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Time to break the radio silence – I’m back! February 22, 2013

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Uncategorized.
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There has been an eardrum-shattering radio silence on this blog and the reasons have been aplenty. For starters, I’ve been hugely active on Twitter (I know, just another silly excuse). I’ve spent 2 years with one of the best social media agencies in Dubai (Omnicom) working on one of the world’s biggest brands on social media (PepsiCo) – learning a lot in the process and evolving from an ‘ad creative guy’ to a ‘media and community strategy person’. I’ve been fueling my passion for aviation, traveling around the world and most importantly, working towards my dream job – a communications role in the airline industry, which finally bore fruit in September 2012. w00t!

I now work for Emirates Airline in an exciting social media role. I’ll be hitting 6 months with them in a few days and am very pleased with the journey that has taken me this far.

An airline job has been my dream for my years and something that I have worked towards since I started my first job in 2005. It’s amazing to be in a role where your passions meet – it doesn’t feel like ‘work’. Being surrounded by the world’s largest fleet of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s works wonders for one’s #avgeek soul. That said, there are challenges galore and expectations to meet, which is fair, square and deal.

I’m hoping to blog more often – especially as this blog has helped tremendously in my growth as a person and professional. I get very encouraging comments on my best post on this blog – How to know your Airbus from Boeing and I believe that my blog and your support will take me miles ahead on my journey to learn and share. Happy reading! Happy flying!

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My last flight on Kingfisher Airlines April 2, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Social Media, Travel, UAE.
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I’m a loyal customer of India’s Kingfisher Airlines. I first flew Kingfisher in Jan 2011 but since then I have flown them 15 times. I fly them as much as possible. I often pay a premium to fly them even when I have cheaper or non-stop flights available. I even recommend it to those who are looking for flights to India. The only time I flew another airline to India instead of Kingfisher I felt like I was cheating on a partner.

What I like the most about Kingfisher is how they make me feel special when I fly with them. Another reason I love to fly them is their social media engagement. I became a loyal Kingfisher customer because of how they engaged with me on social media the first time I flew with them and have been connected to me since then.

(more…)

Are you really doing social media? February 17, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Marketing, Social Media.
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Blogging. Microblogging. Social Networking. Location-based services. Social Bookmarking. Social Media Optimization. Gamification. Social Media Analytics. Social Communities. Content Strategy. Content Curation. ROI. Social Business. Brand Monitoring. Influencer Outreach. Sentiment Analysis. Buzz Monitoring. Share of Voice. User-Generated Content. Crowdsourcing. Viral Marketing. Engagement. Storytelling. It goes on.

Sometimes, it’s good to take a step back from all that and ask a simple question: why do people use social media?

Social media helps PEOPLE connect and build relationships with other PEOPLE*.

Are your social media efforts doing the same? If not, you are not doing social media.

*Or brands who can be human. 

Pic credit: Flickr

Will Air India’s flight to social media take off? April 11, 2011

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Conversations, India, Marketing, Social Media.
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Pic credit: Daniel Villa, Airliners.net

In the high-flying world where aviation meets social media, the impossible turned possible today. India’s government-owned national airline Air India announced it was stepping into social media with a clear mandate to generate at least 30% revenue as an ROI.

In a Financial Express news report by Shaheen Mansuri, Arvind Jadhav, AI’s chairman and managing director said, “Until now, we were unable to provide a flexible pricing and customised products to our customers. While other airlines have their presence on Facebook and Twitter, we were missing from that space.

Once brand AI is exposed to a larger audience, it can translate into more sales. Social networking sites have opened up a new distribution platform for the airline. The traditional travel agents and travel websites will co-exist with the new medium,” said Jadhav.

You can read the entire story here.

I had several interesting responses after I shared the story on Twitter which was first broken by the evergreen diva @TobyDiva.

