– by ORKASH Labs, Copyright: ORKASH Services Pvt Ltd

Social media is the new buzz word in the marketing world. It has given an unprecedented level of voice to customers and potential customers, and as a result can provide companies with deep insights regarding customer views, opinions, sentiments, behavior and buying trends. By listening to social media and mining social media, it is possible to create market, customer and competitive intelligence of unparalleled accuracy and quality.

In recent times, the prime example of harnessing the social media for competitive advantage was demonstrated by the re-election of President Barack Obama in Nov 2012. His campaign had a specialist data analytics team that helped Obama refine the process of targeting TV ads and created detailed models of swing-state voters that could be used to increase the effectiveness of each campaign tool, from phone calls and door knocks, to direct mailings and most importantly, social media. No wonder, even as the Presidential race tightened in the closing weeks, President Obama maintained a substantial lead in both Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter followers over Governor Romney. By the end of the campaign, Obama had 22.7 million followers and 32.2 million likes, compared to Romney’s 1.8 million followers and 12.1 million likes. In sum, the online behavioral data of American voters was co-related with their offline political identity and beliefs, using social media and data sciences, to a devastating effect. Clearly, a better harnessing of social media was one of the key differentiators, which resulted in Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney.

The Indian Context

Insofar as India is concerned, the impact of social media on the Indian political scene was examined in a previous Orkash blog post. Despite low internet penetration rates, social media is emerging as the single most powerful channel in India that is influencing a host of perceptions, from political sentiment, civil society led activism to consumer behavior. Another trend that is very visible is that internet penetration is rapidly spreading amongst the mobile phone users, a population that had grown to nearly a billion by end 2012, from just 45 million in 2002. Mobile phones based social media networks is the dominant format that is going to be prevalent in India. Key sectors in India where the data analytics of social media will impact business are the ‘Business to Consumer’ brands, for example financial and insurance instruments, consumer durables, entertainment industry, hospitality sector, electronic gadgets, retail, wellness and healthcare etc.

Social Media Intelligence “The Ultimate” Tool

Information that companies need for marketing and to meet competitive challenges is moving quickly from published and proprietary sources to the open, chaotic world of social media platforms.

Social media is rapidly changing the buying behaviour of customers. Individuals are increasingly expressing viewpoints on products, brands and services, seeking opinions online, commenting and comparing purchase options. Key influencers in such communities drive opinions and garner sentiments, in turn impacting purchase decisions. Concurrently, stray thoughts travel across the world in seconds, causing upheavals. Social media intelligence thus accords insights into the means to influence decision making.

SocialInt1
The above screenshot of ORKASH technology identifies various Facebook users who have “Liked” the Honda page and commented on Honda . This also helps identify the influencer in this user network and clicking on a user id provides user details ( name, age group, gender etc. ) . The viewpoints through the users posts and status updates can be captured and a simultaneous analysis can be done on the influence this user has by capturing follow-up comments, “likes” received and the sentiments of the follow up comments.

At the organizational level, companies need to become hunters of information rather than gatherers. At the same time, companies would also need to mitigate impacts of competitors “hunting” them in social spaces, by making their employees/ team members aware of how easy it is to inadvertently divulge valuable information. Companies can also fall easy prey to mishandling of a complaint or dissatisfaction expressed by a consumer on social media, with severe repercussions for brand reputation and goodwill.

Socia media intelligence is a mission that should extend across the length and breadth of companies, particualrly those with BtoC products and services. Social media based intelligence will sharpen strategic insights and may help pre-empt key actions of competitors or lead to adjustments of marketing strategy. Navigating this new environment effectively requires new skills and technologies that can produce analytics and useful intelligence from vast amounts of unstructured data that is being generated daily on social media sites.

How Companies are using Social Media

Brand Reputation

As a case in point, Honda Motor Company has been using social networking sites to enhance its brand reputation. It is on all the major social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, etc. Honda’s social media strategy is based around supporting business and corporate goals such as new product launches, corporate communications, public relations messages, tackling rumors, engaging with customers and communities like fans/ racing community and more. Honda is effectively using the social networking sites to keep track of conversations about the company, deliver key messages about their corporate social responsibility efforts, innovating new technologies, and also build relationships with journalists and bloggers.

