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October 14, 2017

Customers are your true Micro influencers for branding in social media and elsewhere

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Here is a small story of a dog, which became a micro-influencer to millions. It was in those years when there was hardly any social network on the Web and Television ad campaigns were popular.

It was in 2005 that the advertising campaign in TV for the Vodafone brand came out in India. Vodafone was called Hutchinson Essar then and it was a company buyout. In the ad, a small dog (a Pug) follows a small boy wherever he goes, to all the unlikely places, the barbershop, playground, bath and to the school. It was hilarious and at the same time touching. It caught the interest of the TV audience across the country. Vodafone used the analogy, “Wherever you go, our network follows” and conveyed it through the advertisement. Ogilvy and Mather the famous advertisement company was behind that TV ad campaign.

The ad was a huge hit. The pug raised the popularity of the Vodafone brand in India. The pug was so much of an influence on the Vodafone brand that when people saw it on the posters they immediately recollected that it was the “Hutch dog” brand. The sale of pug dogs also increased during those years. In fact, customers had even downloaded wallpapers of the pug on to their phone screens further creating an indirect endorsement. The pug dog was a good example of a micro-influencer.

Now fast forward 10 years and what we have is the latest band of micro-influencers, who are actually users of popular social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. The micro-influencers have thousands of followers, who send in their likes and comments for their posts.

Micro-influencers are different from celebrities. Micro-influencers in social networks are individuals with smaller fan base groups and they specialize in a specific vertical or subject area. There is usually high level of engagement on their activities from their fan base.

Infact, many of the digital marketing professionals agree that you cannot apply a blanket ad campaign across the entire population of the audience. Managing the millennial crowd is different. What professionals say is that it would be more effective if the ad campaigns were used on smaller groups with ranging consumer interests and lifestyles. This is exactly where the micro influencers play a very effective and important role in spreading the word and their role is cut out in the world of digital marketing.

In the above page from socialnomics, Philip Piletic talks about how product brands can leverage micro-influencers to their advantage. Offering free goods and services to your customers in return for good will is one excellent gesture. A restaurant on a brand awareness campaign can offer free dinners to couples on certain days. The couples most likely would spread the good word to their friends and relatives. This simple gesture not only increases the brand awareness of the restaurant but also will have a strong positive impression in the minds of people in that locality. Your customers are your true micro-influencers, says Philip. It helps build a loyal customer base.

We have been seeing the increasing usage of micro-influencers for brand awareness campaigns. They are genuine and sincere and they connect with their audience unlike celebrities who may sometimes be passé with changing times.

Please do comment on your perspectives. Cheers.

October 09, 2017

Social collaboration best practices in workplaces – Part 1

It has always been an established fact that companies have depended on the merits of employee social collaboration for the generation of new ideas and for innovation. Management needs to accept the chaos during the initial stages before they venture out to making detail product development plans. We can learn a lot from other companies on ‘how to foster social collaboration’ who have been trailblazers in this field.

Please find below some of the best practices, which we can adopt to make social collaboration successful in organizations.

Having a curated and facilitated collaborative environment

Often a regular feedback is that employees get overwhelmed and often get distracted with collaboration overload. Ton Davenport, the distinguished professor in Information technology, analytics, and knowledge management at Babson College in his interview for MIT Technology Review says that for collaboration to succeed, organizations need to have a limited use of it. This means, employees need to collaborate for a limited period to avoid getting overwhelmed. Social collaboration at work does not mean that everybody in the organization needs to collaborate. Sometimes, it would do more good if we limit it to people who are naturally keen and have intrinsic ability to collaborate.

We would see more and more organizations favoring curated and facilitated collaborative environments. In a recent research study, conducted at IBM, they found that the employees source of inspirational ideas were within the organization rather than outside. Employers insist that managers and their direct reports spend enough time to scan their own business function to assess and identify the business needs and gaps for collaboration before they venture out with their colleagues from other business units.

Organizations are keen on responsible action from their employees on collaboration activity. With a return to curated and facilitated collaborative environment, organizations can ensure that their senior employee’s time is prioritized and they can spend time on sharing their inputs and expertise in internal meetings rather than spending much of their time on external social networking.

This article piece first appeared in SAP by the same author.


August 01, 2017

Social collaboration for internal and external networking in workplaces

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A new research study published in the Harvard Business Review talks about how ideas can be generated inside and outside the organization. Please find the link above. Most of the organizations allow employees to network outside the company walls for knowledge sharing and gain intelligence. Unfortunately, such exercises take up a lot of time from a senior employee’s day schedule. Networking externally is an art and requires lot of time to gain trust and credibility.

