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Social media has taken a centre stage and been influencing customer buying behavior. So, how can hoteliers ensure that they are using sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to their greatest advantage?

Online Reputation Management is essentially monitoring online opinions about your brand and using the information to create online strategies that promote your company successfully. The ever increasing reach of the internet has allowed customers to share their thoughts on every aspect of life. This ultimately includes your hotel. This is why it is so important to maximise positive comments and limit any negative commentary as much as you can. If a customer searches for your brand online and finds a multitude of mediocre or lacking reviews, it is unlikely that they will chose to patronize you. However, all is not lost; because in fact, the art of online reputation management can be mastered in three simple steps.

Tracking is the first port of call. As mentioned earlier, almost every traveler will perform online research prior to making a booking. Therefore it is important that hotel owners know exactly what is being said about them online. The use of social media networks to respond to appropriate social activity and hotel mentions will have a large effect on the hotel's overall reputation and branding. Simply obtaining and updating accounts with all of the major social networks will enable you to track everything that is being discussed in regards to hotels and your brand.

Having gathered the information, the next step is to analyze. Reputation management tools allow you to know what guests are saying about you at various sites from one single platform. You can identify your pros and cons and develop your marketing campaign based on your strengths.

It’s important that you respond to customer feedbacks, even if it’s negative. This shows your sincerity in addressing their concerns. Engage with customers as much as possible, responding to reviews positive or negative. Learn as much as you can about each specific site and its limitations. Most importantly, find and communicate with your target audience, only then will you build unique and loyal customer relationships.

And remember; social media is a constantly growing and fluctuating enterprise. Learning to be flexible and dexterous now will greatly increase your chances of improving reputation.

Authored by: Ayushi, a digital enthusiast whose interests lie in all things technology and management. She is associated with eRevMax, the company behind the innovative hotel management software, RateTiger.

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“Embrace digital fully, and do not be afraid to fail.  Given that the medium itself is continuously changing and evolving, the only way to learn is to continue to experiment.” Said the recently promoted, Vik Kathuria as the Global Head of Digital Investment for MediaCom Worldwide.

In this interaction with MediAvataar- Vik kept it short, simple yet effective, pretty much how a digital strategy should be. Here is the discussion…

MediAvataar: Congratulations on the promotion! How do you look at the newly created role of Global Head of Digital Investment at MediaCom Worldwide?

Vik: MediaCom is always looking for ways to give our clients an edge, and my role is to craft global partnerships that deliver best in class digital investment capabilities.

MediAvataar: Do you think digital media has become the front runner for most of the brands worldwide?

Vik: Digital is growing rapidly, but it will always be part of an overall communication strategy based on consumer insights and client objectives.

MediAvataar: What would be your advice to all the digital trading platforms?

Vik: As spending increases, so too will the level of venture capital dollars scrambling to get into the space.  While this is a positive, it means that the technology landscape is going to continue to be confusing.   This is why marketers need trusted advisors.  Agencies with a superior understanding of the game and the players – companies like MediaCom – can help educate the industry and represent marketers’ interests.

MediAvataar: Your advices to marketers who are not already active on digital media and who want to kick start the virtual journey in the coming Year.

Vik: Experiment aggressively, but make sure you’ve set an objective that can be tracked, optimized and measured – that’s the only way to truly assess what works and what does not.

MediAvataar: How does digital help marketers meet their objectives across the purchase funnel?

Vik: As with other channels, the answer varies depending upon the marketer’s objectives. Digital can help across the entire spectrum, from awareness and branding to conversion and repeat purchase.

MediAvataar: What according to you should be the best parameter to judge a digital campaign?

Vik: Business-relevant KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

MediAvataar: What is your idea of a perfect conversation online?

Vik: One that’s two way and genuinely connects with the consumer

MediAvataar: According to you, what are the digital/social media trends prevalent in this year, globally?

Vik: Attribution becomes closer to reality. Rise of native programmatic platforms. Location-based information advertising will continue to grow.

