This food-delivery startup just got serious about social media marketing (​and why you should too!)

After we released Zoho Social last month, I’ve been talking to a lot of customers, replying to love and hate emails, helping them set up their accounts and what not. It’s fun helping small businesses get better at social media marketing!

Get serious about social media marketing

Last weekend, I was looking forward to meeting someone at my favorite cafe. No, this wasn’t about work. It was about food! A young entrepreneur who started a food-delivery business right after he graduated got in touch with me over Twitter. He said he was meeting some foodies in the city over the last couple of weeks and wanted to meet me to talk about my favorite food joints in the city. Well, that tells you a thing or two about me. 😉

He mentioned how his idea turned into reality, and he’s been growing his business month-by-month with word-of-mouth and zero ads. I found that it was commendable for a 24-year-old to bootstrap such a business and do well for himself. He keeps his regular customers happy in a Whats App group by offering special deals and discounts sent only in the group. Smart!

Soon after we spoke about Zoho and how we do marketing, he asked me how he can leverage “content marketing” and use social media to reach out to existing customers and their networks. Especially because social media is free!

Nothing is free though, especially not social media. There’s an opportunity cost to it, apart from the time and energy that you need to learn and do any marketing activity.

I asked him a question – “How do you think social media can help you?” He said, “it’s a medium to reach out and engage with existing as well as new customers”. What he said wasn’t wrong, just that I wanted him to think of the big picture. We left the coffee shop after each one of us had finished 2 Iced Caffè Lattes each, over a long discussion on social media marketing strategy for small businesses and, of course, food. :)

Businesses that are serious about social media don’t believe in gimmicks or discount codes and for their social media is a part of sales, marketing, customer support and other functions of the business. Like every other form of marketing, social media has evolved over the years. Even for large brands, it’s not just about buying Twitter trends or running a contest on your favorite social media network. Your target audience most likely won’t fall for it and you shouldn’t be doing it unless of course you’re crazy about absolute numbers alone.

Those who *get* social media right, listen to what’s being talked about them, their competitors and the industry. They follow and engage with customers, have a well-defined content strategy to drive relationship with those who matter (targeting is the key) and do interesting stuff which expands beyond the horizon of online engagement (social media has an interesting offline-online angle that I would talk about in another post). Social media isn’t just about broadcasting (well, even email marketing isn’t that anymore. Times have changed!)

From a mere follower count/page likes war to a full circle social media plan, today, social media is more strategic than ever before.

Social is personal. Think of it – your brand is intruding into my Facebook timeline where I am looking at pictures and messages from my friends and family. You better have something good for me to follow you, no?

At the core social media marketing is about 3 activities;

  1. Listening to what people are saying (about you, your business, your competition, your market)
  2. Engaging with those who matter on social networks (not by pushing your agenda or product information, but by offering value). It could be an invite to a closed-group event that the audience is passionate about, or a secret sauce that could help the reader, or it could even be a limited time offer for a relevant group of people).
  3. Having goals and measuring performance at regular intervals. The key is not to be crazy about numbers, but the quality of content that goes out and the engagement that it drives.

One can do this on many social networks, but you’re good if you start with the popular ones.But I run a very small businesses and I do not have the bandwidth to do ALL of this!

OK, start small. Consolidate your efforts. Use automation (and intervene periodically to give a personal touch). At least, get started. :-)

I’m glad this discussion helped him revisit his social media strategy and streamline his efforts for social media marketing. It’s fun to meet passionate business owners, listen to their story and help them grow their businesses as we grow ours. What’s your social media marketing strategy? What’s stopping you from starting with the three core activities?

I’ll soon be talking about more ways to get started with social media marketing for your business. For now, you can start by signing up for Zoho Social and trying it out. It’s designed for and is being used by businesses just like yours. :-)

Image courtesy: Darice Vuong

This post was originally published on the Zoho blog. Check it out for interesting stories around smart software for growing businesses.

Wonder how bookmakers make money?

With WorldCup 2015, visits to Ladbrokes would have possibly gone up! In my teens, I used to wonder how does online betting work? One weekend I sat down to understand the mathematics of bookmaking. :)

I stumbled on this article on Gizmodo about online betting and it seems it’s quite a phenomenon these days, where a lot of people all over the world eager to make a few bucks while watching their favorite sport. Thanks to technology, betting on your favorite team is easier since winnings are deposited directly into a user’s bank account.

What’s interesting is – being a bookmaker may look like a simple job, since what they do is just get the money out of people and wait for the results of the game. However, in reality, it is a very complicated job that requires a lot of studying and statistics. Also, patience.

For example, in horse racing events such as the Grand National, each coach makes sure that their horses are in top condition. The coaches ensure that they’re knowledgeable about the other horses, the jockeys that ride them, and the possible weather condition of the date of the race. For sure, each coach has done hours and hours of research just to gain an advantage over the other. The same rules apply when it comes to bookmakers and their competitors. I won’t call it an easy job!