Air India to join social media w/ an ROI goal of increasing sales by 30%. http://ht.ly/4xpDx via @TobyDiva

Few responses:

Jesus! They’re gonna get butchered! Via @DeveshM

WOW! Xcited Via @vishal1mehra

air india using social media would be a pretty stupid initiative in my way..n 30% sales from there sounds insane! Via @aseemrastogi2

This will probably end up like CCD when they entered the social media scene: a lot of unhappy customers who compained non stop. Via @Thor_

My view on #AirIndia & #socialmedia is that they can go two ways…but the #Airline had better do it right to be effective. #smtravel Via @flyingwithfish

If#AirIndia can’t breaks it’s habit of not effectively addressing passengers & protecting it’s brand, #socialmedia won’t succeed Via @flyingwithfish

AI is certainly a late bird after the social media worm; shud’ve emulated Jet & Kingfisher well ahead. Via @StoryMary

I Would say to everyone: “If you’re not in #SocMed yet you’re too late” Via @eezeer

No use without changing hostesses. Via @Askabuska

Here are a couple of my thoughts:

1.    Today Air India is strategically and operationally at a critical juncture. New aviation minister at the helm, overview of top management after the departure of COO Baldauf and his deputies, debt restructuring in process, the much awaited Dreamliners joining the fleet soon, the forthcoming entry into Star Alliance etc. Social media can now step in as a part of an image makeover – the journey to a new Air India. However, this image makeover will have to reflect in the way airline treats customers & offers them an experience that is no less compared to what the competition is offering them.

2.    Air India can be sure to get a lot of negative PR and feedback on their social media platforms. The airline has unfortunately had a legacy of poor service and this is going to show clearly when consumers engage with the airline on social media. How they manage the negative feedback and win over audiences is going to be very crucial.

3.    The best brands on social media are the best brands in business. There’s only so much social media can do to make you look good. If you do not deliver on your core customer promise or if you don’t do your job right, you should never be on social media. Period.

4.    The danger of using social media as a broadcast medium is that it will bite you in the back. Social cannot be a me-too approach as a response to your competition being on it. However, I appreciate the assertiveness shown by Mr Jadhav on utilizing the medium for generating revenues. Air India’s competitors such as Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines are doing a great job engaging with their customers on social media. Competition on the airline social media airwaves in India will be intense.

5.    Is Air India ready for the big step it is to take? Are they aware of the potential benefits and pitfalls of engaging in the medium? Do they have the resources in place to execute a social media strategy that will work for them? Lots more questions that time will answer.

Good luck, Air India and welcome aboard the social media bandwagon!

So is Air India going to make it or break it in social media? Would love to hear your thoughts.

The King of Good Times: A social media surprise from Kingfisher Airlines February 25, 2011

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Conversations, India, Social Media, Travel.
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As an aviation geek & a social media marketing professional, I keep a close eye out on airlines that are blitzing the social media trail.

On last count, there are over 180 airlines on Twitter. Every airline worth their salt is on Facebook building communities and rewarding loyalty via contests.


What I love most about airlines that are doing social media right is: those who are using social media to listen to their customers and offer them delightful surprises. Such a rare experience happened to me last month, via Kingfisher Airlines.

Kingfisher Airlines, based out of India is one of the world’s seven airlines to be ranked as a 5-star airline by Skytrax. They fly to 63 domestic destinations and 8 international destinations with an Airbus & ATR fleet. Headed by one of India’s most flamboyant tycoons Dr Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher has built a strong brand for itself in service and quality over the years. It wouldn’t be unfair to call Kingfisher the Virgin America of Indian skies.

I have watched Kingfisher’s meteoric rise and often lamented the fact that I have never flown them, primarily because they don’t fly out of Muscat. Anyhow, a great opportunity to try Kingfisher for the first time came up last month and I decided to fly them outbound on Dubai-Bengaluru-Cochin and Chennai-Bengaluru-Dubai on my inbound leg.

Kingfisher is active on Twitter and as always, I tweeted before my departure that I was flying them. I received a reply from them asking me to enjoy their service. Quite the appropriate thing to do on social media, yes?

I arrive at Dubai Airport on the date of my departure, stood in a snaking queue of flustered passengers waiting to check-in. When my turn came, I noticed the check-in agent spend a few extra seconds looking at her screen and then proceeded to consult with her supervisor before handing me a complimentary Lounge Access card. Now, how great is that?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t check out the Lounge as I was running late for my flight, so I boarded the all economy A321 and we were soon wheels up to Bengaluru. After reaching cruising altitude, the cabin crew started meal service. I noticed that they rolled up the cart straight to where I was sitting (somewhere in the middle of the plane) and asked me “Mr Rajagopal, what would you like to have for dinner?”