MediAvataar: Your final words to all the marketers out there who want to use digital media to the fullest?

Vik: Embrace digital fully, and do not be afraid to fail.  Given that the medium itself is continuously changing and evolving, the only way to learn is to continue to experiment.

“Change always generates a reaction. We have seen positive and negative reactions to the logo change – not just in India, but globally. This is only to be expected when you change an iconic brand after 18 long years. For us, the new logo is symbolic of a renewed sense of purpose at Yahoo. We updated the logo to better reflect the energy and direction of the company and to align with our more sophisticated design aesthetic.” Stated Nitin Mathur Senior Director and Head of Marketing, India and South East Asia Yahoo!

In an interaction with MediAvataar India, Nitin discussed the renewed vigor of the brand along with why India is special and blazing as a market. Here is the Q&A ….

MediAvataar: Recently Yahoo reported 29000 data requests from governments, please tell us about it.

Nitin: We take our users’ privacy seriously. Our goal in issuing the Transparency report is to be as transparent as possible with our users around the world around government requests for their data that we receive. We also recognize our role as a global company in promoting freedom of expression wherever we do business. This is the first edition of our transparency report, and we plan to refresh this report every six months.

The transparency report details data requests made between January and June 2013 by governments of 17 countries in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Europe, as per Yahoo’s first Transparency Report released recently. The governments include US, UK Canada, Australia, Germany, France and India, among others. These are the countries in which Yahoo has a legal entity, and therefore, government agencies in these countries can potentially seek and obtain user data through compulsory legal process.

The data sought could be anything that our users create, communicate, and store on or through our services.

It is pertinent to point out that Yahoo has joined no program to volunteer user data to governments. Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes. We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful. In addition, we mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and recently won a motion requiring the U.S. Government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case.

MediAvataar: “India made an average of 8 user data requests daily to Yahoo”, why do you think this happens?

Nitin: Yahoo’s transparency report details governments’ requests for user data from January 1, 2013, through June 30, 2013. We are not in a position to comment on why governments make these requests. What we at Yahoo can tell you is that the India government made more than 1490 data requests from us in the first half of 2013. Yahoo disclosed non-content data for 494 requests (33%) and content data for 341 requests (23%). Yahoo also rejected 500 requests (34%) made by India. Each data request made to Yahoo was processed as per the local law, the Yahoo India Terms of Service and the Yahoo Privacy Policy.

MediAvataar: Why a global makeover now, after 18 years?

Nitin: Over the past year, there's been a renewed sense of purpose and progress at Yahoo, and we want everything we do to reflect this spirit of innovation. Yahoo’s vision is to make users daily habits inspiring and entertaining. To this end, we have launched several new products and refreshes to deliver more modern, intuitive and personalized experiences to our users. In terms of traffic, one of our clear milestones was to arrest the decline in traffic of the last few years, and achieve a crossover. And that’s exactly what we did in June 2013. We have seen a jump in the number of users - in about a year, it has grown from 700 million to 800 million. We now have around 350 million mobile users, up from 200 million in less than a year’s time. Clearly, the pace at which we are innovating has increased manifold. We have refreshed Mail, Flickr, launched beautiful new apps like Weather for iOS and Android, an awesome ‘unboxed’ mail for tablet experience and innovative advertising formats like the Stream ads.

While the company is rapidly evolving, our logo -- the essence of our brand -- should too.  We heard from our users and employees that our logo could better reflect the renewed energy and focus of the company. The refinement of the logo reflects our mission of delivering beautiful and inspiring products and experiences. We also wanted the logo to reflect how creative and fun Yahoo really is.

MediAvataar: What were the thoughts behind this subtle renovation?

Nitin: The new logo design keeps many of Yahoo's traditional logo elements. The color scheme remains purple, the letters capitalized and, perhaps most important, the exclamation mark is still there. But there is a distinct modernization in the new logo - it no longer has serifs and each letter is thinner and taller than before. Additionally, we went with a chiseled look for each letter, adding depth to the logo. We are whimsical at Yahoo, and the 9 degree tilt of the exclamation is just our way of being quirky and fun.

