Social Media is one hell of a dynamic field to work in.

New social networks, changes to old ones, innovative case-studies, game changing technology – its so dynamic! New ventures entering the market and the existing brands are evolving so fast! More than anything else, the gazillion little changes announced by Facebook!

When talking to other social marketeers or brand managers, I realised that very often, they aren’t up-to-date on the various changes introduced by Facebook. Let’s not even talk about the users – a lot of them have no idea about their own privacy settings nor many useful features!

At DigiWhirl we started off 2014 with the launch of a brief newsletter service – short bytes about these Facebook changes! We want to keep users as well as social marketeers aware of the important changes on Facebook and plan for it in advance if need be. If this newsletter interests you ,

Sign Up for Facebook Express!

or you can sign up here,

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On an average I have written two posts a month here in 2013. A brief overview of these posts,

Awesome Content Strategy from your Workplace

One of the most popular content on the blog a series of posts on how brands can generate great content right from their workplace. I plan to do more such post series, but so far I have only made some slideshare presentations on topics like healthcare/crowdsourced content generation / photographers and so on.

Entrepreneur Spotlight

Interviewed a few more rockstar entrepreneurs – Kashyap Dalal of Inkfruit, Annkur of PriceBaba, Rajesh of Percept frozen foods & Gaurav Munjal of

Also wrote a few research based posts on different topics like,

Social Brand Movement v/s Viral Marketing

Is Linkedin the right platform for B2B businesses

Social Media in Politics & Governance

Would love to notch up the number of posts in the coming year, with a lot more series and contextual content.

Happy New Year!










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Last week I attended the #DigiSights13 event a conference on Digital marketing for Pharma & Healthcare companies. It was very focused and I got some key insights into the industry and how digital can provide value to the space beyond the usual brand awareness creating campaigns.

Kudos to a great list of speakers from Dr Malpani, Salil Kallianpur to Mahesh Murthy, Andrew Spong and many more including the MediaMedic (the organizers) founders – Dinchin & Priti

What I found most interesting were the various stakeholder communities involved. I hadn’t thought of the distinctions between pharma companies and healthcare providers much. Here I am listing out the various community and connections that are waiting to be made!

Pharma companies
These usually sell to doctors and sometimes sell directly to consumers

Doctors/Healthcare providers
These include clinics, hospitals, diagnostic labs and so on who provide healthcare to the end consumer i.e. patient

Pharmacists/Retail Sellers
These are a small chunk who play a role as middle agents who connect with end consumer, hence need to be factored in the social process

Getting smarter and informed from ‘Dr Google’ – a term I heard at the conference – these people are asking questions, expecting answers and looking for more transparency and services from their healthcare providers. Since Satyamev Jayate – Aamir Khan’s revolutionary TV show, the deep seethed dissatisfaction towards doctors has been seeing louder expressions as people realise that a lot of pharma companies and healthcare providers are taking them for a ride.

Its very interesting how digital technology can be applied to all these various groups,
Pharma to doctor – Med reps from pharma companies visit doctors to inform them about pharma products/changes/details/research findings and so on. For many reasons they tend to be old school people, landing up at the doctors doors any time of week in groups taking up all the seating while the patients stand around waiting. The manner in which they present their work is also not too interesting.

Both pharma and doctors were looking forward to an improvement in this space by integrating digital technology,

  1. Informative websites with possibilities of connecting with med reps online (apparently it is being done in Japan)
  2. Med reps being lot more effective with the use of tablets and other digital media tools
  3. Apps/Websites where doctors can research on their own or opt to be updated about certain specific topics
  4. e-learning initiatives to train med-reps and keep them up to date. They can carry a digital repository of knowledge with them so as to be able to answer any of the docs questions

Pharma to Patient
This was touched upon a lot. Apparently as per traditional pharma ways, they sell their medicines to the doctors. Many suggestions had come up in this conference about how and why pharma should increase a dialogue with the patients directly. Mahesh Murthy strongly suggested that pharma stop focusing only on doctors, but to converse directly with the patient as well. Some suggestions he had for pharma companies were:

  1. Publish transparent and comprehensive content about all your medicines on your website
  2. Make comprehensive mini site for a particular disease (including a list of all available medications for it) to gain patient’s interest and attention
  3. Launch campaigns to make patients more curious so they ask their doctors why this medicine has been prescribed and not that other one

Other ideas shared around this same campaign was that medical material from pharma companies needs to be provided with each medicine sale by law. This is not implemented by pharmacists in India even if the pharma company provides the material. If it can be ensured by company, can be a great communication channel from Pharma to Patient
Doctor 2 Doctor
Networks are coming up internationally for doctors to discuss issues, new research, trends and so on. There is a lot of potential in this market – niche, specific networks, groups for doctors to connect with each other.
This can be a good space for pharma to join in the conversation and connect with doctors in a new maybe improved way?

