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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Social Media Management – Why a Business Can Not Ignore it Anymore

Summary: Social media is yielding an ever increasing importance in the establishment or sustainability of a business. Social Media Management encompasses a holistic strategy to listen, converse, monitor and manage conversations to enhance and preserve your brand reputation. It is not only about having a presence in the social media but also to keep a track on all the conversations about your brand taking place on various networks and taking preventive or corrective action to avoid small issues snowballing into major disasters for your business.



A random patient of a hospital in Thane, near Mumbai, had this to say about his experience at the hospital,

I am (name hidden) from thane. I got dengue on 26 july 2010 i was admitted on 28 july 2010 in (Name Hidden) hospital. After doing test doctor said it is anti malira and it course of anti malaria. On 30 july i got discharge. After 2 days i got head pain showed in same hospital he told take out ct scan & mri of brain. On 13 august i got loose motion and vomating again admitted to same hospital for 4 days after also were not comform about what happening.after that i got stomach pain and head pain. Then we show all reports to other doctor in (Name hidden) hospital doctor said that another doctor has done wrong course of medicine. After test doctor that due to infection in stomach due to wrong medicine taken my complain on my of dr (Name hidden) which waste my days & due i have to bear pain


This man does not seem like a regular user of Internet by his language, but then that only goes on to highlight his suffering and desperation to get justice for the wrong that purportedly was done to him. Even though I did not scour the entire Internet and the Social media for the number of people who had shared the story, I could easily find at least four or five sites/blogs who had taken up the cause. I do not know whether the hospital has even noticed this post by one of their patients much less responded to it.


To give the benefit of doubt to the hospital, maybe, it did not happen the way the patient has described it or maybe it is all an attempt by a competing hospital to tarnish the reputation of the said hospital. But the sad fact is that every time a person is reading the post of this patient, the hospital is losing credibility and maybe a patient.


For all the benefits of advertisement and promotional expenditure made by a company or a positive article about the company in the media, one negative post by a user can damage a company’s business irreparably.


Social Media – Social media in it’s broadest sense is any media which allows for social interaction or exchange of user generated content. So it can range from niche forums, groups, social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace, Orkut and Twitter and personal blogs. Most people, rather businesses presume that the social interaction does not have far reaching consequences and hence is not required. What they have forgotten is the age old marketing technique of “Word of Mouth”. Social media is nothing but a word of mouth build up of a brands reputation. Only difference is that in case of social media the word spreads much faster and is not bound by the geographical limits. In fact it is universal.


Social Media Presence – Even today most small businesses and some big business houses as well, do not have social media presence. Call it arrogance or ignorance; they are just not realizing what a load of opportunity costs they are suffering. In the olden days, the very same businesses used to have a customer satisfaction feedback system in place, wherein they would ask the customers to rate their product or/and services. Some of them still do. But what the higher management in these businesses has not understood is that the system had its lacunae. For one, most customers thought it to be waste of time. Secondly the system was very easy to game. Employees could get together and weed out the negative feedback at will. And to think that the only time the business was engaging the customer was just before and after making the sale.


Social media these days offers an opportunity to the businesses to engage with prospective as well as existing customers on a regular basis. To top it all it is free, mostly unless you start paid marketing online.


There are many social media websites which can be used for engagement with your customers. One needs to identify the websites depending on their business, region and objectives. Your social media presence comprises of creating business profiles on such websites and then following it up with updates regarding new products, news, press releases and of course when required public relations and responses to public reaction on some events. Effectively used the social media can provide you with a handy tool to not only enhance your business but also to avert adverse publicity because of a frustrated user or just some competitor trying to sabotage your brand. By quickly responding to a negative conversation on your brand, you can mitigate the damage such negative conversations can have on your brand’s reputation.


After you have created a public profile for your business, you need to create a following and the best way to do it is frank and honest communications. Even amongst the followers, though you need to treat them equally, there are users who you can identify as influencers, i.e. people who are experts in the subject or those who have a tremendous loyal following. Such influencers need to be engaged with, promoted and positively utilised to serve your interests.


Another important issue which many businesses have not utilised is having a business, company or corporate blog. A blog allows you to unashamedly talk about your company; it is your blog, after all. You can use it to give details of products, upcoming events, promotions and your corporate social responsibility initiatives. A blog also has the advantage of being easily optimised for search engines by way of constantly changing content, something a website can not allow you to do. Therefore a blog can be used as a channel to get your customers to your website. A blog also gives you the opportunity to reward your employees by speaking about their achievements and how they made a difference and finally your own employees can be used to not only contribute to the blog but also to spread the word about it through their own personal blogging or social networking efforts.


