Social Media for CEOs

Ted Coine & Mark Babbitt in their HBR article The 7 Attributes of CEOs Who Get Social Media talk about the attributes of CEOs who are active on social media platforms. They share data of the CEOs who are on social media and it seems a fair amount of them in USA are on social media to some extent. In India, I do not see many of them actively engaging on digital social media platforms. I have a feeling that some of them may get there very soon and some of them who are sitting on fence with a presence but very limited or cautioned activity may get active slowly after testing the waters.

Authors of the HBR blog, between their 7 attributes suggest a personality that is outgoing, likes to engage with the customers or employees to get first hand raw information and have no issues in getting their hands dirty if the situation demands. They are obviously more open minded then the most. Triggered from this article, with a more Indian bias, here is what I think a CEO who plans to engage on social media needs to know:

  1. You need to have a thick skin – the moment you make yourself available online, you will hear all kinds of things – bouquets & brickbats. Lot of these will come loaded with an agenda, which would take some attention & effort on your part to decipher. Competition and their customers & your unhappy customers will leave no opportunity to make you look bad.
  2. Listen – Before you do anything an social media, learn to listen. Listen to what your customers are saying – not just to you or about your business but to each other or to others brands. Listen to how your competition is engaging with your potential customers. Listen and based on what you listen, make your social media strategy. Once you start engaging – start engaging with your unhappy customers as much as you do with your happy customers.
  3. Define your Purpose – By all means promote yourself and the brand / organization you represent but have a bigger purpose for your presence on social media. Can people who may find you inaccessible, reach you on social media? Can people share radical ideas with you social media? Do you want a feel of your customer’s world and the potential opportunities hidden there?
  4. Learn – Whatever may be your prime purpose, never forget that there is no better place to learn than standing out their and observing, listening & learning.
  5. Budget Time – Life on social media demands a lot of your time. It can be addictive, and you may end up spending precious time on it. Have a rough budget and if possible a schedule of the time you are going to spend on social media. Your followers will get used to your frequency and your timings. There may be a temptation to respond as soon as possible but that only means you will either spend lot of time or would end up hiring someone to manage your social media – an option not too recommended, for that is exactly what you want to avoid by being there yourself.
  6. Avoid any Mediators – As far as possible avoid anyone else handling your handles. At most you can use them to broadcast what you want to tell your followers – to take care of the donkey work of right tagging and hashtags and pushing it at right time, but you must read and respond to responses yourself. This is where you will get raw information and provide a personal touch to your communications.
  7. Keep an wye out for new hires – Social media can be a great place for spotting talent. You can observe people through their work, check their credentials before you speak to them, gauge their interest in your company and subtly invite them to your organization.

Social media for CEOs comes with immense intangible benefits if used smartly. It is a tool and it is up to you how you use it to your advantage.


Obituary of a Lovely Concept

Failed Innovations

For more than 3 years, every evening at 8:30 PM I used to receive an e-mail from – an online diary keeping application / portal. All I had to do was reply to it, recording my day in terms of happenings and emotions and it went to the portal as my day’s entry. It also sent me an old entry from the diary that reminded me of what I felt the same day last year or last month or last week. Sometimes I wrote at length and sometimes it was just a one liner capturing the day.

All my life I wanted to maintain a diary, but could never discipline myself to do the same. I have a diary of the days that were extreme days wither on the happiness scale or the sorrow scale, which are countable in numbers. Most usual days with their every day ups and downs were lost to sheer laziness. With Ohlife, I never missed day. Even when I was not connected, I would jot down entries for the last few days as soon as I got connected. And I have a record of all my 1000 odd days.

 I had a free account but the portal also offered a paid premium account too. In all 3+ years I never heard from the company and I actually found it quite non-intrusive and loved the portal for the same reason.

A few days back I got a mail from the founders saying they are shutting down the portal and the users can export all their entries. For premium accounts, they said they would refund the fees on a pro-rata basis. They reason for the shut down was that they could not make it commercially viable and hence can not sustain it further. When I wrote to them asking if there is we can do to help them remain live – I got no answer.

