India Trending topics
Marketing, Strategy

Are Facebook updates and Tweets equal to Mass media popularity

Over the past few months, I have been trying to gauge if yesterday night’s top program was indeed on twitter or not, in its Trending topics section I mean. As an example, Sunday Night’s top Program in Mumbai was the Champions Trophy final, billed as the last clash between Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Empirically, the correlation stands. Even at 7.45 AM on Monday, these programs were on Trending topics of twitter. Check it out –

mass media to twitter trends

Trending topics on Twitter and correlation to Mass media spends

The real question here is – Can & should mass media be swayed by the “socially” active programs? Should mass media advertisers truly ascertain value to such twitter trending topic presence or Facebook Trend presence? Lets look at both sides of the coin here –

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Public Issues, Web

Controversies and social media – how to react?

The year 2010 will be remembered for its controversies that has put the ruling government in particular and the nation in general under considerable distress. It started with the Commonwealth Games scam, then the Adarsh scam that has forced a Chief Minister of Maharashtra to resign and now has reached newer heights with the 2G spectrum allocation scam. So much so that the INC president had to comment about the same in a function –

We are right to celebrate our high rate of economic growth. We must do all that we can to sustain it. However, let us not forget that growth is not an end in itself. Much more important to my mind is what kind of society we aspire to be, and the values on which it should be built. Our economy may increasingly be dynamic, but our moral universe seems to be shrinking. Prosperity has increased but so has social conflict. Intolerance of various kinds is growing. Graft and greed are on the rise. The principles on which independent India was founded, for which a generation of great leaders fought and sacrificed their all, are in danger of being negated.

Whats been most interesting is the way these scandals have reverberated in the new tool in the hands of (mostly) affluent Indians – social media . A recent Rediff article about 10 ways to fight corruption had a discussion board that has readers commenting about issues right from the Government’s moral right to rule the country to how nothing concrete will happen out of these scandals. On Twitter, #BarkhaGate has been a trending topic for more than 48 hours now. Barkha Dutt is a popular person on twitter and she has been constantly trying to answer(?) pretty acidic tweets directed at her over the weekend.

BarkhaGate on Twitter

Trending topic on Twitter - BarkhaGate

While social media is viral, realtime and often the quickest mode of communication, there are some issues with controversies arising in the social media. What if the anti-social elements of the society try to malign a clean individual using this medium? There is a danger that a reputation built very carefully over the years could be irrevocably damaged due to a social media spat. Besides there is a risk that if the vibes going around social media are rumors, one can lose his/her own reputation in one’s social circle if one has shared something about that issue…

Clearly, while referring and using social media is great, the reputation of the source needs to be taken into consideration as well in this context. Simply retweeting or resharing should be avoided in the context of a controversy, else you run the risk of flowing with the ‘popular’ current which may have a crushing impact on an honest individual/firm in question.

To conclude, social media is revolutionary in some respects, but give some importance to the credibility of the source before sharing something in your social circle.

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Public Issues, Web

Humans, Social media and Schadenfreude

Cross posted on Superchooha blog.


When it comes to Human behavior enough is never enough.  One of the most  interesting traits of  human behaviour is situations we tend to find comfort and solace in. More then the situation its the conversation that happens that has a pacifying effect -but then conversation do not necessarily have to be relevant.  History has it that nothing is as pleasurable then watching your best friends fail at things – while I tend to disagree with that there have been cases where if not friends, but yes people have derived utmost pleasure from incidents absolutely irrelevant to them.

Welcome to whole a new world of human behavior – “Schadenfreude”

Here is a classic explanation of the german word – (More details here)

Schadenfreude — by Si Frumkin

Germans have a way with words. They created words that other languages simply do not have.

Schadenfreude takes 7 English words to define it: “malicious satisfaction in the misfortunes of others”. The dictionary explains it with a quote from historian Peter Gay — who felt Schadenfreude as a Jewish child in Nazi-era Berlin, watching the Germans lose coveted gold medals in the 1936 Olympics; he said that it “can be one of the great joys of life.”

Now picture this – 50 Million tweets per day. 60 Million Status Updates on Facebook  PER DAY.  Clearly we live in a world where reviews are written before a movie release, debates are held on naming of a product, and kids are named before a couple even has sex.

