Posts Tagged ‘social media and tribes’

In a recent trip to Hawaii, I had the most amazing customer service experience in the First Class seating of United Airlines.

Firstly, it is just exhilarating to be going to Hawaii.

Secondly, being upgraded to First Class at the last minute – simply mind blowing.

Finally, having the customer experience that is just outstanding – that takes the cake. If you have been on flights where the personnel are rude, unfriendly, where you are treated like cattle and the service is rubbish, you will get what I am going to say.

As I got on the flight, I saw this pleasant face that greeted me with a smile at 9:30am. She took my jacket and gave me a glass of champagne. Yes, that is one of the reason why Hawaii is a popular destination…As I sunk into the seat and saw the plane take off, I saw miles and miles of ocean underneath. And then before the meal was served the captain had a plan to play a game where the passengers were given Distance and Speed and they had to calculate the Hawaiian time (precisely to the second) when the plane would be mid-way. Then he offered a CD to the winner as a reward. Me and my husband, got into it – the engineer in both of us took over the lazy traveler.

We got our heads into it and the air hostess kept smiling as she saw the passion and the energy with which we were feverishly making calculations. She came to us when we were done and simply smiled and said, “I am going to take your answer to the captain, I want it to be on the top. I am confident you are the winners”. We smiled and just wished that other people will be in a vacation mood.

The time flew, we got done with our meal service and as the plane was about an hour from destination, at that time the captain announced the winner. Alas! we had lost.  We were short by one second to the correct answer. We both smiled at each other as we heard the air hostess break the news to us. Then, all of a sudden, she came over to us and said, “You both deserve a prize”. And then she left. When she returned she had a Chilean Red wine bottle with her and she said, “You were short by one second, you are winners, this is your prize”.

I was amazed at her and thanked her. Her graciousness was commendable. I guess she made me a loyal customer of United. I asked her “How long have been working for United?” She said, “Twenty Years”. I was enthused to see that not only United had retained an employee for twenty years, but also nurtured them to be relationship ambassadors.

Social Media Advantage

And this story becomes part of my series since social media now allows me to thank United and Susie Burns for their extraordinary service. I will be sending a personal email to Susie with a link to this article. Just my way of acknowledging her in today’s social media world. Moreover, @unitedairlines is the twitter handle for United and as I tweet this article with their handle they will get to see this it, so no need to send a “thank you” letter to the customer service department. And it is possible, they might RT it for their ~ 135K followers on Twitter to read – that is pure word of mouth web 2.0 marketing.  Moreover, my FB. twitter and LinkedIn networks will see this.

There is no better PR than a compelling customer service story and this is an example of how customers are sharing their experiences. And that too FREE of charge to United – now that’s what I call a Home Run!

Social Media and Tribes #21: Bday becomes a Big Day

by Deepika Bajaj on November 17, 2010

This week, I celebrated my Birthday (yesterday – November 16th). Every year on this day, I celebrate it. But the past few years have been quite special. And the credit goes to Facebook.

If you have ever received Birthday wishes on FB, you are getting the drift.

Pre-FB Scenario

I was not in touch with a lot of friends. Some of them parted ways when we finished school and some parted ways when we graduated from college. And so people who you used to celebrate your Birthday with vanished. So, on your Birthday just a small sample of your family and friends who remembered or were in touch with you wished you.

Then there are a few people who forgot about your Birthday. It is hard to remember for people like myself. I am good with names and faces but dates are something I always struggle with. Moreover, even if you remember the date, at times, the time difference gets you. By the time, you make out the time – most of the time (if you have a global family  & friends) you are likely to be wishing Happy Belated Birthday!

Post-FB Scenario

I am in touch with quite a few school; college and work friends. They are getting a notification of my B’day in their FB feeds. Viola! I get a lot of wishes and since they simply get to wish me by posting on my facebook wall, it is time difference immune.

