Some time back Avinash Raghava, Director of the NASSCOM EMERGE Product Forum had shared that online engagement alone won’t suffice to build a relationship. One needs to move out and say hello in the offline world too. A thought that I have started incorporating and I plan to do this more wherever I may be. So the last time when I was in Bangalore for a family reunion during Diwali, I made sure that I took a day out to do some catching up with people whom I know and respect for the work they are doing. One of them is Adhvith Dhuddu, CEO of AliveNow. I must appreciate that Adhvith was happy to meet me on a working day without any prior appointment. Adhvith called up at 5:30 PM and was ready to spend close to thirty minutes at Indranagar ‘s Mocha joint. I did struggle to find the place but finally I met Adhvith. After some formal gestures and a few sips of our drinks, we were straight to business.
Adhvith, your journey has been an interesting one, from a Derivatives guy you went to form your own Asset Management Company and now run the well known social media agency AliveNow in India. How do you relate to two completely different aspects of business and that too so successfully?
Yes true and the journey starts from my undergraduate days while I was in US. Finance was always my first passion because there is a small story behind that. When I was in the US doing my undergraduate, I read a book by Robert Kiyosaki. Everyone knows the first book but I am talking about the second book in his series Cash Flow Quadrant. The book talks that every individual falls under four categories. He is either an employer or employee or an investor or a business owner. Anyone you take in this world falls under one of the four categories. He also adds quadrants to this. On the left hand side he has employer and employee. On the right hand side he has the business owner and investor. The author in the book says that everyone starts from the left side but the aim to be wealthy and rich drives them from the left to the right side. I had a few business ideas when I was in US but didn’t do much. However, I was attracted to investing and the beauty of investing in US or in India is that you can start investing with $1000 so I started reading about investing, stocks, shares, etc. and I was bitten by the bug. It started to become an addiction and since I was on the East Coast during my vacation I started attending conference on Derivatives training and that fascinated most to me than stocks and shares. So that’s how I started investing in futures and options and which finally led me to setup my own asset management company in US and at my peak I had more than 2 million dollars under management out of which 60% of my portfolio was only derivatives. This whole passion for investing in derivatives motivated me to write articles in magazines, newspapers, etc. The reason I left US and came back to India was the sheer love for my country. When I came back I saw an opportunity in social media and that’s how I ventured into an unrelated business. Getting a degree in industrial engineering, doing part time work in finance and options trading and eventually starting a social media agency are truly three absolutely unrelated things. However, I am proud that we were the first few to start working in social media and AliveNow has also done some fabulous work too.
I believe a lot of credit goes to you as you had the ability to grow, learn more and do things differently. Adhvith, if you remember we had reviewed AliveNow’s brilliant work for KaatiZone few months back. One of the things that I loved about the whole campaign was that it never took me out of Facebook. Unlike today where most of the sites land you to other websites the moment you click on a product to buy. What are your thoughts on it and don’t you think that brands should be more focused and try to attract fans for longer duration on a particular social network?
Absolutely the whole point of social is that it should keep the customer on a particular network for longer duration. Similarly we are also now working to build an app where fans can browse products, like the products and the only part we are taking you out is during the time of payment as there is part of payment gateway integration and other related things to it. Infact with the KaatiZone app we incorporated all these things and we also had cash on delivery so the fan anyway was not asked anytime to move to another app. So going forth we would be doing such apps more and will assume that other players would also be doing more or less the same thing.
It is great to see that AliveNow has started to work on the said direction and I think going ahead this one factor would be one of the challenges for social media agencies.
Okay let’s move from the future and talk about the present. I believe you may have lot of fondness for the cute little world ‘LIKE’ but don’t you think it has been over used. Personally, when I see brands that are being managed by social media agencies saying that if you like this picture ‘like’ us, if you like the color ‘like’ us and that continues. Being a social media agency guy, how do you react to such status updates or content. My question is why not earn it rather than beg for it.
True Prasant and before I say anything I will tell you the reasoning behind agency people asking to like you on every post. Let’s say you are a brand and you have hundred thousand likes on your Facebook page but when you make a status update chances are that it is visible to 20 or 30 fans. Now let’s talk about the Facebook edge rank system. The algorithm says that the more likes or comments a post gets in the first hour leads to higher probability that more number of people in your Facebook fan page will see the status updates and will generate more impressions. Now as a Facebook page admin of AliveNow depending on our analysis we see this true. For example a post that has more number of likse and comments will definitely have more number of impressions when compared to others. Today brands are considering status updates as a call for action and that’s why they are reminding people often. But as you said it is sometimes overdone, that shouldn’t happen and social media managers need to be more creative here.