It is an example of a beautiful concept that was loved by its users going kaput. It even had the stickiness built in its model as all its users touch based with the portal at least once a day and that is a huge stickiness that most businesses would die to have. What went wrong then? Could they not rope in the right advertisers? Could they not build premium features that would tell their level 1 customers to upgrade and pay for the services – I would have happily paid a reasonable fee for this service? Could they have appealed to their users before taking the drastic decision of shutting it down? Could they have sold the portal to someone who could turn it around and make it commercially successful – in my opinion that was a very strong possibility?

A lot of entrepreneurs tell me that they are building a great product and they are not even thinking of revenues or a revenue model. This is a great example of such thinking. For any business to be successful, entrepreneur must have a clear revenue model in place – which may be tweaked based on the market response or changing conditions, but not thinking about one, because you are too busy building a product is preparing for a disaster.

Price tags come with a price!

image 001 price-tag
As they ripped this sticker to open the brown Flipkart carton, thousands of Indians online, who had ordered goodies on October 6, had ushered a new marketing era with a click of their mouse. The online retail marketplace is here to stay. Evidently, akin to real life markets in India the e-commerce space is poised for take-off – it will get bigger, noisier, vicious and dirtier in the years ahead.
Clearly, millions of mice had been charmed & clicked!
Now that you are right here online and reading this review, let me tell you right from the word go – please READ ‘The Mouse Charmers‘ by Anuradha Goyal immediately. Chances are that you already shop online or would shop online soon. And just in case, you are in some way part of the business world or going to be part of it – ‘The Mouse Charmers’ is highly recommended, regulation reading. What? Where can you buy it? Right here … on Flipkart of course! 😉 🙂
As India gets younger it is critical for Indians as consumers to understand this e-commerce space. ‘The Mouse Charmers‘ offers exactly that kind of understanding and insight. What exactly happens ‘under the hood’ as these web outlets engineer their offerings of commerce, content or as connectors that help you forge new personal or business relationships. The ‘The Mouse Charmers’ uncovers these fascinating aspects.
image 004 flipkart-label
Historically, trading in India has been characterized by the most colorful, creative and of course craftiest business communities. The trading community is a dynamic and rather energetic lot who are never afraid but have always been eager to explore newer spaces.
This spirit of enterprise of the trading community has also got a ballistic boost in the new regime that took over the reins of India after the recent elections. Headed by a rather vocal Prime Minister who on a recent visit to Japan asserted “business is in my blood“! Presto! The Japanese seemed to have loved this because out of nowhere Softbank landed in India and pumped in millions of dollars in Snapdeal – another ‘commerce’ entity, which in turn was rather spirited in competing with Flipkart on October 6! Just in case you feel the amazon in their midst was quiet, she was actually coy and charmed customers to send them scurrying to her new address Big Billion Day Dot Com, which of course she was coquettish enough to pull down as quickly!
image 003 the toi full pages ads
Indians can compete and compete hard in the marketplace. And they also can explore newer spaces and even dominate them. A visit to Africa can prove that to the most cynical business observer. A similar fascinating exploration is unfolding right under your mouse this very minute. And these organizations shall go all out to carve out their niche in this still unexplored terrain. October 6 highlighted the beginning of this adventure.
The Indian marketplace is HUGE by any standards! The numbers can boggle the ordinary mind! Reaching out and creating ‘online customer experiences’ for such humongous numbers is and shall always remain a challenging prospect. Flipkart, for example, seems to have blotted the copybook on October 6. They not only had to tweet a sorry but also actually apologize. Flipkart, however, did well enough to be featured on advertising billboards of one of India’s leading butter brands!
Pricing seems to be the axis on which the online marketplace is pegging all its offerings. Deals to delight you. Pendrives at 50% off, Clothing at 55% off and more. And more is the mantra. It is a clearly a desperate race to taste first blood! In ‘The Mouse Charmers’ one can see that these organizations are also striving to create memorable customer experiences. In a marketplace characterized by a hyperactive social media, they would do well to learn and learn quickly from such mistakes! Yes, price tags do come with a price! And that price could be very, very expensive!
Now, no trading community has ever been worth its salt unless it has its own code of secrets! Of course, the Indians are past masters at that too. So from accounting practices like ‘parta’ to lifestyle practices like ‘bopore’, a lot happens behind the scenes. Thankfully the Flipkart’s of the world have continued this spirit of maintaining such glorious traditions! Hence who actually owns a company or has invested in it and how much at that tends to remain behind a veil!
Anuradha Goyal
As the 20th century faded away, a book called ‘In Search of Excellence‘ became regulation reading for most people in the world of business throughout the world. The book shortlisted 43 companies and outlined eight of their characteristic ‘themes’ which helped them make the ‘excellence’ grade. Most of these ‘brick and mortar’ entities seem to have done well in their search of excellence and continue to do so even as the 21st century ushered in changes that transformed the world of business.
Anuradha Goyal also has followed a similar eclectic process in her choice of a dozen Indian online entities. Would these online organizations grow and survive through the 21st century? Manifestly, the world has changed and business time scales follow different contours now. It would be a good idea to see if these online entities actually see even the next decade! But in their successes or even in their failures a lot can be learned and ‘The Mouse Charmers’ shall come through as a milestone that marks the first key crossroad at that very start of the journey.
Yes, you must read the ‘The Mouse Charmers’ if you are part the online world of today and tomorrow and who isn’t? However, a sequel to ‘The Mouse Charmers’ is certainly called for – where one could meet the people who create online ‘customer experiences’ and get insights into their minds. These insights would serve as the guiding compass for the next generation of Indians who shall participate in this grand, online Indian marketplace and also create it in the process!
And writing this review where I could try and offer a different perspective to the book was a stimulating process. Would I do it again? Most certainly when Anuradha writes her next book! Waiting! :-)
Digital Pioneers of India
Who shaves the barberWhen Anuradha Goyal asked me to write a review of ‘The Mouse Charmers’, this rather irreverent, seemingly out of context paradox instantly flashed through my mind! When one of the most acclaimed book reviewers online, asks you to review HER book you better be circumspect! However, reading ‘The Mouse Charmers’ was a delightful and also a rather insightful learning experience for me! 

