family, colleagues,
customers and vendors.

Ascertaining that this medium has no limitations, Bhatt said, “I may tarnish

my image by posting frivolous status and comments or strengthen it by posting

good informative, humorous and intelligent comments.” Bhatt believes that once

the customers know what really you are in life outside business, they start

considering you as a friend; they open up and give more honest feedback on your

offerings, which will help in fine tuning your business offerings.

This is also why it is very imperative that users are cautious in the content

they post, especially on those sites where they have invited people who would

have some kind of bearing on their business. “When used selectively, social

networking media can be a very powerful tool for identifying new business

partners, prospective customers, or simply building your personal or business

presence,” said Sanjay Mehta of Maia Intelligence. He started his own company

and has since been using social networking extensively to increase technical

awareness amongst his customers and channel partners. And unlike other vendors,

he does this on his own, without having roped in any expert and is now a

self-taught guru on the subject.

If you propose to emulate his example, it would be the best if you first

decide on the network which is ideally suited for your business or industry

category so that you are in touch with people who have the affinity for the same

topic. By doing this, you'll cut through the clutter and clearly establish your

niche, keeping the interaction focused on the specific subject matter.

“Once you've selected the networks you want to belong to, begin by filling

out your profile page with pertinent information about yourself, your company,

and your contacts,” Mehta suggested.

And if you want to learn more from like-minded people then join groups to

make new contacts and participate in forum discussions. These discussions give

you yet another avenue for displaying your expertise.

“Finally, take advantage of the widgets that networking sites offer. There

are widgets that allow you to add virtual fliers and brochures to your page,

plug in company news and events, and post videos, for instance,” added Mehta.

But whatever you do, remember that you are joining communities of people and

rules of etiquette still apply. Promote your company by

all means, but don't be overly aggressive or invasive about your marketing.
Market your business well and you'll get more respect

and probably a lot more serious leads. Social media sites put a humane face on
your business and allow people to get an impression of what a relationship with

you would be like. And like in any relationship this means you will have to put

your best foot forward and be at your best behavior.

Vasudevan N