Not Being On Social Media Is Not An Option, Says Harish Kumar Of Tender Leaves

An interview with Harish Kumar, CEO of Tender Leaves where he shares how social media has helped his library business and what are the best practices for startups on social media

Tender leaves logo

B. V. Harish Kumar from Tender Leaves shares about how being ‘more than just a library’ needed a great platform to be able to do all the fun activities with its fans, and how social media is the right fit and also helps them get business.

Sometimes you wish to read a book but you don’t want to buy it – it’s either too expensive or there is no more space on your shelf! So you join a library but sadly they do not understand the joys of reading at leisure, forever keeping you vexed about due dates and late fees. What do you do then?

If you are in Pune, you join Tender Leaves but if you are not then you pray that Tender Leaves launches a branch in your city soon. But what is Tender Leaves? Tender Leaves is more than a Library – you choose your books from the online list and they are delivered at your doorstep for free. Whenever you finish reading them you can put them back into the Drop-box, thus indicating the delivery guys to come and take it.

And this is not all. Tender Leaves conducts workshops, story-writing contests, reading challenges, and much more exciting stuff.

But you need to know them personally before deciding to join? That’s simple too – Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and read their blog. They believe in ‘being themselves’ on social networks. Some of their current customers had been followers on social media and when they signed up as users, they felt they knew all about Tender Leaves and Tender Leaves felt they knew them too!

We had a chat with B. V. Harish Kumar, the CEO at Tender Leaves to find out just how they manage to build such genuine trust and bonding.

“It is because of our interactions on Facebook. What this shows us is the motivation to actually sign up as a paying subscriber could come from anywhere and at any time but unless you are being trusted as genuine and honest, you can be sure about not figuring in the consideration set of your prospective customers.”

Tender Leaves that was launched on Facebook in 2010, has close to 8000 fans now. Harish shares that joining Facebook was never a question of ‘if’ for them as Facebook provides a great platform for directly connecting with all their friends, users and followers.

“Tender Leaves was always going to be ‘more than just a library’ and being an online library, we needed a platform where we could do all those fun activities with our fans - the contests, the polls, the writing exercises, sharing updates and plain old direct feedback. So regarding joining Facebook, it was never a question of ‘if’ for us.”

When being quizzed on what a community of nearly 8K fans means to Tender Leaves, Harish said it does not matter since what matters is - what is being done with the fans, how are they being engaged. So 8K fans just meant that they had that many more people to share stuff with!

“There will be many pages that you have liked in the past but with no proper engagement, you lose interest in them. You may not have taken the step to actually unlike the page but you are not paying any attention to it. So unless we engage them in a meaningful way, the number 8000 or 80000 means nothing.”

Tender Leaves has quite an active presence on Twitter having 207 followers and following 735 accounts. One will be amazed with the amount of sharing and conversations happening on the Twitter page. Being a personal user of Twitter since 2008, Harish knew the importance of the medium and being prompt in responding to tweets.

Since the very beginning, some of his users used Twitter for customer support issues like requesting for delivery timings to be changed, subscription to be renewed, etc. And when the users got prompt responses from the Tender Leaves team, they began to use it more often.

With good content on Facebook as well as Twitter, it must be tough to manage both networks. But Harish shares that Tender Leaves has a clear differentiation in content for both networks.

[pullquote id =”lhipull” class=”center_lhi”]We use Twitter for transactional messages/customer support/important notifications. Facebook is used for more relaxed engagement.[/pullquote]

Also, Harish feels lucky to have engaged with a close friend as a Consultant to manage their social media activities. So users don’t know the difference whether it is Harish or his Consultant tweeting. And what this seamless communication means to Tender Leaves is that the company does not miss out on any opportunity to engage with its friends. Besides, the fact that the Consultant is trained in social media means that interventions are well thought-out and not random.

Given that we are a young organization, we do end up having days which can be operationally chaotic; having a consultant manage the activities means that a busy day at work hasn’t adversely affected our social media activities.”

And with all that excellent numbers and engagement happening, Tender Leaves also measures and monitors its social media activities by doing an analysis using metrics provided by Facebook and Google Analytics. Harish did mention evaluating some tools to see if they met requirements.

Ending the chat with a word of advice to businesses who are still asking themselves whether to do social media or not, Harish warns that, that should just not be a question. The question should be how.

“Not being on social media is not an option for even the B2B segment. One word of caution though - be honest and sincere because your prospective employee/partner/vendor as well as customer will check you out and will trust you only if you are being yourself.”

For a business that got sign-ups from its followers on social media, Tender Leaves sets a brilliant example of good social media for a startup. We are grateful to Harish for sharing the wonderful story of social media at Tender Leaves.  Hope we have more of such startup stories  in 2012!