Yahoo is an iconic brand, and our new logo respects the history and tradition of the brand, while also being a modern redesign that's more reflective of our reimagined design and new experiences.

MediAvataar: Is the company happy with the makeover?

Nitin: We are absolutely excited with the new logo. It respects the history of who we are, preserves the character that is unique to Yahoo – fun, vibrant, welcoming while also symbolizing the modern redesign that you can see in our new products and launches, and is clearly reflective of the renewed sense of energy that the company has seen in the last year. We are very excited with how the new logo has shaped up.

MediAvataar: Please tell the idea behind the 30-day campaign during which Yahoo released one new logo every day.

Nitin: The 30-day campaign was our idea of having some fun. We wanted to celebrate the logo change along with all our users, and the 30 days of logos is a fun way to showcase our creative process to our users and get them excited about what’s to come. As a part of this campaign, every day of the 30-day period saw a new logo option on our homepage and throughout our network in the U.S. Its really a very Yahoo way of having fun while we geared up to change our iconic logo.

MediAvataar: Indian Ad world finds new Yahoo logo 'insipid'- Your thoughts on the same.

Nitin: Change always generates a reaction. We have seen positive and negative reactions to the logo change – not just in India, but globally. This is only to be expected when you change an iconic brand after 18 long years. For us, the new logo is symbolic of a renewed sense of purpose at Yahoo. We updated the logo to better reflect the energy and direction of the company and to align with our more sophisticated design aesthetic.

MediAvataar: How are you planning to widen the company's appeal among its consumers in India? What is the marketing strategy employed this year? Are the expected results coming through?

Nitin: Yahoo’s vision is to make users daily habits inspiring and entertaining. India is very important for Yahoo – particularly from an audience perspective.  Today, we reach over 60 percent of the Internet audience in the country. Our content sites like Cricket, Finance, News, Lifestyle and OMG, are hugely popular and the Yahoo network has seen 3X growth in a little over 2 years.  Our communication properties like Mail, Messenger and Flickr are in the top 3 in their respective categories. The mobile traffic to the Yahoo network in India has jumped by over 54 percent in the last one year. It is a clear indication that we are delivering on our focus on mobile.

Yahoo is a personalization company – we are focused on making daily habits of users inspiring and entertaining. We believe that will make our users more engaged, and also bring in new users. . What makes India even more exciting is that it is a market of young users – people who are perpetually plugged in, who use more than one device, and for whom the mobile phone is a connection to their own world. Mail, Search, Photosharing are important activities, as is their desire for entertainment content. We are positioned to engage with these users on all these fronts – our entertainment properties bring cricket, celebrities and videos closer to this young audience; while products like the new Flickr place the photograph at the centre of the experience and allow users to store as many photos as they want to with a 1 Terabyte free storage. As you know, our focus is to get mobile-first products to the market. We are building not just some award winning apps like the Weather, but are also focused on going deeper and delivering wow mobile experiences.

MediAvataar: How is yahoo looking at India post the makeover in the coming years?

Nitin: India is an incredibly important emerging market for Yahoo. For two reasons – one is the size of the Internet population, it has today crossed over a 100 million and is estimated to reach over 230 miilion by 2015; and the second is that majority users are young, between 15-24 years. It makes this market very exciting for us – and we definitely want to grow our engagement with users here.

Our strong focus on Mobile is a core vector in India, focused on communications, entertainment & sports. You’ve seen how India has taken to mobile, across cities and towns. In urban India, the move towards smartphones and connected devices has been tremendous. Yahoo’s vision is to make our users’ daily habits more inspiring and entertaining, and to that end offering rich, cross-screen experiences is a game changer  in India. Take Yahoo Cricket as an example. This property is available as native apps across iOS, Android and Windows 8. The experience that you get through the apps is rich and immersive. Be it match commentary, live scorecards and beautiful visuals – these apps keep you connected to the game. In the last one year, Yahoo Cricket has seen a 3X growth in its mobile traffic. It just goes to show that we need to continue with the momentum on the platform shift that is taking place in this country.

