LinkedIn pulls a Facebook on its Members

So LinkedIn seems to have decided to go the Facebook way in terms of not caring about its members’ privacy. It covertly made a few changes to its privacy policy some time back, that allows it to use members’ names and photographs in third-party advertisements on LinkedIn. These new features are ‘opt-in’ by default, and you’ll never even know they’re there unless you are in the habit of constantly tinkering with your account settings. They call it “social advertising”. I think we can safely call it an invasion of privacy.

The last thing one expects to experience on a ‘professional’ networking site is to be turned into some sort of shill for products or services one has no intention of endorsing to begin with. Here’s how you can opt-out if you haven’t already:

  • Go to your Home page
  • Click on your name (at the top-right corner of the page) and select ‘settings’
  • Click on ‘account’ (lower left corner of the page); you should see several options in the box right next to ‘account’ now, grouped under ‘privacy controls’, ‘settings’, ’email and password’ and ‘helpful links’
  • Click on the first option ‘manage social advertising’  under ‘privacy controls’ and turn off the feature by unchecking the box that is displayed

You also might want to opt-out of the feature that shares your data with third-party applications on LinkedIn (yes, that’s ‘opt-in’ by default as well):

  • Go to your Home page
  • Click on your name (at the top-right corner of the page) and select ‘settings’
  • Click on ‘groups, companies & applications’ (lower left corner of the page); you should see several options to the  right, grouped under ‘groups’, ‘companies’ , ‘applications’ and ‘privacy controls’
  • Click on ‘Turn on/off data sharing with 3rd party applications’,  under ‘privacy controls’

Key Factors that make Brands succeed on Facebook

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“Your Brand needs to be on Facebook.” It’s the first thing anyone says these days and honestly, it makes me wince. There’s a reason why most brand ‘Fan Pages’ on Facebook are desolate wastelands that do precisely nothing for the brand’s reputation or sales. Starting a Fan Page is easy, getting a few hundred people to join (your friends, their friends, so on and so forth) is also very easy. And then, what? How does that make your brand a Superstar on Facebook? This post is not about being a Facebook party-pooper, it’s about the factors that make certain brands a phenomenal success on Facebook while the majority report no measurable success whatsoever. Social Media Marketing is not very different from conventional marketing, when it comes down to the basics, and it is essential that the fundamentals of the latter are not ignored in an attempt to quickly adopt the former. Let’s go back and take a look at dear old Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy is one of the first theories taught in any marketing course, as a basis of understanding the consumer’s motives behind choosing one brand over another in the market. A brand that fills up any or some of the above-mentioned 5 types of voids (or deficiency needs) in the consumer’s life, better than the competitor, will be the one the consumer chooses. Extending the theory to social media, the first question one needs to ask oneself before creating a Fan Page is what void does the brand fulfill in the target group’s life. The second question, of course, is whether that need is something a consumer would like to have all their Facebook contacts know of. In the context of consumer behaviour, social media is all about the top two deficiency needs– Self actualisation and Esteem. I might love a  cheap value-for-money brand, but I really don’t want that to be displayed on my Facebook profile where everyone can see it! I might prefer a no-fuss, reasonably priced Transcend mp3 player but I’m going to be a ‘fan’ of the iPod because it makes me seem discerning, individualistic (ironically) and well-to-do. I may not care much for Body Shop cosmetics but the company has a reputation for being ‘ethical’ and ‘environment-friendly’: it gives me a chance to display my support for these causes. Am I saying that some Brands just can’t be ‘Big’ on Facebook because of the identity they have built? Yes.

However, if  coolness-by-association and/or the opportunity to be an activist without having to move from one’s seat, is not what your brand can provide consumers online, can you provide them with  information that  is unique and can make life easier for them in some way? You could be a bank, an engineering firm or an Equity firm- not very cool- but the information you can provide can make you valuable on Facebook. Like I said, making a Fan Page on Facebook is very easy but the question that will define your brand’s success on Facebook is, “What’s in it for me?”



