Wednesday evenings are a pleasure to have, not that I take a break from work but for one hour I am free. If you are wondering what I am talking about then its all about our exciting Wednesday Facebook wall chat. Arcopol Chaudhuri(AC), social media manager of Uread was our guest for the chat to share his thoughts on “How he is managing in-house social media at Uread.”
The first question that caught my eyes were from Prajyot Mainkar(PM). PM asked about the different strategies that uRead is using to track demand. A discussion that went on for a while so please find the complete thread here. A synopsis of Arcopol’s answer could be found below,
PM: What different strategies is uRead indulged into to track demand on users on uRead. How different and efficient is the method as compared to the competitors in the market?
AC: I’ve observed some of our competitors and except for the market leader; their generation of demand is largely driven around discounts. I’m extremely worried about this approach. It means you’re going in the direction the deal sites have gone. Effectively this means that you’re stooping so low to gain customers, you’re convincing him/her that they will never have to pay a fair price for a book!
Our strategy is driven a bit around being the ‘book specialist’. We recommend good books. Period. And I can do a good job at it, because I’ve surrounded myself with friends whose book recommendations I trust and believe me, I’ve discovered some hidden gems in fiction and non-fiction! I’m an avid reader myself - I read for about 6-8 hours daily, after work. So a brand which gains a reputation of giving excellent book recommendations is somewhere that we want to be. It’s still early days, hopefully with time we shall get there, making several adaptations.
A valid point made by Arcopol about recommendations. It is human nature to ask their trusted ones before buying something. Glad to hear that uRead is sharing great reviews with minimum discounts for the post-Chetan junta in India. The pre and post Chetan is a term coined by Arcopol during the chat.
Vijeet Rathi’s(VR) question was my question but as a host I was just reading the chat. VR wanted to know what have been the benefits for uRead by opting for an in-house social media.
VR: Why did you opt for in-house social media? Also, what positives have come out of it for uRead from it?
AC: The first positive is that we saved a LOT of money 🙂 The second positive is that there is nobody pestering us for payments! 🙂 The third positive is that we don’t have sleepless nights about our social media presence at the moment.
Being an e-commerce company where transactions happen online, our customer care is also well-entrenched into our social media. You can tweet to us and our response time is far better, because it’s in-house. An agency SMO executive may need to clarify the appropriate response and make 2-3 calls to his superiors to do the same. Besides, the same executive is not loyal to managing only my brand! He has so much more to do. I’ve worked in an agency myself and was a bit disappointed at the commitment levels. I’m told the scene is similar in most agencies.
Even I believe that in the long run, brands should manage their own social media presence. One of the reasons that Arcopol also highlighted was the response time and an agency can’t tweet about your business. To know more about the secrets of in-house social media at uRead, do check out our interview with Arcopol that we did some time back.
The third question was from Vijayeendra Haryal(VH) where he was interested to know how uRead is engaging with international crowd since uRead ships books to US too. Responses of Arcopol are shared below:
VH: I understand that you guys ship books out of India as well. How is engaging someone from lets say US different from someone in India via Social Media ( lets say your FB page)
AC:Yes, that’s right we do ship books out of India and in the past two months, our international shipments have gone up by almost 50%. What’s helped is that our courier partners for international shipping have done a fantastic job (in-stock books usually reach international customers within a week from placing an order). A book titled Desperate in Dubai is a case-study in this regard.
It hasn’t been particularly difficult to engage them, since they’re far more savvy on dealing with ‘brands’ per se, than Indian customers. Most Indians make very quick enemies out of brands and have absolutely no control of the new-found freedom given by social media. For example, a US/UK customer is far more likely to be polite in tweeting a customer care query, than an Indian. I’ve seen instances of this - not for uRead per se - but generally.
To an extent we Indians are ready to associate the #fail quickly without thinking for once. May be with time this attitude can change.
Kunal Bajaj who was present with us before the chat initiated the most debated question in social media circles, calculation of ROI. Arcopol was quite open and replied quite frankly.
KB: Have uread.com calculated ROI?
AC: No, we haven’t. Technology-wise or the complete investment per se, we haven’t. We launched in January, we’re not even a year old. The discount bloodbath in the e-commerce space has made margins very thin, but we cannot NOT give the best discounts. We have to, and match it up with great service. We’re very proud about our service levels. You won’t find stink about us on Mouth-shut. A lot of customers who fall for good discounts at other websites, suffer when the service levels are terrible, customer care doesn’t respond to calls and messages. Look up at the range of book-shopping websites and you’ll find a large mass of unhappy customers. Not so with us.
It’s good to see uRead accepting some naked facts and building up other areas where it can be good. Customers are ready to pay extra if you promise good service which can’t be marred by heavy discounts.
The final question that attracted me was from Amit Shrivastava(AS) who also has summed up the whole chat as a transcript here. Amit was intrigued to know different tactics that uRead may have used to engage with readers, integrate the inputs and develop the community further.
AS:How do you tests different tactics with your social media readers and have you found new ways to integrate reader input and develop their community further. I mean I personally feel that audiences will get even more involved in the creation of the content they consume in the future…
AC: Good question. And the answer to that, is this ugly truth: TODAY, THERE ARE MORE WRITERS, THAN READERS.
For a plain vanilla bookseller, this is a challenge. But because we have the technology support we can adapt. We will, looking at how things evolve. I cannot create a YouTube kinda model where everyone posts content. That would produce so much crap. We will eventually need to evolve to a publishing platform with relevant filters, appropriate payment gateways and consumer fulfillment.
uRead has already created a publishing platform titled Fingerprint which is publishing two books per month and promoting it online and offline in an aggressive manner. I believe that publishers should engage more on social media and authors too. However, Karthik of ‘Horn Ok Please’ fame is not behind.
It was a wonderful chat that exceeded by thirty minutes which also made my life really hard to pick some of the cool questions from the chat. Thanks to Arcopol and the participants who kept the discussion flowing. We love conducting this chat with Arcopol and will end with Arcopol’s parting words.
My pleasure! Thank you everyone for making it tonight. Do try out uRead.com sometime. A little note before I close: We Indians rarely express or blog about good companies and our good experiences. We take good experience for granted. We think social media is for complaints and for settling scores with brands. Don’t fall into that trap. I encourage all of you to also share positive experiences with brands. Because somewhere, deep down, the business owner has worked hard and meticulously to ensure he delivers on what he promises, and that you have a good user experience! Cheers, everyone! Goodnight.
Do let us know if you have any feedback or would like to have someone invited. We can give it a genuine try 🙂