That was an absolute stunner for me. I know in premium classes it is a practice for crew to know beforehand who they are serving, but moi flying in Y class (or cattle class as one prominent Indian politician once described the back of the bus)? The crew knew my name and that was an absolutely delightful surprise for me. They served me well & I sure got a few envious looks from around the cabin.

The 2 cabin crew members who worked my section would come up to me once in a while and ensure that I was all comfy. Nothing artificial, but a genuine and warm desire to serve well, which is sadly missing from a lot of airlines this day. Believe you me, these are the little, personal touches that make flying such a lovely experience for me.

When I inquired how the crew knew me by name, I was told that they were informed beforehand that I would be flying with them and was asked to take special care of me. Social media at work, yes? 🙂

I felt like the ‘king of good times’ as I thoroughly enjoyed my flight and didn’t forget to compliment Kingfisher in my feedback form (I believe they should look at the paper quality of the form as ball point pens don’t write well on them – minor detail, I know).

I landed early morning at Bengaluru and almost missed my connecting flight to Cochin due to a security snafu. I literally missed my bus to the plane. However, the kind people at Kingfisher got me ferried to the waiting ATR in their car just in time. I hopped on the plane and we were off. Trust me on this; they could have left without me. Will never forget the sight of an ATR waiting on the ground on a misty morning, the crew peeping out of the door and me diving into it with my rucksack pulling me back. Reminded me of how we jump into moving trains. Another big star from me.

Landed in Cochin and I was happy to let Kingfisher know that my flights went well and they DMed back wishing me a great time in India. (Almost sounds like a love affair, hmmm?)

So I spent the next couple of days train hopping across India (I think I spent 7 out of my 9 days sleeping on overnight trains). A week later, I was ready to make the hop back to Dubai. I was flying from Chennai and on my local train ride to the airport, I was wondering if I would have any similar surprises in store.

I was met by this very helpful Kingfisher ground staff who helped me with my bags. And I did make a note of how Kingfisher staff are generally polite, professional and courteous. You begin to feel that these people, whether they are at the low end or the high end of the line, are carefully cherry-picked to live a certain brand vision that leads to delighting customers.

Proceeded to check-in and gladly got my fav seat on an A321 which gives you humongous amounts of legroom. There were no surprises waiting for me at the check-in desk. Must say, I was slightly disappointed after all the pampering a week ago. I traipsed across the terminal towards a Maggi noodle stall and went on to ravenously chomp down a noodle bowl.

As I gulp through my noodles, I spot 2 Kingfisher staff make a beeline for me and I’m like – Uh Oh! Crew: Mr. Rajagopal, we were looking for you… So again, Kingfisher decided to make my day. Minutes later, I was escorted into a lounge at Chennai Airport (at this point was beginning to feel like royalty) and the staff promised to fetch me before boarding. Spent a good 30 minutes in the lounge and then she was back.  Trust me, nothing beats the experience of being chaperoned by a Kingfisher crew on the ground. I did manage to count a few envious looks and did I say I didn’t have to stand in a line for my security check? The lovely crew member hopped with me on the bus and literally dropped me at the door of the plane. My mind was flying at 35k feet by then.

The flight to Bengaluru went without incident. Must say, I liked my seat on the ATR in front of the plane which is the only row facing the rest of the seats. They are comfortable and you get a feeling of flying in a biz jet. Landed at Bengaluru and was at met at the door of the plane by another Kingfisher staffer. I know that at this point this is all sounding like a giant ego-fueled fairy tale. But then this gorgeous staffer walks me from the plane, takes me through immigration and security, mind you, no standing in queues again, you are introduced everywhere as a ‘guest’ and then proceeds to comfortably ensconce me in a premium lounge at the International Terminal.

I tuck into some fine Sauvignon Blanc, Paneer rolls and rum cake as I wait for my ‘Bus to Dubai. My ‘handler’ appeared again before boarding and walked me on the airbridge till my jet, bidding bye and safe travels.