I find this very interesting. When you wake up on your Birthday and see all these wishes, you are pleasantly surprised. Of course! it makes you feel special. The short and brief comments are reminders of all the people who are connected to you and part of this big day with you.

In Conclusion

If you are wishing someone on FB, I encourage you to do so. It is the least amount of effort to connect with someone on their special day. This FB tribe has a way to make the BDAY a BIG DAY for you. Afterall, the party started with the first message… and that too, perhaps, while you were asleep!

I always dreamt of Traveling to Eastern Europe. There was something that lured me to it. I wonder if it was the culture, mystery or the beauty. So, last week when I landed in Prague, I was in a search of why this place gravitated me to it.

Prague is a unique destination where the Travel Tribe of the world converges from all over Europe and United States. This place offers a unique challenge to the travel tribe of currency exchange, (they don’t have Euro – still czeck crown), unrealibale taxi drivers and a lack of a source to find info on tourist attractions. If you are traveler, who plans little and waits for the place to unfold its mystery then you are getting my drift.

But most important feature, is how social media is being leveraged to promote travel to Prague which is totally renovated and almost is a breathtaking spectacle.

Here are some insights of how travel is being encouraged to medieval Europe leveraging social media:

  1. Trendspotting: A new report  recently released by the China Internet Network Information Center reveals that online travel booking in 2009 increased 77.9 percent, a growth rate that exceeds online shopping (45.9 percent), online banking (62.3 percent) and e-mail (29 percent). Many hotels are now part of websites like and to attarct visitors who have a certain budget. The current economic challenges in the market have allowed 3rd party travel agency websites to regain a larger % of online travel distribution.
  2. Bed and Breakfast: In 2009, the global recession from which we are still struggling to surface left us all short of cash, and it was thought that holidays would be one of the first luxuries to go. Not so. People didn’t necessarily travel less, they travelled differently, and, in fact, many of those who lost their jobs took advantage of the career break to fulfil lifelong dreams of travelling the world. All of this was good news for the B&B industry. At, only those who have made bookings are invited to share their thoughts, meaning all reviews are from genuine customers. Also, sites like took off as they offered places to share a room or sublet a room at a discounted price.
  3. What’s next: Aside from accepting advice online, more travelers will engage in creating, rating, and posting personal travel content online. There is no better place than Europe for finding cheap public transport like trains, trams, metros and buses…and they are safe.

So, if you thought travel is a luxury, think again…the new Travel tribe is taking travel to a new dimension…welcome to the connected world!

Social Media and Tribes#18: Better than Google

by Deepika Bajaj on October 27, 2010

You may be wondering what is better than Google? Indeed a fair question. This is how I use Google. I get a question in my mind and I type the question on the search bar. Then I click “search” in pursuit of my answer. It is a good way to get information of topics and things that you are interested in.

But what happens if you want real-time customer reviews, insights and recommendations from your tribe.

This is when I use “Facebook”. I type a question on my profile status and seek answers from my network…and they all collectively help me get to the answer.

Here is an example: While in Delhi, I wanted to get recommendation on where to get info on movie reviews and showtimes. I simply reached out to my network on facebook.

My FB Conversation

I got responses within a couple of hours. In the meantime, I was on a conference call. And had the help of my friends plan a movie date with my grandmother. So, instead of me working alone, I had a group of friends who helped me get to what I was looking for. This is the raw power of leverage that Facebook Tribe offers.

Why it is better than Google?

  1. Not alone anymore: Man is a social animal and now inhabits the social networking cyber-safari. Why do things alone when it is more fun to do things with others? So, Google might be full of information but you need to dig into it alone. Instead it is the collective leverage that adds a tinge of FUN and that ever-so-important human element to the mix.
  2. Sharing is caring: Getting information is like hoarding things for yourself. When people share on FB others who might be in the conversation also get others update. This sharing and caring makes the world go around.
  3. A virtual BOND: People who are on the social networks actually broadcast info to their tribe about what they are doing. And in this process they give and receive information which leads to a virtual bonding within the tribe. Sometimes, people who have only communicated online meet in person and they are no strangers to each others. Now that is some virtual bond.

