Reputation Today and The PRactice organised a special edition of #RTPRIMETIME on 26 August 2020 on the topic The Social Media Influence of the Communicators. The panelists included Ankit Vengurlekar from Xiaomi India, Vandana Shenoy from Oracle India, Varsha Chainani from Mahindra & Mahindra and Vineet Handa from Kaizzen with Yamini Reddy from The PRactice as the moderator of the discussion. The discussion covered various topics like the importance of social media influence, keeping a balance between the professional and personal information, the responsibility that comes with being a communicator on social media and how to use these platforms efficiently.
‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’ said Ankit Vengurlekar who has a massive social media presence. He opened the discussion by sharing how extremely positive and gratifying his experience with social media has been. He said that it is really important to maintain the tone and tenure of one’s social media presence. He also spoke of the curious balance of professional and personal information that needs to be maintained online. Vandana Shenoy continued this discussion by stating the importance of having an online presence and creating a social media persona which includes displaying your credentials on your social media. She also gave importance to the responsibility that we as communication professionals have towards supporting right messages, other creative businesses and brands. She believes that when we sign up for social media we voluntarily sign up to everything that comes with it and the smart way to deal with it is to know how much you want to get involved. She also believes it’s not necessary to be an active participant from the very beginning. We can choose to be an active observer by exploring, learning and amplifying good stories and content. Varsha Chainani then talked about the pressure and exhaustion that comes with consistently maintaining a social media presence on different platforms. She explained how different platforms cater to different audiences and hence need to be used in a different way. Facebook, in recent times, is used to connect with friends and family whereas Instagram is more focused on influencing people and LinkedIn is really important for creating an online professional existence. The main question she said we should ask ourselves is why are we using what we are using? What are we getting out of it? These questions help us to maintain our engagement on different platforms.
Do we shift and adapt to different platforms or do we stick to one platform?
Social Media is a good compliment to traditional PR, said Vineet Handa who believes that it is really important for us to be real and authentic on social media. We cannot be two different people on two different platforms because the audience is watching us. When we engage on different platforms, we should make sure that even if the way of delivering the message changes according to the trend, the core of the message should remain the same.
While talking about what is the right social media mix, Ankit pointed out that social media works on the mantra of ‘survival of the quickest’. We need to be quick and adaptable but also should be able to experiment with new platforms. Especially consumer facing brands because they receive a lot of customer care messages on social media. It is also really important to accept that all platforms are not meant for everyone. Try new platforms if you can’t figure it out, its probably not meant for you. Move on.” says Ankit.
In today’s age of volatile social media, it is important to know how much is too much. It is important to take a break for social media and opt for a detox once in a while. Vandana believes that this decision should be personal. We need to know for ourselves how much involvement we want. She also suggested that we should not be impulsive and take time to respond, especially during a crisis. The panel also talked about creating your own identity on social media. Everyone agreed on the fact that a person is more than their job and hence it is really important to stay true to ourselves. While Vineet believed that it is important to be careful while taking a stand on any issue because the client is always watching. We need to understand that whatever we do and say on social media stays there forever. It is important to take a step back and try to see the bigger picture. Ankit had a slightly different take on the situation stating that even though speaking online comes with a cost, staying silent is a privilege and we would do a great disservice to our profession if we choose to remain silent. Varsha pointed out that even though it is important to speak, we need to make sure that our statement does not turn into an employee activism or movement, if we don’t intend it to be.
Does the number of followers on social media dictate your influence?
The number of followers is an important factor in determining your influence but it’s not the only factor, said Vandana. We need to know the number of relevant followers we have, the ones who have the authority to bring a change. She also pointed out that even though traditional PR has a shelf life, credibility and visibility it is important to promote it on social media for influence and wider reach.
Does social media play an important role in influencing your hire?
All the panelists agreed that yes it does play an important role in the hire. Ankit explained that social media presence is the product of time invested and the effort made to put a message across about something a person is passionate about. Varsha stated that it shows the ability and skill set of a person to leverage social media. For Vandana, the social media presence shows how volatile, passionate and engaging a person is, by looking at the strategy they use for their influence online. Vineet stated the social media presence is an integral part of the selection process these days.
If you are an employee of one brand do you advocate for other brands?
You need to be larger than the brand, if you believe in something and it doesn’t go against your brand advocate for it, said Vineet who was followed by Varsha who said that some things are central in nature regardless of the platform and brand. It shows thoughtful leadership to spread a message by leveraging someone else’s post. Ankit also believes in advocating as long as one brand is not jeopardizing the other
Varsha talked about how corporates are looking for a clear line of purpose, experience, engagement, power to learn, social media engagements and how alive a person is to their environment. While talking about the credibility of social media in the time of fake news Ankit explained how important it is to have a trusted group of people you can connect with to share information.
The discussion ended with each panelist sharing their social media advice in one line. Ankit said being silent is a privilege, stand up for what you believe and use your social media as a tool for positive reinforcement. Varsha advised to believe in the power of you and not to focus on the likes. Vandana assured everyone that it is not a difficult thing and Vineet concluded by saying it is important to maintain real relationships regardless of social media.
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