Wheels up to Dubai, great food, much better than on the inbound leg, caught some shuteye and a perfect landing – didn’t even know if we touched ground, just floated in and came to a stop at the airbridge. As we deplaned, the Captain came out to say hello. A great ending to an awesome Kingfisher tale.

So what’s the summary of this whole experience? Just a fluffy piece singing a lot of praise in favor of Kingfisher for making the day of a planegeek? Well, they earned it and yes, a big thank you to them for giving me one of the best flights in my life.

Will Kingfisher roll out the same red carpet treatment to everyone who tweets to them about their journeys? Perhaps not. But have they won a loyal customer and strong brand evangelist in me. Definitely, yes.

To sign off, brands engaging in social media take off to a new level when they are able to consistently and creatively offer value, engagement and delightful surprises to their audience.  It all starts from caring to listen and daring to surprise. Amen!

What can an 8-year old & social media teach Boeing about customer service? April 28, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Marketing, Social Media.
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Image source: Harry Winsor’s Boeing Drawing

It never ceases to amaze me how small things lead to big actions. Especially in the world of social media.

Last evening, about 17 hours ago, I spotted this tweet by Paul McEnany. He was tweeting about Porter Airlines and then he tweeted

Speaking of airplanes – here’s a Boeing fail: http://bit.ly/aWpekl

I’m passionate about airlines and so I clicked on the URL and what I read made my jaw drop.

And then I tweeted about it. And also marked it to the attention of @simpliflying @RunwayGirl @AvWeekBenet, leading global aviation experts with an active social media presence.

Meanwhile, let me give you a quick background on this ‘Unbelievable customer service story from Boeing’. http://bit.ly/bJrABe

This story is about John Winsor’s @jtwinsor 8-year old son Harry who is a passionate aviation enthusiast. Harry sends a drawing of his airplane design to Boeing and the plane maker gets back to him with a ‘staid corporate response’. I recommend that you take a few minutes to read this blog post – Is Your Customer Service Ready for the New World of Openness? http://bit.ly/bJrABe

Here’s Boeing’s official response to Harry Winsor’s drawing.


(It seems @jtwinsor shared this experience to @edwardboches over dinner and he recommended that John blog about it).

Jon Ostrower, who is Flight International Magazine’s Aerospace Blogger @flightblogger was quick to take this up with Boeing in a tweet.

@boeingairplanes it might be time to rethink your standard form letter. http://bit.ly/aWpekl (via @arun4)

After which, I tweeted twice to @boeingairplanes

@flightblogger Absolutely. @boeingairplanes You are writing to a kid with passion. Where is your YOURS? You can get this right, still!

Dear @boeingairplanes If I were you, I’d fly this kid to your Museum of Flight. @flightblogger @simpliflying @jtwinsor http://bit.ly/bJrABe

@flightblogger ‘s tweet was then RTed a couple of times.

Couple of hours later, Boeing @Boeingairplanes responded directly to John Winsor’s blog post. Todd Blecher, who is Director of Communications at Boeing said in a comment:

Mr. Winsor,
I’m a Boeing communications director. I think I can address your comments. As you state, we have to respond to the thousands of unsolicited ideas we receive in a way that protects us against possible infringement claims. Having said that, we can do better when the idea clearly comes from a child as enthusiastic as your son. We will work on this. I hope Harry remains fascinated by airplanes and grows up to be an airplane designer. To help him and others like him we maintain the following website. http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/wond…
I hope he enjoys it.

@BoeingCorporate also responded with a tweet on their Twitter account that said:

“The letter Mr. Winsor posted is, as he said, a required response. For kids, we can do better. We’ll work on it.”

It was a very smart move by Boeing to respond immediately and address the issue with a human touch. Boeing is now making very planned and prudent moves into the social media space. In this post, Ludo Van Vooren explores Boeing’s new communication strategy for new media engagement. (Very topical as it was published just last week!) And it seems that Todd Blecher is at the center of these efforts. Certainly Boeing is walking the talk.

The story doesn’t end there:

Alaska Airlines, whose drawing Harry Winsor created and sent to Boeing, wants to send him a special reward. @AirlineReporter had marked a copy of his tweet to @AlaskaAir asking them to have a look at Harry’s drawing. And they responded back via Twitter.

