October 8, 2014

Social Media Week Mumbai 2014 : Social Media for Social Change

The Social Media Week (SMW ) has to be the most looked forward to event in blogosphere. Not just for  bloggers but for social media folk from across categories ... facebookers, tweeters, instagrammers, social media marketers, Big Brands ... the whole Net-working, Net-talking community! This is the chance for everyone to catch up on what is new, learn new strategies, gain new insights, and meet new people who 'speak the same language' .
So when one of the the SMWs is about to be held in Mumbai, as well as in several other cities around the globe simultaneously, there is a buzz that refuses to be hushed down.
5 whole days of events ranging from panel discussions to livestreamed talks ... and oh yeah, let's not forget the networking! I think I like that part the best, frankly.

I found out about the Social Media Week Mumbai 2014 from a post on BlogAdda's page. ( I love BlogAdda! They have this very professional yet cordial approach which fits in so well with the way I like to blog. I had attended their bloggers' meet earlier in the year and thoroughly enjoyed it) And immediately rushed to register. But that's when I hit my roadblock .
ermmm... how do I say this ? ... I had not activated my cards! *major, red-as-a-matador's-cape blush!*
So every time I hit the Pay Now button, my screen screamed back "Transaction not valid"!
So mortifying ... and so frustrating.
And, due to a peculiar set of circumstances, I was too house-bound to go out and do something about it. I could've screamed, but guilt made me settle for  a frenzy of swearing that I would keep my wayward to-do list under tighter control. (But, I must confess that I don't have any intention of using a credit or debit card unless I really, really must, so this one item was always way down in the order of priorities).

So there I was, more or less resigned to missing out on a Don't-Miss! event. There were so many sessions that I was just craving to attend. A panel discussion on social media and brand value titled "Are brands effectively using social media? Are they too focused on volume instead of value?" was one. I would've thoroughly enjoyed that, I think.
Just as I would have been interested in Rushina Munshaw-Ghildayal's Masterclass on Food Blogging. No, I don't have a food blog but I have been publishing  'The Urban Gardener' since 2008, with posts about growing my own food (among other things) so that is very much the same in many ways. And what is interesting for one blogger is almost always of interest to others too (we speak the same language , don't we? Some of us a bit more fluently than the others, of course!).
I most definitely wanted to know about the "Social Media trends to watch out for in 2014" and I was thoroughly intrigued by the topic of "Brand YOU..." hosted by Tanvi Bhatt .

And then, breakthrough! One of the bloggers' Groups on Facebook where I peek in every so often had this post by the wonderful Sharon who blogs at The Keybunch, asking whether anyone wanted to attend the SMW Mumbai as she had a ticket but couldn't use it. Brilliant! (er... about the ticket, I mean. I would've loved to catch up with Sharon who is a very dear friend!)
Thank you, Harish, at Team BlogAdda for facilitating that ticket transfer. You guys have been super-helpful!

By now I had already missed 3 days of SMW but hey! I'm not complaining! Because Day 4 had this brilliant talk by the very eloquent Ansoo Gupta about "Using social media to enhance your travels ..."  and that was a topic very close to my heart. Not only because I am in the process of rejuvenating my own dormant but much-loved travel-blog, 'India-a-h!' and I have high expectations of hitting the road very soon (so delicious to plan!) and blogging about it, but also because Ansoo and I have been in touch for some time and planning to meet up but for some reason it had not yet worked out. So this happening with her talk the first on the agenda was almost like a Sign!

One word of advice: if you ever get a chance to attend one of Ansoo's travel workshops, don't miss it! She is a seasoned traveller who knows all the best places to go to and the best way to reach there. Even better, she knows how to find that best way. Nope, it's not by dumping that responsibility on the travel agent but by using the power of the social media!
In fact, one of her insights was that travel has become cheaper because of social media. Now one can easily browse and surf their way to the most economical airlines and accomodations . Pinterest is one of the social mediums that is a great tool for finding interesting and exciting out-of-the-way places. The Thorn Tree forum, Trip Advisor, Zomato and Sky Scanner (among others) are all great resources according to Ansoo . I can second that! I use all of them regularly when I plan my travel. Or even when I'm just dreaming of travel.
Go to the places where the locals eat, she advised. Talk to the people around to find great restaurants, etc. (and that's when you turn the social media off, incidentally).
 Such a lovely person. And a very wise traveller too, apparently.

