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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Social Media Series: Arun Rajagopal on Bridging New & Old

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Arun Rajagopal.

By day, Arun Rajagopal is advertising copywriter at Wunderman Oman working on leading airline, real estate and corporate brands in the Sultanate of Oman. At all times, though, Arun is our amazing "Man in Oman" who single-handed put The Age of Conversation, the collaborative and global book about the social media enabled times that we live in [sales of which benefit Variety the children's charity], on the cover of the Dubai based Khaleej Times Weekend. Have you checked out Arun Rajagopal's blog?

His chapter in The Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't They Get It is titled "The Smart Beast in the Creative Jungle." In it he writes: "Embrace new ideas in consumer experiences, media, technology and productivity.... Most importantly, get away from the desk and step into the real world of consumers."

Arun epitomizes the spirit of this series. He bridges new and old in his interests - from trains and travels to social media. He also wants to spread the word about social media and its value, having made a promise to social media guru Connie Reece [whom I hope to feature here in the not-too-distant-future]. Given that he was a keynote speaker at the recent New Media Event in Dubai, I believe that we will be hearing much more about Arun and social media.

C.B.: Arun, how and why did you get involved in social media?

Arun: I started blogging with an interest in travel writing. In December 2006, I went on a month-long backpacking trip across India and put up an extensive travelogue on my blog. A few months later, I heard about Drew McLellan’s call to join the collaborative book ‘The Age of Conversation’ and I joined in the effort. The work I did in promoting AOC in the Middle East, both offline and online, was well received and one thing led to another, and soon I got on the social media bandwagon.

In April 2008, I had a great time connecting with a wonderful community of marketing pros from around the world who used social media to come together at Blogger Social’08 in New York. My involvement with AOC and the work I did in helping set up KR Bright Sparks, the first corporate blog from Oman got me a lot of recognition in the region. A high point in my social media journey was speaking on corporate blogging at ‘The New Media Event’ in Dubai in December 2008. Buoyed by these experiences, my current goal is to help individuals and organizations in the Middle East understand and engage with social media better.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Arun: For starters, I think engaging in social media changes the way you view the world, helps you discover interesting people and gets you learn about new things. Working in advertising, I find social media has exposed me to better ways of talking to people, which is so important in marketing communications. Today, social media gives you opportunities that cut across time zones and connect people from diverse backgrounds that were hitherto impossible, especially when it comes to networking, collaborating on different projects, building a brand, creating meaningful relationships etc.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Arun: I wouldn’t say there’s anything less to like about social media per se. It’s more about how people are approaching social media the wrong way – there’s a tendency to overlook the real value that social media brings, there’s an obsession with results before stepping into the waters, there’s pressure to make social media work like a marketing channel when it is really not.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies - particularly as you go about spreading the word about social media in your part of the world - to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

Arun:
1· Understand social media is not a marketing channel, but an effective way to communicate with your audience.

2· Do your homework well. Learn how other companies and people are successfully working with social media.

3· Go for the long haul. If you can’t make the right investments when it comes to time, energy, money and an attitude to be social, it’s better to stay away.

4· Be prepared for criticism and ready to act upon feedback.

5· Always strive to be human and try to give value.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers.

Arun: My big picture for brands using social media is simple! It’s not about the flashy tools you use – your mega corporate blog or snazzy YouTube videos or even your Twitter presence. It’s about you applying the big lessons of social media: listening to people, understanding their needs, talking to them at a personal level and creating those ‘wow’ experiences around your products & services so that your customers become your greatest evangelists.

Another interesting way is to find better ways to integrate new ways of communicating with your customers (social media) with the traditional ways of talking (advertising). That integration will give you better opportunities to infuse new creativity into your messages and give greater value to the people you are talking to.

Thank you, Arun!

Comments? Questions? Reactions?

How do you see people approaching social media the 'wrong' way? What successes have you seen from infusing new creativity in your messages?

For additional insight from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.


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