Sunday, March 18, 2012

Social Media in India 2012 – User Base & engagement expected to increase

Similar to the global phenomenon Social media in India is driven by young and educated in the cities and towns across India and 2011 saw a tremendous rise in the number of users and their activity in terms of time spent, engagement levels and quality on various social networking sites. According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India there has been rapid rise in the number of internet users in India and has reached 121 million users in 2011. Broadband too has seen significant growth in 2011with 13.30 million users (22% YoY) compared to 10.92 million users in 2010 and is expected to reach 15.9 million users by end of 2012. 80% of the internet users are urban users and 20% are rural users in India and educated young people and professionals across industry verticals like IT, BFSI, Retail, Automobile, Pharma, etc are driving the social networking sites usage in India. Indians migrate to United States (US) for education and jobs and most of them will be in constant touch with friends in India which led to the rise in usage of social networks and it was even more increased as US companies set up offices in India employing thousands of people here, Indians using more technology products like mobiles, laptops, other computing devices like PCs, tablets and finally the voyeuristic appeal with open networks drove the usage further.

Most popular social networking site in India is Facebook as recently it has dethroned Indonesia from the number 2 slot with 46 million monthly active users in February 2012 on the site, an increase of 132% from the prior year. 75% of Facebook users in India are male and metro cities dominate the usage in India. Google+ has a total user base of 12.3 million in India with 86% of the users being male and dominated by students and young professionals. Twitter has a total user base of more than 14 million in India and is the sixth largest country in terms of accounts and the micro blogging in India has not risen in India when compared to other social networking sites as Indians are not comfortable with a 140 character limit. LinkedIn the professional networking site has more than 14million user base in India and is one of the rapidly growing social networks in India.  Orkut was the initial dominant social networking site in India until Facebook entry and it has around 18 million user base in India but the network which was acquired by Google is fading into oblivion as Google is more focused on Google+. Indian social networking sites too have significant user base in India and Ibibo has around 12 million users base and BharatStudent has around 7 million users base.

Urban cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad and other tier 1and 2 cities and towns dominate the social networking usage in India. 75% is dominated by male and mostly the young students and professionals in the age group of 18-24 are dominating the social media usage followed by the 25-34 age group. They spend hours every month on the various social networking sites and actively engage with friends and others. Most of the users are using social media to stay in touch with friends, track and update their activities, social gaming, follow groups and communities, discuss social, political cultural and entertainment topics and also look for information about brands, products and also provide their feedback. People are actively voicing their opinions on the social networks as was evident during the Jan Lokpal movement by Anna Hazare and his team in 2011 and the movement was supported by people actively through the various social networks. Accessing and using the social networking sites through mobiles is also on the rise as most of the cell phone manufacturers selling in India are selling handsets that are easy to use for social networking and are having inbuilt social networking applications of the popular social networks at low prices.

There has been rapid rise in the number of ecommerce portals in India and also businesses selling their products and services online. Most of these businesses are actively engaging their consumers on the various social networks through games, contest, and other content. Telecommunications services providers like Tata Docomo, Airtel, Vodafone, Mobile handsets makers like Samsung, LG, Nokia, HTC, Automobile manufacturers like Ford, Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra, Volkswagen, ecommerce sites like Flipkart, sports goods manufacturers like Nike, Adidas, beverages like Bacardi, Pepsi, Coke and consumer products like Nestle Maggi, etc are all very active in India and many Indian users are actively engaging with these brands and companies. Content focused at Indian users both by businesses and individuals is being created and Indian users of the various social networking sites like the content and making the content viral like the recent song Kolaveri Di. Most of the celebrities belonging to the cinema world, sports personalities, politicians, artists, business leaders and activists are all actively engaging and participating in the various social networking sites. Indian Users are also actively engaging in the global issues and events on the social networking sites and voicing their opinions.

There also have been some issues with social networking sites in India and the government had issued notices to all the major players in the country in relation to the derogatory content and content that is hurting the feelings of certain sections of the people. The government has instructed the social networking companies to sensor such content and remove it immediately failing which strict penalties and legal actions will be taken against the companies responsible. The rapid rise in the social media usage in the recent years has forced the government for regulating the usage and the policy was framed last year in this regards. There were protests against too much regulation by the government as the users were concerned about their right to express themselves freely but due to certain incidents over the various social networks that hurt the sentiments and feelings of people government were forced to act and frame the policy.

With increasing penetration of the internet and improvement in the technology infrastructure in India, the social media usage in India is expected to increase and this will be even pushed further with significant rise in the sales of the mobiles, laptops, tablets and other computing devices in India. With availability of more information about brands, companies, issues, hobbies, interest etc and increase in presence of companies, governments, politicians, celebrities etc the social media usage across all the age groups is also expected to increase in near future. There is also significant push from the social networking companies and social gaming companies focusing on the Indian User base will also see growth in user base. These companies are localizing the content, providing language supports in local languages and also improving the underlying technologies so that the users can use these sites easily. Privacy issues in terms of individual privacy, personal data security, government and regulatory policy issues in terms of content and the issue of targeting the ads based on personal sensitive information are the significant negative factors that may hamper the growth in near future. 2012 will be interesting and exciting year for social media in India.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Social Media @ Cisco-Quad based Integrated Workforce Experience for Employees

