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Indian firms using social media to get business

Dileep Athavale, TNN | Jun 8, 2011, 05.13pm IST

PUNE: There is a marked rise in use of social media by businesses worldwide as a tool to win new business, a recent study has found. An increasing number of Indian companies are using social media as an effective business tool, the study said, adding that 83 per cent firms in India agree that without social media activity, marketing strategies cannot hope to be successful. Globally, 74% companies endorse the view, it said.

Importantly, two fifths (39 per cent) of companies globally and almost half in India (49 per cent) devote up to 20 per cent of their marketing budget to business social networking activity, the study noted. The global Regus survey findings are based on the responses of over 17,000 managers and business owners across 80 countries.

Human resources and workplace solutions company Regus conducted the study which observed that rising awareness among business internationally about social networking which was a nice-to-have part of IT use till recently has moved close to centre stage and become a necessity.

According to the survey, the last year has seen a rise in Indian companies using social networks, blogs, micro-blogs and forums to win new business. In 2010 Regus found that 52 per cent of Indian firms were successfully winning new customers through business social networking activity. A year later, the proportion has risen to 61 per cent. The research also reveals that globally more firms are also using social media to connect and engage with existing customers than a year ago.

There is a rise of 7 per cent in the proportion of businesses successfully recruiting new customers through social networks such as Facebook while 52 percent of businesses globally and 64 per cent in India use websites such as Twitter and Weibo to engage, connect with and inform existing customers, the study observed. In India 67 per cent firms encourage their employees to join social networks such as Linkedin, Xing and Video, compared to 53 per cent globally.

It is still not the end of traditional media though. Indian (66 p.c.) and global firms (61p.c.) are also emphasizing the need for a balance of marketing media, confirming their belief that without a combination of traditional and digital techniques marketing campaigns will not work.

Madhusudan Thakur, Regional Vice-President, South Asia for Regus said, “As businesses emerge from the downturn they are increasingly reconsidering pre-recession working practices and opting for more flexible, competitive strategies. From supply chain management, to leaner working practices, to cloud computing, to increased use of video communications and mobile working no area of business is being overlooked. Particularly in India where Nielsen reports that 3 out of 4 social media users visit a social networking site at least once a day, and a discussion forum once a week, more and more companies are leveraging this channel to increase the loyalty of existing customers, and as a successful acquisition tool.”

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Student cites freedom of speech after suspension for online videos

Article was published on Wednesday, Jun 01, 2011 10:53pm

Jack Christie’s videos are the kind of thing you see every day on the Internet. Crudely animated stick figures swear and fire automatic rifles. There are off-colour jokes about everything from race to pedophilia to cocaine. Absurd incidents – such as the assassination of an evil talking mango – seem to happen at random.

But administrators at the Grade 12 student’s Whitby high school were so offended when they found the animations on YouTube last month, they sent him home and called the police. He is being kept out of school during the investigation.

Now, fellow students at Donald A. Wilson Secondary School are demanding the 18-year-old be reinstated, arguing the school overstepped its bounds by meting out punishment for something that happened off campus. Mr. Christie says the administration is stomping on his right to freedom of speech.

“They’ve unfairly judged me and judged my character based on something I made for entertainment,” he said on Wednesday. “I have the right to post videos on the Internet on my own time.”

A spokeswoman for the Durham District School Board refused to discuss the case, citing confidentiality laws, but obliquely explained the school’s actions: “If something is considered detrimental to the positive moral tone of the school, it doesn’t necessarily have to happen inside the school [for us to get involved],” said Andrea Pidwerbecki.

Neither Mr. Christie’s principal nor the superintendent for the area responded to requests from The Globe and Mail for comment.

Mr. Christie created the videos on his laptop for presentations in economics and politics classes over the course of the last school year. Titled Jack Christie Talks to Children, they feature an animated representation of himself leading a pair of kids on adventures and purporting to explain various subjects, such as politics and corporate whistle-blowing.

He said his teachers had no problem with the content – one even lent his voice to an animation – and he didn’t get in trouble until he uploaded the videos to YouTube. He was swiftly given a one-day suspension. A few days later, his principal laid out an ultimatum: Take the videos down or the police would be called. He refused to budge.

Mr. Christie hasn’t been allowed to return to class for a week and is unsure whether he can attend his prom on Friday. He says the school board has not given him the opportunity to defend himself.

Durham Regional Police confirmed the force received a complaint from the principal and his superior. An officer is investigating but has not reached any conclusions.

Donald A. Wilson Secondary School, meanwhile, is abuzz.

“I know that lots of students are talking about it and they’re kind of annoyed,” said Grade 12 student Matt Primeau. “It seems there’s no real reason why Jack’s missed so much school.”