Marketing and Sales

Many corporates are using social media to promote brands and products and to connect users to the company’s home pages. To a certain extent, they also use them to generate leads and even to help make sales. Most importantly, they use it to listen to what their customers are telling them about the products and their experiences with the company and its products.
Specifically, social media marketing is currently being used by organizations to:

  • Increase traffic to a website
  • Create buzz about a company or it’s product.
  • Learn what customers and fans want, their opinions, and consumer experience
  • Generate sales leads

When they begin implementing a social media marketing initiative, many companies
discover that they save money. After all, an account on Facebook or Twitter is free,
so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, when social media are added to the marketing mix,
expenditures can decline.

SocialInt2

The clustering engine of ORKASH technology demonstrated in this snapshot enables an overview of the themes under which the Brand is featuring in the media. Such an analysis enables assessment of the effectiveness of marketing campaign and for lead generation, as well as for competitive intelligence.

Addressing Consumer Dissatisfaction

An old adage : “It’s much more profitable to keep an existing customer than go looking for a new one.” This remains wise advice across the corporate world, but is often widely ignored in practice. Companies too often fail to respond to complaints in a timely manner, and risk losing the same customers they spent large sums acquiring in the first place.

Customer service professional nowadays do comprehend that poor experience no longer results in a customer telling 5 friends through word of mouth: but that they can instantly reach hundreds and thousands of people, courtesy reach of social media. Customers are taking their frustrations with products and services to sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, in the knowledge that social media networks can generate more attention and faster responses than calling a customer service centre.

A response by the company on the social media itself, apart from assuaging the irate customer, also serves to project a positive image of the company to a host of social media spectators.

Conclusion

The pace of change, insofar as data and information is concerned, is accelerating beyond imagination. As a case in point, Facebook was founded in 2004 and Twitter in 2006. Yet, in less than a decade of their existence, such platforms are transforming the information exchange and social networking rules.

Companies, political parties and organisations across the globe are increasing their efforts to understand social media trends. For the era of gut instinct, to estimate personal preferences, may be all but over. Deciphering social media trends, backed by analytical tools, is the new dawn.

ORKASH technology has engineered analytical tools for all the above domains. The accompanying snapshots are representative of the social media analysis tools that ORKASH technology offers.

SocialInt3
This screenshot of ORKASH technology identifies the users that are tweeting about Honda. The font size of the users twitter handle indicates its significance. A deeper analysis of influencers can be done from the sub features of Multi Handle analysis and Top Users Pie Chart.

 

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– by ORKASH Labs, Copyright: ORKASH Services Pvt Ltd

Owing to its unique geo- climatic conditions, India’s has high vulnerabilities posed by national disasters such as floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes and landslides. According to a Ministry of Home Affairs report, about 60 % of the landmass in India is prone to earthquakes, 12 % is prone to floods; about 8% of the total area is prone to cyclones.

Large scale disasters typically warrant two stages of response. An initial stage of information collation which enables emergence of an accurate picture, on the scale and geographic spread of the disaster. Thereafter, the stage of critical co-ordination between various state/private agencies, to provide rescue and relief.  Building blocks for the needed technology architecture is depicted in the picture below.

Disaster Management

Overcoming Opaqueness

Studies have shown that in most disasters a bulk of relief material and response capabilities invariably reside within or near the disaster zone, however, invariably reaches the victims with a time lag. Reason is that the opaqueness induced by  disaster is overwhelming, almost like the ‘Fog of War’ experienced during intense military operations. Lots of information and data exists but is unearthed only with time, by which time an earthquake ( for example)  has resulted in large scale fires and then may easily mutate into an epidemic due to shortage of clean drinking water.  Break down of law and order and attendant crimes may further delay the emergence of an accurate assessment of the disaster.

Hence, given the certainty in paucity of accurate information post disaster, the rapid creation of robust communication grids, and command and control network remains the existential challenge post a disaster. Core of such a structure needs to be an integrated net centric platform for operations planning, sourcing collective intelligence/ data, contingency planning, managing the deployment and redeployment of rescue, relief and rehabilitation, to enable a faster and efficient response to disasters.

In this context, Social Media is a versatile mean for information exchange.  Take the case of Uttarakhand floods. Many Facebook pages  became a crucial source of information. Even Twitter proved to be pretty helpful as the hashtags like #UttarakhandHelp were on the top of the trending topic list. It is also estimated that Rs 18 Crore was collected through online medium towards Prime Minister’s relief fund for Uttarakhand disaster relief, based on efforts over social media.

Most importantly, social media creates an adhoc community of ‘first responders’ who initiate and spread information and awareness, that mitigates loss of life and property. Their response is not restricted by knowledge of distress frequencies on HF /VHF or by government telephone/fax numbers.  An instant “ Stranded at Balaipur in front of State Bank building.Water gushing. Grim chances”, is enough for any twitter follower or FB friend to get into the rescue act or reach out to emergency services.

