Social Media Success Dawning in India

An interesting and probably first of its kind case study challenge was conducted India Social, where in any organization that had taken travelled the social media route and attained success could participate and exhibit their tactics. The winners of this case study challenge were Pratham Books (1st prize), Fastrack (2nd prize) and (3rd prize). Let us, introduce these organizations in brief in the benefit of the audience – Pratham Books was established in 2004, as a non-profit Public Charitable Trust with an objective to enable the democratization of children education, Fastrack which was initially launched (in 1998) as a sub-brand of Titan (an arm of Tata group) became later on an independent brand in 2005, with focus on watches for urban youth and Cleartrip established in 2006 is one of the top online travel companies in India.

In this article we have made an attempt to analyze and understand the similarities and dissimilarities in the social media strategy adopted by these winners. The interesting aspect to notice was that the context of these companies varied to a great extent – Pratham (NGO, products & services), Fastrack (high involvement product category), (high involvement services category). This insight essentially signifies that any company (irrespective of its business focus & domain) that realizes the true potential of social media and dedicatedly implements it in the right manner, has an opportunity to reap satisfactory results. We have analyzed their social media strategy based on criteria – platform selection, stakeholders targeted, activities undergone and the impact measurement.

As indicated in table1 Pratham used six social media platforms, the highest of the three competing firms, followed by Fastrack which used four, and Cleartrip which used three platforms. However, the common platforms amongst all three were Facebook and Twitter. An interesting point to be noted is that Orkut, which was the first social networking website to gain prominence in the country, was not preferred by any of the companies. Also, the match between the product category in which  a particular company was involved and the platform it chose was incredible, for instance in order to familiarize users with the books it prepared Pratham ensured it had presence on Scribd and YouTube, where its users could read the free books that were uploaded. Similarly, Fastrack, which is the country’s famous brand known for its luxurious products, ensured its presence on YouTube and Flickr to demonstrate its product varieties and new arrivals. Lastly, as Cleartrip doesn’t have any product to demonstrate, it probably didn’t needed to be present on YouTube, Flickr or Scribd, and hence was just present on Facebook, Twitter and Blog. This strengthens the argument that the key question to be asked is not on how many platforms should the company be present? but on which platforms should  the company be present to justify the objective and the product/service the company is offering?

We, further analyzed the usage of most common platforms – Twitter and Facebook. As shown in table 1.1 it could be noted that the number of people whom Fastrack and Pratham books followed, was nearly matching the number of people who followed them on Twitter. This strategy is highly debated in the industry where many experts feel that it is not necessary for a company to follow every customer who follows the company on Twitter. However, it makes sense and the empirical proof here strengthens the argument that it is indeed necessary to follow those customers who follow the company. The only exception was Cleartrip, where it seems follows the tide of industry experts.

The table1.2 indicates the number of fans on the fanpages of these companies on Facebook. Though, the numbers could not be compared with each other due to the high variance in the business context of these firms, in general one could realize that product with fun, luxury, style (hedonic) attract more response which was very clearly evident in case of Fastrack. Also, the connect, with right target audience of Fastrack which is primarily youth, is easily possible on these social networking websites, which makes it inevitable to avoid them.

The most important criteria to compare these companies, was the kind of stakeholder involvement that they considered. As Pratham’s stakeholder involved a wide variety of member organizations, the focus on the entire community was very important for them, to ensure the co-ordination between community members. However, the focus for Fastrack and Cleartrip was clearly on existing and potential customers. Also, Pratham had to concentrate not only on the external stakeholder members, but also the internal staff to ensure they were in sync with the overall business and social media strategy.

So far, we have discussed regarding the presence of companies on various social media platforms, however the crucial element is not the presence, but the kind of activities that are undergone on these platforms. Hence, we analyzed the range of activities that were conducted and the impact measurement tactics employed by these firms. We are sure that it would be an eye-opener for the readers of this article that none of the impact measurement tactics are traditional internet performance measurement ones (like CPC, CPM, hit ratios, pages visited). The impact measurement tactics have been very well framed and they match the activities that were conducted, which essentially indicates that there could be no standardized evaluation tactics, but they need to be tailored according to one’s requirements.

This case studies exhibited in this article may not be the industry’s best practices, but we felt that sharing these case studies on which data was publicly available and confirmed (by India Social) provides authenticated learning.  We are sure there might be such innumerable case studies, which are yet to be identified and understood. To sum up, the key learnings from these three interesting case studies would be:

  • Depth and not the breadth of social media platform that matters.
  • Firms should be prepared to face the negative discussions on social media
  • Synchronization between the product category and social media platform is very essential
  • Identifying the presence of right target audience on right social media platform is the key.
  • Conducting appropriate activities and measuring their impact in the most suitable manner is what matters at the end of the day.

The start provided by India Social in organizing such events, and an attempt to publicize the social media strategy that firms follow is a welcome move and we are sure the criteria of evaluating entries would become stringent in future. Some of the criteria that could be seriously considered are:

  1. Whether firms outsourced the social media campaigns or developed in-house
  2. What were the cultural challenges that these firms faced while adopting social media?
  3. How could they measure the financial impact of these activities? (Note: We understand that many a times social media campaign are not supposed to be revenue generating activities, but still it needs to be accountable in some manner to justify the manpower resources that needs to be committed for these activities, if done in-house)
  4. Are there any mechanisms to measure the input (primarily manpower) costs and compare their output?

Leaving aside all these analyzes the reader has read so far, we would like to share our personal experience with these winners when we posted the “congratulations” message on their respective fanpage on Facebook, guess what? we received a prompt acknowledgement from Pratham, which probably justifies its brand name (Pratham in Hindi language means, “first”)!!!!

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