Bookmakers are like clients inside an auction house. Everyone’s waiting to make the first bet, or in this case odds, for an event. Taking baby steps, bookmakers will try to set odds for certain betting markets based on collected facts about a horse’s performance history, current condition, jockey’s information, and a lot more. They will also make their team of math experts formulate the prices based on the punter sentiment. The opinions of sports experts are also considered since they have the capability to sway the minds of the public. Well, that’s how it is with every other game though, no?

The bookmakers’ margin (the window where their profits will be determined) is actually the net return that they’d get over the long term. The odds change as the date of the event draws closer.

Let’s take a look at an example.

Horse Paul 1.67
Horse Marquez 2.44

The bookmaker’s margin here can be obtained by adding the reciprocal of the odds. (1/1.67 + 1/2.44 = 100%)

For example, if a $6,535 bet was placed on Horse Paul and a $4,219 bet was placed on Horse Marquez, no matter the outcome, the bookmaker would earn around $752. Since a total amount of $10,754 was bet on the event, the bookmaker’s total revenue at the turnover would be 7% ($752/$10,754).

This is how bookmakers make money, and the prices for each betting category can change when they reduce or increase their prices based on factors that may affect the outcome of the event. Interesting, isn’t it? Well, something to pick my brain on a weekend. :-)

How does ‘Showrooming’ help eCommerce?

Have you ever walked into a store – looking for a pair of shoes, headphones or a microwave oven – and popped out your smartphone to compare the prices online? Well, I have started doing that way too often – experience offline, research and buy online.

My friend Annkur, who runs PriceBaba.com targets customers who research online and buy offline. But that doesn’t work for me, much. However, the fact that he’s doing well for himself shows that there are enough people who choose this route!

I am a fan of Tom Fishburne’s marketoons and earlier this year, he published one titled – Showrooming.

130121.showroomingThat’s exactly how I am when it comes to experiencing retail. I know it’s sad, but I look at it in a different way. It’s an evolution and retailers need to address this in a better way – offer a better experience offline, if not a better price. More than anything else it’s a marketing problem!

In India, it’s very rare that the in-store experience is good enough to swipe my card at the store, unless of course there is a dire sense of urgency, or a better price available (which is rare). For a lot of things including electronics, clothes, groceries and books (for gifts, I use a Kindle for myself – I prefer to shop online. The reason are pretty straightforward – better pricing, great return policy (esp. with Myntra and Flipkart) and convenience of ordering it online.

Additionally, one great thing about online shopping is the availability of discount coupons. I usually find them at one of the coupon sites. Recently, I tried Flipit for recharging a mobile connection on Paytm and I liked their interface. In the past, I got some good discount coupons for eBay on CouponDunia. There are bunch of such sites that let you save an additional 5-15% when you use the coupon.

Having said that, I still prefer to buy a Bose or an Apple product off the stores (In India, they’re apple retailers, not official stores but still!) – just because I like experiencing these products at the store and it’s difficult to resist the urge of walking out of the store with the product I am sold on. Ordering it online and waiting for another 2-3 days to get it is a clear no in such cases.

On a related note, here’s a nice deck on The Zero Moment of Truth

ZMOT: Zero Moment of Truth from Douglas Karr

It’ll be an interesting trend to watch how offline stores save themselves from showrooming. What’s your take on that?

Lightweight laptop backpack for those on the go – STM Impulse

I am a sucker for productivity apps and tools. As much as I love carrying over a dozen tools, cables, adapters and my 11K mAh (yes, you read it right!) battery pack with me, I try to make sure that I have the right laptop bag before I step out. Yeah, I have a fetish for bags – if there is one store than I’d stop by in a mall, it’s got to be the one which has bags on display!

For the past few months, I have been alternating between STM Revolution, STM Velo and a backpack from Samsonite. While STM Revolution is my all-time favorite backpack, I was looking at something which is smaller in size and lighter in weight – for days when I do not need to carry a lot of stuff. Something that is good enough to throw in the *must haves* and step out without much load on the back. I quite liked STM Impulse Backpack and thought of checking it out.

Fast forward a few weeks and I received a STM Impulse Backpack. I decided to go for the black, medium size bag. Packed in a shiny cellophane wrap, the tag & branding caught my attention, once again. The bag is lightweight – perfect to carry your Macbook Air, iPad, Kindle and a bunch of cables without hurting your back, while you’re on the road.

Continue reading

Mailbox for iPhone didn’t impress me much!

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Today morning, I was lucky to get access to the MailBox app. There’s so much that a queue to get something and good reviews for the same, can do to you!

Mailbox is a nice email app, but nothing revolutionary, as I expected. After having used it for a day, I realise that it’s better marketed than built or conceived as a product! Early access to a ‘few’ folks, brilliant idea of reserving the app in advance and all that topped with the icing that allows you to download and keep looking at the ticker! This game looked very interesting, in a good sense.

However, while there was so much noise about this app ‘changing’ the way we’ll handle email, I realised that it is for a certain ‘kind’ of users. They’re definitely not the ones who have considerably high volume of emails coming in.

Not just that, it tries to mix the task app and the email app, which for me, serve very different purposes. I would instead wish for an excellent integration between the two. Not a replacement of either.