Gavin Russell, prime minister of the student government, gathered scores of signatures on a petition supporting Mr. Christie before two staff members warned him that, if he continued, he could also face punishment.

Mr. Russell said he understands administrators’ concern about the videos being shown in class, but suggests they over-reacted by trying to stop them being put online.

“I don’t think they did the right thing in giving him an indefinite suspension based on videos he made at home that weren’t under their jurisdiction,” he said.

Richard Rosenberg, a civil-liberties advocate and professor emeritus in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Computer Science, said there is no clearly-defined line on how far a school can regulate student activity off-campus.

“You might tell a student that it is offensive, but I don’t think I would go so far as to suspend or to demand students apologize or take it down,” he said.

Mr. Christie, meanwhile, has protested against the situation with another video. In it, he speaks directly to school officials through his cartoon avatar.

“We live in a nation where freedom of expression and media is considered a staple of our constitution,” he says. “I have the right to say and advertise whatever … I want, and I hope that today’s bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds are smart enough to understand that it’s all comedy and nothing more.”

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New Tool Promises to Put Social-Media ROI on Same Footing as Traditional Media

By: Jack Neff

Social media has struggled for years to demonstrate return on investment on the same analytical playing field as more established media. Now, Marketing Evolution, which has been working on cross-media analytics for more than a decade, is joining with media planning software provider Telmar to release an ROI tool they say will do just that.

The companies will unveil the Telmar Matterhorn ROI tool, which became available earlier this week for early clients including Interpublic’s Universal McCann, during a presentation at Federated Media Publishing’s Conversational Marketing Summit June 6, the start of Internet Week in New York. That’s fitting, said Marketing Evolution CEO Rex Briggs, because a statement by Federated’s executive chairman, John Battelle, at a conference last year prompted development of the new tool.

“He lamented the fact that there was no way you could put the investment you were making in social media side by side with your TV investments or even digital display to figure out where you should be investing more or how much,” Mr. Briggs said. At that point, Mr. Briggs said he turned to Rick Brunner, a Doubleclick and Google veteran and longtime internet marketing analyst who has headed Marketing Evolution’s work on the project, and said, “We’ve got the data to do that. Why don’t we solve that?”

Mr. Briggs has been conducting cross-media effectiveness analysis with a wide variety of marketers for more than 10 years, adding new media in along the way as they emerge. The Telmar Matterhorn service will be based on data collected in working with clients such as as Unilever, Coca-Cola Co., Nestle, MTV, Time Warner and EA, among others. Inner workings of how the TMR tool evaluates media will be open for inspection, Mr. Briggs said, and open to addition of new media as they emerge.

“A lot of social media, search and digital advertising models just don’t follow the traditional reach and frequency and cost-per-thousand framework that media-planning tools have been using for decades,” he said.

In fairness, marketing-mix modeling now used by many big advertisers already can analyze sales impact from just about any marketing input, given sufficient levels of spending and a sufficiently well-defined time horizon. The problem, however, is that lower levels of spending for digital and social media often get swamped by the impact of higher-reach media, and earned media such as social and PR don’t always work on the same predictable schedule as paid media.

Also, not every campaign has as its objective an immediate sale, often focusing further toward the fat end of the so-called purchase funnel. Mr. Briggs points, for example, to automotive marketing that may aim to get a brand into consideration for a purchase that may not take place for years.

To address this problem, Marketing Evolution years ago began analyzing campaigns based on objectives often besides sales — such as changes in survey responses regarding what brands consumers are considering.

The TMR tool will look at “basically for every dollar you spend, how many people do you influence on whatever that business objective is — building awareness, changing a brand position, generating purchase intent or generating sales,” Mr. Briggs said.

Analyzing much of digital advertising isn’t so different than traditional, given that it operates on similar reach and frequency data and often similar pricing schemes, he said. But social media and other earned media, that is, public relations, depart from those norms in two key ways.

The costs are often structured very differently, with much of it coming in the form of relatively fixed salary or fee costs for internal or agency staff to, say, run a social media monitoring command center, Mr. Briggs said. Traditional analysis tools also often fail to count all or some of the pass-along effect of social media.

Lack of any ROI norms may have been OK when social-media marketing was still in its infancy and considered experimental, he said. But now the discipline has been around a few years — at least in its toddlerhood — and increasingly expected to stand on its own two feet.

“Earned media and the people curating it probably need to be held a bit more accountable today,” Mr. Briggs said.

Seemingly, such programs would have such a short history and wide range of reach, pass along and impact that it would be difficult to predict outcomes based on past experience, which is how the Telmar Matterhorn ROI tool works for other media. But that hasn’t been the case, Mr. Briggs said.

