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Top Gun!

For many of my generation, Top Gun remains THE cult movie – fighter pilots, good looking guys and girls, winners, the best-of-the best.  I visualised the same when I first conceived Blogworks – the best-of-the-best in our profession, coming together, getting better each day; knowledge and learning at the very center of our journey.

So, Top Gun, as the gamified knowledge and learnings programme happened quite naturally. However, it took a fair amount of effort to see that all team members got a fair opportunity to win points, badges and be celebrated, within, and, outside of the organisation.

From Top Gun Metal, to eventually becoming a Top Gun Instructor  the programme rewards proactive action in acquiring, contributing to and sharing of knowledge (informal and formal), while penalising inaction. Every step forward in our journey towards learning and knowledge adds to points, and no steps forward, are considered a step backwards.

Here’s a video that give you a glimpse. Tell me what you think :)

Since the site is behind a wall, here is a glimpse into the leaderboard and Top Gun badges. Do you have it in you? ;)

leaderboard screenshot

badges screenshot

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Story in Afaqs: Tata Nano: Fashion on wheels

Afaqs has quoted Rajesh Lalwani, Founder and Principal, Blogworks on a  feature which talks about Tata Nano’s new ad. The article also mentions Blogworks IndiaAuto Social Index June 2013.


Read the full article here

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Guidebook to Tweeting without Trouble for celebrities

We were invited to participate in a fun story by Economic Times, called ‘Eight ways to tweet without landing in a soup‘. I penned down a few tips for celebrities on Twitter. Read and enjoy these :)


In a world where real time broadcasts from a mobile device have made your voice travel faster than light, the impact, and the perils of this cannot be underestimated. If you are a celebrity, then you have already seen both.

While needs and styles of using Twitter for engaging the community may all be different for a cinema star, a political leader or a business leader, these handy tips should equally help all of you celebrities stay out of trouble.

  • Two’s a crowd – First things first, don’t use Twitter for private conversations through DM. There is a good chance that as a result of technology malfunction, or a human error, you’ll end up sharing your private conversation with your followers. If your life is indeed as interesting as a few million of them think it is, you have given them, and the media, some juice.
    • If you are a star, ignore this advice and in fact try this before your next movie/ album/ book release – might just give you the boost you seek.
  • Sexting on Twitter is injurious to health – Not only is it likely that the object of your affection might not be the person he/ she claims to be, totally wasting your effort, but it can end up  being a public embarrassment as U.S Congressman Anthony Weine found out when he ended up sharing a sexually suggestive picture on Twitter. He ended up resigning from his post.
    • In an always-on world, with our mobile devices perennially logged in to various social networks, it’s easy for us to not realise we have sent out a tweet, instead of a text message to a friend.
    • If need be, keep separate devices for your public and private lives.
  • Casual conduct often results in unfortunate casualty – Last month, Adam Orth, the Microsoft Studios Creative Director came under criticism for his sarcastic tweets in response to the rumour that the next Xbox would require an active internet connection at all times. The company issued an apology soon after and Adam is said to no longer be with the company.
    • The cafe-like nature of Twitter and the informal nature of conversations can often lead us to confuse it with being a ‘casual’ medium. It is not, and what we say on Twitter can and will be used against us, including in a court of law, as some others have discovered.
    • Claiming ‘my account was hacked’ might work once, if at all, but won’t work the second time. Do respect the intelligence of fellow citizens on Twitter – they are very smart people – and admit a lapse if you need to.
  • D for derogatory on Twitter can often lead to D for defamation – Linked with the previous piece of advice, just as New Zealand’s Chris Cairns’ filed a legal case against Mr. Lalit Modi for accusing him of match fixing on Twitter, there are many reminders to public figures that lack of accountability is only a prerogative of the anonymous.
  •  You shall be judged – Even as Kingfisher Airlines failed to pay the dues to its employees, Junior Mr. Mallya came under fire for his tweets about ‘playing volleyball with 12 bikini clad models on the beach’. The same flamboyance that in the past was his claim to fame, was seen as irresponsible and annoying given the context of the poor business performance.
    • It is important as a public figure to be aware and sensitive to the public sentiment and never forget that social media is not quite the water cooler conversation space, especially for public figures who are judged for every move.
    • People are also judging you for your intelligence, empathy, values and so much more – yes, the perils of being just a Tweet away.
  • You can’t beat the trolls – In November 2010, the controversy around the Radia tapes and the 2G scam embroiled several prominent public figures including politicians, business heads, and senior journalists. When Open Magazine published the transcript of the recording between Ms. Nira Radia and senior journalist Barkha Dutt, the latter found herself surrounded by criticism especially on social media. She took to Twitter to clarify her position but found vituperative trolls overwhelming the conversations with #barkhagate, which became a trending topic.
    • Do explain your position transparently, but understand the futility of expecting rational behaviour from trolls.
    • “When you don’t have a reputation, all you want is attention”, is how I often explain the phenomenon of why pebble throwers enjoy what they do and how engaging them one-on-one empowers them by giving them a sense of victory and in fact added virality. As a celebrity – you are the vulnerable one here.
    • I must add that in times of responsible and transparent governance, sometimes public outcry against a public figure might not just be desirable, but in fact necessary. Not everyone joining these conversations can be written off as a ‘troll’.
  • Understanding the cultural context – Mr. Shashi Tharoor’s infamous ‘cattle class’ comment which then cost him his ministerial position is a classic example of how a message can get misconstrued if it lacks an understanding of the cultural nuance by those consuming the message (sometimes outside of Twitter). 
  • Lend your credibility carefully – As a celebrity your word has weight, and reach, which puts you in a position of responsibility. Do be careful about whom you endorse; which messages you support; they can come back to haunt you, or can certainly haunt your conscience later.
  • Controversy may sell movies and books, but is not necessarily good for your business – A business leader trying to emulate a movie star’s style is a recipe for disaster – might just work if you are a political leader ;)
    • Is controversy your natural style? If not, why bother copying someone else’s style?
    • Depending on the nature of your work, and style, people have different expectations from you.  Being yourself will not just allow you to use Twitter with ease but also make you authentic and unique for the community. 
  • Don’t play the victim – ‘that’s’ not fair – Every day there is a young political leader who plays the victim on Twitter. He has strong credentials, being well-educated and articulate, and is a worthy candidate but has arguably reached his current position of power with relative ease given his political lineage. Of course his job is tough, the region is volatile, but to expect sympathy for playing his designated role? To play the victim? C’mon ‘that’s’ not fair.
    • We are looking up to you as a leader, winning our trust and respect is in your tweets
  • Bonus tip: Don’t threaten to quit Twitter – we know you don’t intend to ;)
    • Like I said earlier, this junta is really smart. It knows more about you than you think it does.
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The digital medium – context for India #Elections2014

