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Social Media is like a game of Othello; it takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master!

Pradeep Chopra, Co-founder
and CEO, Digital Vidya is among the pioneers of digital marketing in India and has
been a part of the internet industry since 1999. As a digital marketing evangelizer,
Pradeep empowers and enables CXOs, Sales and Marketing Professionals, and
Digital Marketing professionals to leverage Digital Marketing for their

Pradeep Chopra, Co-founder
and CEO, Digital Vidya is among the pioneers of digital marketing in India and has
been a part of the internet industry since 1999. As a digital marketing evangelizer,
Pradeep empowers and enables CXOs, Sales and Marketing Professionals, and
Digital Marketing professionals to leverage Digital Marketing for their

Till Oct 2009, he was
one of the co-founders of OMLogic Consulting, one of the India’s leading
Digital Marketing companies. Prior to OMLogic, Pradeep was a co-founder of
Whizlabs Software, an IT education company, where he built a global brand (using
Digital Marketing) for which Whizlabs won the ‘Most Innovative Indian IT
Company’ award from NASSCOM in 2004. In an exclusive conversation with
AlooTechie, Pradeep Chopra shares some his plans on their recent social media
agency dvBytes and his thoughts about social media marketing in India.

You have been
operating social media knowledge service through DigitalVidya and have already helped
a lot of brands device their social media strategies through your case studies
and workshops. What was the objective behind launching dvBytes as a social
media agency?

All of the founders of dvBytes have been practitioners of
digital media for more than 11 years now and we were among the early adopters
of SEO, SEM services as well as social media. In DigitalVidya, we have been
working with various brands sharing how they could use digital marketing for
their brands. And that is where the idea came in when we understood that brands
are not really aware of what really works. There is a lot of information available
about social media but brands didn’t know how to implement them for their
benefits. That is why we came up with Digital Vidya. All our social media boot
camps have been participated by brands like Nokia, Google, Microsoft, eBay and
lot of FMCG, telecom brands. In every sector we have touched a lot of senior
level marketing guys who have benefited from our boot camps.

There was a constant query from our workshop participants asking
us how can we further support them? We were doing that with DigitalVidya but we
wanted to take that offering beyond the workshops. So that is how the idea of
dvBytes evolved. As we were officially evangelising the social media space with
DigitalVidya, we decided to officially extend our services and support brands
through dvBytes.

What are your
priorities in dvBytes now?

So DigitalVidya workshops will continue and under dvBytes,
we will be offering social media services, Facebook marketing strategies etc to
brands. Another important thing that we are focussing on right now is social
media applications. We feel that social media conversations are best handled
inhouse and hence we don’t see handling doing much of social media conversations
for brands.

According to you, should
focussing on increasing the number of fans or having quality conversations be
the priority of a brand on a social media platform?

See, number of fans is very important! However, sadly, most
of the brands, even today, have not been very successful in leveraging their
fanbases. The general practice is that a brand manager goes to an agency and
says, “Our competition has 3 lakh fans and we have 1 lakh. Get us to that
number.” Hence many companies have come up who have 200 people working from a
basement and creating false profiles on Facebook and thus increasing the
fanbase of a particular brand. So as I would say, during the dot com era, hits
were more misused, today likes are misused.

Moreover, brands think that if they have 100,000 fans on
Facebook, then their messages are being read. But they don’t realise that most
of the content on Facebook is consumed through the news feeds and the truth is
that not more than 10 per cent of the fans see the message. Hence if the content
is not engaging and catchy people won’t see that content. Ching’s Secret, Pepsi,
MTV, Vodafone ZooZoos are some of the brands that are doing this well as they
are creating engagement through their content. Ching’s’ Secret have recently
crosses 700,000 fans on Facebook and there are posts which have got 20 lakh
views. If an FMCG company even wants to target a fraction of that, they will
have to spend a lot on any other medium. If with every post a day, the company
is able to reach out to a couple of lakh people, over a month that will mean a
huge number. The kind of content that works on Facebook is education and
entertainment. So if the content is educative and entertainment oriented and
still having a brand connect, that should definitely work well in engaging the

The cost of acquiring
a fan on Facebook in India is Rs 2 to Rs 4, whereas in US, they cost around a
dollar. How do you see the social media spends getting big in India and how do
social media agencies make profit?

People make mistakes only when they don’t have their objectives
defined. If one doesn’t have an objective, then the only social media activity
they can do is to focus on the number of fans. And there are end numbers of
ways to acquire fans. For example, Indonesia is a country where one can get large
numbers of Facebook fans at cheapest rates, followed by Turkey. So cheaper fans
are available everywhere.

For an agency, there are different models. One is the media
buying model which follows the traditional media buying model. Another model is
the cost per fan, which is equivalent to performance marketing in digital. The client
will provide the demographics, age and location of the fans they want to
acquire and the agency delivers that. But at the end of the day, we want to clients
to define their objectives clearly. I can get them huge number of fans at
relatively lower costs than any other medium, but the important part is
creating engagement.

