Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Those marketer’s are clever dudes... But here’s how businesses track competition via SNSs and hey, your HR heads are using them too

If Roosevelt was the first Radio President and JF Kennedy the first television President, then Barack Obama is undoubtedly the first Internet President that the American people have escorted into the White House. Not only did he swear allegiance to social media early in his campaign, but he also created a web-based rumour clearinghouse to ‘Fight the Smears’. Facebook and MySpace were Obama’s playing field during a long-drawn campaign that levelled rival McCain’s bid to the Presidential post. But we talked about all that in the previous piece. What’s important to note here, however, is the fact that both Obama and McCain not just pushed their own brands on social networks, but also went to great efforts to track each others moves on popular social networking sites, including their own social networking sites viz. and respectively. To their surprise, their special ‘tracking the rival’ teams discovered that coveted research about voter moods, opinion, leanings, issues, et al (which once required a set of proprietary quantitative tools to be accessed) could now be done via tracking Facebook ‘friend’ requests and network affiliations; or just by reading scrapbooks on Orkut and user comments on YouTube videos. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Clearly, for marketers, social media is not restricted to just reaching out to consumers, but also tracking and taking on competition. Take the Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts controversy that dominated social networks last month. The latter went the whole hog on Facebook, claiming that Starbucks had an inferior taste of coffee than Dunkin’ Donuts. They even developed a micro website named to highlight a survey which said Dunkin’ coffee was superior to that of Starbucks. Worse, early last year, Starbucks bore the brunt of another Internet controversy when Oxfam Charity posted a video on how Starbucks ill-treats Ethiopian farmers. Starbucks countered the same with another video but the incident resulted in a major dilution of the coffee retailer’s brand equity.

Even Microsoft developed a MySpace style social networking site to promote its revamped Zune (portable music player) last year. The management thought that the social network could create a similar buzz around Zune, as rival Apple had managed to create with iPod. In this case however, Microsoft failed, as iPod had already captured the first mover advantage with consumers. Says Yogesh Bansal, CEO,, “You will find numerous examples globally of how brands are leveraging social networking websites and emerging one step ahead of competition. The trend is already beginning to catch up in India.”

More importantly, messages posted on the web are normally there for long so any company can easily attack the brand value of its rival by putting up articles, videos, images or simply hiring youngsters to either track competition or spread their brand message around among communities. Jet Airways, for one, invests a lot of moolah in tracking competition on this media. Says Mahesh Murthy, CEO, Pinstorm, “For Jet Airways, we track competitive social media activities of airlines around the world, especially those with a presence around our destinations like San Francisco, Hong Kong and New York City, also around the Brussels hub,” adding that for another client (a large Japanese consumer electronics giant), his company constantly tracks online activities of youth brands. “We earlier tried to track other consumer electronics brands in India online but there weren’t too many, so rather than segment tracking, we are doing demographic tracking here,” he enthuses.

And here’s more food to chew on for all those who thought social networks are kid stuff and that no one really takes them seriously. From global consultants like Ernst & Young (E&Y) to dozens of call centres and eateries alike, social networking sites are prime spots to identify and recruit manpower. HR specialists believe it to be a more credible and reliable source of finding the right person for the right job. They even tag it as one step ahead of the popular employee referral programme. Ernst & Young, for one, employs as many as 3,500 college graduates using a career group on Facebook; the company also posts job information on the career group and answers individual questions from prospective employees.

“We hire a lot via social networking websites,” agrees Vikas Raj Sharma, COO, Akiko Callnet. In fact, seeing their rising popularity among companies, job portals like have begun to feel the heat. Ajeet Chauhan, VP-HR, Nirula’s, even goes on to say that the “Response from print ads is poor as compared referrals & social networks.” Insiders aver that since it is tough to judge a candidate during a 15-20 minute interview, picking up executives from social networking websites adds the necessary authentication and insight into the prospective’s attitude (whether he’s a team player, positive, et al) of the potential employee. “The only challenge that remained untracked is that you cannot judge the depth of the talent of any candidate on the social network,” asserts Vidya .M. Iyer, HR specialist, Saita Consulting.

The most popular global professional network currently is believed to be LinkedIn, which has around 30 million active users. The network has seen tremendous growth in registered users over the past two years in India and companies are increasingly using LinkedIn for recruitments. Of course, the numbers are still small, but the rising popularity of social media for hiring is largely because of two reasons: one the cost factor, which is almost zero; and the second and more important – the large talent pool. “The industry is in a slowdown and suffering from a talent crunch. Also, insertion costs are very high in all other mediums,” agrees Rajkamal Gupta, VP-HR, Lurgi India.

For Complete IIPM Article, Click on IIPM Article

Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2008
An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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