I was recently interviewed by Governance Now, a fortnightly magazine focusing on governance and processes in the public life in India. My interview about the need for politicians to be present to the impact of digital and social media, was published in a recent issue of the magazine, but as I looked through my notes, I thought there was value in putting down my thoughts as a blog post.


Let’s look at what’s happening globally – you will see two-three phenomenon that are driving experiences in governance revolve around participation, transparency, and movements.

The days of the ‘ruling’ and the ‘ruled’ are over. People are now saying, “As my representative, can you help manage my affairs better? I want peace, I want economy, I want jobs.” This is one aspect of the change that you’ve seen. Every dictatorial economy/country has seen revolutions. We have seen people take to the streets in India. We are seeing the vocalisation of concerns and thoughts like never before. Why is all this happening? One reason is of course that people are saying, “I’m not going to stand for this any more.” But more importantly, we are seeing a completely new generation go mainstream, it the young people.

You will see that globally, the transition of the web from predominant work use to predominant use for personal connections. When those personal connections come into play, on one side the digital medium allows you speed of connection, of being able to reach out to people in real time or through asynchronous communication which could be recorded messages and so on and so forth, but on the other side, it is also about open conversations. What do I mean by open conversations?  SMS is not a new medium, SMS has been around for a long time, virals have been happening on SMS for a long time. But even then, one -to-one exchanges on mediums like the mobile were predominantly what I call ‘silent exchanges’. I messaged a friend, it stayed between me and that person. But now when I put out a Facebook or Twitter update, 300 of my friends see it. And then 10 of them share it with 300 of their friends/followers each. And content seems to now become not just more visible, but also viral.  So it’s the visibility that is adding to the virality.

The world over, there is a movement phenomenon that’s coming into play, where people are participating in causes, where people are signing mandates, and pledges, and these are circulating. That’s one side of technology.