“What we began to see pretty quickly is that there is a range of results just like with any advertising,” he said. “Some TV ads are better than others. Some programs are more conducive to social sharing than others. But there are absolutely common patterns and averages. One thing we can do is say if you spend $100,000 or $1 million, what should you be expecting to get back as results? If you’re not getting these levels, the budget should really trade over to be invested somewhere else.”

At the same time, other ads in traditional media also generate social-media pass along that needs to be calculated, and draw on some of that investment in things like social-media monitoring, Mr. Briggs said. TMR can account for that, but, he said, more important, it aims to calculate the combined impact of media elements, including their synergy, rather than viewing them entirely in isolation.


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Iran to create its own Internet…

The Internet is a fascinating place, especially when countries that don’t embrace the concepts of freedom of expression and freedom of speech are involved. Each of these countries takes it’s own view of what the Internet should be, and they usually follow political conventions in those countries. This could be set to change however.

Iran looks set to create its own Internet, just for the Iranian people. In a report by the Wall Street Journal the country sees the project as a way to end the fight for control of the Internet and, possibly, a way to defend the regime against the pro-democracy protests that have spread like wildfire across the middle-east this year.

On that score it would make sense in some ways as social networks including Facebook and especially Twitter were used to help mobilise pro-democracy activists and get people massing on the streets. This move would essentially cut the whole of Iran off from the wider Internet and indeed the wider-world.

Now I said that the way curtailing of Internet freedoms happens usually mirrors the political conventions of the country involved. This is probably going to be seen as an unexpected twist.

China, the world’s largest communist state has broadly allowed access to the general Internet. It took some years to get this far and many websites are still curtailed or blocked completely. The Chinese government are part of the wider world community however and while questions still remain about the country’s Human rights record, it does at least recognise that opening up to the wider world can only be a good thing.

It’s China that has been apparently encouraging the secretive leader of North Korea, Kim Yong Il, to open up his own economy, an idea that has so far failed to gain acceptance.

North Korea is far more closed and secretive than China, and is the most closed society on Earth. It’s widely accepted that only supporters of the regime are permitted to live in the country’s capital city, and footage has been seen of entire villages being forced to watch the public floggings and sometimes executions of those to question the regime.

North Korea has not embraced the Internet. Instead they have their own internal network, a country-wide intranet if you will. This system is available on the only computer operating system available in the country, a modified version of Linux. It is extremely limited and delivers only propaganda about the state. To this day, most people in North Korea live their lives completely oblivious to what’s really happening in the world around them.

Iran however by contrast is a democracy. Its leaders are elected officials. There have been questions raised about just how democratic the country’s political system truly is but you might expect them to adopt a stance more in keeping with China, not the secretive North Koreans.

The answer probably lies in the recent uprisings in the countries around them and the fact that only around 10% of the Iranian people currently have access to the Internet. This move is clearly all about control.

This does raise some interesting questions about what the Internet currently is and what is might be set to become. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow in Part 2 when I’ll look at the challenges faced by western countries.

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Twitter Forced To Hand Over User’s Personal Details

By Kris Holt May 30, 2011 6:16 pm EST

Twitter has been told to hand over the details of a user in the U.K. in a landmark case that could have big implications on free speech, privacy and anonymity on the social network and the wider Internet.

Twitter has passed on the name, email address and phone number of a South Tyneside councillor who is being accused of posting libelous tweets about South Tyneside council to several Twitter accounts. The council took the matter to the Superior Court of California, which told San Francisco-based Twitter to hand over 30 pieces of information relating to Twitter accounts including @fatcouncillor and @ahmedkhan01.

Ahmed Khan, who is the councillor at the center of the dispute, received an email from Twitter earlier this month to tell him that his personal information had been handed over.

Khan, who denies being the author of the allegedly libelous tweets, told The Guardian that:

It is like something out of 1984. If a council can take this kind of action against one of its own councillors simply because they don’t like what I say, what hope is there for freedom of speech or privacy?

I don’t fully understand it but it all relates to my Twitter account and it not only breaches my human rights, but it potentially breaches the human rights of anyone who has ever sent me a message on Twitter. A number of whistleblowers have sent me private messages, exposing any wrongdoing in the council, and the authority knows this.

I was never even told they were taking this case to court in California. The first I heard was when Twitter contacted me. I had just 14 days to defend the case and I was expected to fly 6,000 miles and hire my own lawyer — all at my expense.

Even if they unmask this blogger, what does the council hope to achieve? The person or persons concerned is simply likely to declare bankruptcy and the council won’t recover any money it has spent.