Situational Awareness

During the Thailand floods of 2011, social media had surpassed every other means of communication as a source of information. The floods were perhaps the country’s worst disasters, wherein flooding which commenced in July, lasted until December. Over 13 million people were impacted, with more than 800 deaths, with an estimate of $45 billion in terms of economic damage. As per the study titled ‘Role of Twitter during a natural disaster: Case study of 2011 Thai Flood’ , the tweets of Thai flood were classified into 5 categories:

  • Situational Announcements/ Alerts: Tweets about up-to-date situational and location-based information related to the flood such as water levels, traffic conditions and road conditions in certain areas
  • Support Announcements: Tweets about free parking availability, free emergency survival kits distribution and free consulting services for home repair, etc.
  • Requests for Assistance: Tweets requesting rescue and any types of aid; such as food, water, medical supplies, volunteers or transportation.
  • Requests for Information: Tweets including general inquiries related to the flood and flood relief such as inquiries for telephone numbers of relevant authorities, regarding the current situation in specific locations and about flood damage compensation.
  • Other: Tweets including all other messages, such as comments, complaints and opinions.

Orkash Technology

Snapshot of ORKASH Technology

Indeed, social media is rapidly evolving due to collaboration between technology and human behaviour. Virtual associations, information sharing and grass-roots rendezvous are empowering individuals during disasters, aiding rescue and relief in an unexpected manner.

Hurricane Sandy which struck the east coast of US in end October 2012, was one of the most voilent natural disasters to strike the North American continent.  Prior and during this mega Hurricane, nicknamed “Superstorm Sandy” , Twitter and Facebook were used extensively by individuals, agencies and utility companies,  to relay information, share evacuation advisories and provide updates on the storm.

Mobilising Public Resources

Even before Hurricane Sandy, New York city’s social media presence attracted 3 million followers across more than 300 city accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc. In addition to managing NYC.gov, the city maintains numerous channels, including Facebook pages, Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter (in both English and Spanish) and YouTube. Right through the response and recovery phases of Sandy, these platforms provided the city with the means to share information in various formats, thus proving that henceforth social media would be a crucial cog in any disaster management initiative.

Inevitably, social media also became a source for rumours. Information was verified and rumours were dispelled via a variety of tools. As a case in point, when false reports and images began circulating of New York Stock Exchange being under three feet of water, first responder agencies such as the New York City Fire Department posted messages on Twitter and other social media sites to correct misinformation.

Hurricane Sandy

As per data derived from the website www.emergencymgmt.com, the Red Cross pulled more than 2 million posts for review during Hurricane Sandy, choosing specific keyword searches relevant to Red Cross services, such as shelter and emotional support. Thirty-one digital volunteers responded to 2,386 of the reviewed posts. About 229 posts were sent to mass care teams, and 88 resulted in a change in action on ground operations.

Apps and Open Sourced Applications

The American Red Cross also offered a Hurricane App for both iPhone and Android device users to assist in individual recovery.

In fact, Apps are open sourced solutions are being tailor made for disaster management solutions. On the fully interactive Google map, geographical information related to the flooding submitted by official sources and users is aggregated in location pinpoints. During the Uttarakhand floods, Google launched a ‘Person finder’, a portal, where people could type the name of the missing person and through its immense database, Google did the matching and threw up co-relating results.

Without doubt, the challenges confronting Disaster Management in India can get a fillip with use of technology. However, many of the repetitive shortcomings experienced have been linked to organisational structure and multi agency coordination. Take the hypothetical case of a localised earthquake. Chances are that part of cellular network will survive the disaster and harnessing it in the immediate aftermath of the disaster will remain crucial.  However, mobile telecom towers can always be inducted from neighbouring regions not impacted by the disaster. For this action to take place in an expeditious manner, database/ templates of mobile infrastructure would need to be available on a Command and Control portal. Similarly, the locations of hospitals/nursing homes, including their stock of emergency medicines, can be part of the database.

ORKASH’s Integrated Disaster Management and Command & Control Solution has a Social Media Intelligence Module that greatly improves the efficiency of crises management. The solution encompasses Social Media monitoring and mining to improve the situational awareness of crisis managers and by facilitating the bidirectional communication between the public and the emergency managers.