Sandy Ward at the Future of Flight Museum, Seattle @futureofflight wants to showcase Harry’s airplane drawing at a spot in their museum where they showcase innovative ideas and designs.

The story has been featured on Seattlepi, @piboeing a leading aerospace industry blog. And I’m sure it will be picked by others in the days to come.

And TV stations in Denver and Seattle would like to interview Harry Winsor on this story.

The big picture:

I believe that social media is more about being social, responsive and showing that you care, whatever the size or nature of your business. This goes beyond mere presence on social networks.

Ultimately, this should be the goal of all marketing communications – reaching out to the right target audience, listening to them and telling them what they would like to hear.

Kudos to Boeing for coming out in flying colors in their first test with social media. And kudos to Harry Winsor who will grow up knowing that he made a difference with his passion for airplanes.

Be Brand Social in 2010 December 31, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Branding, Conversations, Social Media.
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As the world gets ready to welcome another brand new year, it’s a good time to get a pulse of where social media is headed to in 2010.

In his ‘6 Social Media Trends to watch out in 2010’, David Armano says that social media will be ‘more popular, more exclusive and more mobile’.

Among other predictions, Niall Harbison believes social media will focus more on the ‘quality of information’ than the ‘quantity of followers’.

Jackie Huba says that what was hot in 2009 will be out in 2010. Her prediction for 2010: social gets integrated into business functions. And about time that happened.

Marketing Sherpa and MediaPost report that social media marketing budgets will increase in 2010, largely at the expense of other media.

B. L. Ochman predicts that blogs amongst other social media channels will become the hot ad medium of the year and ad agencies will finally take the lead in social media.

Brian Solis reminds us that the future of interactive marketing lies in the ‘golden triangle engagement’ – a converging point of social, mobile and real-time web.

Brian Morrisey hits the ball out of the park when he says that marketers will/should treat social media as an integrated part of a digital strategy, than as a stand-alone area for experimentation.

In ’10 Ways Social Media Will Change In 2010′, Ravit Lichtenberg says that ‘social media will no longer be social media’ but a ‘single, cohesive experience embedded in our activities and technologies’ and ROI measurement of social media engagement will matter ever more than before.

What are your social media predictions for 2010?

My belief is that more enterprises and brands, especially in the Middle East and other social media nascent markets will get on the social media bandwagon with varying measures of success.

Some of the challenges they will face are lack of social media expertise, issues of controlling the message, trying to conform this ‘new social way of communications’ with the traditional way of brand communications, being transparent in conversations,  pains of creating value over noise, constraints in marketing budgets and working with ‘people who know the real deal’, the pressure to prove ROI at the outset of social media engagement, the diverse challenges in communicating with Arabic and English-speaking audiences etc. That was a handful, eh?

My recommendation to brands who are stepping into social media waters in 2010 is to use your social media experimentation to rethink your digital strategy (if you already have one apart from a corporate website). Social works best when it is in sync with your digital activity.

If you are smarter, you should be taking lessons learnt from social media and applying them to your current marketing strategy. You should be thinking more on the lines of what could work better for you in the present than what has worked well for you in the past. You should also be keeping a close watch on your competition as well as what other social media savvy brands around the world are up to. Learning from their successes and failures shortens the curve for you.

Your marketing should be tied to goals – measurable, attainable and contributing to your bottom line. And to get there, you will need to work with pros who straddle the new age domain of ‘integrated’ brand communications with relative ease  – a world where advertising, digital, social media marketing and public relations blend together seamlessly.

This post is inspired by ‘Being Brand Social‘, a recent column I wrote for BusinessToday, a leading business publication in the Sultanate of Oman. The article introduces social media, discusses what’s in it for brands and explains why many brands struggle with social media marketing. Click here to read.

Happy social media 2010 to you!

Image source: Future or Bust. Vermin Inc on Flickr.

Five in the Morning from Oman February 9, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
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5 O’Clock, originally uploaded by surlygrrrl [ELBfoto].

When Steve Woodruff asked me to host the ‘Five in the Morning Series’ out of Oman, I had no hesitation to jump in the bandwagon.

Actually, running the series from here is a breeze. (Because 5am EST in the US is 2pm in Oman).