On a serious note, we are surrounded by opinions –  Good,bad,neutral and extreme,soft, hard. Opinions of every kind.  Thanks to the ease that platforms like twitter and facebook have provided to voice one’s opinion. While these tools have enabled companies to interact with their end customers by tracking their views about their brand, there have been cases where these opinions have created lead to PR nightmares. The human tendency of replicating negative emotion more vehemently over the positive one is not unknown any more.

For instance the Cleartrip Kiruba Incident (Cleartrip’s  Stand and Kiruba’s Stand ) was a issue between a company and a normal customer but the fact that Kiruba’s single tweet reached 1000’s of timelines and was further retweeted n number of times required the CEO of the company Hrush to step in and explain every action over a blogpost. Amidst all this close to 40 twitter updates were made that literally crucified Cleartrip for no good reason.  For some reason people RTed Kiruba’s tweet, while some enjoyed the drama – Amidst all this Cleartrip was defamed. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing but what the heck- people RTed whatever little they knew about the acutal story. Damage beyond repair was done to Cleartrip.

Chetanblock -Another classic example where people drew pleasure from a conversation between Chetan Bhagat and Fly youfools. Consequences – #chetanblocks trended for almost a day on twitter. Some body went on the extent of buying a domain What next – they now intend to make tshirts saying #chetanblocks. All this while hundred’s of people used the hashtag #chetanblocks and thousands of tweets were  exchanged with very few people actually understanding what happened.

While there a dozen other stories where brands have been crucified, people have started deriving sadistic pleasure out of this trend of defaming. I still believe that most of the people don’t actually read facts before they actually share a negative opinion, without actually understanding the consequences their actions might have. They just do it. And yes as a friend of mine puts it – Sadistic pleasure is better then the real version of pleasure. Welcome to the world, the world you live in surrounded by Schadenfreude

I am no expert at understanding the human psychology but then yes Humans are Humans and social media platforms are no exceptional places for them to behave differently.

The next time you retweet a negative thought or share one on FB, for a moment put yourself in the shoes of the brand manager of the brand and ask yourself – Is this what I actually signed up for – To give justifications to people who believe that their brand is bad.  Food for thought.

From my personal experiences on twitter and facebook

Vivek Khandelwal

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Business, Technology, Web

What next -Social Search ?


We live in a world connected better than ever before – An era where   wireless and broadband have enabled seamless connectivity powering creating and sharing of information never experienced before.  Accessing or searching information no more continues to challenge people. It is the filtering mechanism that is drawing more attention. Thanks to the endless information created every second, information consumption and not information seeking is the new question

Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other tools of mass content creating have been contributing to the web mountains of data at a rate more faster than they can understand / rank/ index them.  Amongst this information explosion what would be interesting to observe is the information seeking behavior and how the end user adapts or adepts to the millions of links thrown after every search made.

The year 2006 saw close to 2.7 billion searches on Google. By 2008 this number grew by over 1000% to cross 30 billion searches on Google.

The post Google era clearly had simplified information accessibility for the end user but the question that pops up is that during this time what were people using to search for information ?. In fact an interesting question to ponder over is how was information sought in B.G (before Google)era. Possible easily accessible resources to everybody were –

  1. Friends
  2. Family
  3. Extended Family and Friends

Referring to one’s network was something that everybody did as they sought answers to their queries – a trend that is starting to revive. People are exchanging information in real time and with tools like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Aardvark the idea of seeking knowledge from a person instead of a link in real time is gaining traction. And here is the reason why this this trend is here to stay –

  1. spaceballBetter Connectivity –   We live in an over connected world where people at one point of time are logged onto to multiple platforms- including IM, Twitter, Facebook . In fact as people are spending more and more time online , getting connected to a knowledge expert is simpler using tools like Getafixx, which allows users to interact with experts rather than surfing through static content.
  2. Easier Information Consumption – Since the core motive of social search is to connect people to experts, there is no  bombardment of information, no overflow of millions of links –Meaning lesser spam.  Simplified information seeking path ensures that only relevant and accurate information reaches the user.
  3. Everybody can share – The concept of wisdom of crowds distinctly states that everybody is an expert at something.  The most important part of social search is identification of knowledge experts – and as users identify their expertise,  the system would validate their expertise by taking into account their contribution as experts.