The Yahoo network overall sees around 50 percent of its traffic come in via mobile; and this number is likely to increase in the near future.

On advertising front, digital is still playing catch-up to more conventional forms of advertising in India. Today, spend on digital is a slim slice of the overall ad spend pie – not more than 5-7 percent. This shows tremendous potential – waiting to be unlocked – given the global average stands at 20 percent. We are seeing brands making slow but deliberate moves towards digital. Yahoo is focusing on creating holistic digital brand solutions, so that advertisers are able to tap the potential of the medium beyond just a bunch of banner ads. As this momentum picks up further, we are definitely going to see a lot more happening in digital advertising in India.

MediAvataar: Video consumption is high in India. What are Yahoo’s ambitions in this front?

Nitin: Online video consumption is definitely on the rise in India. We believe our strength lies in offering original, premium, licensed content to users which is directly sourced from content producers. Yahoo Screen which is the third most visited video destination in India today, offers premium original content across different genres News, Sports, Lifestyles, Movies, Celebrities amongst others – sourced from over 40 content partners. You will find the destination uncluttered, easy to navigated, and completely free from any pirated content. Content discovery is easy, as it is editorially programmed to surface the most popular and interesting videos. The destination uses adaptive framing technology to support users connecting with low bandwidth to be able to view the videos without buffering.

Video is not limited to only Yahoo Screen, it is integrated a horizontal experience across all our properties, as it is a highly engaging format.  We will continue to invest in delivering engaging, immersive experiences for our users in India.

MediAvataar: What is Yahoo’s mobile strategy for Indian market and its offerings for the new age connected consumer – products, apps, key mobile.

Nitin: Mobile Internet is rapidly growing in India, and mobile apps are a natural outcome of this. Today we have around 90 million Mobile Internet users, which is slated to double by 2015. Given that only 10 percent of the actual mobile subscribers base is on Mobile Internet, the opportunities and potential for growth on mobile are tremendous.

At Yahoo, our priority is to get our products and services closer to our users.  We are focused on just developing new apps, but delivering inspiring product experiences on the mobile platform. To give you an example, our app for Yahoo Mail on tablets takes into account the inherent magazine-like experience of the device, and offers a totally ‘unboxed’ experience for the user.  The Yahoo Cricket app offers a rich experience which keeps the user connected to a live match experience –the app doesn’t just publish scores, but captures every nuance of the game to give a life-like experience to the user.

The Yahoo Weather app, which recently won an Apple design award, not just informs you about the weather – but actually helps you ‘see’ it. With photographs from Flickr’s Project Weather combined with authentic weather information, and beautiful information display – it delivers an amazing, uncluttered experience. I have often found users flipping through the weather app, just to view the beautiful slides rather than to just check the temperature or rain. Now thats the kind of ‘a-ha’ engagement we are aiming to deliver with our products.

Similarly for our content experiences, we are making them rich, immersive and seamless across devices. There has actually been a 54 per cent YoY (December 2011 to Dec 2012) growth in mobile users on Yahoo India network.

In each category, what sets Yahoo apps apart is that they are built to deliver not just features, but a certain inspiring experience. We will continue to innovate in this space, and launch some amazing mobile experiences in India.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 00:00

Through the Lens of the Digital World

The Digital industry has grown from mere 30mn users to over 100 mn. With this growth marketers are evolving and now know how to use the digital medium for their brands, though there is still scope of improvement with this adoption, as some marketers are still dubious on selecting advertising on digital or mobile. The marketer today is on the web consuming content and is engaging deeper to meet every touch-point of a customer on various digital mediums. However, brands seem to be hesitant in exhaustively leveraging this medium for advertising themselves. With generation Y virtually living their lives across gadget technologies of e-smart phones and tablets, there is an era arriving, eventually, that is ready to surpass the entire cycle of desktop and laptops as they already have access to tablets. We can relate to this on the similar skip cycle that happened when our generation directly embraced mobile phones vis-à-vis pagers. Such is the fast pervasive pace in which our digital world is moving.