Lunchwalla- Putting the Social back into Social Networking

Social Networking has since its inception, raised concerns about how, by limiting face-to-face interactions, it actually makes users anti-social and prevents them from forming ‘real’ friendships. And while there may be some merit to these concerns, things stand to change with the launch of Social Networking sites that facilitate real life interaction between friends, thereby encouraging people to maintain a more-than-virtual connection with people in their social circle. Lunchwalla, launched this March, enables users to plan everyday social events (food being a necessary prerequisite) with friends and connections on your Social Networking sites. It also allows you to integrate your Lunchwalla profile with your Facebook profile, thereby making the good old question, “Say, do you want to meet over lunch/dinner/drinks?” all the more easier to handle.


I thought that being based in the US, Lunchwalla probably wouldn’t be able to provide me with options in my part of the world (a city in India), but was pleasantly surprised when it turned up a fairly acceptable (if not very comprehensive) list of eateries in my city. And while the ‘coupon system’ that gives users discounts on their meals was understandably not available to me, directions to said eateries were. What appealed to me was that the site includes a ‘vote’ option wherein friends you have invited for a planned event (say, lunch) could vote for the restaurant they wanted to eat in, from a list of options that you provide. Having spent many hours trying to zero in on a place to meet while everyone yells “Unfair!” when you pick a place they don’t like, I love this feature.

I understand the site is still in the Beta stage so I hope it also provides a version for mobile phones. Seeing that most of us these days don’t really have the luxury of having a computer around while we’re running around all over the place trying to meet deadlines, having a mobile version seems quite necessary if the site really wants to live up to its promise of a  no-fuss get-together.

Note: The name is a turn on the Hindi word ‘Dabbawalla‘ that literally translates to ‘Lunch-box Man’. I sensed an India Connection.  I was right- one of the founders has Indian origins.

Facebook rolls out QR Codes feature

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I logged into my Facebook account a few minutes back and saw this new feature right under my profile picture. Twitter is all in a tizzy with people wondering what this is all about. A QR code, or a Quick Response code is a 2D bar code that when read by a camera phone equipped with the requisite software, launches the url the code is linked to immediately. Which means you can now generate a QR code for yourself using the information on your Facebook page and can then share that data by means of, say a QR code printed on a greeting card (or your backpack, if you really want to be found). You can also have your QR printed on your Business Cards or resume ( seeing that checking out a candidate’s Facebook profile does figure in most recruiter’s background check-list these days anyway). Right now, my QR generator is not working so I cannot check just how much information from our profiles we’re talking about here. Shall keep you all posted on developments.

Update: It’s been two hours and the QR codes that were taken off after a mere 15 odd mins are still not back. There has been no communication from FB regarding the implementation yet.

Social Media Marketing made Easy

How does one use Social Media to build brands? Well one begins by being present in social networks and understanding how they work. On-line communities and portals already exist, what one needs to do is to understand how to facilitate conversations about ones brands over there and to add value by providing the community with tools and content to help them do what they want to do. The next step is to listen. To encourage and be a part of their discussions and act on their feedback, if any. Basically to interact, share, listen and observe ; because every conversation will be an either an opportunity to build a relationship with a consumer or an insight that can be used to either better brands or to build new brands.

Since the Internet is now a mass of conversations, what needs to be done as Marketers is to get one’s brands to be talked about. Every community will have a few very active and authoritative people- the objective should be to know who they are, and engage with them and get them on our side; create a buzz.

Brands are not people and therefore cannot build relationships with other people. It is therefore imperative to get the people behind the brands to share their passion and stories about the brand with the consumers. If one can get ones consumers to see then as their peers, they’ve done their job pretty well, because in today’s world, that is what is going to translate into sales and consumer goodwill.

One needs to initiate conversations about their products on non-marketing communities and get people to talk, connect with them and keep them informed about their brands. It is imperative to take their feedback seriously and in the event of negative feedback, respond immediately. Many a times a company’s employees are their biggest source of Word-of-Mouth, there is a need to harness this and allow employees to engage with consumers on-line, albeit after revealing their identities in order to maintain transparency.