Social Media Reputation Management


Even if one does not have a proactive, outbound social media policy, one still needs to know what people are talking about your brand, your competitors and your individual products or services. We saw in the example above, how a user started a negative conversation and the same was picked up by a few other websites. There is every chance that a negative conversation explodes into a publicity nightmare for a business. Therefore one has to take prompt corrective action at the earliest suitable opportunity effectively nipping the issue in the bud. Unfortunately action can be taken only when one comes to know about such negative conversations starting. This is where the aspect of “listening” to conversations on the social media comes into play. If you do have a social media presence, chances are that a conversation in your network will reach your eyes pretty soon. But what if you are not part of the network where such a conversation starts. In this case you need dedicated professionals, who may or may not be your employees, to keep a watch on the social media networks across the board and apprise you of such developments.


How Does One Do It?


It sounds like a tall order to manage so many activities, networks and people at the same time. But it is not so difficult. There are social media management tools, paid as well as free ones, which can help you get started. The social media is getting inter-twined and is allowing a networking of networks. You can use tools to post status updates to multiple sites with one click of the mouse. There are social media alert tools available which will alert you to any conversation about your brand on any or selected networks. There are tools available to counter negative publicity about your brand. It is all out there, what one needs to do is develop a strategy, pick up the right tools and then do the right things.


About The Author

Varinder Taprial is an independent consultant on Search Engine Optimization, Corporate Blogging and Social Media management. He can be contacted at taprial@gmail.com


Sunday, September 26, 2010

What A Judgment? Fan Club Exemption!!

In a recent judgment, the Chennai High Court has exempted 80% of the income spent on fan clubs by a South Indian film star citing the expenditure as necessary to maintain his popularity amongst his fans and for promoting his profession. This has come as a good news for big celebrities amongst them film stars, cricket stars etc. But I wonder why the order does not extend to other people who spend money to enhance their popularity in their professions.

Take for instance, the money you spend on your clothes which you wear to work. Aren't you wearing decent clothes to work so as to maintain your popularity amongst your colleagues and the superiors. Try going to your work place in tatters and you will be ticked off immediately, if not fired. Why should this expense not be exempted?

In fact everything about you, the kind of house you are staying in, the locality, the car you drive, the luxury you can afford in a way promotes your profession. No one is enticed to follow the profession of a guy who lives in a chawl, and does not have access to the the materialistic goodies of life.

In this era of sycophancy it is important to have a fan club in each and every profession. You need subordinates who will say yes and support you in your innovative, even stupid ideas to move up in life. One also needs superiors who will overlook your mistakes and still give you good reports in the annual appraisals. Don't these groups of subordinates or superiors form a fan club for the individual and whatever money one spends on them, parties, dinners, birthday gifts etc should be exempt from taxation. And what about that Tiara or a new dress one's wife buys for attending the company party and enhancing your popularity in the company circles.

Take the logic a bit further. One's children are their biggest fans. And, by God, you do need to maintain your popularity with them and parenthood is a full time profession. So next time you buy that PS3 or Nintendo, remember to put it in your exemptions. Will this happen? Fat chance!!

We should stop and wonder why this judgment came through. Is the judiciary crazy enough to not recognize the implications of this order? No it is the money talking. The plaintiff had money to fight the case for more than five years. He had enough money to hire a good lawyer. He had enough clout to swing the argument in his favor, assuming that he did not buy the judge off. He sure had enough time to wait for the right, buyable one, to come along.

There are enough people in this country who know things are wrong, who want to set things right, who want to fight and present their arguments to the judiciary but they just do not have the time and the money to go through the process. That is why the Rich get their way and the others just have to comply with the regulations and rules which in all probability have been left behind by the Britishers when they left the country.

This judgement, if upheld, will be the greatest slap on the face of the Indian Common man, who will not only spend money on being a fan but also bear the brunt of paying more taxes because his star will not be paying the taxes he/she owes to the government. The Rich get richer and the Poor get poorer.

Laloo's fans! Anyone?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guity Till Proven Innocent - Fear Amongst Security Forces

Justice seems to be turning around on its head. Even though the justice sees everyone to be innocent till proved guilty, the security forces and the system as such seems to presume everyone to be guilty till proven innocent. To me it seems that the terrorists and the anti-national elements are succeeding in their purpose; that of instilling fear and distrust amongst the population.

This is evident from the irrational behaviour of the government as well as private agencies involved with security and safety. Don't believe them when they tell you that they are doing it for your safety or security, the fact is they are utterly, hopelessly lost about what is happening around them and even more clueless about how to stop any mishap or incident.