Doctor 2 Patient
Where a lot more digitally proactive solutions are already being put into practice. My thyroid expert had kept encouraging all enquiries via email since 5 years back (anyway he charges 1500/- for every consultation so email is mucho preferred!) 🙂 He recently has come on Linkedin though I found it a bit odd to connect with him there.
I remember reading this article sometime back and was totally amazed with the social savviness and how much value this Dr Ashley from Kerala provides to his patients with the use of social media!

So basically a lot of room for some really great, useful and industry changing digital integrations into the pharma and healthcare industry! A lot more exciting thoughts were shared at the conference. You can get the tweet stream transcript here and read event summary blogs from Lighthouse Insights.

Hope you enjoyed this post!


Earlier I had featured Annkur on the Entrepreneur Spotlight series. The last time I went to meet him, I also met another of his entrepreneur friends and mentee – Gaurav Munjal. It was very interesting listening to them talk about their entrepreneurial experiences.

Business: An apartment rental site for college students –

What led you to prefer the idea of starting your own venture as opposed to a job?
Honestly jobs are boring how much ever they pay you, there is no adventure, there is no fun, there is no rush. You report to someone, you suck up to them, you deliver things and you get praised or you get trashed. Being a bit more humble, I always wanted to start something, to do something of my own and that led me to do this. Anyway it’s not my first venture 🙂

Tell us about your previous entrepreneurial ventures
Unacademy: educational video channel, has more than 100 videos and 400,000 video views. Was started when I was in third year and I wanted to teach my fellow batch-mates about one particular topic and I ended up creating this video. Then started creating more and more videos 😉

(He also has a few more but talks about them only in a more informal setting, so if you meet him don’t forget to ask him about those! #jk 😉 )

How have mentors helped you with starting up? How important would you say it is for a newbie considering entrepreneurship to find a mentor.
My mentors from college told me not to start up, they told me to continue working and then go for higher studies and then figure out stuff. But some of the mentors like Annkur who are entrepreneurs have always been helping me throughout the way into figuring out stuff. I am glad to also have Aakrit as my co-Founder and lead investor, he has been a mentor and whenever I am in a dilemma he has always helped me figuring stuff out.

What would you like to say to anyone who is considering taking the plunge into starting up?
It’s not a plunge, if you are thinking it is a plunge then it’s probably not for you. It’s a way of life and you always knew you were going to do this someday or the other. So just jump, don’t think what will happen 🙂 We will see what happens and take it as it comes don’t worry about it. Just keep doing stuff and good stuff will happen to you.

How important is it and how can a startup create a distinct brand?
I think this is the most important thing, how do you stand apart from the crowd? How do you differentiate? That is what this is about, right? You need to create a brand that people remember for something, be it a niche. And then you need to build up on that brand. For example when someone hears about it for the second time they know it’s a real estate site for students, they know what we are doing and they know it’s not just another real estate site but it’s a real estate site for students. Once you have the base brand then you build on that.

Plans for
More colleges, more students, more cities, more features in the product. Btw do you know we launched Flatmate finder and shared flats?

Success secrets?
Hire well, micro manage, treat your startup like a company, and do CRAZY stuff, always!

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Lately in India there has been quite a bit of news about political parties taking social media more seriously, however it is only being looked at as a marketing tool. For a while now I have been feeling that the term ‘social media marketing’ is wrongly coined because social media is never just about marketing…. it would be much better to refer to it as ‘social media communications’ as it alludes to a wider range of possibilities with social media. Recently I came across some very interesting stuff happening in Europe in the political sphere…

Beppe Grillo’s Political Party Model

Using a mix of new media & traditional rallies Beppe Grillo has just pushed his political party or should we say ‘unparty’ into the limelight. While social media platforms namely Twitter, Facebook & Blogs have been used largely as a marketing tool, what I find most intriguing is the disruptive nature of the party itself!