Loaded with most of the features mentioned above- Getafixx is our first attempt to introduce the concept of Social Search over their IM. A gtalk bot that allows you to connect to knowledge experts and share it with others.

While the mechanism of seeking information is changing, the concept of social search and getafixx adds value to the entire process as it keeps interaction as its core objective – a feature that Web Search compensated with spam information. The next version of web search would predominantly be dominated by Social Search, for people are searching for people.

Search – a feature of the web that has evolved on the lines of Darwin’s theory – nearing perfection all the time now needs to be redefined.  Or maybe it’s time again to search for the right people

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Business, Strategy, Technology, Web

Innovation and Twitter’s growing eco-system

Abhishek woke up around 9 this morning. He was rather tensed about his impending CREST quiz. I wished him best of luck for it. At 6pm I came to know that it didn’t go too well. Even though we are classmates at IIM Calcutta, I have not seen or spoken to him once in the last 2 weeks. So how do I know every detail of what he has been up to? The answer in one word is – Twitter.Twitter

Twitter has been labelled anything from a micro-blogging application to a continuous presence notifier to a viral, social instant messaging client. It is all of these and more. Twitter has exploited the comfort SMS created amongst the general tech-savvy populace in the usage of texting lingo. Its 140 character post limit encourages to-the-point communication, often supplemented by the compression conveniences of texting lingo like “c u l8er” (see you later) and “CAM” (Cannot agree more). It is sometimes described as the “SMS of the Internet” since the use of Twitter’s application programming interface for sending and receiving short text messages by other applications often eclipses the direct use of Twitter.

However, over the last 2 years or so, not a lot has changed at Twitter. The only modifications to Twitter’s interface have risen from the community before being adopted by the platform. The @reply method in Twitter was not created by them, users did it. Again, users created the # tag system as well, not Twitter. Twitter’s API (application programming interface) is what drives growth and change.  The API allows 3rd parties to create their own applications, and there are now hundreds – if not thousands – of Twitter tools, clients, and add-ons, and usage of the API is more than 20 times that of the actual site. To view the most creative innovations in Twitter from the last couple of years, one only needs to look outside the company, to related third-party applications or services that have cropped up using the Twitter platform.

TweetDeck is a desktop client for checking on a user’s Twitter stream during the day; it’s infinitely more efficient than the company’s own clunky site. Stock news can often be checked through StockTwits. Links can be shortened using or another shortening service, which Twitter now uses to compress links into its 140 character scheme of things. Yet all these helpful innovations have emanated from outside Twitter’s confines.

In some ways, network effects for most software, as we see historically in the case of Microsoft’s Windows OS platform, are driven by getting others to work on tools that make more users dependent on a platform.

Twitter thrives on its ecosystem–the army of users and programmers and designers that are coming up with ways to make the Twitter experience more fulfilling. There is even a database at to document the list of Twitter applications. Here are a few of the most popular Twitter-based applications.

  • Twipic: an app that lets users share pictures on Twitter. Users can post pictures to TwitPic from their phone, Twipic’s API, or through the site itself.
  • Tweetdeck: is a Twitter app that streamlines notifications and tweets.
  • Digsby: an application that centralizes e-mail, IM and social networking accounts into one desktop program.
  • Twitterfeed: offers to automatically tweet posts published on a user’s blog using RSS.
  • Twitterholic: This application lists the top 100 users of Twitter (or hyper-Twitterers, as I call them), ranked by their number of “followers.”
  • Twhirl: is a desktop client for social software connecting to multiple accounts on different social networks
  • Twiturly: tracks and ranks what URLs people are talking about on Twitter.

Companies are changing the way people use Twitter too.  Brands have started using Twitter for marketing & promotions, market research, and customer service. Jet Blue was one of the first companies to adopt Twitter for commercial use, and in addition to using Twitter to market its service and promote deals, they use it as a market research tool to see what people are saying about their company via, and then as a customer service tool by responding via @replies or direct messages to customers.  5 years ago if a customer had a complaint about an airline they would have to call or write to the company. This often involved long response time and shoddy service. With Twitter, a customer may no longer even need to reach out to the airline. He can simply post an update that includes a gripe about their experience, and minutes later a representative from the company would contact him and ask what the problem was and how they can help rectify it. Using Twitter this way not only has the potential to humanize the brand, it replaces worn-out methods of communication with a real-time exchange, and puts the initiative for contact in the hands of the company. Indeed a long way since Jack Dorsey posted “just setting up my twttr” 3 years ago in 2006!