On the contrary, the senior employee's time and expertise is also required inside the organization for his inputs in meetings and other proceedings. There is opportunity cost lost when he or she is not able to balance the needs.

Need for balancing internal and external social collaboration

Further, the argument is that, such employees need to spend enough time inside the organization, the study and assess the innovation needs of the organization. This is far more important in the first place. They need to scan the internal environment before they venture out to meet their business partners and vendors.

Further, the argument is that, employees who spend time within the organizations are not devoid of ideas either. Valuable insight is gained only when they move out of their desks and meet colleagues of other business units, collaborate with them and have meaningful conversations. One cannot underestimate the need for effective internal conversations. One fails to recognize that good ideas are always across the desk.

The authors suggest social collaboration can occur for generating new ideas through internal and external social networking in workplaces. There needs to be a balance in how we approach the problems of opportunity cost lost when senior employees do not devote time internally within the organizations.

The authors point to some solutions as below.

1. Scan the internal environment:

Managers of employee teams need to assess their own organizational needs for innovation and its urgency. Not all the employees need to network externally. Only the employees who have the required skills can do that. The employees need to take up personal responsibility before they venture out for external social collaboration.

2. Conduct external networking meaningfully:

The employees need to understand that time is paramount. They need to strike a balance between internal and external opportunities and network accordingly. It is not necessary that they network externally all the time. They need to network for the sake of networking and take be responsible and accountable for their actions. The managers also need to understand that it is time taking to network externally.

3.Spread the learning within the organization:

Employees after they come from external networking need to spread the information and lessons learned to the rest of the organization. One good way to do this is through pairing an internally focused employee with an external networking employee. Together they present their findings to the rest of the organization. This way both will be able to learn from each other, which benefits the organization as well.


Internal and external networking for social collaboration among employees is mutually beneficial for both the organization as well as the individuals who are involved. As presented in the article, it is important for us to find the balance between them and realize the best of both worlds.

If you are still reading this post, I guessed you liked it. If you wish, you can share it. Thanks and cheers.

June 17, 2017

Criticism on Collaboration at work

In the recent years and months, there were a lot of criticism about collaboration at work. The most noted and the one that drew my attention was from a couple of articles from the Economist titled “The collaboration curse” and another one from Harvard Business Review titled “Collaborative overload”. The central theme in both of them was the same. Employees waste their time on non-value adding activities through collaborative exchanges through emails, meetings and on the company intranet. Value added collaboration come from only about 3-5% of the employees. Further, isolated and focused work gets hampered through collaboration activities.

Having spent my time working in the HR function in large organizations managing HR projects, the above arguments and contentions from the authors might be true. But we also need to understand that collaboration is a synergy and it is best represented by the statement from Aristotle “The whole is greater than the sum of parts”. We find meaning, new ideas and serendipitous discoveries in those gibberish non-value activities. Nothing wasteful is spent for a discerning and astute listener. Collaboration within large organizations is akin to how marriages happen. Just like how we plant seeds of love, trust, understanding, and cooperation in marriage, the same is with the social exchanges in collaboration.

One such medium which can make collaboration a symphony of sorts is the effective use of social media within large organizations. Just like the statement from Aristotle, no one person need have all the knowledge and expertise to solve the problems. More specifically, my research focus would be on how social media usage can foster strong bonds of social capital among employees for collaboration and those innovative ideas for problem-solving can spontaneously emerge from the bottom up.

Cheers, Ramkumar

May 15, 2017

Wikipedia’s teachable points on social media Collaboration

A wiki is an online collaboration tool which allows members of the public to collaborate, share and edit documents using a simple browser. Having said that, over the years, thousands of Wikis, have sprouted all over the world.
Way back in 1994, Ward Cunningham invented the Wiki. His original intention was that people should start collaborating and sharing their life experiences in a free manner over the internet.
A place where people can freely edit the documents with little or no knowledge of computers. True to his vision, the Wiki collaboration software was developed.
Wiki collaboration offers a common web space for people to work on a project. Wiki collaboration requires a sense of ‘stickiness’ for users to be dedicated and committed on the project they are working. Nevertheless, Wiki collaboration is an open invitation for anyone to edit and collaborate.

But, even after all these years of usage, wiki collaboration is still not seen as a social media tool. Even though it offers many lessons on how social media collaboration should function and work, there has been little take off.

In connection to this, I want to talk about the world’s best example for Wiki collaboration software, the Wikipedia and what it can teach us on social media collaboration.