“get rid of the parties, put citizens in, limits of two terms, get the corrupted out of Parliament.” (Read More)

The model of the political party is to bring in citizens who rule for a limited number of terms. It would be like Jury duty i.e. volunteer duty not a money making profession at all. All processes can be made very transparent and such so the people are accountable. I don’t know the exact details about Grillo’s party model but this is very intriguing.

With the advent of internet and social media – the people in the world and within a country are connected, so connected! It is very much possible for a country with high internet literacy and penetration to elect normal, working citizens into a ruling seat. These elections can happen frequently – every two terms.

It reminds me of,

@Sweden – Sweden’s Twitter account managed by the People

The countries official Twitter account is a huge asset for the tourism board, thus it is a government asset. It is completely being managed by Sweden’s citizens. One citizen every week – and has been working brilliantly for quite some time now.

So we already have live examples of how citizens can completely manage at least some of the government positions. The government’s role then becomes more of facilitators. Where they bring in necessary processes and manage them for the citizens to rule themselves.

Bigger decisions about the country can actually be made taking into consideration what the citizens actually think. This Poll by Telegraph – Gibraltor belongs to UK or Spain? which was open for its readers to vote made me realise how possible this is. There could be a platform where the government clearly explains the pros and cons of decisions and then citizens can vote and decide the verdict or at least heavily influence it. Even now citizens can have major petition campaigns and such but often this is few and far and a lot of us are quite skeptical about how much of a difference these campaigns make.

Now however, citizens can be asked to be active participants of the government itself. They can manage many of the positions and roles as part of citizen duty, they can be decision & policy makers – the internet brings all this freedom & responsibility!

The only question that I wonder about however is if we manage a government system that is run truly by the people and is literally ‘of the people’ – taking the entire populace into consideration via polls and such will that necessarily be a good thing? It raises lot of questions about humanity itself. For eg this survey which states 1 in every 4 Asian men have indulged in rape or 1 in 3 women have experience domestic violence in America – when incidents of crime are so high, and these are the numbers on paper – what are the real numbers? Then do we trust us – the people – to really rule ourselves justly by taking public sentiments into consideration?

Will social media at some point bring the human race face to face with itself? What will we find?

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Just got contacted by a serious B2B company, by serious I mean hardcore B2B – not one of those B2Bs that are people-friendly as well. For eg: a B2B into carpets or interior design are very people friendly, any layman would find that type of content interesting. A company like hardware parts or highly technical stuff don’t have anything to offer to a layman, so that kind of serious B2B company.

By usual understanding Linkedin is THE platform for B2Bs as Facebook is for B2C – at least that is what people say. I was not comfortable suggesting Linkedin, because I don’t know what one can do towards a meaningful, valuable strategy over long term. The times when I thought creating a Linkedin group makes sense have gone, because Facebook has just made itself very, very marketeer friendly while with Linkedin I find community creation is an uphill task.

Also while exciting & happening Facebook pages are abundant, I simply fail to find a Linkedin Group that remains active over a long period of time. They inevitably die out, becoming a place for link pushing by every barely relevant marketeer.

I did some research about interesting social media campaigns on Linkedin in recent times. The findings are quite interesting,


I found this to be a very interesting case-study. DocuSign used InMails very thoughtfully with successful results. I have only limited experience with InMails as it is mostly a paid feature. Clearly however I can see certain salient aspects of this campaign,

Exclusive: targeted InMailers would look a lot more exclusive than some ad or bulk emailer. It would be impressive and people would stop, read and think on the message. Chances of it being missed off as ‘one more promotional message’ is less.

Influencers: They sent the InMailers via influencers. I find this very interesting – this would add a whole different value to the message. Usually influencers are at the receiving end of the company’s marketing message but here it is the opposite.

Overall, very interesting campaign to study even though it would be too cost prohibitive for any small or medium sized business. As I always say its best to understand the concepts used in a campaign and then modify as relevant depending on the company.


Now coming to the Linkedin Leviathan – Groups. Do they work or not? There are basically two ways to use groups – as a marketing channel or create a community

Groups as a marketing channels

Votility used Hubspot’s tool to help find relevant groups where the brand can push its blogs/messages. This can also be done manually albeit in lesser numbers. Obviously for Votility it has worked.