Going to the malls is becoming a pain. You spend more time waiting in line for parking your car than what you would in the mall shopping. There seems to be difference of opinion amongst the different malls as to the preferred method of terrorists to get the explosives into the mall. At some malls they check only the underside of the vehicle and at others only under the bonnet. I am yet to go to a mall where they check both places. Yes, they also check the boot. So the easiest way to carry explosives into a mall is to carry it inside a car, since no one bothers to check that. Either ways, I bet most of the guys handling that mirror to check the underside of the vehicle or for that matter inside the bonnet do not even know what a bomb or an explosive looks like. The closest most of them have got to explosives is the fire crackers they use during Diwali or for other celebrations.

The other day I went for a movie and the security checked me and told me to deposit the cigarette pack. I did not have a match box or lighter so I asked him why the pack of cigarettes. Rules, he said. I mean who ever heard of someone using tobacco to inflict harm on others besides smoking it.

Another funny things I have observed in hotels and malls is that they allow you to carry your mobile phone without even looking at it. In fact some of them even tell you to keep the phone in a basket and pass it so that the phone is not taken through the metal detectors. Now as far as my knowledge goes, it is very easy to use a mobile phone to act as a trigger for detonators. Wonder why no one is bothered about that.

Now another trend has started, courtesy the fake currency notes business. If you are giving five hundred or thousand rupees note to a shopkeeper he looks at it and then you suspiciously as if he were expecting you to come along with a fake note. It is entirely upto the vendor whether to accept the note or return it to you. If it is returned, one really does not know what to do with it. You take it to a bank and they will veify the authenticity of the note but then nothing stops the next vendor you give the note to, to return it again as a doubtful note. The government agencies have taken it a step forward. They ask you to write your personal details, with phone number and then the serial numbers of all the notes that you are giving before they accept it. Needless to say that they can get back to you anytime in the future with the charges of dealing in fake currency. How one is going to prove his/her innocence after a few days or weeks or months is beyond me.

There are many more such examples of unjustified and irrational behaviour. Security is a state of mind. If you look around yourself the state of mind seems to be troubled, more so the minds of security agencies and the government. All they are doing in the process is troubling innocent citizens because of their incompetence and fear. sn't that the very aim of terrorists and anti-national elements? Create FEAR...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lord Ganesha Idol - Download MP3 Lord Ganesh Aartis, Songs, Bhajans Online


This is a Picture of Lord Ganesha idol at the pandal in our society in Thane. Yesterday was the auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi when all the people bring the lord into their homes and perform the puja. This festival is celebrated for a period of 4-7 days wherein several pujas are performed daily to appease the lord. There are several aartis, songs and bhajans for the occasion that can be downloaded online.

The most popular Ganesh aarti that is sung during the puja on the first day is "Sukhakarta Dukhharta aarti". There are many more songs and aartis available for free download on the Internet from various sites. Here is a list of Ganapati Aartis available by various artists in the MP3 format on Amazon.....Buy online Audio Cds or download MP3 songs for less than a dollar.


SUKHKARTA DUKHHARTA GANAPATI AARTI(GANESH AARTI) : WITH SUBTITLES (LYRICS)


Lord Ganesh Audio Cds available on Amazon.com...Buy Online here..

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Make Money Selling Your Photos Online

Did you know you can make money selling photos online? Almost every one has a camera these days and almost everyone uses it to capture memories. These memories may be personal and obviously one would not like to share such photos with the public. However everyone also captures photos of nature in its full abundance, the landscapes, the rain, the sunset, the sun rise etc. These are the photos which can be shared with the public and there are people who would even pay money to have the right to use these photos, provided of course the photos are excellent.

There are many amateur photographers also who have taken some excellent shots but are not using those photos to earn money.

The good news is that you don't have to be a professional photographer to get assignments or to sell photos. There are many websites which allow you to upload your photographs and sell them on your behalf and you get a royalty based on the plan you choose. The royalty rates can go up to as much as 65%.

Some of these websites are Fotolia, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and iStockphoto. Just sign up with these websites and start uploading your photos. You can start slow so as to get an idea of how well a website is working for you and then if you are happy you can go the full hog.

Amatuer Photographers, professional photographers, nature photography, wild life photography, Photography of landscapes, scenery, monuments, people, flowers, animals..etal. Any kind of photographs are in great demand on the web. So if you have a talent, a knack for good photographs, then start uploading them right away and sell them online.

So what are you waiting for? Get out your master pieces and make money selling them online.

Friday, September 3, 2010

SEO for Google Caffeine - Why SEO Companies Are Having Nightmares



This article tries to gain insight into the impact of Google Caffeine on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and why SEO firms and businesses alike should be worried.