Use of technology allows the processing of large amounts of data, therefore enabling us to collect unbiased conversations from social media (Twitter, Facebook), broadcast media (radio, TV), mobile technologies and citizens directly. In addition, the exchange of information between citizens and emergency managers, or the facilitation of communication between citizens using the know-how gathered, will allow for a timely and effective actuation of people on site. This could be for purposes like additional data collection, organizing help or simply asking people to stay away from a problem area. Coincidentally, the introduction of new structured communication channels takes load off the traditional command & control centre, thereby reducing overload situations during crises. It also helps various government and non-government agencies involved in the disaster response effort to create rapid and flexible channels of communications and information exchange using Social Media networks.

This solution innovates in technological, sociological, ethical and operational aspects and validates its findings by conducting field exercises with emergency management organizations to leverage the increasingly significant role of new communication media in crisis and disaster management and define guidelines and solutions to encourage and valorise the communication between police/law enforcement/first responders and the public, using social media.

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– by ORKASH Labs, Copyright: ORKASH Services Pvt Ltd

 Telangana Tweets

There seems to be a quiet but tectonic shift happening in how future election campaigns would be conducted in India. Social media is at the centre of this shift, just as the TV and its local language news channels have emerged as the change catalyst for what issues gather the political storm for the masses in state after state, week after week.

Political parties are beginning to realize the influence of the social media; the recent Gujarat elections saw major use of facebook, twitter and You Tube. Using this medium to understand the issues that influence voters is increasingly significant for the politicians. A recent report published by IRIS and IAMAI highlights the social media trends which are truly unprecedented in political contests.   Facebook, Twitter, Google + and You Tube seem to be the frontrunners in this battle.  There are some compelling statistics and trends that indicate this. Read on…  

With a three or four way vote split in most constituencies, between the two national and at least two regional parties, the victory margins will continue to remain narrow. Mini-swings in vote banks of 3 to 4 % incresgingly decide the winner, and this is where the influence of social media, particularly in urban constituencies where the penetration of social media and Internet is higher, becomes a very significant factor. Reports indicate that 160 out of 543 seats of the Lok Sabha in 2014 general elections will be heavily influenced by social media. These are constituencies where 10% of the voting population uses Facebook, or where the number of Facebook users is higher than the winning candidate’s margin of victory at the last election.

Though Internet penetration in India continues to remain low, it is estimated that out of a population of 1.2 billion, around 150 million people in India are online active users of the various social media and email platforms (71 million Facebook users and 20 million Twitter account holders). Each of these acts as a socio-political influencer on three to five adults on an average.  This makes the size of the social media influence networks to be a minimum of 300 million voters, not a small number at all. Add this figure to the other 25 million NRIs (with voting rights, which don’t get exercised) who remain connected to India mainly through the social media, and exercise major influence in the voting patterns of their relatives and families back in India. Well, the arguments keeps getting stronger, just as the users of social media are rapidly increasing!  What also sets us apart is that the average ‘Argumentative’ Indian (in the words of the Nobel Prize winning Indian economist Amartya Sen) social media user is a prolific commentator on political matters.

The Indian electorate has never been younger.  Between  2004  and  2009,  the  voting  population increased  from  670  million  to  720  million. The number is expected to further increase to 800 million by the time the country goes to the polls. In such a case, a greater number of voters will be of 25 years or younger. This age profile of new voters coincides with those among the population who tend to ‘live and breathe’ social media, accessing it almost every hour of their day, 7 days a week.

With the increase of political campaigns and processes being conducted through SMS campaigns and audio/video campaign through mobiles telephones, it is clear that technology is enabling an unprecedented empowerment and engagement of the ‘aam aadmi’ for expressing political opinions.

It is well known that both the colossal protests of 2012 (Anti corruption movement by Anna Hazare and outrage following Nirbhaya gang rape case) were channelized through the social media.  It is recollected that government machinery in India had come to a standstill and the events garnered immense national and global headlines, and got the common man involved. Such events prognosticate the emergence of what we call the C–governance or citizen led governance in India. Not just the political parties, even the government is beginning to experience the impact of social media.

The accompanying screen shots shows the output of  ORKASH’s social media intelligence and network analytics platform, for the impact of the Telangana movement, which has the potential to snowball onto a political crisis in Andhra Pradesh. It reveals the linkages of Telangana as a topic on social media with political organizations and figures. In a social media visualization format, the pie chart elucidates the user analysis with reflection of top social media influencers on the issue.  In fact, these screen shots only ‘scratch the surface’ of the kind of analysis a social media intelligence platform can do.

In a nutshell, Social media revolution in the Indian political space is real, tangible and accelerating.  More in the next post on this blog.

 Telangana NtwrkGrph

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