Content & more on Social Media Week Day 3

26 Sep,2013


By Fatema Rajkotwala


As the Social Media Week Mumbai progressed into its third day, the panels delved deeper into ways in which conversations are dominated by entertainment and cricket, the negative practices prevalent in social media, and how crowdsourced journalism can be used effectively for content creation. There was even a discussion around youth and how social media has benefited women entrepreneurs in India. The proceedings happended across five hubs in the city and this report covers only the events at two of the venues – Blue Frog and Barking Deer.


Within the Indian context, social media seems to be predominantly ruled by conversations by two major industry giants, entertainment, that is Bollywood, and cricket. In the second of the sessions curated by MxMIndia, Hemant Kenkre, former cricketer, commentator and PR consultant; Deepa Gahlot, senior journalist, awardwinning film critic and Head of Theatre and Films Division at NCPA; and Krishna Vilasini, Managing Partner, Entertainment and Brand Marketing, Genesis Burson-Marsteller to share their insights (Disclosure: MxMIndia is also a Media Partner of the Social Media Week Mumbai).


Agreeing that social media conversations on cricket do seem to overshadow most other talks on social media, Mr Kenkre said, “Cricket, as we know, is a religion in India and even though it seems to be in our face and on our screens, there is very little known about what goes on behind the scenes. This is why social media is a relevant space for fans. Cricket in India is run by an ‘old boy’s club’ and as fans, we don’t get much interesting information on our cricket icons.”


Similarly, Ms Gahlot said that in India Bollywood tends to dominate everything. “Today, you cannot do a book launch, an event or a press conference without involving Bollywood lending its name. In this space, social media caught on fast as a PR marketing tool because a lot of people tend to watch movies than vote. Now everyone is a critic. On the flipside, this has helped small films that would’ve otherwise sunk at the box office, gain mileage and manage do recover costs and do reasonably well. It also creates controversies such as the one surrounding The Lunch Box and The Good Road Oscar nomination. So, social media is a powerful public tool but it is a platform where you cannot control negative opinion.”


Representing the PR industry side of things, Ms Vilasini spoke about how social media is a definite godsend for the communications industry. “Entertainment and television in India is very close to people’s hearts and egalitarian, in sense. We have realized that television viewing is now a multi-screen experience for viewers, counting mobile screens and PC viewing. Social interaction is welcomed and created by us. It makes everyone feel important, have a voice and we embrace, work to amplify and maximize it to fully channelize the power of social media. ”


The panel went on to discuss what the impact of social media has on cricketers and if it affects their performance on the field. Mr Kenkre agreed that at times it does, “Cricketers do check what is being said about them but what is said on any public communication platform is very controlled. Even when they are not officially connected, cricketers or selectors or any official person within the system does not have a chance to come out and explain themselves because at some point they may be part of the industry again. So nobody speak honesty on social media and people who matter in cricket are largely not on social media.”


In response to how do PR agencies handle negative criticism on social media, Ms Vilasini pointed out that maintaining a buzz is of prime importance and that the hotel industry closes the loop well when it comes to negative publicity. “We advise our clients to first listen to what is being said, by whom it is being said and then address it. Most times, if you acknowledge someone’s opinion, the ranting stops. We encourage conversations on Bigg Boss, even though a lot of what is being said is negative. We will be petrified the day no one is talking about a show on television.”


As the head of theatre and art at NCPA, Ms Gahlot spoke on whether apart from affecting Bollywood, social media is making inroads into theatre. “We do monitor reviews and use social media for disseminating knowledge about upcoming events. It also has helped in improving or changing content according to feedback, which is possible with theatre, as opposed to after a film is made. It is considered safe to vent or rant on Bollywood as compared to politics, for example.”


Mr Kenkre spoke for the panel with his closing remark, “The challenge in social media is to engage the audience and do so at the right time.”


Crowdsourced journalism

Day 3 at SMW also brought up the new byproduct of social media – crowdsourcing in journalism. Avid Learning called in Gauri Vij, Editor of Time-Out Mumbai magazine to share her insights on “Crowdsourced journalism and viral news in the city”. She cited innovative examples of how crowdsourced journalism is being used internationally by the Guardian through its app – Guardian Witness or by Indian helpline, CJNet Swara or Traffline. She also gave example of successful collective blogging ventures such as Moifightclub, a film blog where people can record, report, perceive and share through social media.


Speaking about how her magazine successfully used crowdsourcing for the compilation of its urban dictionary issue, Ms Vij said, “We realized that we needed help and the wisdom of our crowds and we asked for it. Samosapedia has also done this effectively. Social media helps in interacting with your readers, from a marketing perspective it creates a buzz and it also gives immediate feedback on hard worked stories.” When asked if social media undermines the work of resident journalists or comprises on creditability, Ms Vij added, “You have to verify facts and be careful of what you carry.”