Wikipedia has been so successful that it is the most referenced online content repository in the world. The Wikipedia is the 6th most popular website in the world. Wikipedia’s English version site alone has about a billion hits a month.
The Wikipedia is run by the Wiki foundation. The Wiki foundation manages the administration and infrastructure portions of Wikipedia. The content is written and edited by a bunch of volunteers from all over the world. It is the sheer spirit of community and freedom of expression that drives the volunteers to contribute and edit content.

There are many teachable points that we can learn from the Wikipedia. First and foremost, it is the concept of NPOV (Neutral point of view). Information presented on the Wikipedia may be drawn up from myriad sources.
There may be contentions and disputes on the sources claimed among the volunteers. But at the end of the day, all disputes are resolved quickly. The final content, that is presented on the site is neutral without any bias. There may be small differences. The volunteers set aside these differences and present the content in a most acceptable way. Such remarkable sense of comradeship, we do not even see it in closed group corporate social media collaboration setups in private organisations.

There is no centralized control. The volunteers manage all the information on their own free will without getting paid. Amazing isn’t.
Another teachable feature is the control on avoiding and rejecting vandalized information. As Wikipedia is in the public domain, there is every chance that, the information could be vandalized. The volunteers have a tight network among themselves and they quickly weed out unwanted information immediately within minutes. Such remarkable community spirit is rarely seen among members outside in any social network.

Many others leading publications wanted to emulate Wikipedia but were unsuccessful and had to be closed. Perhaps, there is much to learned from Wikipedia’ challenges and its successful journey so far that we have missed all these years.

Social media collaboration thrives on content being contributed and collaborated for the greater good. Wikipedia is the best example for this in the public domain not just for the technology alone but for the spirit of community and self-expression.


April 24, 2017

Social media benefits rely on a sense of collective identity in organizations

Off late there has been a number of instances and research studies on the benefits of social media in organizations. Many leading websites have written about it. The emphasis has always been on the benefits for the management of the company and very little on the employees of the organization.

A group of hands

Never, it has been told from an employee perspective. One thing we need to remember is that the success of social media lies in creating and nurturing a sense of collective identity among employees.

This sense of collective identity does not gel with the hierarchal organizations. Hierarchal organizations depend on the foundations of command and control with minimum risk.

Social media usage demands flatter organizations with no or very little hierarchy.

The senior management does not want to allow all the information to be spilled out in the corporate social media site for obvious reasons. This aspect has been clearly mentioned in the article 'Why no one wants to use the corporate social network' from Harvard Business Review. You can find the article here.

Here in this article, I would like to bring out three important areas, which builds on each other for realizing the true benefits of social media in organizations from an employee perspective. It would be a win-win situation for both the employee and the management personnel alike.

Apart from mere community building (an oft-repeated benefit), the aspects of building social capital among employees, sharing the context around critical information and successive iteration of ideas cannot be understated. In fact, they are the three most important benefits for the effective use of social media in organizations.

A good article from Work monkey labs highlights why is social media important in the workplace from an employee perspective. You can find the home page as well here.

Social capital is the bond that exists among employees. It exists unseen in a working relationship and cannot be forced.

Employees want to appear as hardworking and smart in front of their managers. They work in projects, to get the work done. In several situations, they are deputed or allocated to the projects as a resource. Such work situations can get the work done, no doubt, but only on a temporary basis. Long term success and continued progress in the achievements require special bonding among employees.

This bonding can be achieved through building social capital. Social media usage in organizations facilitates this bonding and provides a channel for building social capital naturally.

The second aspect, of providing context around critical information is often ignored by many. Context provides the human element to the information. For example, the information on 'How to' and 'know how' can rarely be found out on search engines. Furthermore, from an organization perspective, the aspects of 'What were the challenges', 'the pitfalls' and 'prior knowledge and expertise needed' are some of the golden nuggets, that context can provide to the information.

Perhaps, the biggest benefit of using social media in organizations comes from sharing the context of information. Context to information, where that information can be used by employees and they can immediately apply it in their working environments including a project or task at hand.

The third aspect is the area of successive iteration of ideas. Successive iteration of ideas can lead to greater insight. It is through collaboration among employees that successive iteration of ideas can happen. Social media usage in organizations facilitates such collaboration among employees. This tremendously helps in problem-solving. Successive iteration of ideas through collaboration leads to innovation. The senior management is happy and they can see the results.

As a fourth aspect, I would like to mention about employee advocacy. Employee advocacy is a relatively new concept but has caught up among global corporations.