Any good campaign ends with a review and analysis. When looking at Votility’s Sources we can see that not only have visits & leads increased considerably since launching the LinkedIn campaign, but the visit-to-lead conversion rate is now hovering at 9.2%. Nearly 1 out of every 10 visitors that come from LinkedIn become a lead.

Creating a Community

This is one I am very skeptical about. These case-studies are few and far. I took a look at this blog which mentions a list of success stories in Sept 2012.

One year later, Aug, 2013 and we see that,

Chevron: Highly Active

Phillips: Highly Active

Cisco: Highly Active

Exact: Dead

Vistage: Moderate Activity

Qwest: Dead

Its good to see that Chevron, Cisco and Phillips have such strongly active groups on Linkedin. So overall my analysis is giving me a so-so result with regards to groups but it re-iterated the fact that there is a lot more to be done on Linkedin apart from creating a group.

Since Linkedin acquired Pulse there has been quite a bit of speculation that we should be seeing some major changes in the Linkedin interface. So if they manage somehow to make Linkedin Groups more robust and impactful then they might be a better choice. Currently compared to Facebook, creating a Linkedin Community is a much more difficult task. For small, medium businesses it would be come very cost prohibitive in terms of man power and ad campaigns.

What are your thoughts about hardcore B2B companies on social media? And how marketeer friendly is Linkedin?

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VJTI stands for Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute – one of the leading engineering colleges in Mumbai (and India). I have many VJTI-ans as Facebook friends and they keep sharing interesting stuff from Quora. I saw that VJTI as a topic on Quora is very popular.

Followers: 982

 Most questions in the topic have 1 or 2 answers but often 30+ votes, thus showing the high level engagement of the student community.

VJTI-Quora I was wondering about the on-the-ground situation – was VJTI admin part of this? Is the college facilitating this or was this purely student initiative?

Then I came across this QnA…Aditya Sengupta VJTI


and I realized that Aditya would be the best person to talk to with regards to this.

Is someone managing it (the topic) or is it a natural consequence of students being avid Quora users?

This is natural. Guess it started with Quora becoming popular within my VJTI friend circle and spreading outward from there – causing a lot of VJTI folks to come to Quora (because Quora is such an enticing+addictive service).

Why is the VJTI topic so active on Quora?

Critical mass. VJTI is a topic that lends itself well to being institutionalized, like several other classical institutions (the older IITs, BITS Pilani, etc). To get a feel of what I mean, here’s a good writeup (we can’t access the link as the Facebook note he refers to is not public but I have produced it in full at the end of this post). When a topic like that hits an audience with critical mass, activity happens.

How did you make Quora popular amongst VJTIans? Any interesting ploys?
No ploys. All natural growth. I’ve barely been active on Quora after my early days there a year or two ago.
Will this Quora popularity sustain on its own or do you (and the first adopters with you) still lead the participation?
If it can’t sustain itself organically, it won’t sustain in the long run even with the involvement of early adopters. I believe it’ll sustain itself.
Also please explain your role in VJTI – I am a little confused – you are a faculty member?

Not a faculty member. Normal ex-student (finished my BTech in 2009).

I usually find natural adoption of social media very interesting to study.  I find there is lots to learn for a marketeer.

1. Passionate Community

What Aditya rightly calls Critical Mass. Many brands have a passionate community – online, offline or mobile. Identifying this community and then empowering it to enhance the brand and the community itself can be a very crucial step. In fact Coca Cola in the early years of social had empowered their fans who ran a fan community for the brand. Instead of trying to take over the fan created page they actually empowered them.

2. Employees, Employees

Even earlier I have written about the merits of an employee centric social strategy. While your brand may not have built a significantly large community of users, the employees usually & especially for startups tend to be very loyal proponents of the brand. The challenge usually is that they may not be active social users and even if they are the company rules and regulations need to empower them to be able to participate actively as required.

3. Wolf in Sheep’s clothing (haha)

What I mean is that someone amongst the employee group should spark the passion. If the VJTI college would have started a campaign to get students on Quora etc.. we really can’t guarantee it would work and also the effort required would be a whole lot more. Instead someone who is part of the student community has sparked the passion a lot easily.