The second side of technology is now, linked with people making educated choices. The information economy. Today, because everything is permanent, nothing will go away. So there is a Wikipedia page on every episode in history. History is mostly politics. So if I want to know, why did the country go through a partition, I have a Wikipedia page. I have access to everything that was ever written about the topic. So in the information economy, it is extremely important that my points of view are available. That I am participating in conversations with people who may think alike, or contrary. That I am available for people to consume and engage with. And hence comes the role of channels like Google, Wikipedia and search.

Then, let’s talk about the third aspect of technology. The implicit impact that all of this is having on our opinion. What my friend says about Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi might impact my opinion about them. I might not realise it today, but over a period in time – the impact is implicit. The implicit impact of this medium is very powerful. Its actually the implicit impact of this medium that is more powerful than the explicit visible impact, in shaping opinion, in deciding preferences.

And, last but not the least, what this medium does is, say for example how we have seen Narendra Modi use this medium, is almost like a rock-star. Which is a larger than life persona. I can be physically only in one place, but digitally I can be in a thousand, the ability to multiply my presence and engagement and impact, and on one hand allowing me to come down, to reach out to everyone, like an Omar Abdullah does, but at the same time, also be able to come in on a grand scale. Look at the beauty of this medium, it allows me to be both, grand and down-to-earth, in touch with one-on-one interactions. So it is not about a medium, but it is about a society, and a culture , an ecosystem that is being woven together with a thread, the invisible thread of digital technology, that is bringing all these people, the population, their opinions, their wishes, their aspirations, their demands, their thoughts, their voices, all together.

Now if this is the future and politics is what is going to drive this nation, which has always driven the nation, then should the politicians be using this medium, or should they not be using this medium? The answer is very clear.

At this point in the interview I was asked if politicians would use the medium carefully, or if they’d just pump in a lot of money.

I don’t think it is about the money. I think if you see, the space is evolving. There are enough instances, while there are different instances, say for example, the Obama campaign. The Obama campaign is no longer new, it’s two elections. There are enough learnings. There are learnings from Narendra Modi, from Omar Abdullah, from the Anna Hazare episode. There are learnings both good and bad from that. There are learnings from the uprising around the recent unfortunate incident in Delhi.

If you see, there are so many learnings that are available for political parties, and in the elections 2014, this medium is going to play an extremely important role. From ‘entertain and inform’ to direct engagement, to the use of digital technology to create a grand persona, to coming down on planet earth and participating. What we may not see this election, unlike in the US, where fund-raising was a big part of the Obama election, particularly the first one where his success is credited really, to the small funds that were contributed by the voters there, I don’t think we will see that happen in India yet. But I think the stage is set. The governance of tomorrow will be based, rooted in transparency, participation. The digital medium is going to drive it. So it is first of all, not about money. Sure, money is important, but first is about taking a strategic view to understand what’s driving the change. What are the various aspects of this medium? It’s not one; there are four-five different aspects. You have to de-construct the whole thing.

And it’s not a short term play. So if you see, there are probably a handful of people that have understood that it’s not short term. Narendra Modi, very clearly, is among the few that have understood. And he’s really gone about, very carefully, using this medium, participating. So it’s not just about setting up presence. The Prime Minister’s office on the other hand, has not really used this medium well. Narendra Modi has. So I think some of the people have understood that just by creating a presence does not guarantee engagement. And I can’t be doing this once the elections are announced. This has to happen much before. And the beautiful part is, the elections are not going to be over this time, the elections are never going to be over again. The distance between the politicians and the public is now an arm’s length. The answerability is not going to go away.

What do you think?

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Colloquium, IIM Ahmedabad, on Social Media and Business

As Amita mentioned in the previous post, we were invited by IIM-Ahmedabad to curate the Colloquium segment of their quarterly journal Vikalpa.  Here is my introduction to the wonderful pieces written by some of the thought leaders in the social media space. Do tell me what you think.

Also, download your copy of the edition here.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————-As I write this note, Google has just launched a new initiative egging people on to ‘take action’ and ‘join together to keep the internet free and open’, even as ‘some governments try to increase censorship and regulate the internet’.

A headline in a marketing newsletter I receive every morning, announces, ‘Social media is revitalising the future of TV’. Indeed it is, as the world gets divided between leaners and potatoes, both live-casting their commentary and opinion on TV programming, albeit one watching programmes on call, the other still following a more analog approach to TV viewing (even as the content itself could be in a digital format).

