Preetham Venkky, is a person who has influenced me with his immense knowledge on social media. Remember the big news when one morning Cadbury’s Bournville, Pizza Hut India, etc. woke up to find their Facebook page was missing. Reason being brands were taking Facebook guidelines for granted. Preetham was one amongst those who had warned about the same. Since then, I have been closely following him and while in Bangalore I was lucky to meet him for one full hour.
We met at Koshy’s Restaurant during lunch time. Not an ideal place to record Preetham’s thoughts but the ambience had its own charm. Preetham relaxed with a sandwich and I was all set with my list of questions. Before I could start, he asked me several questions and also shared about his attachment to Bangalore. Koshy’s is one place where I keep coming as I can find all the art and theater people out here. I was surprised to know that the KRDS Asia head is interested in art, so out of curiosity asked him, how does he relates to all this – theater, social media and now KRDS Asia Head.
I have to blame my uncle. I am an engineer by education but I never wanted to be one as I was pretty interested in business from day one. So I went on to write BBM paper and got selected. Now the tough part – I thought I had to convince my dad but he was an open minded person and I also need to give some credit to my uncle who at that point introduced to me industrial management. With this course I had to two years of engineering plus three years of MBA which I was interested in. During my undergrad days I went to create Cyber Potatatoes. We made money by selling server farms in US but we didn’t make any money by core business that was content. After that I finished my engineering and joined a job in GE and then my journey in understanding the internet went little different. I joined Bangalore Live. Broadband had just opened up with Sify. People had bandwidth to view videos, this was back in 2006 and that time most of them never knew what Youtube was. I joined them and established communication for entire Bangalore. We started producing videos so that people can start consuming localized content which I always believed in. After that Catalyst Class happened and I became the part of founding team later on which was a technology evangelist firm. That time we had a very close association with Apple and I was the chief tech evangelist for Asia. When I joined some interesting things where happening in Apple India. Apple products were being sold on specs. You can’t sell Apple on specs; you have to sell it as a solution product. I played a major role as a solution provider tech evangelist and training, building the workforce, etc. And this thing what I learnt here, I went on to implement in social media. The thought process is same here too as you can’t sell social media on specs. There are lots of agencies or social media managers who want to sell social media on fan count, numbers, etc. but they are fooling their customers. As a matter of fact, the question should be how much it would cost me to add 10,000 fans. If somebody gives you a number, he is an idiot. So presently I’m playing the role of Asia Head at KRDS where we are enabling our clients to provide solution and have relationships with their fans on social media.
Social media can’t be sold on specs but I wonder how many are not doing that. But don’t you think that in 2011 we saw a lot of good work happening. Brands have gradually accepted the facts of the ‘Why’ of social media and now they are moving to the ‘How’ part.
To be honest Prasant, I have not found an answer to it. It has got lot to do with behavior. You need to track back to a large extent. I was a state level chess player. What’s important in chess is to look few more steps ahead and you don’t just look one step ahead. You need to think three steps ahead and this one step analysis in social media will not take you ahead. This ‘Like’ mentality won’t work long. One needs to ask their social media agency that what they are giving. Are they giving ideas to break guidelines, then one needs to look at it 🙂 This problem also arises from the client side as they don’t have the right marketing managers. Internationally marketing managers have more knowledge than agencies. Agency executes ideas not somebody who gives you ideas but in India, marketing managers don’t have the proper mind set. Agency should not pimp themselves to fill up the coffers and if they are doing that, then there is something wrong. There are agencies like this who take a stand but they are lesser in number. In KRDS, we have dropped projects because the client marketing managers didn’t get it. You won’t find any of our projects that violate guidelines. So yes, there has been advancement in terms of knowledge, work wise, etc. but then we have a long way to go in social media.
When we talk about work then I am compelled to remember the HTSE app that you guys had developed.
The experience was so amazing that it is quite fresh. Of late we have also seen apps are becoming quite an essential part of the strategy to capture fans for longer durations. How do you see this growth?