I have had similar experiences in startups when I used to work in-house. The boss had been trying to get employees to come onto social media and participate bit it wasn’t working too well, but I was as any other employee (albeit with a cooler job 😉 ) I used to keep telling them various Twitter stories, about the fun trending topics, shared some fun tweets on current topics, in case of Mumbai rains showed real, live pics and all of a sudden they were a lot more interested in Twitter and they adopted Twitter.

What are your thoughts on bringing about a natural adoption of new social platforms in a community? Will be coming up with more dope about interesting stuff on Quora soon… so stay tuned 🙂

Here is the note about VJTI that Aditya was refering to,

The 8th Wonder

June 6, 2009 at 11:15am

I remember the first time I heard the name VJTI. It was in the threadbare classroom of my Physics tuition teacher Mrs. Ghurye. I didn’t pay much heed to what she was saying. Most of us were drowned in the stupor of the laziness caused by the midday sun. My mind was more on the bead of sweat trickling down my back since the a/c was out of order, as she conveniently told us. She went on and on about how only a few handpicked chosen ones will ever be able to walk through those gates with pride. “Only the crème de la crème will ever call the illustrious Victoria Jubilee Technological Institute home”, she haughtily proclaimed. “Five of my students got admission there last year!” she had added with a self satisfied smirk.

At that time an image was etched into my subconscious. A magnificent, mammoth building, built of brick and stone. Beyond whose gilded gates laid boundless tomes of knowledge. The reticent walls when coaxed would tell tales of the geniuses and masterminds who studied there. I knew I’d never see that place in all my life. Apparently she made it seem like none of us were really worthy of it. That if we went there, we’d always get this feeling of aloofness and distance, a step-motherly treatment if you will.

I got in here by somewhat of a chance. I never really wanted to do IT or Instrumentation or any of these infantile branches. I felt, somehow, they did not give enough splendour to an engineering degree. I wanted a core branch. My dad at that time insisted that come what may, I must try for this institute at all costs. As distant as it may seem, it was worth a shot. I got my admission in the second round at COEP, Pune.

I remember the first day I walked through those gates (after the admission procedure), there was a stately aura around the campus and paradoxically everything and everyone seemed so humble. Even till this day, when I step into college after an extended period of time, I can still get the tingling sensation that I did on the first day. A Molotov cocktail of apprehension, fear and excitement flushed through my veins. What arcane secrets did she hold? Would this association end for the better or worse? Were the girls here pretty? It’s amazing what goes thru the mind of a 17year old at the threshold of his career.

Coming from the ‘eminent’ Jai Hind College I was shell shocked when I had my initial association with my peers. I thought “These aren’t my people! I belong with the Brand Wagon, mindless, haughty children of socialites with little sense and no aim. Who classify friends by the cars they drive and where they spend their Saturday nights, who scoff at anyone who as much as mumbles the words suburb, allowance or scholarship.” I can’t begin to say how wrong I was. I made friends here that I would have never known otherwise. Now THAT would have been a definite loss. For my suburban bandhaas, with their allowances fuelled by scholarships, are more ‘dope’ than anyone can fathom.

The people here were genuine and sincere. They all had that same quality of frankness and humility. Untainted and untarnished by the stains of ‘high society’. Its not that they came from humble beginnings, no. They were from all strata of society, coalesced into one single institution. They were cool in their own way, each one unpretentious, unique and irreplaceable, always eager to help and never to judge.

These people taught me that sometimes water might just be thicker than blood. I learned the fine art of proxy, experienced the zeal and enthusiasm only an inter-department cup can create, understood the nuances between the nerds of Electronics and Computers and learnt just how much fun ‘CounterStrike’ in the hostel can be.

We often crib about the shortcomings of our college. How the faculty is lacking, the infrastructure is crumbling and the knowledge is more theoretical. But no one really realises the fact that these hallowed walls play a mean trick on you. You learn to despise them for the first year, you turn indifferent towards them for the next to and eventually you realise that you just can’t let go. It’s called being institutionalised. A word I picked up from a movie I saw, which was recommended by, none other than, a hostelite!

I now stand at the middle of my term at VJTI. The friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had and the things I have learnt. I find this repertoire of memories forever engraved into my mind more priceless than I can ever put into this article.

Dedicated to: – Those who made double lectures more bearable, the library more conducive to gossip, and practicals as something to look forward to.

Raj Dabholkar
TE Production