PS: This review has been written by Sandeep Apte, Author, and Director of

10 reasons Why I love Twitter

I am not too old on Twitter and not very popular either, but I love its design and here are my reasons:

  1. It is the simplest application that you can use.
  2. Everything on Twitter is transparent. You can either follow someone and see everything they tweet or not follow and see almost nothing from them ( you can still see any re-tweets from the ones you follow). There is no mid way like FaceBook where you can be friends but choose not to follow what they post.
  3. There is one button for Follow and Unfollow – Simple
  4. There is word limit – it lets people be creative within that space while limiting the not so creatives also to that limit.
  5. There is no interference with what you see – no truncation of your tweets to certain percentage of your followers.
  6. There is only one screen, you can personalize by changing the background and thats it
  7. Everyone can see who you follow and who follows you and even what lists you own and belong to
  8. Yes, there are promoted posts and Ids, but they come with a sign telling you so.
  9. You can send Direct Messages to only those who follow you – an implicit permission for a private chat
  10. Most Important – Conversations here happen right here in this moment, instantly most of the times. Its like a tool to teach us to Live in the Moment.

In case you want to follow me, I am here :

Where is the real Innovation Happening

Vijay Govindrajan and Gunjan Bagla in their HBR blog Emerging-Market Engineers Power Global Innovations inadvertently point out a media flaw that in its Global 100 reports lists the companies from the developed world only, discounting the captive R&D centers of these companies that are located in emerging markets like India and Chine, discounting the outsources or bought over research elements that fueled the core innovations of these companies. It also looks at the media agencies the flawed approach of looking at the number of patents filed as a key criterion for the Innovativeness of a company and disregarding the real companies and people behind the innovation.