I’m going to use this opportunity to turn the spotlight on a couple of bloggers out of the Arabian Gulf region. They don’t educate us on social media per se, but they ‘live social media’ on their blogs by telling the world about the good, bad and ugly in their societies. No holds barred. Plus, isn’t it great to turn the mirror on a part of the world that is so less understood by the whole wide web of the world out there?

So without much ado, let’s get the show going.

Oman:
The Muscatis (Muscati and his spouse Um Faisal which means ‘mother of Faisal’) publish interesting ramblings, musings and outbursts from the land called ‘Oh-man!’ on their blog.

Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Jeans written by Ahmed Al-Omran aims to provide news, commentary, and personal views on political and social issues in Saudi Arabia, with a special focus on freedom of expression, human rights and women’s rights.

Bahrain:
Ammar aka Ammaro is a young blogger out of Bahrain who works in the financial services industry and keeps things kicking in the Pearl Island.

Kuwait:
Two forty eight am (The B-sides) is a blog by Mark and Nat, a married Lebanese couple who are living in Kuwait. Mark works in Advertising while Nat works in TV. Both keep Kuwait on the blogging radar.

United Arab Emirates:
The blog Dubai Media Observer offers a critical view of the media industry in the UAE. If you were looking for a blog that serves you a bit of intrigue, dollops of adventure and lots of controversy, I’d lead you to Secret Dubai Diary. To top it all, Life in Dubai is a great blog written by an Australian expat with thoughts and comments on how it is to live in a city of superlatives.

Big hat-tip to Amjad for leading me to some of these blogs. Thank you Steve for this great opportunity to have a go at ‘Five in the Morning’.

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The Best of Mack Collier January 18, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Social Media.
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A couple of days ago, good friend Mack Collier celebrated his birthday. An acclaimed social media consultant, trainer and speaker, Mack is the man behind ‘The Viral Garden’, an influential marketing/social media blog.

His blog features a weekly ranking of the Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs and also a useful Company Blog Checkup series. His motto is “Don’t focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate.”

‘The Viral Garden’ is a must-read if you are a social media newbie or a brand looking to carve a space in social media or an accomplished marketer looking for voices of reason in the age of conversation. It’s a great testimony of Mack’s short yet highly impressive journey in social media waters.

Personally, what I like most about Mack is his very endearing nature, his passion to focus on human connections and the way he puts across his message in very simple and direct terms.

As a dedication to Mack on his now very belated birthday, here’s a pick of some of my favorite posts from his blog. I must confess that I was not a regular reader of ‘The Viral Garden’ back in the days, but today I had a great opportunity to go through his great work.

1. Both social media evangelists & traditional marketers have to shed the ‘only I know my stuff better’ stereotypes and learn to work together.

2. Don’t focus on using social media to ‘create’ community, focus on using social media as a way to connect with your customers and join them in THEIR space.

3. Social media is NOT a marketing channel; it is a TWO-WAY communication channel. It helps enable trust between a brand and its consumers.

4. How can you bring more value to the world of social media?

5. New to Twitter? How to transform your Twitter experience.

6. A flyswatter case study on how to have fun with your marketing.

7. How to market like a rockstar. Another post on how marketing can be a fun process.

8. 10 ways to excite your blog readers. Another one here has more tips to grow your blog’s audience.

9. How to grow your social media audience. Do you target the ‘A-listers’ or you follow the ‘smart peeps’? Lots of great comments in this post.

10. This is one of my favorites where Mack tells us not to ‘overthink’ social media and to remove your ‘perfect filter’. I suffer from the same disease to get the right posts and am considering Mack’s advice to get over the bend this year.

11. Some very sane advice to companies who are thinking about engaging bloggers and social media influencers.

Hope you enjoyed ‘The Best of Mack Collier’.

Speaking at The New Media Event, Dubai December 9, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
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From 14-18 December 2008, I will be a part of The New Media Event in Dubai, the first and the biggest ever event devoted to social media in this part of the world.

Held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Dubai, The New Media Event features over 20 leading experts from Middle East and around the world who will help attendees understand the growing power of new media in corporate world and identify the key social media tools, challenges, issues and trends that brands and organizations in the region need to be familiar with.