Reminds me of John Gruber, who rightly said that this app has a different target audience, those who are very gmail centric and have one email address.

I would agree with John on the fact that this won’t replace the Mail.app on iPhone for me. I love labels, folders and the ability to ‘manage’ email.

Bryan on Pandodaily correctly calls it a ‘feature’, not a product!

If you love giving away the control of your email and hide behind the curtain of procrastination fabricated within a good UI, you must try this app. :-)

Here’s an interesting conversation I had with Tim Van Damme (@maxvoltar) of Instagram and Chris Herbert (@hrbrt) from MacWorld, on what they feel about Mailbox. Turns out that Tim is liking it for his personal email!

Twitter conversation - Mailboxapp

Delivering Un-happiness!

Last year, a friend of mine recommended me a book – “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. Entrepreneurs who run an eCommerce business would have read it at least once, if not more. But I know of some, who I guess, haven’t.

I want to order a copy each for those who run Zoomin and FloraIndia!

In the last 4 years, eCommerce stores have mushroomed in India at a never before pace, supposedly making our lives easier. Personally, I love this shift and believe that it’s a solution to multiple problems (We can talk about them, some other time).

From the time when using credit cards on the Internet was a nasty affair, to having Cash On Delivery as a payment option, today – we have come a long way. However, the eCommerce companies that are making this a bumpy ride for customers are the sorts I just mentioned. (Oh, I am REALLY serious about getting their postal addresses, for a hard-cover!)

Last week, it was a birthday of someone in the family and I ordered a photo frame from Zoomin and some flowers from Flora India. Little did I know (as if!) these two will conspire together to give an unpleasant experience and hence, make me rant about them! Continue reading

Closing down Media Redefined – Why? and What’s next?

We declared Media Redefined as closed, a few hours ago. I was swamped with questions asking me – Why? and What’s next?  I decided to use long form of writing to put down my thoughts.

It has been a challenging and eventful journey of little less than 4 years at Media Redefined. Bringing on new business and delivering value, working with our favorite brands across domains, hiring & building some of the best talent in the social media space, making more friends than enemies and letting the waist size increase from 32 to 36 – it was a magical and enlightening package!

But, just as they say – All good things come to an end, so does the agency Media Redefined.

What started with 2 of my best friends I ever made on the Internet, moved on to be one of the known businesses in the Social Media fraternity. I am grateful to more number of people than I can possibly mention here. They all know it. But, Gaurav and Honey deserve a special mention.

Starting the business out of a garage and bunking college to mark my attendance at work, was not so funny. It was about time when I decided to let go the job offer I secured at the college campus placement to become a businessman. In case you’re a student and if you are getting carried away by this post, you must read this.

So, why did we decide to close it?

  1. I stopped seeing longevity in the business. We were clocking similar revenues for the last 2 years and it did not seem to change for good in the near future. The cost of entry to this business was getting lower every year and the ticket value going down.
  2. In India, social media continues to be just the icing on the cake when it comes to marketing, which I was always interested in. The way it is looked up by both – brands and agencies, the evolution is very slow and naive.
  3. No matter what, Social Media – the way it’s done in India, is monotonous and more often than not, executes in silo. Integrated marketing, Social web innovation, Influencer relations, etc. continue to be buzz words and only a few brands believe whole-heartedly in them. Most brands are afraid to ‘be’ social. Instead, they spend money to ‘do’ social media.
  4. For many, it’s just about content publishing on Facebook, Twitter and now Pinterest and Instagram. Of course with good creatives and images. It’s challenging for a social media agencies to showcase the power of social web across all functions – marketing, sales, customer service, segmentation, influencer relations, etc.
  5. We were strong at technology and understood metrics pretty well. That’s when we decided to build Dokito, a social media analytics product. We released that internally and have used it with our clients for over 6 months. However, due to infrastructure, scalability and resource issues – we couldn’t launch it for public yet. Yes, it’s difficult to ensure profitability in a service business and along side, ship a product.

What’s next?

It’s been a lovely experience of being unemployed for nearly a month since I decided to move on. It’s a great feeling. I wish I could live like this for more – may be not!

This was more like a rejuvenation before I get into a new role, very soon. The new hat shall have Product Marketing inscribed on it. More details, soon. I am hopeful that it would be interesting and challenging enough to keep me happy.

No matter what, I would miss all the fun and learning I had at Media Redefined.

P.S. For those asking about the assets associated with Media Redefined, we were contacted by a few buyers to buy the name and assets associated with Media Redefined. We decided to go ahead with an offer from a known internet entrepreneur in the U.S. who prefers not to be named as of now. Media Redefined and some of the associated digital assets are now sold.

Update: After exploring & evaluating all the opportunities, I’ve decided to join Zoho.com as Manager – Product Marketing. I shall be telecommuting from Delhi.

Zoho.com offers a comprehensive suite of award-winning online business, productivity & collaboration applications. Zoho.com is a division of Zoho Corporation, a privately-held and profitable company. With offices in CA, Austin, Chennai, Yokohama and Beijing, Zoho Corporation serves the technology needs of more than 6 million customers worldwide.