A constant contact, a constant reach and constant care makes search on FB sometimes better than Google…

I was presently surprised on how text messaging is more popular in India than any other place I am aware of. Most of the business and family communication which had been previously a telephone call has become a text message. This is a great leap into Mobile 2.0 in India. It is common to set business meetings over a text message. Coordinate with family about your whereabouts, get movie coupons and change ringtones on your cell phone over an SMS.

Interestingly, there are sites like that boasts 25M users. Looking for domestic help (very common) in India, check out, a SMS based social networking site for household help. Imagine! hiring a cook, a driver and many other things over SMS.

Some interesting observations:

  1. SMS NOT text message: Most people are familiar with the word “SMS”, say text me and they know you are from “OUT of town”.
  2. OK to text: For most part when the phone rings in meetings, people hold the handset close to their mouth to have a conversation in a conference room but the most widely acceptable format to communicate in such a setting is TEXTING.
  3. Traffic makes it a necessity: Imagine! being stuck in a traffic jam in a big city like Mumbai and Delhi. You need help with directions, you will request a text message with landmarks to identify a location e.g “behind the videocon building, look for the PVR cinema on the right OR make a left Raheja towers”. Almost a small personal navigation system.
  4. Text for voting: India is big into “Indian Idol” and programs where the community needs to vote to pick a winner. This adds more fuel to the SMSing community who take this responsibility seriously to caste their vote.

I loved how many things I used to SMS for while in India. The most important fact is the cultural aspect – where giving your phone number is not a BIG deal. People are comfortable sharing this information and are more trusting in this regard than the western cultures where email is more popular. I enjoyed the personalization of SMSing…

Interesting to be in India when they are venturing into how to use social media for tribes that have similar interests. As the social media momentum takes off, it is clear that tribes will mature in the coming year. Specifically, professional tribes in India. Since the entire nation is upbeat with the economic growth – it allows for professionals to feel they are treasured and wanted. What better feeling for a graduate coming out of school or for a professional looking for another interesting challenge!

I was in Mumbai last week for some business meetings and it was interesting to note that India talks on SMS/text messaging more than on email. Unfortunately, I have a handset where it was challenging to text but I had no other alternative. Even people at Executive levels pass on their mobile numbers and will text you if they need to connect with you. Quite an interesting shift for me.

Here is professional tribe in India that is a LinkedIn local maker : Brijj

Some interesting observations:

  1. No job search: Though this is a professional network, it does not have its own job search function, it partnered with for that functionality. Therefore, it is a professional network minus its own job search as seen in LinkedIn.
  2. Import contacts from LinkedIn: You can invite your contacts from LinkedIn to connect with you on Brijj. I am wondering when LinkedIn will allow local professional sites to import contacts to it. 
  3. Featured Experts: They have a section where they have “Featured Experts”. I found this quite interesting as I was not able to determine the criteria of how a Featured Expert is chosen. I looked for their contributions as in articles etc. but could not locate any. I do believe people get a lot of clicks on their profiles so makes sense for someone who wants to establish a Thought Leader persona.

… and of course they want you to KEEP BRIJJING...which is I guess like keep Googling…Interesting to find how local versions are existing inspite of the success of mega networks like LinkedIn.

I am loving the time I am spending in Delhi. Last week, I was in a meeting where I learnt about a site for foodies in India. A very fast growing segments of India’s exploding consumer market. I have to say, everyone in consumer business wants a piece of it. Add to it a a dash of entertainment (like movie reviews) and dash of Common Wealth games (restaurant specials) and you are looking at a tribe that is HUGE.

