5 takeaways from the Social India Conference and Suggestions for the next Social India Conference

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It’s been a week since the first Social India conference (held on the 12th – 13th November  2011 @ Bangalore ) concluded and I am pretty late in writing my thoughts on this. So, I will not bother with what happened at the conference. For that, I suggest you read the awesome summaries penned down by fellow participants & bloggers here:

Overall, it was a very nice experience for me and I look forward to the next one. I really met some nice people in person, some great fellows online and hope to continue interacting with them. What I am sharing here is 5 key takeaways from the Social India conference and few suggestions for the next one

  1. Every organization (or for that matter, even individuals), regardless of size, nature, scope, location etc can make use of Social Media. This is aptly demonstrated by the fact that AkshayPatra, a NGO which enables hunger free education to 1.3 million children in India, was the organization behind the event. They did a superb job of lining up great speakers, logistics, venue and AWESOME food. The fact today is that Social Media can’t be ignored and just as internet/e-commerce changed things for good a decade & half ago, Social Media is doing it now.
  2. Organizations need to go beyond just using facebook/twitter to effectively use Social Media. True listening, humanized approach, conversations & engagement with stakeholders is what makes an organization social — Not many organizations realize that there is a difference between using Social Media & being a Socially enabled organization.
  3. We are still in early days of Social Media and no one has clue to where this will lead to. However the best way is to be part of the journey rather than be a bystander and watch the world go by. In most organizations (which later became showcase case studies of Social) the journey started almost by accident and not necessarily by design. Someone then picked that experiment and nurtured it, make it legitimate and brought it to business center stage. We are still in the education & awareness phase of our Social Media journey and this I say because almost all speakers had a 101/why Social Media is important component part of their talks and almost all had case studies on facebook campaigns etc. None actually pushed the boundary and had really thought provoking stuff to talk about.
  4. Social Media RoI is still a hazy & murky area with the jury still out on how best to measure it or what to do next with the 2 million fans you have on your facebook page. There are several theories out there on what to measure, how to measure, what to report, what to watch for etc but all these are still fuzzy with little acceptance from the bean counters existing on organizations
  5. There is a HUGE disconnect between Social Media initiatives of an organization for their external needs & how they use it internally and integrate it with rest of the organization. This is also evident by the fact that almost none of the speakers touched upon the finer aspects of usage of Social media within the organization and examples of these. Even integration of Social Media initiatives with other internal business processes, systems etc is something that organizations are not thinking of as yet. I am sure in years to come that will be the #1 driving force.

Now coming to suggestions for next year conference:

  1. We had a good mix of local, national & international speakers. Please do continue that part. Maybe include the participants in suggesting the topics for sessions and the speakers can pick those topics.
  2. Can we have a mix of user generated sessions — a.l.a unconference sessions. Say breakout sessions for 1.5 hours after lunch each day where participants themselves can come up with sessions & be the speakers etc.
  3. Do have more speakers, handling Social Media within corporates, who can share their experience of what it takes to implement social Media initiatives, can speak of their relationships with Digital media agencies, what they expect from agencies, where do the agencies fall short, How they handle RoI, what questions get asked to them internally. Basically, stories from people implementing Social Media within organizations. (We did have Shauna Cassey from nordstorm talk about SM initiatives internally but would be good to get Indian Perspective also)
  4. Have speakers push the boundary by talking not just 101 but 301 topics also like integration, sophisticated RoI models which go beyond just the case studies by Social Media Agencies of organizations having facebook & twitter campaigns

So, what were your takeways from the Social India conference & what will be your suggestions to make the experience even better next time around?


Online shopping is changing from a transactional model of e-commerce to Social Experience

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Online retail & shopping is changing from a transactional model of e-commerce with buying decisions of online shoppers getting influenced by social communications and the fundamental shifts taking place in the online social environment.  Today’s online shopper is not just a buyer of goods & services. They are social shoppers who also play the role of critics, brand ambassadors, product experts, & are key influencers in buying decisions within their social circles and even beyond

While the mouth-to-mouth sharing of experiences is nothing new and has been happening since time immemorial, the fundamental change is in the the magnitude of the inter-connectedness that social platforms bring to the table and the reach of these platforms. The voice that an individual has as part of the larger eco-system. (combine this with above reach point and just realize the impact it has?). The level of openness, transparency & discoverability that the changing online social platforms are bringing. Consumers are no longer shy of expressing themselves and acknowledging that they made a good or a bad decision in buying a particular good/service. Fundamentally, Social Platforms are transforming the way people behave online

A recent survey of internet users in the UK revealed that

  • 70% have purchased a product/service online
  • 53% have reviewed a product/service online
  • 30% have sent a product recommendation to a friend online

Buyers are getting influenced by the social product reviews and not just marketing pitches by the brands. In-fact, customer’s reviews are fast catching up with search engines towards influencing online purchase decisions.  Empowered customers are increasingly motivating other shoppers and triggering purchase considerations. While lowest price/VFM pricing is still a large influencer of online purchase decisions but it is not just the only & sole driving factor. Infact, research suggests that customers are willing to pay premium for a 5* rated product vs a 3* rated product.  The purchase trigger/consideration/decision making process is moving more & more online – driven by social feeds. (previously, the consideration process was offline, with just the purchase transaction being done online)

So, what does this mean to the online retailers?
Online retailers need to understand these social changes taking place online and get plugged into the social, collaborative, emergent, inter-connected online market place for building differentiated offerings, relationships & touch points with the customers.

Is your retail/online strategy ready to leverage the social phenomenon?