Tag Archives: rajesh lalwani

Willful participants in a ‘social media revolution’ – learnings series 1

We’ve all experienced the frenzy surrounding ‘India Against Corruption’ episode led by Anna Hazare.  Among other things, it has also been termed as the coming of age for social media in India. I think if anything at all, then, more than ever, it highlights my fears of possible misuse of the medium.

The possible misuse, as I put it, is not merely the ability to manipulate public sentiment (as against influence) but also willful participation by a large mass of (well meaning) people, carried away, possibly without understanding the depth, consequences of an issue they appear to be supporting.

Here are a few symptoms that I notice from this particular episode.

Jingoism rules

We have found someone who is going to get rid of corruption. Anna Hazare is the new Mahatma – it doesn’t matter that Mahatma’s principles are forgotten in practice by all of us, but it feels so good that we have found a new hero.

While we are at it, let’s also see how this compares with recent revolution in Egypt – it makes me appear like a global citizen in front of my friends and peers overseas who read my feeds.  It doesn’t matter that India is already the largest democracy in the world.

Tweet before you read

I wrote about dumbing down of social media sometime ago:

Not so long ago comments were the benchmark of participation on social media channels – first on blogs, then on social networks. Comments, however, take thought, intelligence and, of course, time – you’ve got to read the post, fill in your personal details etc.  Therefore, while a comments  help build conversations, perspective, and, depth, they are not ‘scalable’.

It’s far easier to simply click a button to participate – it doesn’t matter whether you read the content or not . It helps further that the said unit of engagement helps share the content with his/ her universe of readers/ followers/ friends.

Enter the now ubiquitous  ‘Like’ button, or, even the ‘Retweet’ button on Twitter (my belief is, it will also eventually be called the ‘Like’ or ‘Share’, for that’s what it does anyway).

Research shows that penetrating the organic time-line of a user has the most influence on his/ her universe of followers,  and ‘Likes’ let you do that painlessly.

In this whole cut-and-paste, twitter happy economy, who has the time to read, understand the issue? Few, very few of us, bothered to read the proposed ‘Lokpal bill’.  Of course corruption has to end, the bill is being touted as the solution, hence it must be ok to support the bill.

Easy as 1,2,3

Anna Hazare’s fast enters another day.To express solidarity with him, can we all change our status message to support a MAN who is fighting for us, to bring a stronger Anti Corruption Law in the country?If “YES” please make this your status.If “No” God Bless us!!

The digital equivalent of giving alms, a status update on Facebook or Twitter acts as a balm for the aggrieved conscience. We must do the right thing and what a painless way to do it – virtual actions make participating in protests so easy.

Am a celebrity, the new change agent

These self-proclaimed change agents feed collective frenzy through their Twitter feeds; in this episode some even claiming to the custodians of the very issue of corruption itself. One went to the extent of the suggesting that he can finally stop writing about corruption, heaving a sigh of relief. Corruption is over, tackled successfully.

Err, I have a little errand to run overseas. Keep the next issue ready, I will be back.

Herd mentality

That social media is an extremely viral medium is well understood – word travels really fast and the collective frenzy thus achieved is infectious. Before we know, we are a herd – the few speaking contrary to popular voices are treated as black sheep.

Like I said at the beginning, this post is not about Anna Hazare, or the current episode, but an attempt to understand collective behaviour in times of social media.

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Media quote “Hindu Business Line: Recruiters track online history”

I was quoted in this story in Hindu Business Line today,titled “Recruiters track online history“.

Here is the full text.

Anjali Prayag
Swetha Kannan

Bangalore, July 6

Be careful about what you post on Facebook or Orkut or even what you tweet, warn recruiters. For even a seemingly innocuous remark about an issue, event, game, or a person could cost you your next job.

Checking the online history and behaviour of candidates is increasingly becoming common for companies looking for the right fit. “Companies are increasingly tracking candidates though these social media and basing hiring decisions on them,” says Mr Rishi Das, Chief Executive Officer, CareerNet, an HR recruitment firm.

Mr Rajesh Lalwani, Founder, Blogworks, a social media consulting firm, says that to be fair to candidates, employers must make a distinction between personality traits and character flaws. “If a person says he parties a lot, should that be used against him? Does this mean his character is flawed? These are decisions the company has to make with maturity.”

Assess leadership, knowledge

Companies should focus on assessing thought leadership and knowledge on these sites and ignore the frivolous aspects, he says, recommending blogs and Twitter to analyse candidates. Blogworks also recently hired a ‘knowledge executive’ by studying her blog and following her on Twitter. Such a search, according to CareerNet, averted what could have been a hiring disaster for it of a candidate almost shortlisted for a senior position in an MNC. “A search on the Web revealed that one of the candidates had a case filed against him. We withdrew the name from the list immediately,” the head-hunter said.