Today, dramatic evolution of technology is changing the way consumers are adopting new age devices at a rapid pace, thereby providing brands with the challenge to effectively tap the entire spectrum of mobile, tablet and digital platforms. Earlier till 2006 the marketing techniques were, essentially, to select few horizontal portals and do some rich media ads. Marketers found them good enough as most of the consumer traffic used to visit a particular site for all the required information to be up-to-date in news, finance, auto or entertainment. But over a period of time the consumer mindset has an eagle’s eye view to understand that the requirement now is much wider! For e.g. if consumers need information on cars they will go to vertical portals related to cars. If someone needs bank or insurance related information they would visit a webpage on finance and not a horizontal site. Hence it is very important to know where your target audiences are and then advertise accordingly. Thanks to smarter technologies like ‘Retargeting’ that not only helps extract details of users who have shown interest in your product but also lets you get details of those who haven’t bought or those who landed on your website or Brand page.

Essentially the three main platforms of digital medium are-

•Social Media- Facebook and Twitter have played a significant role in driving the overall digital spends and not having them as part of your outreach will hamper your marketing strategy in a big way. A quick comparison throws interesting facts on how time spend by marketers on making their TVC is significantly higher than a Facebook advertisement. Some of the largest brands taking notice of this fact, has ensured that the true power of social media and digital advertising is in fact effectively utilized to target the right set of consumers.

•Mobile- Today, mobile has not only replaced viewing content on the web but it has replaced camera, mp3 players and gaming device too. The power of mobile is yet to be exploited completely in India. If we analyse, the biggest of the digital and social media companies started as desktop services but over a period of time moved to the mobile medium as the consumer transforms at a much faster rate than what we assume. The world has moved to all kinds of apps, be it news, games, entertainment or social media. The below data shows Facebook usage on smartphones:

•Video- When Google bought YouTube in 2006 the entire world had a question mark on watching video content online,  but the reality seen today is that consumers not only view video on desktops or laptops but even on their smart phones and tablets. In fact technology has transformed lives to the extent that consumers can now watch a 2 hours long movie online, without any buffering, due to an increasing broadband bandwidth. Hence it is very important for marketers to be present where their consumers are. But why will a user engage with the communications which he or she has seen a thousand times on the television? It is very important to have a communication which is specially created for online, as it will draw more attention from the user as they haven’t seen it anywhere else. Hence we see that viral works well on digital as we like to share something that is unique and not seen by all.

Authored by: Pritesh Patel, MD- India & Middle East- Komli Media

Digital media is changing the way political parties interact with voters bridging the gap like never before. Given today's era of increasing social media usage, and growing internet penetration due to increased usage of smartphones on the one hand and saturation of traditional mediums on the other, digital media offers the perfect platform for political parties to reach audiences worldwide. The use of digital and social media increases the reach of communication efforts and allows targeting the advocacy and tailoring it as per the audiences marketers/campaigners are trying to reach. Digital media strategies are now part of the overall campaign briefs, and parties are spending an increasing amount of time and resources in digital marketing. The growing use of digital media accentuates its potent role in influencing voters and their behavior.

2014 Lok Sabha elections were the first social media election for 1.2 billion strong India with the advent of Social Media giants in India, namely Facebook and Twitter, whose users run into million from urban areas to rural areas.

Social media in 2014 India has emerged as a frontrunner in terms of Marketing and PR communications especially in the arena of politics, an area which has traditionally been predominantly dependent of modes of promotion such as television, print, radio, rallies etc. This trend was started by U.S. President Barrack Obama himself who emerged as the First Social Media President. His party adopted the now popular strategy of Crowdsourcing via different vehicles of social media for the presidential campaign in 2008.