Authors give examples of Innovations that were done in India and elsewhere that were eventually credited to a company from the developed economy. They give brilliant examples from GE to Otis Elevators and Jabil circuit, all of whom have research links leading to India. They also talk about Compal Electronics of Taiwan that is behind the success of big names like HP, Toshiba, Sony, Fujitsu, and Siemens. Somewhere researchers also need to differentiate between companies that produce innovations and those who package and market innovations.

This leads me to a question would authors who are not of Indian or Eastern origin looked at this report from this angle? Is there a skew in our evaluations depending upon where we come from? This leads to another question does having a diversity in your research team becoming a necessity rather than a social equity requirement?

Time to think!

Good Ideas?

Steven Johnson in this TED Talk talks about the emergence of ideas and the three things that he emphasizes are:
You need to have a informal environment for the ideas to come. Not many ideas have been generated in the labs.
Ideas take a lot of time to develop in your sub-concious, though they may appear to you in a Eureka moment. Incidentally we get to hear only about the Eureka moment and not the thought process that may have floated in the mind for years before becoming that idea leading to Eureka moment. But it is important to understand that Eureka moments do not happen out of air.
Your ideas need to connect with other ideas. Ideas come by interacting with other ideas. In fact he says Idea is a network in itself.
I agree with all of this. And would like to add, have an open mind…keep your conditionings in check and you would find many more ideas coming your way. Like Steven says ‘Chance favors the connected mind’.

100 years of IBM

HBR talks about 100 years of IBM, the years that saw depression, war and competition. 
Just a few years ago, the same magazines were writing off IBM. Today, they talk about its survival through various ups and downs, it adaptability through various changing external and internal environments. In a true HBR style they come out with 4 points that made them survive. How I wish life was that simple !
It is so simple to look at a giant organization like IBM and say these are the 4 factors that made them successful. Can it be dependent on a single individual as the author of the article tries to portray. An organization that has lived and lived successfully for 100 years is definitely worth studying. And IBM has many more reasons besides longevity to be a subject of study for organization scientists and management enthusiasts. We need to look at its lows as well as we need to look at its highs and the reasons why it oscillated between them. Why belittle it by restricting it to 4 points.

Middle Management & Innovation

Paul Sloane in his article “Who is Crushing Creativity in your office?” puts the onus of driving innovation on the leadership of the organization. While it is true that unless there is leadership will in innovation or rather any initiative, it is very difficult for it to be successful, my experience says the work needs to be done on the middle management layer to drive it across the organization.
The lower layers in the organization pyramid are usually young and hence nimble and not rigid. They also do not have the decision making in their hands and have the mandate to work on what is assigned. Now, this assignment can well be on coming out with new ways of doing things. Given a task, and some broad enabling infrastructure, they will give you the best they can.
Senior management has the birds’ eye view of the organization and they understand the need to innovate to survive in the marketplace. They may or may not know the ‘How’ part of Innovation, but they understand the ‘Why’ of it. And with this understanding, they usually launch the fancy innovation initiatives in the organization.
Given the perspective of above two layers, the actual responsibility of making innovation happen lies on the shoulders of middle management. They have to figure out the ‘How’ of innovation and then put in a process to make it happen. The important point is that more often than not, they have to do this while managing the regular operational business responsibilities. Given our productivity drives using all possible management methods and models, all middle managers often have more on their plates than they can chew. Lost on operations, they either ignore these initiatives or at least put them on a low priority. The importance of initiative never tickles downs to the layers below them, and this is where the initiatives die.
Leaders need to enable this layer to not become the bottleneck in the innovation drives, by picking up the set of people who believe in these initiatives and have the inherent drive to run with them. Leaders need to provide these frontrunners a very solid support for them to be able to bring in the expected changes in the organization.