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BW Businessworld

Analysis: Using A New Language

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The Motrin case is a popular case study of how a brand took a beating on social media. There are several similar morality tale-style case studies that argue that "unless the brand is present on social media" it will not be able to respond to negative rumours and consumer backlashes, or worse, get brandjacked by profile squatters or spoof artists.

Such doomsday scenarios often attract the attention of senior executives and dominate conference room conversations about social media. These conversations inevitably involve conflicting points of view, as executives and managers have different comfort levels with social platforms in their personal avatars, and may lead to one of these five possible scenarios. 
1. Sometimes, these horror stories scare away executives from social media, as they associate social media with morchas and mob mentality.

2. Sometimes, executives correctly decide that such scenarios are an exception rather than the rule, and creating an elaborate social media presence as a form of insurance isn't really an attractive proposition.

3. Some recognise the value of listening to social media conversations and start a listening programme, but are disappointed when they realise that no one is really talking about them.

4. Some executives mandate a corporate Twitter account, or Facebook page, and realise that engaging people takes time and, sometimes, a dedicated resource.
5. Still other managers decide to dip their toes in social media themselves and create a Twitter profile, or perhaps even a personal blog.

In all these scenarios, executives are disappointed with the results in the first three months — 200-odd followers on Twitter, 125 fans on Facebook, 22 or so subscribers on the blog — and decide that Twitter and Facebook are peripheral to their business, perhaps even a distraction. Often, they are right.

The problem is not with the social platforms themselves. Twitter, SMSGupShup, Facebook, Orkut, Flickr and YouTube are all powerful platforms that have enabled new forms of social behaviour and unleashed unparalleled creativity among their users. The problem is with the excessive focus on the platform of the year.

These social platforms are transient, the underlying value system is important, which can be summarised in the form of five archetypes, or the Five Cs of social media.

Consumer Generated Content: Your consumers are authors, photographers and filmmakers, all rolled into one. Tap into their creativity and ask them to interpret your brand.

Conversations: Your customers, partners and employees are talking about you, in public. Listen to them, reach out to them and engage them in a two-way conversation.

Collaboration: People work together in flow when they connect with each other as people. Create rich profiles and shared workspaces to enable people to help each other.

Community: Communities come together around a shared social object — a lifestyle, cause or passion. Build and nurture a platform to host these conversations and become associated with an idea that is bigger than your brand.

Collective Intelligence: Customers, employees and partners can give you new ideas and insights. Ask for their ideas, help them build on these ideas, recognise and reward them for their contribution.

So, Lopa should start by asking how can these five underlying dynamics help E-sqd achieve its business objective of becoming a world-class lifestyle retail chain? Can we seek insights from our customers on what Easy Elegance means to them? Can we identify E-sqd evangelists and ask them to share stories about items they found at the store and the reactions these items elicited from family and friends? Can we integrate the customer community with our loyalty programme? Can we ask our store employees to share stories on how they handled a particularly difficult customer or went out of their way to help a regular customer? Can we collect stories from the internet on what Indians are saying about fashion, style and design, and showcase them on this community platform?

If Lopa looks beyond Twitter and asks herself these questions, she will realise that E-sqd can do so much with social media and that it is easy to start.

Also, if her CEO Dwij Nanda asks if the internet user base in India is significant enough, Lopa can tell him that India's 40 million active internet users are not only young, urban and upwardly mobile, but also heavy users of social networking and blogging platforms. Add to that India's 400 million mobile subscribers, of which 20 million use group SMSing services and 20 million use mobile internet. The base is big enough to be interesting to most Indian marketers, certainly a high-end lifestyle retail chain such as E-sqd.

Gaurav Mishra ( helps Indian and international brands build and nurture online communities as CEO of business consultancy 2020 Social (

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 14-12-2009)