Lets back up for a second and let me build the picture for you. Delhi is a capital of foodies, a tribe that socializes, talks, breathes, worship’s and lives food. In this world, I was curious to find a site that really is like what we call Yelp in US. I knew that it is next to impossible that there wasn’t any such foody tribe in this part of the world. So, the mystery unveiled and I got to learn about Burrp

Here are some distinctions between the Foody tribe in US and Foody tribe in India:

  • Bollywood Prevails: In India, Bollywood is connected to everything. There is a section on the site “Flicks this week“, that links you to show times, buy tickets and write a review. This is definitely a cool strategy where a tribe views entertainment as part of their daily eating habits.
  • Roadside stalls: In India, many people like to explore dhabas which are called Roadside stalls (dhaba) for food. Many of these stalls have had their name to fame by serving mindblowing concoctions of food and recipes. Though the elite might consider this unhygienic food but you really can’t take out a DHABA from an Indian. So, roadside stalls find a spot at this foody tribe and has many hidden gems for the adventurous foodies.
  • Blah section: Then, there is the Blah section…now when you don’t know what you are talking about you need a blah section for people who don’t know what they are looking for. So, the site has travel tips, discount deals and many things that get under the blah section…so if you are foody and wanted to get a food related info but now don’t remember why you were here in the first place – don’t suffer – there is a BLAH section that will blow your mind away and get you thinking of things that you were not thinking of – perfect for a tribe that ties food to travel, movies and beauty…

So, this foody tribe is connecting with food and many things that derive the same sense of satisfaction like a good meal for its members whose universe is centered around their palate. What a foodyful experience….

Social Media and Tribes #14: Taking Dinosaurs Online

by Deepika Bajaj on September 29, 2010

The outdated image of dinosaurs as maladaptive extinct monsters has led to the word “dinosaur” entering the vernacular to describe anything that is impractically large, slow-moving, obsolete, or bound for extinction. But here I am speaking of them very fondly and respectfully. And who I am talking about is the older generation who finds it extremely hard to navigate online yet they understand that if they need to stay connected to their grand kids or even stay updated they need to understand Facebook and Twitter.

There is a rising community of this tribe which is yearning for knowledge on how to create FB and Twitter profiles, upload pictures, share videos and chat through social media tools. During my current stay in India, I have had the rare privilege of coaching some elders in my family to get online so that they are able to connect with their children who are abroad or even in different cities and are now more accessible online than on mobile phones.

So, here are the challenges of this tribe:

  1. Can’t sit on Laptops for more than 20 minutes: Most of them are not accustomed to working on computers and find it hard to concentrate on laptops for long durations. Some of them get backaches, headaches or even lose attention. This is fascinating for me coming from a world of digital natives, where little kids decipher iPhones like they were simply unwrapping a candy bar and can sit for eons when playing with it!
  2. Privacy issues: The youth is open to connecting to different people and has a very different view on privacy issues than the older generation. The older generation don’t like to comment but are happy to get comments on their FB status. They feel if they comment then the whole world will know what they were communicating to that one person. The youth on the contrary is more worried about reputation management, security issues and intellectual issues like their content and pictures.
  3. Picky and Choosy: They are extremely picky about who will be their friends. They are not comfortable with connecting with friends of friends who they might be faintly acquainted to.
  4. Navigation: How to find friends on FB? No recollection of their friends recent names and even their batch mates. They find it extremely challenging to use tools like yahoo or gmail or friendfinder on FB to find friends. They write notes on simple navigation techniques to avoid forgetting how to do so.

To be fair to them, the last 2 decades have not been easy on them, from a technology standpoint. If the 1970-1990 felt like 40 years of technological advancements packed into 20 years, 1990-2010 almost feels like 80 years with the internet, social media and what not!

All in all, I am super excited about their openness to adapt with the times. There is a momentum in this tribe which is fueled by their inherent curiosity to discover the world of social media…Bravo to these brave souls…!

