Blog about Internet marketing strategies - social media, & SEO

Role of Board of Directors in Organizational Strategy

Just went through an interesting piece from Owning Up –  The 14 Questions Every Board Members Needs to Ask by Ram Charan. I thought it was quite relevant in many of the organizations of Nepal where the hierarchy is not well defined. The boards may be

  • Actively into management or
  • Passive part of the organization

In general the issues covered are the role of management, in particular CEO in educating the board of directors. The common cause of passive board is that they are believed to have little or no knowledge of the domain so they have no role in strategy formulation or implementation (which is true in many cases here in Nepal where the board is extension of management and vice versa). Some management don’t have board in strategy due to lack of knowledge that they should be a part too.

The truth is that the board should be a part of the strategy at three levels: company portfolio, strategic business units (SBU) and functional capabilities in the external context. In Owning Up, the suggestion is for the management to engage the board more in the strategy with the following process.

  • Discuss External Trends
  • Capture the Essence of the Strategy in Writing
  • Iterate the Strategy with the Board
  • Conduct a Strategy Immersion Session

After all since the board and management are on the same page, directors too need to be engaged in the corporate strategy. Especially in the ever changing environment, external viewpoints are equally important too.

What is your Strategy?

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Social Media Basics

What about Social Media?

Social Media is the electronic technology that foster interactive communication. Essentially, social media is any internet or mobile applications that allow creation and exchange of user-generated content.
social media
Earlier forms of media were one way only that allowed companies to tell their views or information and wait for users to respond. Now, with what is called as web 2.0, it has become possible for anybody to talk, share information or content such as image or video, or network using the internet. These are the social media tools of the modern age. Some of powerful and popular social media where users can participate in generating ideas and content are Blogs, Forums, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Digg, Flickr, Delicious among others.

While it was possible for companies and brands to get away with having just a website 10 years back, this is not the case now with all users using social media. If you are not there, your competitor will be. So the best is to start using some of the social media basics yourself first.

Blog

Blog is the initial form of social media which allows updating regular information/content where users can participate through comments or feedback. Having a blog is one of the best way online to letting know that your company is alive. There are free blogging platforms available such as www.blogger.com or www.wordpress.com to get started with. However customization works best for company blogs. Companies such as Starbucks have used a different approach to user engagement through their blog, whereas companies such as General Electric (GE) or Southwest Airlines have successfully taken the traditional role of brand awareness through their blogs. There isn’t much corporate blogging culture in Nepal, though some organizations post regular updates through blogs. Personal blogs on the other hand have grown substantially in Nepal, including ones like mysansar or others that blog to monetize.

Forums

Forums are good place to allow targeted users to communicate. You can find forums on endless topics ranging from travel to sports or movies to politics to technology. Or very specific forums such as macro photography or ice-cream or Ferrari. While maintaining forums, it is important to foster discussions in the appropriate topics.

Facebook

Facebook is one of the most popular and powerful social media. Whatever your business, Facebook is a great way to reach out to the users. Facebook currently has 800 million users worldwide. To start with Facebook, create a Facebook Page for your brand or company. Once you create a page, complete the basics (such as uploading a profile picture and filling the information) and add contacts. Users can then become a fan of your Facebook page and interact on it. Popular Facebook pages such as that of Coca-Cola have millions of fans interacting everyday in it. Even local Nepali companies such as Ncell or AceTravel have used it to good effect along with Facebook pages for social causes, such as NepalUnites. Facebook advertising on the other hand is a quick way to reach to more uses.

Twitter

Twitter is another social media that allows only 140 characters of public messaging service. Twitter has been used for many purpose such as interacting real-time with customers, feedback system, contests, organizing events or just updating with news. You can reply real-time in twitter privately or publicly. Using hastag(#) is a good way to start discussion in certain topic, such as #elections2011 or #twitter. Companies such as Best Buy have effectively used twitter through @twelpforce for real-time customer service. Even local Nepali organizations have used it well, such as @ibloodnepal and @tfcnepal for social causes.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media for professional networking. It can be used as a personal resume on the internet or by companies to find employees. This business related social media can be used to foster interaction through LinkedIn groups, LinkedIn Answers or through job openings. It is very powerful in the sense that you get direct leads for your business. Again, advertising is an option to reach to potential users.