On 15 December 2008, I will be doing a keynote on corporate blogging with Rajiv Ahuja from Muscat who writes the only corporate blog from Oman – Khimji Ramdas Bright Sparks.

Our presentation ‘Getting On The Corporate Blogging Bandwagon’ will attempt to answer the following questions:

  • Should you be on the corporate blogging bandwagon?
  • What are the lessons to learn and the pitfalls to avoid?
  • How to get more value from your corporate blogging endeavors?

A part of our presentation will focus on Rajiv Ahuja sharing his learnings and experience from Khimji Ramdas Bright Sparks, the first corporate blogging initiative from Oman.

If you are attending the event, I look forward to meeting you there and I hope that you derive excellent value from the splendid lineup of presentations and workshops that are focused on ‘you getting social media right’.

I will live-blog about the event so that those of you with an interest in social media in the region but cannot make it to the event can also stay updated.

I think it is an exciting time for social media to take off in the region, with fears of a recession widespread in Dubai and more marketers interested in using social media to create more interactive conversations and effective relationships with their customers.

Based in the Sultanate of Oman, I have seen that interest in social media has been spiking recently especially in the corporate sector. Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM), the Muscat-based national ICT park recently organized a Digital Nation Seminar on Blogging on 10 November 2008. This was followed by a couple of stories in local media especially on blogging. (The Week article Blogging Goes Corporate quotes me and Rajiv Ahuja.)

Beginning next year, my effort is to help organize a forum like BarCamp in Muscat so that we can help popularize and familiarize social media among followers. It’s also a long-standing promise I have made to social media guru Connie Reece who is based in Austin.

My perception is that a lot of people in the Middle East know the social media tools, but are yet to get the big picture, the big idea of social media by using the tools in an effective way that delivers value.

I think primary concerns are:

  1. Is social media just a fad I can live without?
  2. I have my corporate website, isn’t that enough?
  3. What do I say and how do I say it?
  4. What will social media do for me?
  5. What are the metrics that will measure success?
  6. Will I lose control of the conversation?
  7. Is there a business model behind blogging?
  8. How much money will I make from my corporate blog?
  9. How will get various stakeholders to buy into my social media engagement?
  10. The fear of the unknown

These are natural concerns and I would recommend that you address them head on. It is by participating in events such as these that you will get the answers to these questions and learn the ropes of social media.

This is my first ever speaking gig and I will go into the event with the message that you can make a mark in social media if you LISTEN, OBSERVE, LEARN, BE HUMAN and TRY TO GIVE VALUE. Like my good friend and marketing champ CK says, social media is an exercise in getting the basics right!

It’s my pleasure to join the following speakers at The New Media Event in Dubai.

  1. Debbie Weil, Author, The Corporate Blogging Book
  2. Robin Hamman, Head of Social Media, Headshift (Former Head of Blogging, BBC)
  3. Marta Kagan, Director of Marketing, Viximo.com
  4. Philippe Borremans, Marketing Director, Blackline / Former Media Lead, IBM
  5. Mohamed El Fatatry, Founder, Muxlim.com
  6. Angel Gambino, Former Global VP Music & Content, BEBO
  7. Dan Healy, CEO, Real-Opinions
  8. Magnus Nystedt, Founder, emiratesmac.com
  9. Omar F. Koudsi, President & Co-founder, jeeran.com
  10. David Skul, CEO, Relativity
  11. Steve Vaile, Founder & CEO, H2O Media
  12. Rama Chakaki, Chief Operations Officer, H2O Media
  13. Scott Monty, Head of Social Media, Ford
  14. Rajiv Ahuja, Head, Corporate Communications, Khimji Ramdas
  15. Bobby Kakar, Head of Marketing – Direct Channels, HSBC
  16. Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of New Media, Al Jazeera
  17. Jonathan Woodier, Director Corporate Communications EMEA Global Consumer Group, Citi Group
  18. Philippe Deltenre, Media Strategist, Microsoft
  19. Duane Nickull, Senior Technological Evangelist ADOBE & Host, Duane’s World TV
  20. Ammar Bakkar, Head of New Media, MBC Group
  21. Catherine Captain, VP Marketing, msnbc.com

More on the The New Media Event to follow. Stay tuned, folks!