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Strategy, Web

Synergies arising from Facebook – Friendfeed deal

In my earlier post, I wrote about the Bing-Yahoo search deal and how it was beneficial to both parties, with Microsoft potentially reaping bigger benefits over a longer term. Today another important deal happened. Friendfeed, a popular real time microblogging tool – similar, much more advanced in functionality, but much less popular than Twitter, was taken over by Facebook. According to the official friendfeed blog, FriendFeed accepted Facebook’s friend request!

friendfeed-facebookTwitter has taken a step towards making real time search its prime focus with the recent redesign of its homepage. At my first read, it seemed as a move against allowing twitter to run away with the real-time search. Real time search is a big area where a lot of biggies, including top internet VCs are placing their bets on. However, this could even be a long term strategic decision – particularly with Google entering this arena with Wave and a whole community of developers already creating new applications using its APIs. Facebook has anticipated the development that may take place once Wave goes live and has taken steps to strengthen its position – which is a thoughtful management step in my opinion.

Potential mutual benefits of this deal include:

1. Facebook can integrate brilliant friendfeed features like Real time comments. Note that some of the very popular friendfeed features were included later in facebook, but thats another matter altogether.

2. Friendfeed community can benefit due to superior user profiles, facebook apps, friend connect and multimedia features on facebook.

3. Also, the userbase of facebook would imply that friendfeed’s cool features can now reach a wider audience all over the globe.


4. Where facebook can benefit is the perhaps the search functionality as well. I was a semi-active friendfeed user (I have a friendfeed widget on my personal blog even now) , and loved the functionality it offered. Facebook today launched a real time search which promises to change the fundamentals of this upcoming field as well.

Finally, there are already many articles online saying Facebook + friendfeed is a potential twitter killer etc. I don’t quite buy that argument. Facebook offers something unique to its users – an unparalleled social network experience where the unit of social interaction is a ‘friend’, while twitter is a pure implementation of the ‘follow’ model of social interaction. A place where facebook has implemented the Follow model brilliantly is Facebook pages– a topic i covered earlier as well. In my opinion, both services- friendfeed & facebook are amazing and I am sure, the deal will be great for both companies.

One thing for sure, the deal promises a lot and will bring greater pace in the development of the real time search aspect of the web industry.

What do you think of this deal, put in your comments about it right below!

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Strategy, Web

How did Twitter become popular?

Over my next few posts, I am going to write about the businesses Twitter, Wolfram Alpha, Bing, and one of our very Indian platform (let’s leave the name for the future!)


People call it all sorts of things, but I would call it the only real social networking platform of today. Orkut and Facebook have done all sorts of things, but at the end of the day, neither Orkut nor Facebook is actually a networking platform. They are more of the place where you meet your old friends, be happy to be connected with them, and then forget them once more, unless it’s your birthday and they scrap you.

Now, Twitter is different. Twitter is actually a social networking platform. Let me explain each of these words – Platform – because it is extremely basic in its functionality, yet extremely good at it, and does not restrict you unnecessarily. There isn’t much code behind Twitter – it’s code can be written by anyone with basic Web Knowledge. What is great about Twitter is its server and infrastructure at the back end, which ensures that people can login through all sorts of media and still put up their message, and read other messages without the server blowing up.

Now that’s just the beginning. How did Twitter become popular? Twitter grew in steps – very big steps. Initially, Twitter was used just by the techies, and also by bloggers. Techies – because they liked to try new tools, and Bloggers – purely as a marketing technique for their blogs – so if you are a blogger, start following others (and thankfully anyone could follow anyone unlike the endless delays of accepting friends on other networks), and hope they follow you, and then blast them with your blog links. But again, many providers other than Twitter provided this service too. So why did Twitter emerge above others? Simply because it was uncluttered and it did not provide any useless information in the hope of trying to satisfy every need. Also, since Tweeters were not really sharing any personal information, they had the option of being a little more expressive in their opinions.

