Social Media In Pakistan

I had the opportunity to attend the Young Social Reformers ‘Tipping Point, 2009 – New Age Media Strategies For The Next Frontier’ held at Mariott Hotel on Sat. 6th June, 2009.

The objective of this event was to uncover the core principles of New Age Media Strategies and was attended by some big-wigs such as the provincial Information Minister Shazia Marri. Ms. Nasreen Jalil was the chief guest at the closing ceremony.The focus of the conference was on how the organization can leverage social media to achieve their business goals through blogs, micro-blogging, wikis, podcasts, video, forums, social networks, online communities, and social book marking sites which are increasingly being levered by the companies to build brand visibility and equity, promote products and services, influence communities, increase website traffic and leads.

The speakers list was impressive comprising of Mr. Masood Hashmi, CEO Orient Mcann, Raza Haroon, Minister Information Technology, Badar Khushnood country head Google, Dr Abrar Ali Baig, SEVP National Bank Of Pakistan, Naheed Memon, Director Medcom, Fahim Siddiqui, anchor Geo Tv, Qashif Effendi, CEO 180 Degrees, Khurram Rahat, Country Director Teradata, Shoaib Shamsi, Assistant Prof Greenwhich University, Faisal Qureshi, anchor Samaa TV, Dr Auzar Wajidi Dean Management Sciences KU, Anila Weldon, CEO Weldon BBS, Tabish Sabah Microsoft, Attah Shabbir.

However except for the presentation by Badar Khushnood, Country Consultant Google in which he talked about the blogging scene in Pakistan and how the young are opting it as a ‘lifestyle’, the other speakers had no idea of what they were talking about. I especially enjoyed talking to him about ‘Dr. Alvi’ (whose blog has been awarded in the whole of South Asia for its political analysis and coverage) and about ‘Sizzled Core’, young Harris who is at the forefront of technology. We also discussed ‘Sense Applied’ and how Farhan’s coverage of the N97 led to Pakistan being featured as one of the two countries who ‘Unboxed’ the N97 before it was even launched. This is what makes social media great in Pakistan.

For the rest, in the 9 hour session, we were treated to marketing 101 style presentations, self-promotion, lots of hot air, spiel and a general non-idea about the subject matter at hand. I guess it was to be expected since sans three speakers (Badar, Tabish and Qashif), none of the people were marketers in general and none had worked in social media before. With both the other good speakers, mismanagement occurred with Tabish Sabah, Microsoft and Qashif Effendi, 180 Degrees (who had a 80 slide presentation specially prepared for the event) both not being able to speak – Tabish because the time-management at the conference was below par and he had meeting elsewhere and Qashif because one of the management forgot he was sitting on stage and closed the session. These were the only two speakers other speakers who would have had something worthwhile to talk, probably.

Perhaps the only thing good i can say about the initiative is that the govt. officials had to say the word ‘Blog’. Though probably they didn’t understand a word about it. At least now they know that there is something happening in our part of the world.

I don’t know what’s all the fuss about these technologies, unless it’s just to be thought of as cool. With all the talk surrounding ‘Social Media’, people keep forgetting that it’s nothing new. Media has been leveraged for sociable purposes since the caveman first discovered walls. Even in Pakistan, the most popular applications that were ever installed on PCs were framed around communication and sharing – bulletin boards, mIRC, instant messaging through software like MSN Messenger, AOL or ICQ, chat-rooms, etc were very popular in the last decade.

Perhaps the hype is because of the social networks such as Facebook and Orkut which have taken our world by storm. Marketers want to tap into these networks and thus are trying to leverage the technologies to their advantage without understanding the rules of the game. Marketers listen up, social networks have the power beyond ad revenue to act as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for companies and brands. As in much of media, creativity is the key here. If you can find the type of ad that Facebook users will click, that’s one thing, but if you can build something they’ll click, engage with (or buy) and help you spread, you’ve got something far more exciting and effective. One campaign that used this technique very successfully was the Burger King “Whopper Sacrifice” application, which recently also earned a Grand CLIO in Interactive. BK developed a Facebook app that once installed promised to give the user a coupon for a free hamburger if they were to delete 10 people from their friend’s list to prove how they preferred the Whopper over their friends. The “sacrifices” showed up in the activity feed. So it said, for example, “Caroline sacrificed Josh for a free Whopper.” Facebook ended up disabling the WHOPPER Sacrifice, after the love of the user for the WHOPPER Sandwich proved to be stronger than 233,906 friendships.

Media isn’t neatly boxed into little rectangles called newspapers, TV or magazines anymore. People now connect to other people and draw power from crowds, especially IN crowds. If you want to be part of the Social Networks marketing process, than you have to be part of the conversations – that’s when real marketing takes place. YSR people, take note for your next initiative.

If you want to read more about the conference, Saqib at Brandasy has done a wonderful job of it.