Champion or pawn: What does your firm want?

Why are companies eyeing their employees’ social media accounts?

Two years ago, as part of its social media strategy, HarperCollins Publishers India Pvt. Ltd asked its editors to use their personal social media accounts to tweet and post about the books they were working on. There was a social media training session at their office in Noida, Uttar Pradesh; that is how Karthika V.K., publisher and chief editor of HarperCollins Publishers India, who has been with the company for eight years, became active on Facebook and Twitter.

Today, she has over 2,847 followers on her Twitter account and around 4,637 friends on Facebook. Together, that makes 7,484 possible readers, not all of whom may have been connected directly with the publisher earlier.

“This is not part of the job for me, as in, it’s not in any contract,” says Karthika, “but my work-life is such an integral part of my whole life that I don’t mind using my personal online identity.”

She does add, however, that when she’s on a social network, she’s more than just a HarperCollins employee. “I am an individual when I am connecting with people. I don’t think I am a publisher so I should say certain things, I am pretty instinctual about my posts.” In this instance, it is a win-win situation for both company and employee.

Like HarperCollins, companies across the world are fast realizing that they can convert their employees into effective brand ambassadors if they bring them on board, guide them and let them work in the social media space. Even one post every day from 500 employees makes it 500 different posts about the brand.

“Today, every employee is a spokesperson for the company,” says Aditya Gupta, co-founder of Social Samosa, a social media content portal based in Mumbai. “Companies can add value to their brand when employees update their personal accounts with updates about the industry, engage with the customer and showcase the company both internally and externally.”

Trust matters

According to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, a worldwide survey of trust in companies and brands, customers trust the voices of regular employees within the company, not the top-level management, most. Around 62% of the respondents, a group of 33,000 members of the general public and people familiar with the industry in 27 markets globally, believed a company’s employees are the most credible voices on multiple topics, including work environment, integrity, innovation, brands and business practices. In fact, an old employee of the company is three times more credible than the chief executive officer when talking about work conditions on social media.

Power to reach out

That’s a lot of power in the hands of individuals. More and more marketing teams are encouraging employees to become brand ambassadors for their companies. Some firms are even putting it down as policy, making it part of the contract or even part of the regular work of an employee.

It is the strong individual brand companies want to tap into. “Social media is now mainstream, and a broadcast medium with large reach,” says Amita Malhotra, director, Blogworks, a social media marketing company based in New Delhi. “Since the employees are individuals who hold the power to broadcast messages, have their own set of consistent followers that can impact their company’s interests, they have become much more powerful,” she says.

Finding a balance

This channel does, of course, have its limitations and risks: the pros and cons of creating an official account for each employee, the credibility of an “official” account, the kind of things employees should post about, and the attempt to drive this through guidelines or policy. And when an employee leaves, the risk that the network (possible brand buyers) may go too.

For while companies may ask employees to create official accounts, this comes with its own dilemmas, including a possible dilution of the core brand and extra work for employees.

Some employers also feel threatened by a powerful personal brand. Legally speaking, an employer can only control two aspects of an individual’s social media life: what you write about the company or its products and competition, and what you do on the infrastructure and devices that the company has provided you for work, say, your office laptop, phone or tablet and Internet connection.

“An employee with a strong online following can also dilute the parent brand by building his/her own networks or by leaving a void when he/she quits,” says Malhotra. It’s a threat which is very real for companies, and the reaction tends to be knee-jerk. They either put in place stringent social media policies at work, or curb the individual’s voice on social media by forcing him to strictly segregate his work and personal posts online.

“If your employer’s policies restrict you from tweeting about work-related matters on your personal ID or ask you to create an official ID on social media sites, then you’re legally bound to comply with it,” says Vikram Shroff, a Mumbai-based lawyer with Nishith Desai Associates who has extensively researched the use of social media in workplaces. Shroff believes companies may be more comfortable if they have well-defined social media policies for employees, with clear guidelines on what is permissible and what is not.

