Breaking News: Social media head fast becoming reality in Indian firms

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Breaking News: Social media head fast becoming reality in Indian firms

Companies see potential in building brand, credibility online Firms realize that the online strategy has to be new and requires specialized talent

WHEN Viral Parikh, founder and director of Delmer Products, a weighing machine manufacturing firm, had a bad experience while getting his Mahindra Scorpio vehicle serviced by the M&M authorized service centre in Mumbai, he cribbed about it on Twitter.
“Please choose ur (your) service partners properly…pathetic service at Avis Motors-Mumbai, for d (the) Scorpio,” he tweeted.

The constant tweeter that Anand Mahindra is, the vice-chairman and managing director of Mahindra Group, he was quick to spot Parikh’s tweet and direct it to Arun Malhotra, senior VP of sales and customer care at M&M. Customers of M&M products have done similar things on social media in the past and Mahindra has stepped in to address them personally or through his managers.

This is neither his key performance area nor key result area. But social media platforms have allowed customers to take protest to the top management of companies and be heard if they are not satisfied with products and services.

Though there are no chief social media officers (CSMO) like a chief marketing officer, chief financial officer, chief technology officer or even a chief learning officer in Indian companies, they are now realising the power of social media and what it can do to their business. While many companies are creating specific social media roles to address issues, independent human resources consultant and HR managers within companies rule out the possibility of a standalone CSMO role in an organisation, as the role is integrally embedded into the marketing and branding departments.

“For Indian companies it is still early days when it comes to social media.
Many are unsure of what it can do. Many are scared, but there are some already doing it,” said Aditya Jha, head, corporate marketing and global branding, Infosys. India’s leading IT company, the first Indian company to roll out a specific social media policy for its employees, has significant presence across various social media platforms. It has blogs, close to 32, has an official Infy channel on YouTube, a Facebook page and it is also on Twitter. According to Jha, there is a “concentrated central channel” that blogs and there are professionals, all of them part of the branding and online marketing team, who “engage with customers and listen to them” in real-time.

At Intel, the company has identified social media champions at global, regional and country levels who evangelise the adoption of social media. The social media champions take the lead in ensuring that the infrastructure is in place, both from a technology perspective and also in terms of ensuring that employees are equipped with the right training and guidelines to be effective and smart about how to use social media strategically. “The social media champions have been identified from across specializations and regions. It is not a standalone role,” said Prakash Bagri, south Asia director of marketing at Intel. Hexaware Technologies had been using social media platforms, especially Linke dIn, for recruitment for quite some time. According to Amit Varshveya, director -marketing, Hexaware, so cial media cannot be seen in isolation. “Definitely, we need a dedicated group, but they have to be strategically connected with other departments within the com pany,” said Varshveya. “It al lows us to build our brand and build credibility and we do that through blogs. On Facebook, we build our em ployee and alumni net work,” added Varshveya.

Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India created a standalone role to oversee its social media initiatives in 2007. “The job description Pallavi includes creating our presence on various social media properties and engaging with the users. The job also involved monitoring different activities and conversations around the brand, harnessing feedback and suggestions and being proactive with the interactions,” said Aniruddha Haldar, head of marketing at MHRIL.

Companies are realising that the communication strategy to be adopted in social media is completely new and one that requires specialised talent. “We needed someone who could cross over from just one way communication to holding a conversation. Hence, Tech Mahindra decided it be most appropriate to appoint a specialist social media strategist,” said Rajesh Chandira mani, VP , sales and market ing at Tech Mahindra. This role was introduced last year.

“Technically, we have looked at experts with a background in marketing. On a more `qualitative note’ we are looking for someone who can empathize with people online,” he said.

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