A spokesman for South Tyneside council said that the legal action was carried out by the previous leader of the authority, but that it had been continued with the full backing of the current head. “The council has a duty of care to protect its employees and as this blog contains damaging claims about council officers, legal action is being taken to identify those responsible,” the spokesperson added.

This is believed to be the first time that Twitter has identified an anonymous user due to pressure from the legal system, and it comes at a time where the social network is being sued after users were accused of breaking a gagging order.

A Premier League soccer star, who has been named as Manchester United player Ryan Giggs, has issued a lawsuit against the social network “and persons unknown” after a super injunction was broken. The gagging order, which was put in place to prevent an alleged affair with a model being reported, was allegedly broken by thousands of Twitter users who mentioned the player’s name in tweets.

The difference between this case and Khan’s, however, is that Giggs issued the lawsuit at the high court in London, which has no jurisdiction over Twitter.

The Khan case could have a huge impact on the future of Twitter. If it is forced to hand over a user’s identity every time a tweet is posted that is deemed to be libelous, then users’ rights to free speech and privacy on Twitter (and all social networks, come to think of it) may be at risk.

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Freedom fears of India’s web users

23 May 2011 Last updated at 23:14 GMT

By Rajini Vaidyanathan BBC News, Mumbai

Tough new internet rules in India have been met with a mixed reaction from web users and online businesses. Google has warned they could threaten online freedom. The government claims they will save lives.

“The internet is my lifeline. It’s how I breathe,” says Netra Parikh as she taps away furiously on her laptop.

Ms Parikh is a self confessed internet junkie, who claims to spend more than 18 hours a day online. Such is her passion for the micro-blogging site Twitter, that she has been named by some of her fellow social networkers as India’s “Queen of Twitter”.

But recently issued guidelines, designed to regulate what can and can’t be posted online in India are a huge cause of concern for Netra.

“We voice our opinion through tweeting and all that, and if someone doesn’t like it, does that mean we have to shut our mouth? Does that mean we can’t speak anymore?”
Grossly harmful

Ms Parikh, and many other bloggers and tweeters are exercised about the Indian government’s updated regulations on the internet, which require any comment considered objectionable be removed by the host site within 36 hours of it receiving a complaint.
BBC Netra Parikh is known as India’s Queen of Twitter

The definition of what should be taken down includes anything which is – “grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever.”

Anything which – “threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation,” must also be removed.

The rules for host websites form part of guidelines on the internet and update India’s IT Act of 2000.

They have caused an outcry online; many bloggers and tweeters say the inclusion of terms such as “disparaging”, “hateful” and “grossly harmful” are open to wide interpretation and could see any innocently disseminated comment being taken down for fear of causing offence.

“No-one has a say of what is right, and what is wrong… if someone objects you can’t talk about it,” says Nikhil Kumar Verma, who was recently named one of India’s top ten most influential tweeters.

Mr Verma, who reviews food and music for his blog , is concerned the rules will stifle his ability to voice his views online, and that content will now have to be sanitised for fear of being taken down.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

Any individual can write to us and say that piece of content offends us and without any recourse we have to take it down.”

Mahesh Murthy Pinstorm
Hate speech

“A lot of people will be scared about saying anything now,” he says. “If I write about the state of Mumbai’s roads, for instance, and someone has an objection about what I say, and deems it hateful, does that mean I’ll have to take it down?,” he questions.

“During the Cairo revolution a lot of the information spread because of social media. Regulations like this could stop people talking about things on the internet just in case someone might object to it,” he says.

The Indian government refutes any suggestion that these guidelines will restrict free speech, stressing that they are in accordance with international laws.

Google recently issued a statement responding to the rules. The internet company said: “We believe that a free and open Internet is essential for the growth of digital economy and safeguarding freedom of expression.

“If Internet platforms are held liable for third party content, it would lead to self-censorship and reduce the free flow of information.

“The regulatory framework should ideally help protect Internet platforms and people’s abilities to access information.”

The onus on host websites to remove objectionable content is a cause for concern to Mahesh Murthy who runs Pinstorm, a digital marketing agency in Mumbai which manages clients’ online brand presence.
Mumbai attacks in 2008 Authorities in India believe the rules will help prevent attacks like those in Mumbai in 2008

“Any individual can write to us and say that piece of content offends us and without any recourse we have to take it down,” he says.

“This gives us an extremely onerous responsibility to be able to police every bit of content before it goes out,” adds Mr Murthy.

Mr Murthy believes this added requirement to respond to complaints will slow down the growth of the internet in India, by placing more responsibility on companies.