Negative practices in the Indian social media

Moving away from the good face of social media, social media consulting firm Social Samosa brought together a panel of social brand managers and agency experts to talk about the ignored elephant in the room with their discussion on “Negative practices plaguing the social media industry”.


Commenting on the approach of brand managers and brands alike when it comes to social media, Ekalavya Bhattacharya, Head, Digital, MTV India said, “The problem is that brand managers are not working for the brand but more to impress their bosses or are more concerned about the fans or followers of the competition. The buzzword now is Engagement and Facebook is changing its offering accordingly. It is heartening to see some brands care about their content but many a times, contests are being confused with content.”


Bringing in the advertising agency outlook, Ashwath Ganesan, National Strategy Director, Social @ Ogilvy said, “Social, more than digital, tends to be looked at as a cost cutting way of advertising but its is not free. There are time, opportunity and transparency costs. Digital is an expression; social is a behavior and ideas are ideas.”


Iyer Premkumar, Head, Online Marketing, Gozoop spoke about how the problem of client’s insistence on numbers was created by brand managers themselves. “We made clients realize that look at how well your competition is doing.”


Does undercutting by brands and agencies affect innovation due to a decrease in the amount of money pumped into the market? Does this in turn pose the problem of talent retention? Panelists agreed that undercutting of opening up business opportunities. Mr Ganesan said, “I think it is more of a valuation problem than a pricing problem. People don’t know what they want to do on social media. Until companies understand the real impact or value of social media until it becomes a core business position rather than an imposition.”


Is there a lack of ideation in terms of social media campaigns and content which are often inspired from international content or complete rip-offs but are by being applauded through awards? When can we expect a Redbull or an Oreo kind of success in Indian content? Speaking on innovation and new ideas, the panel discussed how most times there is a global mandate being pushed towards a digital spend and the fact that these brands are semi-local leads to global campaigns being adapted and distributed. “Innovation is often confused as doing something first rather than doing something better. All stories have been told; can you do it more interstingly?” said Mr Ganesan. Mr Bagchi added: “While incremental success can be improved upon, explosive success can never be improved upon. Said Mr Bhattacharya: “There is a lot of cool content on the web in India but we are not sure the audience is ready for it.”


The panel also discussed why social media is being used primarily for marketing rather than as a tool for market research or a strong customer service platform. The panelists agreed that an edgy brand can adopt a bolder stand rather than an FMCG brand that is looking at reaching out to a more conservative audience. Said Mr Bhattacharya: “Yes, you can do so much more with it. As an edgy brand, we can take on someone if someone takes a dig at us. This culture is still not high in India.”


However, panelists agreed that it is still too soon to specifically create content for the web audiences in India. Saugata Bagchi, Vice President, Tribal Worldwide stated, “The evolution of the audience is what makes the campaign a success. In India, we’re far away from there. So, I agree with the market forces, which combine to create the concept of adapting, or getting inspired so that in the short term the campaign becomes successful and the medium gets more traction than what it currently has. Another market reality is that even though we’re talking about publishing content, it is seen as a media driven rather than a content driven vehicle.”


Youth and Social Media

Considering the youth make up for almost the entire userbase of the Indian social media, Naman Sharma, founder and CEO, U’th Time Magazine hosted a discussion on the challenges and proposed solutions for the youth while using social media and the need for better content creation in this context.


Rishi Vohra, author, Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai shared his experience with social media during the promotion of his book, “After understanding the power of this medium in our country, I completely relied on social media to market my book. I kept my story in mind while writing my first book but I have kept the youth in mind for my upcoming book. Social media is a great tool to advance your word of mouth publicity, to brand and position your product but it is not meant for advertising it.”


Addressing the key question of how much social media interaction translates into sales, Sumit Verma, independent film-maker and founder, FitHead Factory shared his personal learning from how social media can be used by artists such as himself to monetize content, “For crowd-funding, Linkedin works better than Facebook or Twitter, which helps more in direct chatting. Social media helps in spreading the word, finding like-minded people, connecting content creators and their audience and turning content viral because of youth and we are a young country. If your content is good, social media will help.” Some other solutions for raising funds were Vimeo, which has begun paid distribution for content or by partnering with Youtube, Wishberry, Indiegogo or Kickstarter.


The panel discussed pertinent issues such as the social media to be used as a tool to bring about social change, a need to train the youth on how to conduct themselves on social media, and how despite the negative content, it can be used to retain consumers and turn critics into loyalists.


Women Entrepreneurs and social media

Helping leverage women entrepreneurs gain valuable insights on how to use and mark their presence on social media to advance their businesses, Moxie Media and Communications drew a large charter of female audience for their panel discussion. Hosted by Moxie Media Marissa Bronfman, founder and President, the panel comprised Malini Agarwal, founder, MissMalini Publishing; Pooja Dhingra, founder, Le 15 Patisserie and Priyanka Khanna, fashion features Editor, Vogue India. The panel of enterprising women shared their personal social media story, personal insights and techniques on what worked well for them, and urged women to use the platform to the best of their advantages.


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