Five years back, I would have a chance meeting with billionaires at some party, they would say, "What you are doing is very exciting, you must meet the CEO of my company." The CEO would introduce me to the CMO, which in turn would finally lead to the management trainee in company... the person responsible for digital in the largest firms in India. All of us, who have spent 14 years evangelizing digital in India, have had similar experiences.
So what has changed over the last five years? In the last few months, I have met quite a few people with a similar profile. However, this time around, it is they who actually want to understand digital. They obviously continue wanting their CEO and companies to use digital, however this time around, they are keener to leverage it themselves. To quote an example, I was given a 30-minute appointment with one such gentleman, which turned into a 2-hour one to one meeting.
When I was walking out of the meeting, I thought to myself, how can billionaire promoters of large groups in India start leveraging digital to their advantage? It is an intriguing question, which does not have an easy answer. It is not that these gentlemen can ever attend a conference or a workshop... nor has any learning content ever been tailored for people of such profiles.
Here are a few tips for larger than life business people (let's call them demi-gods, (DG) to start leveraging social media:
Use Twitter as an information filter: Twitter has evolved a lot over the last few years. It is no longer a medium where people communicate what they are doing. Twitter today has become the best information filter man can find. If one wants to follow any particular industry, it is quite easy for your assistant to make a list of the gurus of that industry and then follow that list. Within minutes it can give you what is happening in that industry, if any of the gurus is sharing the information, or if a few of the gurus are re-tweeting it, that information must be important. It can give one real-time news that is important in any industry. In a nutshell, one can be an avid user of Twitter without writing a single tweet.
Recognize social media as the bearer of bad news: CEOs are among the last people to know when something has gone wrong. Demi-gods generally find out even later. However transparent the organization, the bigger the person, the later he finds out that there has been a goof up. Social media allows promoters to understand real-time feedback directly from consumers; the hierarchy of the organization is not allowed to filter the same. A simple search of the brand and product terms through a social media listening dashboard can deliver amazing insights of true consumer perceptions.
Follow interests: Social media is perfect for personal interests. Example: if the person is interested in wild life photography, an assistant can make a list of the best wild life photographers in the world, take the best five snaps, and send a direct message to the DG. The same is useful to also following people of interest, whether it is Dalai Lama to Larry Fink. This is perfect for even keeping a track of other demi-gods in the world – a simple alert system would tell them whenever other DGs are in news, a congratulatory phone call would go a long way.
Connect with old friends: This is true for everyone. However, for DGs it is probably even more important. Facebook would allow them to re-connect with old friends from college when they were mere mortals. These are the people in the world with whom they could let their hair down and bring some nostalgia in their lives.
Sharing a contact detail without actually sharing it: DGs speak at Davos, they come on TV often, and meet thousands of people every year. If their email address of phone number was doled out, they would get inundated with thousands of messages. A Twitter handle is perfect for them. You are giving your contact details but reserving the right to actually communicate with that person.
Deploying social media as a multiplier-effect to all their companies: A DG who uses this most effectively is Anand Manhindra. @anandmahindra, who has almost 500,000 followers on Twitter, is able to leverage this to help all his group companies. This also keeps every professional running these companies on their toes. They are aware a consumer can always write directly to Mahindra if they feel they have been treated unfairly by any of the Mahindra Group companies.
Many DGs have not grown up with computers, thus learning these technologies used to be a challenge. Tablets have solved this challenge. My 84 year old dad learned how to use an iPad in an hour. The best thing about an iPad is, pressing a single button resets everything. I believe that every DG over the next few years will start leveraging social media to gain competitive advantage for their entire portfolio of companies.
There is an opportunity of creating learning social media content for the DGs of the world. While I was re-searching for this article, I found it difficult to find a single post that had attempted to air views on how a DG could use social media.
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Vivek Bhargava is CEO of iProspectCommunicate 2. He's founder and MD of Communicate2, which has evolved into one of the largest search and social media specialist organization in India that was recently acquired by Aegis Media. Vivek has spent the last 10 years guiding the digital advertising strategies of companies such as MTV, Merrill Lynch, ICICI Bank, Reliance in both Indian and global markets. He regularly speaks at global events such as SES, Ad-tech, SMX, I-com, and the Apex Internet conferences in India. Vivek is the co-chair for SEMPO Asia Pacific. He has travelled to more than 40 countries on various consulting and project assignments and lived In Dubai for two years.
March 19, 2014