On Wednesdays, we have started a new LinkedIn series to find out how brands and individuals are using LinkedIn and engaging on professional networks. Pradeep Chopra was our first guest last Wednesday and he shared how Digital Vidya is effectively using LinkedIn. This Wednesday I got in touch with Avinash Raghava, the man behind Nasscom Emerge Products Forum and many more initiatives in Nasscom. The idea was to talk about LinkedIn but as I spoke to him he told me that they are using GroupSite as one of the major tool for community building and engagement. This was exciting and quite a surprise for me to find out what actually motivated Avinash to leave all other well known social networks and move to a group based network. We spoke for more than thirty minutes over phone and the conversation is summarized below:
1. Hi Avinash! Thanks for talking to us. Can you share a bit about yourself and what’s keeping you busy these days?
I have been with Nasscom for more than ten years focusing more on the startup and product companies. I started my career with Nasscom as a webmaster managing the Nasscom.in site. I have always been passionate about nurturing a healthy ecosystem and that has led to the birth of EMERGE Forum. A forum that celebrated the spirit of entrepreneurship by promoting startups and emerging businesses focused in the IT-BPO segment too.
Presently, I am busy with the Nasscom Product Conclave event that is going to host 1200+ delegates. This event is a must for all Product startups based in India and will bring the likes of Vinod Khosla, Vivek Paul, Naveen Jain, Vivek Wadhwa, etc.
2. Nasscom has a social media presence and with that you have a strong presence on Groupsite. What motivated you to use Groupsite and how are you leveraging other platforms too?
Frankly speaking, joining Groupsite was by accident. Initially we were present on LinkedIn Groups and we were one of the early adopters of the products but it restricted us in many ways. So we bumped in Groupsite accidentally and experimented with some members. Then we went on adding some content and also adding people after some of the events. We always wanted to connect to people after the events so that we can carry on the relationship and build upon it. Meanwhile, there were some members who were supporting us and taking the discussions further. I contacted them and made them as the brand evangelists or moderators. That move just paid off for us and suddenly we started seeing lot of people coming in, sharing thoughts and asking questions to keep the discussions alive. We had a strong group of Brand evangelists with whom I started doing monthly calls where we use to check monthly plans for the group on Groupsite. Groupsite as a platform really supported us as we can do lot of things that was not possible by LinkedIn. We tailor made the look and feel of the group according to our convenience.
Going further we had people asking questions that we thought could be addressed in a way by conducting conferences. Emerge50 also emerged from this community and the Emerge Partner Exchange was another imitative that we started too. Product Made.In was also conceived on this platform which started as a catalogue of Indian products. Today it has 1300 products listed and can be called as India’s App Store or India’s Crunch Base.
Parallelly, we have also built a blog and a presence on Twitter. Slideshare has been not left behind and all our presentations have been put up here for the community. We do have a good collection of Videos on Vimeo but we want to build on it more so that it can be good help for Indian startups.
3. Must say an amazing presence. Would you share more on how you are engaging on Twitter?
Twitter has been a great tool and we are using it mainly for three things:
1. Feedback: After the conference Twitter really helps us to know what the participants have to say about, the positives, negatives, etc.
2. What we are doing: Twitter has been a great medium which we have used extensively for telling our community what we are doing.
3. Sharing: We promote a lot of content to our community that would be really helpful for them. We believe in building a healthy ecosystem so we share/ promote events that would be helpful for the startup community.
4. Avinash, you were one of the early adopters of LinkedIn but as you said that LinkedIn restricted you in many ways, can you share in what ways you were restricted?
We were one of the early movers in the LinkedIn groups and at that time it really had lot of restrictions. One of the most important things was that I couldn’t customize the group the way I wanted. It had lot of restrictions in content sharing however it is now integrated with Twitter. With all this another big problem that I noticed was that it had all text based content and I can’t modify and make it HTML one. So these were the major problems that we faced and Groupsite fulffiled all these. Groupsite really allowed us to maintain a group the way we wanted. However, Nasscom Emerge still has a LinkedIn group but we haven’t built a community like we have done in Groupsite.
5. Yes I have also seen that the ways of engagement is very restricted in LinkedIn. Finally Avinash, what advice you would give to startups and SME’s who are engaging on social media?
Sure why not and they are as follows:
1. Engage deeply online as well as offline too. Connecting with folks online shouldn’t be the only motive. Go out and meet your online folks offline too.
2. Be open for criticism. Till date we get lot of negative criticism but we take it with open heart. And while doing this make sure you are transparent too. Social media is a place for real people so try to be what you are rather than pretending something else.
3. Respond to people always and never delete comments or tweets even if you don’t like. A guy who is a critique is your best customer.
4. Finally if you want to make a big and engaging community, try to find out champions or brand evangelists. It will really help you to grow.
Thanks Avinash for a splendid talk with us and I have a lot to take home from this interesting conversation we had. One of the things that has influenced me is the massive community building on Groupsite. I guess that is why it is always said in social media that go where your customers are and not where your competitors are.