YouTube

YouTube is the most powerful social media for videos sharing. It is one of the most viral tools that spreads lot of buzz online as well as offline. Not only is it powerful for musicians or movie makers, this is equally useful for companies of all sizes. Consider the Old Spice Campaigns made totally on YouTube or the wacky Annoying Oranges. In Nepal too users such as lexlimbu have used YouTube to good effect.

These are only few of the popular social media. Each organization or brands have specific requirements and needs to select the social media accordingly. Also there are bookmark tools such as addthis or shrethis that allow users to share contents.

It is also important to understand that it is best to maintain only those social media that one can manage in the long run. Because not managing social media is worse than not having social media. In case your social media strategy backfires, you have to be ready for that too.

Need to know more? Glad to help.

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Twitter Activity Response

Twitter recently introduced the “Twitter Activity” tab and the users are not so excited about it. Most hate it really and I don’t like it either. It looks like the copy of infamous Facebook activity and raises privacy issues. Initial response suggests fewer than 10% users who like the new feature. Few others are neutral to it. Most users just dislike the new Twitter Activity change.

You can see the responses to the new Twitter Activity here.

What do you think of the new Activity feature on Twitter? Do you like it or dislike it?

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Google+ Pages for Business

Google+ Pages allows creating online presence for business and brands through Google+, much like the Facebook Pages. Pages can be created for several categories such as:

  • Product or Brand
  • Company, Institution or Organization
  • Local Business or Place
  • Arts, Entertainment or Sports
  • Other

Creating Google+ Pages

Google+ pages are similar to the regular Google+ profiles in the sense that it allows profile owners to add or block people to chosen circles, share content, +1 on others’ content such as comments or photos, and create and join Hangouts. Google+ Pages can be identified with the square shape next to the name at the top of the page.

However there are some important differences that must be taken into consideration. Using Google+ personal profile for promoting business can get the person to be banned from Google+ altogether. The differences between Google+ page from normal profiles are:

  • Pages can’t add people to circles until the page is added first or mentioned.
  • Pages can be made for a variety of different purposes as mentioned above whereas profiles can only be made for people.
  • The default privacy setting for elements on your page profile is public. So Google can index everything on Google+ Pages for their search results unless you change the settings.
  • Pages have the +1 button at the left navigation. (similar to Like Option at top of a Page in Facebook)
  • Pages can’t +1 other pages, nor can they +1 stuff on the Web.
  • Pages can’t play games.
  • Pages don’t have the option to share to ‘Extended circles’ (that is circles of circles – or friends of friends).
  • Pages don’t receive notifications via email, text, or in the Google bar.
  • Pages can’t hangout on a mobile device.
  • Local pages have special fields that help people find the business’ physical location.

In future users will be able to reach to a Google+ Business Pages by directly searching in Google for “+BusinessName”, such as +Coke or +Pepsi.

You can start creating Google+ Pages now here.

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Correct use of robots.txt to allow all crawlers

Robots.txt file is used on web server to to give instructions about the website to web robots (also called bots or spiders or crawlers), such as those from search engines. The complete list of available robots can be found here.

The web robots scan the information and index the websites accordingly. So if you do not want web robots (or crawlers) to index your website, you can disallow everything using the robots.txt file. Similarly if you want all the content to be indexed, then you can allow all web robots using the robots.txt file. Generally it is a good idea to allow indexing to your publicly visible pages and disallow to publicly invisible files, folders or pages (such as those inside your control panel or the pages you get to after logging in). The robots.txt file should be placed inside the home directory of your website. For example www.yourwebsite.com/robots.txt

As for the robots.txt file, search engines such as Google can determine whether there are useful information and crawl and index your websites accordingly. If you don’t want to disallow any web robots to crawl your site, there could be three options for letting the search engines know.

  1. Not have a robots.txt file
  2. Having a blank robots.txt file
  3. Adding following lines in the robots.txt
User-agent: *
Disallow:

While all three should allow all crawlers, the safest way to ensure that your website is indexed correctly is using the third format. That is use the robots.txt and put the above code to ensure that all user agents (or robots) are allowed.

There is also a good explanation about this in the Google Webmaster Central Video.

