The Tidel Park Auditorium in Chennai was buzzing for two days—August 28 and August 29, 2010—when the Internet marketers and social media marketers brainstormed on various issues that are of relevance to their domains. The buzz was created by The Knowledge Foundation, who organized the India Search Summit 2010. Google had sent in their Search team members, who armed with their PCs and mobiles, were constantly following the discussions closely. Sanjay Aggarwal, General Manager (Operations), IRCTC, was probably feeling out of place in a techie crowd. But his clarity of understanding the domain in which irctc.co.in operates did not seem to suggest he was out of place. He was candid in admitting areas of improvement and even went to the extent of suggesting competition for irctc.co.in to improve its services. He rattled off statistics to show the website’s growth from its start in 2002. He also listed the efforts of irctc.co.in in coordinating with various agencies to bring a secure mechanism of payment when online transaction fraud causes tremendous loss to the organization.
If Raghavendra Satish, a visually challenged former Internet entrepreneur and now working with IBM, captivated the audience by suggestion of skilfully using content (at times reusing content from other sites without abusing it) to create value, Rajiv Dhingra was more expressive in taking the audience through the journey of social media in India. Suresh Babu, the first speaker of the day, generously borrowed the Shouldice Hospital, Canada’s best practices to tell a gripping story on social media marketing. Sulekha’s Jatinder and Wipro’s Amish Gilani filled the postlunch slots with web analytics. The site clinic by Suresh Babu, Raghavendra Satish, and Shiva Purohit was lively with some fierce arguments from Ashwin Ramesh, the youngest entrepreneur from India three years ago.
The second day started with a teletalk by Gillian Muessig of SEOmoz from Seattle who captured the essentials of changing SEO landscape. She predicted a few trends, the most important being mobile usage on the go for transactions, that will play a dominant role in the SEO space. Her contention was that only 8% of the SEO spends on the whole search budget leaves huge opportunities open. Even a 92% investment in organic search yields meagre returns. Her interaction with the audience was engaging and close to midnight from her place, she did not seem to lose energy. Jayashree Ramasubramanian, a former Googler in the search team and now an online marketing consultant, announced at the beginning itself that she will rather be opinionated in the much debated backlink space. She started off with humming a popular Tamil number much to the delight of the audience. Her flowing presentation was rather demystifying backlinks and Jayashree dwelt upon the potential of backlinks to create quality conversations rather than drive traffic to the website. Mohan Gopalakrishnan gave a presentation on online advertising using SEO. Kapil Nagra’s insightful talk on leveraging social media for marketing was quite interesting with Kapil using live examples of his own name, his company, and iss2010 to showcase his arguments. Faeem Ahmed listed his experiences of using Facebook for advertising campaigns and fashion shows for Basics brand. He said with minimum investment, they were able to build a huge FB fan base for Basics in Colombo.
Kiruba Shankar, the popular social media expert, gave several suggestions like owning a personal website, using a personal email attached to the personal website, using all coordinates including social media addresses in business cards, writing blogs to create a sphere of influence, and finally using images and videos rather than only text to power content to build a personal brand on social media. He brought a bucket with water, dipped his hands inside and then used the water droplets that dipped from his fingers to show how one blog (fingers dipped in water) creates various benefits (water dripping from each finger). He also stressed upon the importance of self photo in promoting the brand, that is you.
Sandhosh Kumar, who was the first Chennite to climb Mt. Everest, recollected his experiences of using social media to track his climb to the world’s highest peak. The beautiful visuals of snow-capped mountains and his explanation of various communication facilities available at each base camp were informative. He said all climbers now blog, tweet, update walls on Facebook to connect with the audience on ground. Kiruba helped Sandhosh update on Twitter and Facebook while Sandhosh blogged every day experiences during the climb. He lost satellite connection on his satellite phone and then called his father three days later to convey the news about his reaching the summit. His father told him, “we know that already” thanks to updates on social media. He also recollected the experiences of another mountaineer who lost contact with his audience due to power draining off his satellite phone. People following him on various social media platforms thought he was dead only to realize three days later that they mistook the whole episode.
Sorav Jain, a social media enthusiast and quite popular in social media circles, said financial returns are not ROI from social media. Customer engagement, brand building, and other intangibles constitute ROI, which in turn might drive sales. He also listed difficulties in measuring ROI.
The day rounded off with a panel discussion on ROI on social media. The panel included Advit Sachdev, Jayashree Ramasubramanian, Mayank Agarwal, Faheem Ahmed, C.R. Venkatesh, and Kapil Nagra. The discussion evoked lively comments from the audience and the panel was pretty informative. The panel dwelt upon various ways to measure ROI.
The announcement for India Search Summit 2011 was made at the end and the registrations are opening for the same starting immediately.