The model of segregating official social media accounts, much like an official email ID, does solve the basic problem of ownership (in this case, the company has ownership of all followers, content, comments on that particular account), but it’s not the perfect solution. “If I am forced to do it, I would find it inconvenient,” says Dheeraj Sanghi, a professor of computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, who runs a blog on education that gets more than 200,000 page views a year.

“I know of faculty members who have two separate pages on Facebook, one for personal friends and the other for more official use, like interacting with students, alumni, or sharing class-related information, but I feel it’s unnecessary and without purpose.” According to Prof. Sanghi, online spaces are fluid and people can’t really segregate their personal and work lives, though they may want to.

Gupta has a different take. He says a separate official social presence may not be the best idea for a company’s brand. “It dilutes the brand’s social quotient by having too many ‘official’ lines of communication.” Also, readers might perceive official accounts as parroting the company’s opinion, and therefore being less believable.

No right over an individual’s identity

If an employee leaves, he or she has to stop using the official account and cannot interact with followers of that account. Companies, in turn, cannot use the former employee’s personal accounts or his/her name for brand-building, says New Delhi-based cyber law expert Vakul Sharma, a Supreme Court advocate. “Under no circumstances can an organization use my name after I’ve severed all ties with it,” he says. “Any company using an official social media handle which includes my name is a violation of my right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

Revenue-sharing, perhaps?

A company doesn’t own an employee’s individual identity. Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression to citizens. Remember, such a right extends to social media as well. “Anything that the employee does personally, using her own resources, is owned by the employee,” says Sharma….

First published in Read the complete article:

What’s your Facebook face?

Mine is a cheerful character who travels a lot, is a net activist, discovers and does new things in the city she lives in and makes happy, smiley faces for the camera. Oh and is also a newbie writer fast crawling up the ladders of success.


On Facebook as in public, most of the people who meet me don’t see any other side. This is my social side. This is the side I will show to a stranger, to a colleague, and even increasingly to most of my ‘friends’.

The Facebook face (let’s call it the FF now) is the side other people see when they view my online and offline life. This is the face they judge me by, measure my success, compare themselves to me, get jealous, get gleeful, compare again and wish they had a different life.

I know for sure not because I am a megalomaniac, but rather because I do this when I see other people’s Facebook faces. I see their cushy jobs, the hobbies they love doing, the fun they have in the exotic destination they are at, their fat paychecks and beautiful living spaces. I see books from authors who seem to write even while they sleep or have a full time job (and do such a great job of it). I see authors who have become a success story without any efforts (seemingly to me) and everytime, my heart sinks. A notch and then a few more notches. I feel I am leading the worse life ever, my luck is down and everybody else but me gets the best pieces of the chocolate cake (I seem to get the baddest one as well as the pimples!).

And then I stop. I take a deep breath. Then I smile. At myself and my petty little insecurities. I know Facebook faces are just faces. Like happiness is just a phase. Everyone gets down, everyone’s life is hard and full of all kinds of smelly bullshit. Everyone treads through it, aimless and desperate. And then everyone comes up, victorious with spurts of success and happiness in between.

If only my Facebook Face could become my real one. Wouldn’t life be just a breeze then?

This blog is not just a whim. There are studies being done on how people behave on Facebook. If you are interested in these studies, check out the links below:


I just feel that the Facebook face is nothing new. Humans have a tendency to show their best side when in public. Period. What do you feel? What’s your Facebook face? How different is it from you, deep inside or even the superficial you?

This post started after conversations with different friends. One told me how people never put the wrong things, the tragic things that happen to them on Facebook—like deaths of loved ones, or disability or accidents. Another girlfriend I was travelling with, wanted me to take a stunning photograph of hers which she could put online to make her social circles jealous. Oh well, deep down we are all the same I think.