Cisco integrated social media at a strategic level and provided its employees internal collaboration tools and intranet which employees were actively encouraged to use them for improving their performance and their productivity. Top Management invested millions of dollars in developing these tools and platforms and the CEO, CTO and other top executives of Cisco are active bloggers and initiate conversations that inspire employees to actively participate and use these tools. Cisco believes it is necessary for businesses to adapt to the new trends and changes that are happening with the rapid rise of mobility and the availability of devices like tablets, smartphones, etc. Employees as well as consumers are using these devices and other social networking tools extensively in their personal lives and are looking to use them in workplaces and businesses do not have any other option but to provide them with access to such devices and tools for the organizational success. Cisco provided its employees IWE, which is a platform that has various tools for networking, sharing, communicating with other employees within the organization.

Cisco's global intranet home page is Cisco Employee Connection which employees use for everything from meeting schedules, e-mail, and communications to online expense reporting, distance learning, and telecommuting services. For Cisco employees this intranet has been a platform to share and collate information and knowledge among themselves but it lacked the personal touch and feel. Employees were also looking to use collaborative tools like blogs, wikis, videos, forums etc within the organization in their projects and daily activities. Cisco in 2009 developed Integrated Workforce Experience (IWE) an internal collaboration platform that employees can use effectively to connect, communicate, and collaborate with people and communities, as well as share information for organizational growth, encourage innovation and create sustainable productivity. In 2010 Cisco moved IWE to Cisco Quad environment which provides all the social networking tools like blogs, Facebook and twitter styled, YouTube styled video sharing sites, etc to all the employees internally.

IWE allows employees to find and connect with experts within the organization through an internal directory similar to Facebook with employee profiles that highlight their expertise, activities and interests and helps in socializing among employees. Employees can also create communities and organize into groups based on their work, expertise, interests, hobbies, etc and collaborate and share knowledge for the organizational success. Employees share content in the form of documents, videos, blog posts, discussion forums and IWE is the most important source of data and information for the employees and they can distribute the information easily with IWE. Another important feature of IWE is personalized workspaces for the employees called My View which is user defined home page that provides access for people, communities, news, applications and events and also provide the necessary updates and activities of various connected employees and member communities. Employees can easily interact with the internal systems of Cisco easily through IWE and use it in their daily activities and transactions.

According to Cisco, key statistics highlight the IWE use among employees as of mid 2011:  Nearly 87,000 unique visitors with software developers and salespeople comprising the largest portions of this total.  More than 900,000 visits to the IWE site per quarter and the overall average of 6.05 visits per week per user indicates that IWE has become a regular part of employees’ work activity. More than 1000 IWE communities created, of which slightly more than half are open to all IWE users. The number of communities has quadrupled in one year as employees see IWE's value for sharing information and resources with colleagues by project, location, interest, etc.  Almost 14,000 IWE users "follow" other users in order to receive alerts when those employees posed new information or take other action within IWE. The follow capability is especially effective for technical experts and managers who post resources of interest to multiple colleagues within their department or across the company. Statistics also show the popularity of IWE features:  A 25 percent increase in the number of IWE discussion forum messages in one month. 1,400 videos created by Cisco employees and embedded in IWE for on-demand viewing via the Cisco Show and Share solution. (Source:  How Cisco IT Evolved Enterprise Social Software and Collaboration)

Cisco employees are provided with the necessary guidelines and policy is in place to control the social media activity and the strategy for social media is determined by a team of ten people called centre of excellence. Within each department responsibility lies with specific people who control the activities. Employees are trained through 30 workshops which trains employees in terms of social media policy and how to behave on social media platforms and necessary certifications are provided once they complete the trainings and the people who control the social media activity and participate in the social media strategy formulation these trainings are must. Cisco Social Media Policy also encourages employee participation in various platforms and they are also provided with incentives for such participation. Employees who are key contributors are rewarded through mentions in newsletters, annual awards and also team awards are given for active participation. The social media participation with customers and other employees is also a KPI in the employee annual performance review process. Employees are also provided with the support of the technical experts who will help in the participation on the social media platforms and create, distribute content like videos, blog posts, documents, etc.

Cisco created a culture within the organization that actively supports the use of various social networking tools within the organization by the employees to collaborate, communicate and share knowledge. The quad based IWE is at the centre of this and top management use of Video conferencing, blogs, wikis and podcasts as part of the communication with the employees has encouraged employees even more too actively use the social media tools as evident in the usage statistics. Cisco has realized significant business value in terms of cost savings, improved employee productivity, and transformed business processes through the IWE platform. Cisco gained between US$3 million and $24 million in the value of increased employee productivity based on IWE usage and expects to increase to between $9 million and $68 million by mid-2012 based on increased adoption. Cisco also benefited in increased sales of products as employees and sales teams collaborate effectively in driving sales. Cisco also uses social media actively in its B2B initiatives with customers and channel partners. With tremendous success of Quad internally within Cisco, Cisco sold the Quad offering externally to customers and Cisco has 50 companies — about 700,000 users — paying for the service.