Creative indeed and social media managers need to think more on the content if they want engagement. Adhvith, now let’s listen to your views on the most talked and debated question of social media, how do social media managers calculate ROI and what are the apps that AliveNow uses for it.
First things first, the Holy Grail of social media ROI nobody has figured out and still is in a very nascent stage. The way we approach it is slightly in a different manner. We say instead of measuring social media ROI we ask the client what is your objective. Is the objective to get email id’s for an email campaign, is your objective to create lot of impressions and create awareness for your brand, is your objective to get just likes, or is your objective to buy certain products via a discount coupon code, etc. So based on the objective we design the social media campaign and then measure metrics relevant to the objective. So if the client says my objective at the end of 3 months is I want 50,000 email ids’s for my email database and here the metrics would be how many email id’s have been procured at the end of the campaign and this is how we understand social media ROI at AliveNow. For example if a client wants to sell products on Facebook via discount coupons. The ROI to this campaign would be tracking how many Facebook users actually bought a particular product by using the discount coupon.
The way we measure is a combination of freely available apps such us apps provided by Facebook, Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Bit.ly and using our own in-house analytics tool for preparing the ROI campaign report for the client.
It’s good to hear that AliveNow is focusing more on the objective and from there deciding on the ROI; I believe that it is the way forward. But then do you think social media in B2B sector is possible? We have seen lot of great work happening in the B2C sector but Adhvith, what about B2B and how do you approach such clients?
I actually completely disagree and I think that there is a huge market for B2B. However AliveNow has not done lot of work but a little bit of initiative. The reason being like all other agencies we are also a part of phase one of social media where most of them are and leveraging social media for B2C. I believe that phase2/3 will see more of B2B. However on other side B2B brands have witnessed the power of social media and are approaching social media agencies in terms of how one can help them on leveraging social media.
Now talking about B2B social media where we have worked with few clients it also comes down to few things that I want to share.
One is objective. For example some B2B clients have come down to us and asked that we only want careers and hiring via social media. Some wanted to create awareness about a particular product on social media. Now one thing which is very clear and I also tell my client that you cannot sell a B2B product on social media. You cannot sell analytics software or data management software on social media. The reason being that you can’t sell a fifty thousand or a hundred thousand product on social media. What can be done is start conversations around that, educate fans about that product or service and get the right people at the door so that the B2B company can take care of it.
Second is Platform. Obviously B2B can’t use the same platforms like B2C. For example Foursquare doesn’t have much of use for a B2B company by and large. However platforms like LinkedIn or Slideshare or Blog will be more of use for a B2B. Especially LinkedIn in last 4-6 months has shown some major developments and has introduced lot of new features like Company Pages, Apply new button, LinkedIn plug-in, etc. Apart from this LinkedIn Ad is absolutely spectacular which we have used for some of our clients. In B2B the decision makers are CFO’s, CEO’s or MD’s and LinkedIn Ad’s gives you the ability to target via title and that’s the beauty. However advertisements on LinkedIn is many more times expensive when compared to Facebook Ads but then you pay for quality leads.
Third is Strategy. For a B2C you will have contests, events, promotions, etc. You can’t really adopt a similar strategy for a B2B. If you do plan such trivial contests then you really bring down the brand value. So strategy is important and that relies on your objective.
So that’s how we approach B2B and I personally feel there is a huge opportunity for B2B in India in the coming days.
B2B is a big sector and there is lot of opportunity but agencies or brands need to have a great strategy in line with the objective.
Adhvith, you have foreseen markets and created them too. So what is next and where are we heading? When you started there were few players but today every corner has a social media agency. So what do you see next?
The way I look at this is the market for social media which covers all social media marketing, social media products, analytics, etc. is so big that even if 20 or 30 startups more come up still we can all grow. Social Media is something which is not only used by larger brands but is used by medium and small too and India is just a huge market.
Now for the established agencies like ours and few more who have been in the market for two to three years now for them the next step is moving ahead to one market that is unconquered is social media outsourcing. Everyone today in the world is doing social media but right now they are paying existing agencies 5 or 6 times more than what we charge with the same quality delivered. So pretty soon these brands will realize that there are agencies in India that do the same work with same quality for 20 or 30 percent of the cost then I think this market will evolve more which is still untapped and will happen in the near future.
Personally, I think that it is the basic market forces for work and presently we have started doing for some Canadian brands. Going further we are going to see more work and more names.
By the time we ended our conversation we had spoken for more than an hour. Thanks Adhvith for meeting me in such a short notice and sharing so much. One another thing I noticed that Adhvith is ready to listen and question too. He also admits that every day is learning on social media. Yes social media is all about experimentation. With these thoughts I took an autorickshaw to my destination.