The problem what I see here is that agencies don’t have the core competencies to do like we at KRDS do who are also the preferred app developers of Facebook. Generally a marketing manager sees an international work and comes to his agency to discuss if they can have such initiatives. Agency says sorry it won’t work in India but the truth is that they don’t have resources to match international stuff. Compared to us at KRDS, we have got it all from resource to knowledge. Our HTSE app is one of the proofs of our work and we are going to come with some more initiatives quite soon.
HTSE app is no doubt a wonderful piece developed by you guys. However there is one more thing that matters today -fan count. Agencies have mastered this via Facebook ads. So do you think creating Facebook ads to increase fan count is a good strategy.
First things first, Facebook ads are not made for increasing fan counts. Let’s take example of Google ads. You see an ad, you click it and you are taken to another page which is nothing but a call to action. Where is the call to action in liking a page, nothing? You don’t even know the email id, name of the guy, etc. Facebook ads is not for pushing up a counter. Like doesn’t give you credibility. Let’s take two products, two cars do a research. Let’s say Maruti has 5000 fans and Tata Indica has 7000 fans. Now ask people if they are going to make their buying decision depending on the fan count of the car models. Let’s take another example of HTSE, when a fan comes to the landing page he is given a virtual experience. Now tell which is better and stays with you. So most people getting people to like through sponsored stories is useless. In HTSE we ran ads to come to the application which was an engagement point for the fan. We anyways got fan count but we indulged in conversations. Facebook is recording this and it is seeing the person has come to the page, liked it and now interacting on the page so the valuation is more. So this is what a brand needs to look. Fan counter is just one move brands need to think two or three moves ahead if they want to survive in social media.
Facebook ads are not just for pushing the counter but we find them happening every day. Of late, I have also seen separate content or contests happening for fans who like a page when compared to those who do not. So do you think that this a good strategy of Facebook marketing by brands.
Facebook has now made it open, you can see the wall content as matter of fact you can like and comment without being a fan. From an engagement purpose, suppose you started a contest that you want to share with your fans. I am allowing people to join but it is not an open contest. I think it’s cool enough to provide exclusive content when you are part of the community.
We have spoken a lot about the B2C sector. Let’s move to the B2B which is considered to be more challenging in terms of engagement. How do you see that and what are your thoughts on social media in B2B world.
In B2B, the first question one needs to ask that are the people who are entering into decision making on the medium first. Sometimes you can go the other way of brand building. Look at Intel, their decision makers may not be on Facebook but people are voting for Intel. Intel is trying to get public opinion and then that opinion is added to the slides of sales guys when it is showed to CEO’s to show what people think about it. This might not work for all products. Let say you’re a tech company who makes softwares for large auto companies. So if the end user is on Facebook then better be on Facebook otherwise there is no sense. So that’s the only key difference in b2b and b2c. For a B2C, most of them are on Facebook but for B2B it may not be the case. May be running a corporate blog is better as your customer can find you via Google and find you useful. So go ahead and pour money on Google advertisement. So, don’t be a fool and use the right tool is my mantra.
Apart from this, one more area that has come into the limelight is social commerce. Products are being built around social commerce; people are buying vegetables on Facebook, etc.
Do you think that we are inching towards social commerce or we still have some time where actual social commerce can happen?
It took 10 years for people to understand what internet is and now same is with Facebook. All the things that are required to enable social commerce are present but people are confused with web commerce and social commerce. Just being on Facebook and liking a product before you buy will not make it social commerce. Let me give you different concept of social commerce, let’s take clothes. Who do you look good for? You look good for your friends. so why are you choosing your clothes, how about your friends choosing for you. You walk to a mall and you have t-shirts in front of you and you can’t make your mind. So get your friends on Facebook to vote for it and the dress with most number of votes will have 30% off. When you do this sort of engagement on social networks then we can say social commerce is happening. In the near future, we are doing some interesting stuff so watch out 🙂
Sure Preetham, really interesting candid thoughts and let me now leave you to enjoy your remaining vacation at Bangalore. Thank you!
One hour of such amazing talks really made my day. Lot of takeaways but the important thing was that you can’t sell social media on specs; you need to give the fan an experience to enjoy and think of ways to open communication channels. I think every social media agency should think over this.