How big companies deal with social media

An article in the Economic Times of today gives instances of big companies flunking in dealing with negative social media response. It does not come as a surprise to us.

The lack of professionalism with which nost companies run their media affairs is amazing. The CEOs and CMDs - and people aspiring to reach these positions someday – ignore communication, be it with their employees, business partners or consumers. The most ignored and misunderstood among them are the end-uses of their products. Bosses carry out their operational and financial communication with key stakeholders through visits, telephonic talks and mails, formal meetings, parties and so on, but they hardly talk to their consumers, especially when the consumer happens to be ‘the common man’. We are not making this observation on the fly; we are saying this with authority and seriousness.

Look at some of the big ad campaigns running right now. Do you notice the Photoshopped photographs of models with unearthly smooth skins and queen-like attitude, and the self-congratulatory copy? Ads in wrong places? Unrelated / quirky / suggestive / hyperbolic content? Such ads can pass only when the big boss is either dis-interested or ignorant to the level of being stupid.

For most companies, communication with remote stakeholders ends with issuing ads. For an understanding corporation, ads should only be a very small part of the overall communication strategy. But do the top guys bother?

Come social media and the consumer suddenly has got a voice that is heard far and wide. Not only that, the voice gets relayed again and again as i- social media often goes ‘viral’, and ii- social media is open 24x7. Add to it the consumer behavior: in most situations, he sits quite when happy but cries horse when he’s been wronged.

Can you expect a genuine and professional communication from the top corporate brass as demanded by the social media? Social media demands that you talk to your publics the way Dale Carnegie wanted: listen more and talk less. And what companies do: They give this avoidable additional / marginal / secondary responsibility of dealing with social media to juniors who hire some self-proclaimed expert agency whose reps in turn fool the bosses with technicalities and jargons. So a flash-heavy but annoyingly uncaring website is created, a blog is associated with it, an account is opened on Facebook and a Twitter account is also sometimes added as top dressing. if some new fashionable platform opens up tomorrow, the agency will put that too and take credit for being up-to-date with the latest tech. What about content - is it written with the end user in mind? What about response to queries? What systems are in place to instantly respond in an understanding and helpful manner to every grievance? Has the company the humility and courage to say sorry if something did go wrong? The answer to such questions is seldom ‘yes’.

The Economic Times article lists a few ads that were seen as inappropriate. Till now there was hardly a forum available to the common viewer / listener / reader to protest against these, but social media has put the loudspeaker before him. The damage an angry consumer can do should be obvious, but even the big multi-nationals don’t care. Isn’t it because [as we said earlier] they are either dis-interested or ignorant to the level of being stupid?

For more social media discussions, do click here.

Cartoonist hanged: Aseem's blog

Aseem Trivedi is a dear blogger from India who has been sent to jail for sedition as he has drawn cartoon lampooning Indian politicians and the political and bureaucratic systems as well as showing deep contempt towards institutions such as parliament and national symbols.

It is ironical that his cartoon 'Cartoonist hanged: India 2050' has proved so prophetic though he himself might escape gallows. He had thought that in India ruled by some despot in 2050 might think it proper to hang a cartoonist - and he must have thought it too a rare possibility, that's why it became the subject of cartoon - but little did he realise that the governments of federal India and its States in 2012 have somehow turned as intolerant as the rulers of erstwhile USSR. Their frustration with public criticism emanates from the proverbial pigeons [of mis-governance] that have come to roost. So go against CAG, even Supreme Court, political opposition, authors, cartoonists, civil society activists, protesters...

It is not a stray case where a cranky fellow complained against a cartoonist and the police arrested him and the judge found merit in jailing him. It is a deep-rooted malaise that is only growing. In talking of national security yesterday in the DGPs' conference, honorable PM talked of the danger from social media and suffixed it with a customary 'all social media is not bad' statement. A sensible statesman, however big the provocation, should have said that all freedom of speech and expression is fine, and suffixed it with 'there are some black-sheep'.

We have checked the blog of Aseem, [forgive us if the link goes off, if the blog is blocked] but find that though his extreme contempt for parliament et al may offend some, what he is depicting is irreverence within 'reasonable' limits. Take irreverence out of creative arts and they lose much of their worth. Sad that India is not only making a laughing stock of itself, it is losing creativity, humour, tolerance and all the good that comes out of sharp criticism.

Update of March 2015: 
The Bombay High Court has, after hearing a Public Interest Litigation in Aseem's case, held that citizens have the right to criticize the government as long as it does not incite violence or public disorder. The government, it said, cannot slap sedition charges on citizens for making fair criticism. The court did not find wit, humour or sarcasm in Aseem's cartoons but said, that was no reason for curtailing his freedom of speech and expression.  

Search engine optimisation for blogs: html tweaking needed?

We conclude the series on SEO with this post. This post is written with those bloggers in mind who are not technology-minded and have been brainwashed into believing that SEO needs big-time html tweaking. So, before we go further, let’s debunk one big myth: that you should know html to optimise your blog fairly for search engines. The reality is that YOU NEED NOT KNOW ANY HTML FOR FAIRLY GOOD SEO! In fact, playing with html without knowing how various codes behave might make your blog non-functional. Btw, bloggers with a free blog on do not have the liberty to play with the html beyond a pale unless they upgrade their account. Blogger allows you to dissect the html the way you want, but cautions you to save a copy of the html of the blog before you touch it.