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New location targeting features on Google AdWords

Google AdWords location targeting tool has undergone some changes to make it more easier to target. Some of the new features added are:

  • Search Suggestions
  • Nearby Locations
  • Reach
  • Improved Location Outlines
  • Location Target Limits per Campaign

Meanwhile some of the old obsolete features have been phased out. You can see the details here too.

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New Ideas from Dead CEOs: Bank of America

I have been trying to read this book New Ideas from Dead CEOs: Lasting Lessons from the Corner Office by Todd G. Buchholz for quite a while now. It is an insightful book with stories and experiences from the CEOs of great organizations (or great CEOs that made great organizations). It is quite thick book for my preference, so I am trying to read one CEO at a time and planning to jot down few lessons here. Let me know if you have read it too.

Several iconic CEOs have been chosen in this book. From A.P. Giannini (Bank of America), Thomas Watson Sr & Jr. (IBM), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Ray Kroc (McDonalds), David Sarnoff (RCA), Akio Morita (Sony), Estee Lauder (Estee Lauder), Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Cosmetics) to Walt Disney (Disney).  The author has apparently chosen them based on these qualities

  • Innovators, not just outstanding managers
  • Interesting (to the author)
  • Lessons that are applicable today

So the first CEO is A.P. Giannini,  founder of Bank of America.

A. P. Giannini is a representation of the multicultural USA, coming from Italy and founding Bank of America. Despite his father being killed, and starting from a mediocre vegetable business, he thrived at competition, and jumped at opportunities. Rather than going after the then traditional banking to riches, he took the opposite bet- serving the working people, or the ‘little fellow’. Giannini revolutionized industry and economy as a whole. He understood the little fellow. He introduced trust by introducing flexible hour banking, more values to the consumers, better interest, flexible loans (even on cows! and ideas of course) and branch banking. His decisiveness during earthquake was commendable. As if that wasn’t enough, he passionately bounced back from an almost bed-bound condition to the biggest bank of the world. His retirement words are as impressive as working words – “If I ever hear that any of you are trying to play the big man’s game and forgetting the small man, I’ll be back here fighting.”

It amazes me how our banks are still unable to provide loans based on ideas on this day when Giannini understood it 100 years ago!

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Attitude Survey of NTC vs Ncell Mobile

Nepal Telecom (NTC) and Ncell (previously known as Mero Mobile) are two of the GSM mobile carriers in Nepal. NTC, established in 1913 as government organization, started GSM mobile service back in 1999. Whereas Ncell, started mobile operation as private sector in 2004. Together they contribute over 40% mobile penetration (10.7 million users as of August 2011), with majority being Ncell users.

Despite the early adoption advantage, NTC has come under several complaints as being non-competitive to Ncell and poor services. Here is an attitude survey and the results from a an attitude survey that I carried out using Fishbein Model.

Altogether 7 attributes were chosen to compare NTC vs Ncell and their services. A rating scale of 1 to 7 was chosen for the evaluation of desirability of the attribute (E) and a scale of -2 to +2 was used to calibrate the belief that the brand possessed the particular attribute (B). The resulting summation of beliefs and desirability gives the attitude towards a brand. The survey was carried out on a sample population of 30 users using an online questionnaire over Google Docs.

ntc ncell survey factors

NTC vs Ncell survey attributes

NTC vs Ncell survey beliefs

NTC vs Ncell survey done using Google Docs

Based on this attitude survey using Fishbein Model, Ncell brand has a more favorable attitude among customers than NTC. Among the 7 attributes, Ncell has positive attributes towards making immediate calls, clear voice quality, quick SMS delivery, better internet (GPRS) facility and extra services. Whereas overall lower tariff showed negative attitude for Ncell and positive for NTC. Availability of recharge card was the only positive attribute for both the mobile carriers.

NTC vs Ncell attitude

NTC vs Ncell attitude survey

While the sample size is small to correctly make accurate attitude comparison, the result is consistent across the samples and can be modeled for a larger population as well. The higher positive attitude towards Ncell than NTC is visible through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as well. Despite the negative attitude, preference the major reasons for preference of NTC over Ncell in many cases could be due to the already existing NTC subscribers and a more predictable cost compared to Ncell. Having said that, there has been recent marketing campaigns from NTC targeting its new and existing customers showing an attempt to build a more positive attitude. Meanwhile Ncell has been exploring various market segments from its inception to carve the bigger half the pie.

 

Let me know your suggestions if you have any.

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