Awesome Image credit

Going virtual for real networking

Location-based networks and apps to connect with people in the neighbourhood who share similar interests

When Bangalore-based IT professional Pankaj Dugar settled in his third house in a new city in three years, he was left without any buddies to bike with. “It seemed like way too much work to ask around in the neighbourhood again to find someone who might like to play a quick round of golf or go biking with,” recalls Dugar. The stress to start over again in a new city made him wish that there was a better way to meet people who were interested in the same things as he was. “Facebook is used more to update your status or chat and connect to your existing friends and family online than to do offline, real-life things,” he says.
Dugar quit his job last year and set out to develop Treetle, a geo-location-based website which connects people with similar interests in the same neighbourhood, putting the focus on real-life activity and meeting rather than just online hangouts.
Treetle isn’t the only people-finding network—smartphone apps with GPS-location services are making it easier than ever to connect people by their interests. We take a look at some of these networks and also see how safe they are to use.
At the pool
At The Pool takes its motto “meet locals who love what you love” rather seriously. So seriously that you need an invite to join this website. “When someone requests an invite, if we don’t have members in their area or with their interests, we wait until we do before we send the invite,” says Alex Capecelatro, CEO and founder, At The Pool, in an email interview. The start-up was launched in July in Los Angeles, US, and it already has members from over 50 countries, including all major cities of India. Once you have an invite, you can log in with your Facebook account. Then you simply join pools based on your school, passion or types of people you want to meet. The pools have names like “foodies”, “hikers”, “musicians”, etc. If you are single, you can opt to meet other singles, or you can simply look for friends. Once you have made your profile, the website automatically introduces you to one person every day. “The goal is to introduce members to someone new each day in order to connect them offline, face-to-face,” says Capecelatro.
Safety set-up: You need to verify who you are through your Facebook account. The profile is only accessible to paired users. “We try to encourage members to meet in public, safe places, and to use best practices before meeting a stranger,” says Capecelatro.
Launched in July, Treetle has 200 clubs and 3,000 members across India. Members have a dashboard to see all activities in the community. You can join clubs that you are interested in, make friends using the “Connections” tab and you will get news of forthcoming events every month. Treetle ensures that you actually get out of the chair by paying users for organizing events in your clubs. CEO Pankaj Dugar says, “Get online, get the information you need, then get offline to actually do things you enjoy.”
Safety set-up: Anyone who creates a user ID on Treetle needs to verify their cellphone number, or connect via their Facebook account. Treetle also asks the users to give “Brave Points” to trusted members, so the more points a person has, the more credible he/she is.
Join at:
Damien Patton, founder and CEO, created Banjo in 2011 when he missed meeting a buddy he hadn’t seen in years at the Boston airport because both of them were using different social networks. “Banjo notifies you when any of your friends are near on any social network,” he says in an email interview. Once you log in your details on Banjo from other social networks (it works with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, and LinkedIn, along with Gmail contacts) and switch on your GPS, you see posts by all your friends on a world map, along with posts from strangers marked as public. “Banjo aims to make sense of all the location-based content in your lives, enabling you to experience what’s going on anywhere in the world and surfacing places, people and things that matter to you,” says Patton. According to Patton, the average age of Banjo members is between 23 and 35 years and the app is available in 10 languages with members from over 190 countries.
Safety set-up: The only posts strangers can see are the ones marked public. Otherwise users will only see posts if they are your friends.
Join at: (also available on iTunes and Google Play)
Mixer, launched in September, is an app that works around locations—neighbourhoods, malls, restaurants or cities. You log in using your Facebook account and start a discussion linked to the location you are in. Other Mixer users in the same location can see, post comments, text and photos to that location. “When someone posts a message, it’s for the local community to see rather than for a single person to see,” says Chris Connell, CEO. When you participate in a conversation of a locality, you become part of the local community. When you don’t use the app in that area frequently then eventually you are no longer shown as part of that community. Other people in the community see your profile and you can see theirs. It’s a great way to connect with locals for suggestions on what to eat and what to do while travelling.
Safety set-up: No private communication is allowed on Mixer, it’s a public space to talk. Facebook login adds another safety layer to the network which shows only generalized locations.
Join at: (also available on iTunes)
BuzzMob, launched in August 2011, uses GPS information to connect you to real-life places and events in your vicinity. The app is based on the idea of a “ring”, a particular space or event that you can become a part of.
Copyright (c) HT Media 