India, which boasts of more than 200 million Internet users is especially poised for a big social media revolution. The demographic of young and mobile urban dwellers who are socially engaged, makes for the highest Twitter and Facebook usage in the world, outside of the United States, according to Alexa Internet.

Social Media had assimilated nationally into the Indian politics/election scenario much before the 2014 LokSabha elections, with the leading parties like AAP, Congress, BJP being the frontrunners and championing the cause months before the actual elections. More importantly, the impact of social/digital media is not limited only to direct access. Conversations seeded online finding their way into mainstream media, and get read, seen and discussed in every nook & corner of the country.

During the 15th Lok Sabha elections, a lot of attention was paid to conversations on social media, measuring which politicians were trending in search volume and counting retweets and followers. The first-time voters, many of whom form part of the 'connected' generation - numbered around 150 million this year, and most parties took steps to reach out to voters online and on social media.

Social networking giant Facebook said that 29 million people in India made 227 million interactions through posts, comments, shares, and likes about the elections from the day they were announced. Fanbase of leading political leaders increased with the onset of their digital campaign and during the elections. Also, according to Facebook, between the day the elections were announced, and the counting day, 29 million people made 227 million poll-related interactions (posts, comments, shares, and likes).

Even in Tier II cities, social media played an important role in reaching out to people. Even in remote areas, the reach of the Internet, no matter how limited, helped voters obtain information, not only about their favourite candidate, but the entire elections on a larger level.

Coming down to a more localized example we should have a look at the 2014 state elections in Maharashtra wherein the trend hasn’t just intensified but gone completely in a Global-Village mode wherein the concerned top players are out with Social media guns blazing and full armory of tweeting, posting, retweeting, checking for followers, blogging and enticing the voters in every manner possible. There were some very interesting social media strategies that were used by electioneers for the recent state elections in Maharashtra with a balance of realistic, bitter sweet and sometimes funny shades of messaging. We saw many interesting hashtags come up on Twitter one of which was #JhootheDin trend by critics of PM Modi. A parody of BJP’s ‘Ache din Campaign’ #JhootheDin has been trending on twitter during the Maharasthra elections. Others trending were #mahaverdict, #voteforbjp,#ivoteforcongress.

Nowadays, parties aren’t just harping on the good work accomplished by them but are also bringing the opposition’s mistakes to light by using social media platforms as their tool. And not to leave any stones unturned their social media strategy also has the shades of guerilla warfare wherein the strategists are now using Crowdsourcing to make their voters more involved and give them a sense of ownership in decision making. Let’s see some instances of the good, the bad and the ace in the pack.

The social media strategies very much depend on integration and interconnectedness of campaigns across platforms. Internet, mobiles and text messages are significant promoters of word of mouth, internet especially has a wildfire effect in terms of spreading the message. People at the receiving end quickly become accustomed to communicating with peers or groups of people via text from an electronic device and get engaged in the conversation trail.

Lately social media strategists and Electioneers have picked up this trend and are using applications like Twitter & Whatsapp as one of the favored tools to relay information. The interesting thing to take in account is that more and more of these messages/promotions are laced with either subtle ironical humor which is witty and satirical or in some instances they are in-your-face. Videos, memes, push messages with carefully created content are bombarded to the youth and others. Since the accessibility to social media applications such as Whatsapp and Twitter is so easy thanks to the tablets, smart phones etc. these two are leading the pack as the chosen mediums of promotion with numbers like 18.1Million users and 500Million users respectively. This data is closely followed by Facebook, Instagram (including the latest selfie trend) and other sites.

The most noteworthy reason for social media creating a strong ground for political campaigns is because it allows politicians to talk directly and efficiently with voters, this trend is here to stay and grow exponentially. Facebook and Twitter reach thousands of people yet still feel very personal. The conversational tone of social media means politicians can come across with more human touch and closer approach than traditional media or their opponents might portray them, messages are customized as per desired audience.

Authored by: Vinish Kathuria, COO, Digital Quotient.


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