And so the day continued with one inspiring talk following on interesting panel discussions. I particularly enjoyed hearing about "the emergence of new media powered content distribution channels" . Harvinderjit Singh Bhatia of Radiowalla Network had me going ,"but that's brilliant!" while talking about his radio-based enterprise. And I thought radio was dead?! All it takes is imagination and an enterprising spirit to reinvent the wheel. And, of course, social media!

There were  way too many interesting events that I wished I could attend but with some being held at the same time as the other, it soon became a toss-up when deciding which one to attend finally. I hope the organisers will be uploading videos of the events so those who missed out can still have a chance of catching up.

One of the events I did attend was the one which discussed the role of "Influencers". I had mixed reactions to some of the opinions voiced here. On the one hand, I do realise that there is a group of bloggers who are blogging as a purely commercial activity. In fact, one of the panelists, Kiran Manral (blogger and author) , even spoke of receiving a rate-card from a blogger who offered to "review" her book! Frankly this makes me wonder whether we can still ascribe the same term, "blogging" to what they are doing and the work of so many outstanding bloggers whom I regularly read, who spend hours and days polishing a line and a phrase in each post and who spend hours in extreme conditions to get the perfect photo for their blog.
We really need to come up with a new term for those for-money-only bloggers (monggers?).
No, I'm not looking down on them. It is purely a business for them and they are quite upfront about it. But it does go against the grain to place both types of bloggers on the same platform, don't you think? Especially since the attitude of the strictly-commercial-bloggers is affecting the attitude of others, especially the Brands, towards the other bloggers.
That is the 'on the other hand' that I had not got around to. Isn't it high time that marketing professionals started acknowledging the power of bloggers and give them their due worth in terms of respect and value?  A leading decor blogger of the country mentioned how she kept getting requests from magazines for free photos and articles in exchange for the "exposure that she will get". And this is a blogger with readership already running into several hundreds of thousands. Do you think a top feature-writer / journalist would ever get an offer or request like that?
Yes, I know ... I can rant endlessly on this topic but I will leave it for another day, another post!

Day 5 and there is great excitement among the delegates. THE Jeff Bullas, digital marketing guru, is due to talk and no one wants to miss this! His presentation on "the journey to earned traffic and authority on the social web" has the most attendance among all the events so far. And no wonder! No one wants to miss the Master!
So what did I like about his inspiring talk? The personal story of how he started blogging was one. Then all those tips ...understand the target market, use Coke's 70/20/10 Principle (70% of Content is low-risk, 20% of content should be innovative and 10% can be high-risk content) and most importantly, "just start" creating content!
More words of wisdom: You need to be in as many places as possible; not just Facebook and Twitter.
So absolutely true! I really need to work on that myself.

And then there was BuzzFeed's Scott Lamb talking about "Understanding the Art & Science of Social Sharing" If you've ever visited BuzzFeed you'll know just how many of their posts go viral. And now I hear that there really is an art and science behind it ... remarkable! So how do you create a post that is bound to be shared? Match the format to the story, for one. And don't 'over-promise' with the headline while 'under-delivering' with the story. And no clickbait!

After this global touch, the next pair of speakers could not have been more different! Fahim and Tauseef, Founders of the Dharavi-based Be The Local Tours spoke passionately of how the power of the social media had created a huge impact in Dharavi which had hitherto been known only for its slums. The creation of part-time jobs and imparting a sense of pride and dignity is no small change. It is life-changing and was possible mainly due to the social media strategies that they had adopted. I could not have felt more proud of these two... bravo!

Obviously I was not the only one affected because the next speaker, Viral Oza of Microsoft, seemed very impressed by their tale too. His talk on marketing in the ever evolving market place could be applied to the world of personal blogging too : focus on 'what is the consumer take-out?'. The rest of it doesn't matter, according to him. Every touch-point is a potential moment of truth. Using each touch-point in a contextually relevant matter is  key.
But over and above all, Keep your eye on what you want the consumer (or reader, if you are a blogger) to take away.

So what did I take away from SMW Mumbai? An absolutely fantastic event hosted in a lovely place ( I loved Novotel on Juhu Beach!).Brilliant content and a well-streamlined event. Meeting so many new and interesting people in the social media world. Learning new strategies, new insights. Hearing some awesome speakers. Something I would look definitely forward to attending again.


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