Freelancing with friends


Find freedom from a 9-to-5 job with a little help from social networks

In April, when sisters Sunitha, Mariamma and Soumya Thomas started their online business of selling handcrafted dresses for girls, they found they could not afford the cost of designing and hosting a website. So they decided to go in a different direction—they created a Facebook page for their shop called Little Women, hosted pictures of the products and sold their products through their networks as well as those of their friends.

“On a website, we would have had to invest a lot and figure out how to build traffic, which a small start-up like us couldn’t afford,” says Soumya, who is based in Bangalore, “but on Facebook we already have a network which we can use. All we need to do is share our products with them.” Four months down the line, they have had more than 120 orders.

Illustration by Raajan/Mint

Illustration by Raajan/Mint

Whether you’re selling a physical product, like the Thomases, or your skills as a freelancer, knowing how to use social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, is now an essential skill.

Considering that 63.50% of Internet users in India are on Facebook, making it the largest social network in the country, according to real-time statistics researcher Socialbakers, this could be a good time to be a freelancer or an entrepreneur on social networks. Here are some useful tips to build your presence across LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook:

Become the expert

Working as a freelancer requires you to be good at what you do, right? Then why not tell that to people on your social networks? If you are a photographer, write blog posts explaining how your followers can improve their photography, and post your own photos. If you’re a Web designer, share tips that anyone can follow to improve their websites. Retweet and share good content, and answer questions on LinkedIn.

“This way, you position yourself as an expert in the domain and generate leads or business,” says Aditya Gupta, co-founder of Hyderabad-based, a social media consultancy. “Once you are known as an expert in a field, people start sending leads your way,” he says.

Talk about your projects

If you put all your projects on a page or a resume, you’re the only person who knows about them. Social networks aren’t like blogs—you don’t just talk about a project once. Post regularly about the work you do, several times every day. Vishwaraj Mohan, who in December 2010 opened a restaurant-bar featuring live music in Bangalore called CounterCulture, uses the pub’s Facebook page to connect to musicians who will come and perform there. “I do a minimum of five posts a day which include details of shows, our food, media coverage, pictures, videos and such,” says Mohan. More than five times a day starts to feel like spam, but updating up to four times a day is a good idea.

Clean up your mugshot

Is your mugshot the same bearded or sloppy photo which you took early Sunday morning with your laptop? Change it. The mugshot is small but says a lot about you to someone who checks out your profile or timeline on any social network. Your personality, and even the kind of work you might be doing, is formed from that mugshot, so keep it clean and professional. Facebook and Twitter both offer backgrounds in which you can put images to show your personality to the world.

Most of the social networks give options on more than one picture to tell the world about you. Use this well. Use the small mugshot with a clear photo of you as personalisation always helps and use the background space to create a careful collage of your brand’s personality.

Find the right groups

Like LinkedIn, Facebook has groups which has the people you may want to network with. Want to sell your art? Join some city-specific art groups. You will find artists and buyers in such a group. Little Women got a lot many orders because Soumya stumbled upon a Facebook group called Chennai Shopping. “It’s a very active group run by a bunch of women who give honest feedback to a seller. It has both buyers and sellers, making it a market,” she says.

Bangalore-based Ruche M. Mittal, a graphic designer, started a group for women entrepreneurs on Facebook. Called Entrepreneurial, the group has seen active postings of jobs, business suggestions and connections and even media exposure for a lot of members. Media Movements is a well- known media industry group on Facebook.

