I'm quite a bit active on social networks. It makes sense, given that Social Media Marketing is one of our core services to our clients. What is interesting to me when I network online is how the two cultures that I understand most conduct social networking online.
When I was speaking at a conference in Ahmedabad, India (in January 2011) I briefly eluded to this difference in Social networking styles in the two countries and cultures I'm most familiar with. Given the rise of social media usage and social media users from India, I decided it was time to pen my observations about how Indian users network online and solicit feedback from folks. So here goes…..
Celebrity Following: This happens in the US and other countries too as celebrities are naturally very popular. I mean what other medium offered such immediate and direct access to the tinsel town Gods until Twitter and Facebook came along? However, I find that celebrity following is a more popular pastime and perhaps a bigger obsession for social media users from India. It is not very surprising given that Bollywood is hugely popular with Indians and Bollywood actor and actress worship is very common to most Indian households. But my observation is that many users tweet and comment exclusively on celebrity tweets and posts and when they don't get the responses they seek, many users become belligerent and rude, deliberately trying to antagonize celebrities into pointless discussions and unnecessary debate. And in general, most celebrities in both countries tweet and Facebook post mostly one-way messages, with little real interaction with their followers and fans.
Spamming versus Networking: Instead of networking and really forming relationships, many social networkers make job and business requests within minutes of connecting. They get belligerent and rude when they are politely told "sorry, there are no openings". Many have approached me asking me why I wouldn't help out a fellow Indian, a fellow Gujarati (state where my parents are from), etc. Many yet spam their followers, fans, and connections with debates over this topic and the other, making it very difficult to conduct fruitful networking online. LinkedIn is especially drowning in users who post messages and questions and responses on an almost daily basis. Another observation is that many LinkedIn messages are posted in an obvious attempt to gather email addresses for future use.
Content Lacking Engagement/Interaction: A lot of tweets, linkedin status updates, and Facebook posts that I read from social networkers from India lack the true nature of social networking, which is engagement. Either there is a lot of one-way messaging or there are proverbs and words of wisdom shared to which people respond to, but there are few interactions and very little real engagement to make the networking fruitful.
Email Scraping for Spam: I swear that my email is in the hands of EVERY SINGLE "leading" web and "growing" SEO company in India. I say that because I get daily emails from Indian companies wanting to become my "partner" for web and want me to send them my "requirements". I can't say that I get even 1% of similar spam from non-Indian companies who interact with me on social networks.
My observations are not meant as a blanket statement that encompasses every single user of social networks in India. There are many savvy, focused, and interactive social networkers who "GET" social networking. And there are many non-India social networkers who are guilty of what I accuse Indian users to be.
Bottom line reason for this post? The average social networker in India, who is not from the communications or marketing background or doesn't have a specific expertise or celebrity status, has a bit further to go to truly gain benefit from social networking. The learning may also come with better understanding their own goals of being online.
Social networking is a huge opportunity for individuals and companies looking to grow brand reach, engage with prospects, and promote their expertise and company or services. Social networks truly make us a global market place. Shouldn't we use then use this valuable resource more wisely and with a more strategic focus?