Though the practice is widely prevalent in the US with about 75 per cent of the companies there using social media to analyse the profile of candidates, it is only now picking up in India.

“HR teams are collating data about potential employees through social networking sites, though companies are not overtly saying their decisions are based on opinions posted on such Web sites,” says Mr C. Mahalingam, Executive Vice-President and Chief People Officer, Symphony Services.

Dr Srinivas Kandula, Global Head, HR, iGATE, says, “We leverage sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Yahoo groups and alumni networks to identify middle- and senior-level candidates. They have significantly aided our recruitment efforts and considerably shrunk hiring costs.”

Mr Madan Padaki, Director of MeritTrac Services, an assessment company, is sceptical about the concept working for junior-level recruitment. “This will work for higher level hires where the numbers are low. For mass recruitment, where volumes are high, a lot of sifting through information has to happen.”

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IndiaSocial™Case Challenge is now live – time to see the depth of social media work in India.

It’s amazing how much time working out details of ‘seemingly’ easy things can take. Finally, after a couple of weeks of ‘in-the-making’ the IndiaSocial™Case Challenge that we’ve been busy coordinating is now ‘live’. My sincere thanks to exchange4media and impact Weekly for partnering with the initiative.
Open from 3 February 2010, through 28 February 2010 (IST), the IndiaSocial™ Case Challenge invites submissions of their social media work in India, from brands, private and government organisations, not-for-profits, media bodies, celebrity brands…

  1. Top 3 cases, as selected by the judging panel, will get featured in impact Weekly and also get an opportunity to present their case at a future event hosted by IndiaSocial
  2. Top 10 case-studies will be featured on IndiaSocial.in under a special Gold Class section
  3. Both short-term projects and longer term strategic work can be submitted to win under respective categories

On the judging panel are some of the most credible names in social media and journalism:
1. Dina Mehta, Co-Founder & Head of Research, Mosoci
2. George Skaria, Founder, ThoughtSpring and Former Editor, Indian Management
3. Kiruba Shankar, CEO, Business Blogging
4. Peter Griffin, Editor, Caferati; co-founder SEA-EAT and the World Wide Help Group
5. Pradyuman Maheshwari, Group Editor, exchange4media Group
6. Yours truly.
To ensure complete transparency and freedom from bias, any judge/judges will not rate an entry basis there/ their organisations involvement in a submitted case-study.
While we will share judging criteria along with declaration of winners, some of the factors that judges would be looking for consist:

  1. Clarity of objectives
  2. Alignment of results with goals
  3. Rigour in measurement
  4. RoI
  5. Stakeholder engagement
  6. Innovation & differentiation
  7. Delight factors

More about the initiative here.
I am hoping to see some great case-studies in the @IndiaSocial Case Challenge that will convince me that there is more to all the social media talk than mere hype.

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Taking things lightly @Blogworks

We take our work very seriously, but being at Blogworks is fun. These caricatures make our email signatures and go on a wall in the office. Tell us what you think 🙂

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Social Media Wiki; factors impacting social media adoption

A couple of weeks ago, Shubhodeep Pal, a student of Singapore Management University – SMU reached out to me with an interview request, as part of an ongoing non-profit project for the university, where, in Shubhodeep’s words, “students who take the Comm215 course, Digital Media Across Asia, are required to build and expand a wiki that deals exclusively with the digital media landscape across Asia. By the end of 2009, we aim to create the first social media map of Asia.”
The wiki has existed for a bit and there are other mentions of Blogworks from earlier and there are 3 interviews that have been added recently. Besides mine, there is Kiruba and Gaurav Mishra’s interviews too.
My interview has a few typos/ mistakes and Shubhodeep is getting them corrected they have now been corrected.
Shubhodeep asked me about the challenges to Social Media adoption. This is what I said to him. It keeps getting manifested:
“The primary challenge is that the adoption of social media is slow. It is not growing as fast as people who are investing time and resources in it would like.
Another problem is that marketers in India believe in a ‘one-way street’: I speak, you listen. Brands are not engaging their customers. People are not used to a culture of voicing opinions, collaborative working and knowledge sharing.
Channels to resolve customer queries and complaints have not been created. Essentially, we sell and then forget about service. Shifting to social media is a culture shift for brands so it is taking time. It’s happening slowly: Brands are unable to react properly to feedback, especially of the negative sort. Feedback is seen by many as criticism rather than constructive suggestions.”
What do you think?
The full interview is here.

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