So Twitter laid its foundation right, and made itself ready for something big to happen on it. And one of those very big things was – 26/11, the Mumbai attacks. This is when Twitter broke all barriers of communication – by giving us first hand information about the attacks. This was really different from a news channel – it was like a live experience (of course, the incident in itself is extremely unfortunate). And it spread like a viral. This was definitely a big leap for Twitter.

The best part of the Twitter platform was that it is not limited by anything. You don’t need specifically a Gmail account, or a Yahoo account, or a Rediff account, there are no restrictions – you just need any one email ID with which you can join Twitter – there are no restrictions for commenting, and it’s so easy to put links without making them look long and ugly!

The next bit is – networking platform – Twitter is one place where you can actually find people you are looking for – A good example would be of the time of the recent Mumbai Rains – I wanted to know the status of affairs in Mumbai – and all I had to do was search for “mumbairains” on Twitter, and it connected me with a whole lot of people who were talking about the issue. This is what networking is all about! Networking is best when you get a channel to communicate (or maybe just listen) to the exact person who can serve the need of the hour.

Finally – it’s a social networking platform – why? Because it is of the people, by the people, and for the people (that should even make it democratic J). It’s got abundant rumours, it has got a whole lot of wrong news spreading like wildfire, it has got a whole lot of personalized opinions by people, and they share it across the world.

The best part for Twitter is that its growth is completely exponential – if ever there is a viral, it is on Twitter, and thus Twitter itself becomes stronger with that – with each viral making users better users of Twitter. Its rank all over the world is 25, and in India it’s growing faster by the day – and is now 15. Now, each time I want to know what’s the most popular news in the world right now, I just log on to Twitter and check the list of most discussed topics on the Right Menu, and get all the information I will ever need!

And of course, it’s as easy as clicking a button to hear out first hand to some of the top stars – Gul Panag and Mallika Sherawat (both have Twitter verified accounts).

Twitter is growing fast – it’s what a lot of B School students will recognize as “IP” – just that this IP is all over the world! Twitter is going to get even more popular with mobiles in the future – it’s just a question of time before we all start Tweeting from our mobiles on the move.

PS: I would recommend Twitterfox to all Twitter users – simple and light, yet effective.

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Business, Strategy, Web

What next for twitter?

Firstly, for the uninitiated, Twitter is a micro-blogging site where users answer the question – ‘What are you doing?’ in atmost 140 characters at any given moment.For the past few months twitter has become a rage all over the world- particularly in the recession hit USA.

Just last week we had Oprah Winfrey posting her first ever tweet on Twitter. Which brings us to the point, can twitter really survive the hype, the hoopla and the buzz(somewhat excessive) created in media about it? BBC’s Maggie Shiels certainly thinks so.

Along the marketing S – curve, twitter seems to have hit the hard-to-crack steep upward slope , somes-curvething which only a few other social networks like Facebook, MySpace and orkut have/had cracked. Twitter is perceived among the innovators and early adopters as an extremely potent product which has a huge potential. Hence the basics are certainly good.  Whats more, the celebrities on twitter are themselves promoting twitter a lot. An instance of this is the way in which Ashton kutcher had a race with CNN for the first user on twitter to have 1 million followers!

However, not all is hunky dory about twitter. Twitter can also create panic during emergencies. An example of this is whats currently happening about Swine flu. The flu has taken 100 lives in Mexico and precautionary measures need to be taken, but twitter- with 10000 tweets per hour on the subject is making swine flu sound like a dangerous epidemic. And, we all know how calamity-wary the American citizens are. At this juncture, we can see the disadvantages of unstructured , viral networking- a concept that sits at the heart of the rise of twitter. Read this article on CNN for more. According to me, Twitter will have to find ways to deter users from spreading unnecessary panic and create a network that gives productive information.

Another point to ponder about- which is extremely important is the monetization aspect. Even now, social networks haven’t yet found ways to monetize their huge web presence. It would be interesting how twitter uses its huge user base to attract monetary benefits for itself. One such initiative started a few days back by twitter is Tweetname – where you can register domains.

One thing for sure, twitter has been able to strike a chord with its users. The future is exciting!

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