Nielsen’s Asia-Pacific Social Media Report, released on 29 June, says Twitter has enjoyed exponential growth in popularity in India, with more than half of Twitter users in India (57%) having signed up in the past year. Close to one-third of India’s social media users (32%) use microblogging sites such as Twitter at least once a day.
And you thought Twitter was only about terminal coolness? No way. It’s about real-time information symmetry. There, we even used a sombre business phrase to grab your attention. But the truth about Twitter is: If you are not on, you are gone.
For those who haven’t come to the Twitter party yet, we decided to look up four business people who tweet. They seem to be busy people, with no real reason to chat you up. And yet that is exactly what they are doing. Will we end up flying Kingfisher more often? Rush out to stuff our garage with a Scorpio or two? Send our CV to Wipro or hire their 3G lab? Bat for Lalit Modi?
Nah. But then again, who can tell? To their credit, all four have figured out that customer interaction is no longer last-century-bilateral. Today, it is 21st century star-shaped. And you can make a direct impact on how consumers feel about your brand, simply by interacting with them via social media.
So while you figure out how to use Twitter for business—because that’s where your customer is—we decided to figure out business gurus on Twitter and the lessons they hold for us.
Lalit Kumar Modi
Suspended chairman and commissioner, Indian Premier League
The problem with Lalit Kumar Modi is his proximity to cricket. It is as if nothing else exists in his universe. When he saw one of the football stadiums in South Africa, his immediate response was to shoot a picture and point people to it with “We need more cricket stadiums like these in SA”.
Cricket has taken over his life (okay, it is his life). At the Fifa matches in South Africa, he sounded like a cricket commentator, “Great goal. Netherlands on the way”, then a few minutes later, “Uruguay sure put this incredible goal to equalize.” Maybe he forgot that most of us have continued to watch television after IPL.
Modi can be baited to respond to questions. And although his responses are often restricted to “yes”, “no” and “thanks”, you can see that he is game. Perhaps that’s the beauty of social media—the ability to set up a conversation between multiple people, forge alliances, loyalties and crystallize opinion. Isn’t that what they teach you in marketing class? But Modi is shrewd—he knows it is you who are the game. He is out hunting.
Uses phrases such as: “Battle lines have been drawn. Agenda’s fixed. Timelines laid. Let’s see who wins and who is guilty of what. Now truth will emerge. Wait watch.” Modi is going to give us a running commentary on Twitter of his fight to regain the chairmanship of IPL. The gloves are on.
Takeaway: Twitter is powerful media. For Modi, the reach of his tweets (and re-tweets) is larger than that of some daily newspapers.
Verified account: YES
Joint CEO, IT business, Wipro Ltd
You can see that Suresh Vaswani is happily wedded to Wipro. On 4 May, he reached a landmark with the tweet, “Completed 25 years in Wipro yesterday. I don’t know how so many years went by and so quickly!” His life revolves around his company’s achievements, customers and employees. But his tweets, with sparse exception, seem like official press statements: “Read about Wipro’s pilot projects in solid waste recycling. http://bit.ly/a79055.” You can instantly divine from his tweets that environment, sustainability, diversity and equal opportunity float his boat—admirable focus for our times of widespread eco myopia.
When he decides to be himself, Vaswani comes through as a delightfully uncomplicated person. Like the time he told us before boarding a flight for London that his wife was expecting him to bring back rice—a reflection on food prices in India.
Doubtless, Vaswani has a point of view only someone in his position, running one of the world’s largest IT companies, can have. One of these days when he comes out to play serious ball with tweeple, we’ll benefit from it.
Uses phrases such as: “Mandala, Wipro’s customer event was great... 3 e’s… energy, engagement, enthusiasm……Collin (Colin) Powell and Guy Kawasaki were outstanding…” It’s a little difficult to follow his tweets because of the hurried syntax he uses (for instance, is he telling Mandala that Wipro’s customer event was great or is Mandala the name of the customer event?).
Takeaway: Twitter takes getting used to. It tantalizes and torments at the same time. Vaswani recently asked, “...Is social media the new frontier...?” There he is, commendably among the major corporate pioneers at the edge, ready to find us the answer.
Verified account: NO
Member of Parliament; chairman, UB Group; and chairman and team principal, Force India Formula 1
Recently, Vijay Mallya has been a little envious of his peers—a state you can’t equate with his image. “High profile Industrialists, football fans n AIFF delegates going 2 South Africa (except me !!). Hope they r motivated 2 boost Indian football”, he said early this month. Force India is what has kept him away.
Going by Mallya’s tweets, you’d never imagine he runs an aviation company and a brewing business. At Twitter, he lives in a world of high-performance sport: cricket, automobile racing and soccer. He recently told @realpreityzinta, “both McDowell Mohun Bagan n Kingfisher East Bengal r my teams ! I will do anything 2 see Indian football on d global stage”. There we go—don’t be surprised if it’s the World Cup he is aiming for.
Mallya wears his lifestyle easily, never shy to tell us he is in La Gruyère, home of the famous cheese, having raclette and fondue; or at Michael Schumacher’s mansion in Gland, Switzerland. But he is a master when it comes to subtle branding. When his Twitter account acquired the “verified” status (no one can impersonate him), a playful Mallya tweeted, “My twitter account is finally verified!! Ooo la la la le o.”
Uses phrases such as: “Media is wrong again. I joined d queue n had darshan of Lord Venkateshwara along wt other devotees. I don’t seek blessings for curses.” You can see that he is feisty and snarky when required—the kind of person we all want to be when we give up our corporate lives.
Takeaway: If you were planning to pick up a Twitter tip or two from him, there is none except this: Play hard, even
Verified account: YES
Vice-chairman and managing director, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd
You can tell that Anand Mahindra is deeply into sports. He was in Durban for the football World Cup, busy telling us about the fascinating change sweeping the city and, of course, he made an acute observation on the game: “Spanish team staying in my Durban hotel, but no gym in the hotel. Maybe a jug of Sangria is all they need to get an endorphine rush...”
Sometimes, he will ask the Twitter sphere where a particular rock band is playing during a visit to Bangalore. Or fend questions such as “Rumour mills are abuzz with (the) news that Kalmadi ordered for 2500 Scorpios for CWG games, can u confirm the news?” (his response: Untrue).
You can see that Mahindra has an easy way with Twitter. It’s fun to see the world through his eyes, understand that business is not all about the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and mergers and acquisitions (M&As). It’s about enjoying what you do. He recently told one of his followers: “@ShanxTweet: ...I don’t hv a ‘real’ job. I enjoy what I’m doing too much.”
Uses phrases such as: “Watching him (Leander Paes) is like ingesting an antioxidant”. Be sure, following Mahindra is cerebral, absorbing and charming.
Takeaway: You can become a reflection of your brand’s promise. Talking to people, understanding them and winning them over are great ways to create a superior brand image.
Verified account: YES
Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins and has extensive media experience spanning music, print, radio, Internet and mobiles.
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