Social Media and Tribes #13: Social tribes connecting Youth

by Deepika Bajaj on September 22, 2010

I mentioned in my last post that I am currently visiting India. It has been an awesome experience. New Delhi in the recent times has become a melting pot of different cultures. More importantly, it has been interesting to note that students from all over the world are now coming to India to study. This is especially fueled by an organization called ISAC (India Study Abroad Center). There are many programs you can participate in – Rural and Public health rotation, community development and clinical rotation and many more. The youth all over the world comes to India and forms a tribe based on their specific interest and joins a specific program.

I met a few students who are part of this program and it was interesting to note their perspective and motivation to come to India. Some really formed a tribe based on their specific interest, some formed a tribe based on their place of origin and some formed a tribe based on their necessity to save money as students. The most fascinating was the tribe formed on their common interest to socialize.

Well! Imagine the scenario, you land in a foreign country, you don’t know many people, chances are you might not be able to communicate with locals (since in Delhi most people speak English it is not that difficult if you know the language – still communication can be difficult) , very few people look like you and you are probably getting ripped off by the vendors since they might believe you are a tourist.

But the inherent desire to socialize, date or even party with other people is present in most youngsters. So, how do they find an event that reminds them of the music of their country and gives them an opportunity to socialize…they use Facebook.

Here is how it happens:

  1. Euro Nights: This is a concept which is very popular. You just find out about all the upcoming parties on the Euro nights Facebook pg. Each event is named as Italy Euro night, Brazil Euro night or Poland Euro Night. The music is mixed but brings out some special tracks keeping the theme of the night in mind.
  2. Make Friends: When you meet people at these events, you use your cell phones to note their names. Voila! they are your friends the next day…connect over FB.
  3. Feel like a superstar: They have cameramen at these events who take pictures with your friends and then add those pics on FB to the specific event you were attending. This takes care of two things – you don’t have to carry your camera and then if you forgot who your had met it reminds you of that person when you see the snap. I need not mention, it feeds your ego of having friends of all genres and nationalities.

I am amazed at how these events are shaping the culture of Delhi which was very isolated just a few years ago…Social tribes are phenomenon championed by the youth as they inhabit a boundless world on cyberspace and on the ground. Welcome to the connected world of young and daring….

I am currently in India and have been observing the social media consumption in this part of the world. To give you some background, people in India have a celebrity smitten mindset. Even a beedi (a local cigarette) is sold with top Bollywood actor endorsing it. Also, India is a country where people prefer to pick up the phone and talk rather than communicating over emails. These two factors make it interesting how the consumption of social media is shaping the new promotional and communication channel.

Over here there is big use of mobile phone and Vodafone ( a local cell phone provider) passes along movie coupons (buy one get one free).  If you SMS them in the morning, they text you back a coupon number. Then you have to stand in line register your name and phone number before you get the coupon. You then take this coupon to the BOX office and get your two tickets for the price of one. This is a powerful marketing practice in a nation crazy about its Bollywood movies.

A new promotion strategy being implemented by marketing savvy filmmakers is to create Facebook pages for films. Photos, links to news articles and YouTube videos are posted and even advice is solicited from fans on Facebook. Just recently Dabbang, a new movie was launched in India. It became an instant superhit, it has a Facebook page here. So, even though there is a Facebook facelift it has no minimal impact on the buzz created.

Some recommendations for the Facebook uplift here :

  1. Relevancy: Adding relevant information that pertains to the movie would really be a powerful medium to connect with the fans. Running a contest or even putting a video or free tickets would add a lot of flavor to this page.
  2. Exclusivity: Adding exclusive content would draw fans to the FB page. How about an interview with Salman Khan (the lead actor) himself?
  3. Star presence: There is lack of celebrity presence on the FB page. It would be interesting to have comments from the co-stars, directors and musicians engaged in the project.

It is interesting that FB has become a powerful social media tool but still has ways to go before it takes on Vodafone with its coupons. Nothing still beats a discount for a Tribe that is crazy about movies….