Social media has, on one hand, energised some equations, but on the other, has also reversed many. As a case of the former, consider research and insights. Where months were required to draw inferences from gathered data, today we can achieve the same in real-time, through the river of data, content, and news available to analysts.

To understand the reversal of equations, let’s look at how the powerful today, are the most vulnerable, in terms of impact on reputation. When you don’t have a reputation, all you want is attention, I often say.

Politicians, journalists, cinema stars and large business groups are all under the scanner, and are at the mercy of individual, and, group attacks from stakeholders and pressure groups, but also from trolls. Motivations may vary from bonafide to absolutely malicious.

It is a new world – a world where everyone has the ability to influence opinion; a world where everyone has the ability to influence purchase; a world where distances are down to zero; a world where voice has speed greater than light; a world that pushes away any attempt to regulate it, except through mechanisms of self-regulation; the world that is today is a world shaped by social media and the free-flow of conversations that the phenomenon enables and endorses.

Juxtaposing this fast-paced change on business, marketing, communication, research and content, however, is not seamless. There are no clean-cut transitions in the real world. No start points, no finish lines.

Technology changes far more rapidly than human behaviour, so adoption takes longer; now add to that the complexities of organisations, their businesses, processes, people, cultures, relationships and multiple stakeholders, and it’s not difficult to imagine the complexities of adapting to this change in context of business.

The good news is things are beginning to settle a little – the revolution is well set, it’s time for evolution. This Colloquium is an attempt to gather distilled learning from industry leaders on several aspects of social media in context of business.

“This curious meeting of personalised timelines with a capacity to share, and the intermingling of institutional news with direct tweets and updates from public figures as well as common citizens, is where news begins to resemble the abstract dimensions of quantum physics.” One of the most prolific minds known to me is Narayanan Madhavan, who forever bathes in the river of news and information as part of his vocation as a career journalist. His rich understanding on the subject of ‘Digital Media and the Future of News’ makes it really easy for the reader to understand the context, impact and the direction of what’s ahead.

This is exemplified by Barack Obama’s simple confirmation of his win in the recent US presidential elections, “Four more years.”, which has so far received 817,151 ‘retweets’ and has been ‘favourited’  299,273 times.

In his piece titled ‘The Economics of Attention: Social Media and Businesses’, Sitaram Asur of HP Labs takes a deep dive into brand influence on Twitter through a case-study.

Social commerce, crowd-funding, socially relevant ads are some of the concepts being discussed by Arun Nair in his piece on ‘Contemporary Trends on Social Media’.

Given that Facebook is ubiquitous in every marketer’s social armoury, a piece by Sachin Rao of Facebook, shares a simple four-step process to effectively use the channel successfully.

One of the questions practitioners and buyers (marketers, reputation managers, brand owners) are today confronted with, is how to best measure this medium. While traditional measures may not apply, the obsession with ‘vanity metrics’ such as Likes, Number of Fans etc., leans towards the absurd.

How can we instead measure impact on brand health, marketing success, revenues, and customer service? Avinash Kaushik proposes that we measure these via four distinct metrics: Conversation Rate, Amplification Rate, Applause Rate, and Economic Value.

Once upon a time, data was difficult to get, now data is everywhere, available in real-time. And, even as there are technology tools to help, “real insight will stand up and be counted when we are able to put the human back into the data.”  Dina Mehta and Shubhangi Athalye of Convo share ‘The Future of Insights’.

Even if meaningless had less meaning, I could consider it, I sometimes jokingly comment.

You too will resonate with the piece ‘Defining Purpose and Meaning in Social Media’ by Amita Malhotra, which argues against vanity metrics, engagement for the sake of engagement and establishes the case for why we should all be looking at the social medium, and the value that the stakeholders might find in such an engagement with your brand/ business. “It is only when you know where you want to go, that you can figure out how to get there. And once the destination is in place, getting there is not difficult.”

In August 2011, Mahindra Rise launched the ‘Spark the Rise’ programme to enable positive change in the community at the grassroots level. The goal is to create a participative movement, which relies on the stakeholders to create sustainable initiatives, and properties of significant scale and impact.

The digital medium is playing an important role in helping make Spark the Rise an ‘outside-in’ movement. Akhil Almeida from Mahindra shares a case-study on use of social media. Step-by-step you create a movement.

I would like to sincerely thank my colleague, Kanksha Barman, who has helped immensely in the curation and coordination of this Colloquium.

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