Google Caffeine was launched in June this year and promised to give fresher, faster and more relevant results. Has it delivered? I would say, Yes. The results are definitely fresher, faster and more relevant. In my opinion, the user of organic search has already achieved what Google promised they would deliver. Next question, has it impacted the SEO the way it used to be? Or simply, should website owners, bloggers etc be worried? The answer to this would depend on which side of the fence you were in the pre-caffeine days. If you were a big company sustaining your position simply because of the branding and without updating your content, you should be worried. If you were a dark horse trying to get your fifteen kilobytes of fame amidst behemoths on the web space, you can rejoice. Similarly if you were up there because you could outsmart the spider, you can think again, your days on the first few pages are numbered. On the other hand if you were straight and following the guidelines you can expect yourself to move up.

So what has Caffeine got which Google did not have earlier? Well, Caffeine along with Mayday, an algorithm update from Google is going faster, deeper, wider and local.

Faster
With the earlier index Google would update each layer of the multi-layered index every few weeks and that would be done only after analysis of the entire web. As a result if you happened to reach the top of the search result page for a particular search query, you could expect to remain there for some time. Not only that webmasters would insert harvested or farmed links on their websites and wait for them to be discovered by Google, thereby getting temporary reprieve from being penalised. With Caffeine, Google has changed the way it updated the index. Google is now analysing the web in much smaller portions and updating the index on a much faster scale adding web pages as and when they are found. They are getting closer to what is called the Real Time Search. So webmasters can no longer afford to be complacent and need to keep tabs on when and where the pages are figuring in the search results. In the same vein, malpractices for achieving higher rankings are going to be discovered and penalised much faster. 

Deeper

Earlier a lot of importance was being given to the root domain of the website and that same authority was being passed down to internal pages of the website. As a result a big brand name website which was already getting a lot of traffic due to its brand, would continue to enjoy the benefits of that traffic for its internal pages. As a result the internal page of this website which did not have any quality or was never updated would rank above an information heavy, frequently updated, high quality page of a website with lesser traffic. Mayday changed that. With Mayday Google started seeing individual pages for quality and content. Therefore it is no longer sufficient to apply SEO guidelines to first few levels of a website, all the pages need to be optimized for search, all the pages need backlinks, comments etc. It is obvious that Google would continue to decide ranking of a website based on the combined PageRank of all the pages of the website. The deeper pages, if not optimized, will therefore pull down the overall ranking of the website.

The big businesses therefore cannot survive on the web if they do not update and refresh the content on their pages deeper in the site. This is a logistical nightmare for SEO since updating content on all the pages of a big website is not easy. Similarly there were e-commerce websites thriving on their brand name and not having to update or make quality pages for their products. Again this is good news for the customer but a lot of hard work for the company. Smaller websites and Internet savvy companies on the other hand will find it much easier to update and refresh their content while maintaining quality of the pages and hence would find the field leveling down vis-à-vis big brands.

Wider

With Caffeine Google has started scouring the web as never before, they are now looking at images, videos, comments and social media for fresh content and updates. Needless to say that if you do not have social media presence you are losing out big time. If you are not managing the reputation of your brand online, the negativity of one comment would probably explode and sink your brand. Social media cannot be ignored any longer and the big boys had better realize it fast. It is a well known fact that a prospective customer gives far more importance to the feedback from a user than any marketing copy developed by the company. The social media is increasingly gaining momentum as the feedback mechanism for consumer products and businesses not employing Social Media Management will get affected in the near future.

Local
It has been traditionally difficult for smaller businesses to compete with cash rich big businesses in boosting their search ranking for search queries comprising of one or two words plus there is a lot of competition to attain higher search rankings for these keywords. In addition as the information and hence the number of pages on the web continue to grow more and more users are understanding the advantages of using long-tail search queries, meaning, a search expression with more than two words. Users want specific results and Google has realized it. So now both Google and the users are concentrating on long-tail keywords to get and provide, respectively, local results. An optimized website, no matter how small, can now hope to appear higher in searches when users are looking for local providers of products, services or information.

What Does All This Mean
A faster, deeper, wider and local indexing of the web is going to have a significant effect on the rankings of websites. Websites knowingly employing Black Hat SEO techniques are going to get caught and hammered by Google much faster. Websites not having social media presence may find it difficult to build or sustain their online reputation. Websites not updating their content in the deeper pages cannot get away with it solely because of their brand name. Smaller businesses have a much more level playing field online. Keeping up with the challenges thrown by Google Caffeine is going to be a lot more difficult in the future and the importance of on-page factors has suddenly shot up. SEO firms do realize this and the fact, that what could be achieved easily with a few tweaks here and there earlier, is going to take much more hard work, effort and passion. This is what is giving them nightmares.
Bottom Line 
 It is time to wake up and stop ignoring Search Engine Optimization, Corporate Blogging and Social Media



About The Author
Varinder Taprial is an independent consultant on Search Engine Optimization, Corporate Blogging and Social Media management. He can be contacted at taprial@gmail.com