We at ITB do not do html tweaking beyond bare basics. It keeps us on high moral ground and we are sure search engines would not suspect us for undesirable or even unnatural SEO. It saves us from future algorithm changes to be made by search engines that might despise the present-day SEO practices. It also gives us time to devote on posts.
Fine. Lets’ move on.

Give the blog a fine title. The title appears on top of your blog and, depending upon your browser settings, as a line on top of the browser. Usually, it should not be longer than 60 characters. It MUST have one or more keywords but not in a way that they look spammy.
On WordPress, go to Settings>General>Site title
On Blogger, go to Settings>Basic>Title>Edit

Give the blog a relevant description. It will appear below the title and will guide the visitors more than the search engines more about your blog. Keep it relevant and let it have one or more keywords suitable to your blog.
On WordPress, go to Settings>General>Tagline
On Blogger, go to Settings>Basic>Description>Edit

Put proper anchor text. For linking, select the entire expression that you want to be the anchor text. If you need to change it later, Go to the editing window, re-select the text and re-link rather than playing with editing the earlier link.

Give sub-headings additional value in terms of SEO and also for guiding the reader.
For this, you can make the sub-heading bold, in a different color and or bigger size [not all three together]. You can also choose to use the inbuilt heading / sub-heading style from the editing menubar in Blogger.

Give a good alt tag and description to the image. These help the search engines. 
On WordPress, when you click on a ‘media’ [which includes images, pdf, MSoffice file types, etc], you get an editing popup screen that has boxes for inputting title, alternate text, description and caption.
On Blogger, click on the image on the blog-post, then click on ‘properties’ to enter alt-text and description.

Besides, give a suitable caption to associate the image with the accompanying text. The alt text and description will not interfere with the caption. 

Give links rel=“nofollow” feature if you don’t want to associate with such links.
On Blogger, open the post editing window. Click on the link anchor text, then click on ‘Link’ in the editing menubar. This will open a popup in which you will fill up the linked URL.  Under it, you have the ‘Add rel=“nofollow” attribute’ button. Click on it and then on ‘OK’.

Want to see how the html of your blog looks?

In layman’s terms, HTML is the base language in which all web-pages are composed. To see the way a page of your blog reads in html, right click anywhere on the blog. Choose ‘View Page Source’/ ‘View source’/ ‘Source’. To see how some of the actions you took on the blog’s editor affect the html, search for these expressions [to search something on a web-page, you just have to press control and F1 keys together.], starting with the top end:
title, meta, href, alt

The expression next to ‘title’, in quotes [=“ ”] will show the title of your blog.

On searching ‘meta’, you might get various expressions. Go to the one with ‘description’ written alongside. The expression within quotes is the meta description of the blog. Don’t worry if it is not there.

There will be as many ‘href’ expressions as there are links on the page. Look for links with this structure: <a href="...html">abcd</a> This entire expression is for linking something to something else. The URL within quotes is the destination URL and the text after it within > and < is the anchor text.

Have you been told, meta tags are necessary for improving search popularity?

You might have been advised to put meta tags in the html of your blog. We don’t recommend that unless you are quite familiar with html.

A meta tag is a hidden tag that occurs in the <HEAD> portion of an html document. It gives additional information about the html document. You need not give any meta tags other than those inbuilt in the blogging platform [WordPress, Blogger,...]. You might need a few of them if your blog is being run by a technical guy independent of a blogging platform. 

Need you bother about robots.txt and sitemap.xml?

No, unless your blog is being maintained as a site independent of a blogging platform such as WordPress and Blogger.

Measuring search engine and blog popularity stats

Blogger and WordPress both give stats in the blogging dashboard but their functionality is rather limited. In addition, if you are not on these platforms, you’ll need reliable tools from an authentic supplier for doing detailed analysis of visitors and search preferences relevant to your blog / website.  

Let us introduce you to two good companions of a long-term blogger, especially those interested in making money from blogging. These deal with (i)  the way your blog is surfed and (ii) the way the web is searched for topics related to your blog. Both are provided by Google and have free versions with enough arsenals.

Open a Google account if you don’t have one yet. Now log in and go to this site: Google AdWords. This has many free tools, and a very useful tool for finding relevant keywords for your blog is the keyword tool.  Go to ‘Tools and Analysis’, and then to ‘Keyword tool’ and put the keywords you feel are good for your blog. It will come out with interesting and useful keywords for you!

The second one is Google analytics. You can visit it by clicking here: Google analytics. You need to put an analytics code in the html of your blog as per instructions given on this site and it will track the visitors, country-, language-, technology- wise and in many other ways. In Worpress, there is a plugin available for this, under Settings menu.

Articles in this series:

Blogging tips on ethical SEO

What search engines love and what they hate

Use strong name n keywords to guide visitors, search engines to your blog

Use links and backlinks for blog value and SEO

Search engine optimisation for blogs: html tweaking needed? (present one)