We have been speaking
about Facebook all throughout, but Facebook is not the only social medium. So how
do you see brands leveraging other social platforms other than Facebook?

There are a lot of interesting examples coming from all sorts
of social platforms. LinkedIn is probably the best platform to have B2B and
personal branding. A couple of weeks back we had closed an agreement to do a
series of workshops for a brand and the interaction happened on LinkedIn. Similarly,
Evalueserve, an online process outsourcing companies are very effectively using
LinkedIn for getting business leads worth millions of dollars. But I would say
that leveraging LinkedIn for B2B business generation can’t be outsourced
because a lot of it happens because of the individual profiles. But most brands
are not present to the opportunity that LinkedIn offers.

Twitter also has a lot of examples of being effectively used
as the CRM channel for brands like ICICI Bank etc. Interestingly, a company called
Fasso’s, which sells rolls, which came up with the model of ‘Tweet to Order’. So
once you are their customer, they will take down your phone number and Twitter account
and next time you just need to tweet for ordering. That is indeed a very
innovative way of leveraging Twitter which can be followed by a lot of bigger
food chains. Another example would be HelloMeHippo and they have been able to
generate a lot of brand value through Twitter which have impacted their sales. Similarly
it is an effective tool for individuals as well.

Again blogging is another effective social media tool. I would
say blogging, and in fact social media, is like a game of Othello which is easy to learn but a lifetime to
master. It is a great platform for building thought leadership. Similarly, SlideShare
is probably the largest document sharing platform in the world. Suppose you
have a document with great bit of content lying n your desktop and you are not
too worried about the privacy, sharing that on SlideShare would give you a
whole lot of exposure and mileage. That has worked immensely for us. All our
workshop presentations are on SlideShare and together these would have easily
generated 70,000 to 80,000 views, and we haven’t spent a single penny for this.
YouTube is another great opportunity and I think India is sill to catch up to YouTube
marketing. Internationally there are a lot of viral videos.

Those were different platforms and finally the biggest thing
is how you can integrate them all in one place. Social media is all about
generating good quality content and if you have content, you should look
forward in leveraging that in multiple platforms. Another way might be making
social media a part of you integrated marketing. For example, if you are doing
any sort of marketing campaign and driving traffic to your site, you can always
have a stream of favourite tweets that people are speaking about your brand. In
earlier days, there were testimonials which people didn’t tend to believe, but
having that sort of Twitter stream on the site will definitely help. Similarly,
LinkedIn has a company page feature and the recommendations can be integrated. So
these are ways to think about social media beyond Facebook.

Is there a predefined
benchmark that B2B businesses should opt for LinkedIn and brands like restaurants
and others should go for Twitter and Facebook?

Here we need to understand what sort of target audience the
brand wants to connect to. A lot of people are there on LinkedIn and also on Facebook
and there is a big overlap. But the behaviour of the same person differs on
different platforms. LinkedIn’s audience is purely professional and any professional
need like hiring, funding, getting business etc could very well be addressed on
LinkedIn. Facebook today is a bit of a hybrid with both social and professional
and Twitter is largely youth oriented. SlideShare is again very professional
and more oriented towards research. Flickr is for photographers and not so
serious stuff. YouTube is again a mix of entertainment and tutorial. So rather
than having a fixed formula, knowing the behaviour of the TG is what a brand
needs to figure out.

You have spoken about
blogging as a social media tool. Is blogging still alive?

Due to the advent of these multi-blogging platforms, what
has happened is that our attention span has come down. We don’t want to write more
and read more. At the same time, when blogging started, a lot of people took on
to the platform with high expectations thinking that the whole world was
waiting for the first post to go up, which were unrealistic. Successful bloggers
had the patience of posting one after another relevant pieces without worrying
much about the visitor numbers. Besides, a lot of blogs were done for SEO. So these
contributed to the downfall of blogging. Even today, most blogs don’t remain
active more than two weeks. On the other hand, a lot of publishers like the WSJ
etc have shifted to the blogging model for generating good content. And renowned
bloggers like Amit Agarwal, Gaurav Mishra, Kiruba Shankar have been still on to
it and they are leveraging Twitter and Facebook for promoting their blog. So blogging
is not dead but has definitely seen a downward shift as a social media

How do you see social
media investments from brands going up in the future?

Social media doesn’t have too much of an
opportunity of media buying. Facebook advertising is there but it is still
growing in India. So it is not easy to quantify the value of social media
marketing spends. For me, time is the biggest investment in social media. Investment
of time from high quality people is increasing and will continue to grow. There
will be a kind of bubble burst for Facebook from people who don’t understand
the medium and they would say that Facebook doesn’t work. We hope that with DigitalVidya
we can bridge that gap.

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