Connect with prospective clients

As a freelancer, you already know the companies and people you want to work with. Follow them on Twitter and add them on Facebook, not just LinkedIn. Mumbai-based Anuya Jakatdar, a freelance writer and social media consultant, got a chance to work on a Vidhu Vinod Chopra film commercial when she tweeted that she was looking for work a few months ago. “I got a reply from one of the associate directors and ended up doing the project,” she says. She feels that freelancers should get into conversations with people who are in the industry they want to break into. “Tweet and ask for work and keep an eye out for tweets which are looking for work, of which there are many,” she suggests.

Express your personality

You need to reach out to people and make contacts that can lead to projects, but if you’re a holier-than-thou know-it-all, people will avoid you on social media. If you’re connected to people on a social networking site, they’re going to hear from you, a lot, and this requires you to have a personality that reaches out.


To read the complete article on the HT Mint website, click here.

Waking up to your online avatar

Do you blog, check your email or tweet as soon as you wake up? A tongue-in-cheek look at what your morning Net rooster says about you. By Shweta Taneja


Traditional Private Ryan

Your first window: Your personal email

Your medium of connection to the world is your personal inbox. Every morning, at home or after you reach office, the first thing you open in that browser is your personal email client. You generally don’t have any alternative windows open in your browser. All your social networking messages first come into your inbox. You check them as emails, commenting on other people’s Facebook status messages using the reply to comment link.

What it says: You are a person of habit. You took up email and have stuck to it for the last 10 years or more. It works for you and that’s the way you want to keep it.

Tweet tattler

Your first window: Twitter, Facebook or your favourite social network

Web-locked: What is your Net persona?

As soon as am strikes, your fingers start flying on the Qwerty keyboard or its touch-screen avatar, typing thoughts, emotions and experiences in concise word lengths. It’s not one-way communication—every few minutes you also need to check for updates, tweets, links, videos or ideas that your friends, family, cousins or complete strangers are posting online. On a dinner date, you type 140 characters on the sly while ordering the lamb dish. While seeing a movie, you are constantly thinking of what you will say about it on Facebook. You are on top of the latest social network trends, be it the review of Abhishek Bachchan’s latest flop or a blood donation camp in Alaska.

What it says: You are experimental and addicted to sharing your experiences. Social networks have given you the space to constantly reveal your thoughts and experiences through minimal interface. You are completely comfortable in your online skin, much more so than meeting face to face. You are also a constant retweeter.

Hard-working Joe

Your first window: Your office email client

For you the Internet is just another medium to stay connected to your work. You have the office email client set into your smartphone and check your email as soon as you wake up. You keep checking your office mails through the day, even when you’re out for a family dinner. You need to reply to every official mail you get, be it on weekends or late at night. In fact, the best way for your spouse to communicate with you is through an official email.

What it says: You are bordering on workaholism. Even when you’re on vacation, sitting on a beach, beer mug in hand, you itch to check your office mail (and usually do) to see if there’s an emergency where you are needed.

Anti-establishment ace

Your first window: Your own blog or other people’s blog

You get to hear things that might never come into mainstream media. You most probably have your own blog. You live in the non-conformist space on the Net. Every morning, you open a list of blogs of people around the world you have come to respect and hear what they have to say. You don’t tend to go to big news sites. Your news comes from individual blogs or tweets.

What it says: You have a voice, a strong one, and an equally strong following. You will not be seen hobnobbing with the big bad wolves. You like to stay away, a lion in his own space. You also tend to be Leftist and anti-corporate.

Multitask maverick

Your first window: Facebook, Twitter, email, weather, you open them all together.

You need to do it all. You open all the windows in your browser—your email client, social networking sites, blogs, news sites—together and then toggle between windows, commenting, answering and reading.

What it says: You are a multitasker and technology, especially the online medium, is a boon for you. You like to do everything together, fast and furious.

Read the complete story here.