Another important feature using social media in organizations is in the area of employee advocacy. Brand names, brand recognition, and brand endorsements are important for organizations all the time. They keep monitoring it. Employees can help them on brand endorsements and spread brand information through employee advocacy programs.

Employees are the brand ambassadors for the company. Social media in organizations can help them achieve that.


Ramkumar Yaragarla

March 29, 2017

How viral information flows in a Corporate social network–insights from Gallup Business Journal

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I just happened to search the internet on the influence of social networks and social media at workplaces. And I bumped into this article from Gallup business journal, which happens to be a gem not just from the insights that we can gain, but there is much to learn from social network experts like Dr. Jon Kleinberg.

The article that I am talking about is "The power of social networks" from Gallup business journal. You can find the link above.
The article interviews Dr. Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University. Dr. Jon is a professor of Mathematics at Cornell University and a recipient of many awards including the Rolf Nevanlinna prize.

The Rolf Nevanlinna prize (May sound new to many) is awarded every four years by the International congress of mathematicians for outstanding contributions in the field of Mathematics aspects of computational and information science.

Now, what interested me in this article, was Dr. Jon's expert views on information cascades and the contagion theory in the social network, that exists in the offices. Why certain messages go viral and how information flows and thrives in the social network.

I have mentioned about the fine synergistic relationship between Social media and Social network, in my earlier posts. Both exist to complement each other. The underlying structure of the social network, embedded inside the social media, makes it (Social media) more acceptable among the masses.

Social media is an 'attitude', it is the medium through which people interact and share information with others.

By sharing and by interacting with others, a social network is formed. We need a medium, a tool, in the form of a social media to control and better able to structure the network and fine tune it. We then leave it to be self -organizing.

We cannot enforce any strict rules on a social network. People's behavior, ties, and connections within the network is self-regulating and self-organizing. It is like an organism which evolves continuously.
Now having said that, it needs some incentive structures to be built inside it. We need to motivate the masses.
Incentive structures and benefits should be structured in such a way, that it mobilizes people for a long-term sustainable change.

That's exactly where Dr. Jon helps us understand, how information, ideas, and virtual communities spread and thrive in an information economy.
In his talks, Dr. Jon points us to the core, the underlying software algorithms, and the structure of the social and information network. A sort of background for us to make sense of the networked world and the world wide web.

These underlying social network structures give us a map to figure out the extent and density of the network when the information goes viral.

Dr. Jon, through his research on the information networks as well as social networks, provides value to the corporate world. It is on how to make use of their internal corporate social network.
In today's information economy, there is much to be reaped from the benefits of using social media as a corporate social network. We have been reading reports and articles that "all is not well" in how corporate social networks can be put to good use. There is enough social listening and monitoring by external companies who provide well researched information on this.

There are newer buzz words like 'enterprise social networking' and 'social collaboration' used in conjunction with a corporate social network. An article from Work Monkey labs on the subject throws a good light on making it(Corporate social network) successful. You can find the article here.

The current article from Gallup discusses much less talked about areas like, how to manage and contain information flow in an office gossip network and also managing the spread of key information during succession planning.

For now, I will cover the areas of viral information flow and information cascades within a corporate social network. Probably, I will have to do a part 2 of this post.

When people see something new and if that "new" has some good features, then they are bound to spread it within their friends. The friends, in turn, spread it to their friends and them, in turn, spread it to their friends. In this way, the spread of information flow goes up to three levels deep for critical mass to take effect.

Once people see their friends (who are three levels deep) already in a virtual community, they would be compelled to join it. Added to this, Dr. Jon says that there should be enough satisfying incentive benefits attached to the social network for people to get motivated.

When people follow the crowds or their friends without rationale or limited rationale then there is every chance, that an information cascade happens. Information cascades are the starting point for the information to go viral in a social network.

Viral information flow cannot be studied in its entirety, says Dr. Jon as it is complex and there are many independent sources involved. The best bet would be to spread in a group of well-connected people. These well-connected people would, in turn, spread it to their friends and so on. My understanding is that We need to release the information for spreading across many well-connected groups who are independent of geographical locations.

Hope the article was interesting. Please let me know your suggestion and comments.

Ramkumar Yaragarla

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Welcome ! about the blog

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Coffee mug conversations and listening – about social media, networks, collaboration and crowds.

Human beings are social animals. We have evolved to this date and time, because of our social nature. We love groups and we love to share.

I write about re-inventing ourselves and our work through Social media, Social networks, Work Collaboration, Innovation and lastly Work life balance.

I completed my Masters in IT for manufacture, WMG, University of Warwick. I graduated in the year 2004.

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