But others believe the regulations are necessary to regulate the vast amount of content which is posted on social networking sites and other forums.

“Someone could write a blog, and if some things are defamatory the law provides a way for you to ask for protection, and for that information to be removed,” says Akhilesh Tuteja, an internet analyst for KPMG.

Mr Tuteja says the laws are “not perfect” but believes they are “step in the right direction”.
Cafe watch

India’s online population is rising with more than 81 million people logging onto the internet. It is estimated 40 per cent of the country accesses the web via cyber cafes. The Indian IT ministry has also issued new regulations on how these store user information.

The guidelines require café owners to register with a central government agency. They also have to keep a record of the name, address, photo, and browsing history of visitors and submit this to a the agency .

“Cyber Café shall prepare a monthly report of the log register showing date-wise details on the usage of the computer resource and submit a hard and soft copy of the same to the person or agency as directed by the registration agency by the 5th day of next month,” read the guidelines.

Such requirements are a necessary price to pay for national security, says Rudrajeet Desai from Clinck, a company which installs software to allow cyber cafes to store log details electronically.
Rudrajeet Desai on computer screen Internet cafes must follow strict guidelines on recording user activity

“If a user sends an e-mail against the government or about an assassination it can be tracked back to the cyber cafe’s computer. If at that point the owner has the photo it becomes extremely easy for the investigating authorities to track back the consumer,” he says.

Mr Desai does not believe that this amounts to cyber cafes becoming an arm of the law, and says that the kind of information they are being asked to store is no different to that collected by other companies when someone buys a house, or shops with a supermarket loyalty card.

He explains that the majority of the 14,000 or so cafes he works with support the measures, which are in part designed to prevent people using them to plot attacks like the one in Mumbai in 2008.

“I do believe there is a certain bit of privacy which has been hampered but when you compare it with security against terrorism, I don’t think it holds that much of an importance,” he says.

A spokesman for the Indian government told the BBC he did not believe that freedom of speech has been restricted with the issuance of these guidelines, but campaigners say they’ll continue to push for a change.

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Social networking driving up Pinoys’ Internet usage – study

23th May 2011

In yet another proof of how Filipinos are addicted to social networking, a recent study by insight and consultancy firm TNS showed that Filipinos’ social media frenzy are driving the growth of mobile Internet in the Philippines.

According to TNS’ Digital Life and Mobile Life surveys for 2011, nine out of 10 Filipinos who surf the Internet on their phones have accessed social networking sites, a sharp 68 percent increase from 2010 figures.

Moreover, mobile access to microblogging sites such as Twitter jumped 325 percent in the past year, signifying Filipinos’ growing penchant for sharing their thoughts online.

Although SMS continues to dominate Filipinos’ usage of mobile devices, the study showed that multimedia and online capabilities (social networking, messaging, surfing, etc) have experienced tremendous growth.

On the personal computer front, the study found that social networking is quickly outpacing traditional e-mail platforms as the communication method of choice, with Filipinos spending a longer time on social networks (2.8 hours a week) than on catching up with e-mail messages (2.5 hours a week).

Of those who are active on social networks, the study found that on the average, Filipinos have 171 connections on social networks, with the 21 to 24 age bracket having the most friends online at 298.

In contrast, the world average for number of connections falls at only 120 friends.

Just recently, the Philippines was touted by finance news site 24/7 Wall St as the social networking capital of the world for having the highest social network penetration rate among Internet users, pegged at 95 percent.

Digital transition

Not surprisingly, 81 percent of survey respondents watch TV daily while 43 percent listen to radio on a daily basis.

However, “digital” consumption (i.e., online activity) has surpassed Newspaper and Magazine consumption at 36 percent versus 28 and 11 percent, respectively.

The typical Filipino daily Internet user is male and aged 25 to 44 years old, the study noted.

In terms of online consumption, 36 percent of online Filipinos aged 16-60 years old, class ABCD, access the internet daily. That’s 11 million Filipinos — three times more than the entire population of Singapore and 1.5 times more than the population of Hong Kong.

On the average, Filipinos spend 29 percent of their daily Internet surfing time reading e-mail, 28 percent on browsing social networking sites, and 20 percent on multimedia activities.

On the mobile front, meanwhile, the study showed that while the run-of-the-mill SMS feature is still the top usage driver in the Philippines, many prefer to access their digital music, calendar, video calling and Bluetooth over their mobile phones.

The study results for mobile consumption also showed that 81 percent of Filipinos own a mobile phone, surpassed only by DVD players as the most widely used and owned personal electronic device.

At least 21 percent of these mobile phone owners are multi-SIM holders, a figure higher than the global and emerging Asia average. — With TJ Dimacali, GMA News

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