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Monday, November 29, 2010

Promoting your products and services through Statusbites

Since one of my key jobs is to find out how social media and user generated content can contribute to social change, we recently came up with a simple tactic which I call ‘statusbites’ to increase the circulation, frequency and visibility of status messages in social networks specific to any campaign, cause etc. Since the same principles can be applied to for-profit organisations as well, I thought to share the same for use by Bangladeshi managers who are contemplating how best to use social media for a variety of business objectives. Please note that increasingly consumers are getting to know about your products and services not from your official websites and TVCs but from the newsfeeds in their Facebook profiles through the fan pages and groups of companies they subscribe to. So an important mindshift needs to take place that rather than expecting consumers to travel to your websites to know more about you, you need to make sure that your message is travelling to where they are spending their times these days.

What are statusbites?

Statusbites are a series of short texts which describes a company product, service, news piece, event etc. which can be published and promoted over a period of time through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Why do we need statusbites?
Its not always the case that users come to your company website to know more about your products and services. You need to ensure that your messages travel to digital spaces where an increasing number of your customers spend a significant amount of their daily lives in recent times – social networks. Statusbites aim to inform consumers who are more comfortable to consuming information through social networks with the help of the series of statusbites. So by the end of the run of say 10-15 status messages and provided they have followed the sequence – they would be able to comprehend the key messages, key benefits, objectives, features etc. regarding the product, service your company is trying to promote.

Also, you can’t expect that all your followers and fans in social media come across your posts the moment you publish them. Most of the time your publications/status messages can be buried down a plethora of other messages that the users are bombarded with every second – both from updates from their friends/families and from other subscriptions. So you need to make sure that your message shows up often- not to flood the newsfeed, but in convenient frequencies.

How to prepare statusbites?
•Think of the 10 or 15 key messages you want consumers to know about the product, service, event you are organising
•Write each of them down within 130 characters with space and the hashtag of your choice (i.e. #gpnewoffer)
•State whether you want each of the statusbites to link to your company website, Facebook page etc.

How are they scheduled?
The statusbites can be scheduled to appear in your preferred social networking properties with the help of a third party software called Co-Tweet. The scheduling of statusbites publication can be spread over a week, two weeks etc. depending on the plan of promotion before, during or after a target event, date of your product/service launch.

Gpfact1/10 - #grameenphone launches #mobitaka to make remittances easier http://shortlinktoyourwebsite

Gpfact2/10 – did you know that #mobitaka allows you to get rewards of 10% for every 100 taka you remit? http://shortlinktoyourwebsite

Gpfact3/10 – did you know that 10,000 people used #mobitaka in November to remit a total of 150,000 taka to their friends and families? http://shortlinktoyourwebsite

So as you can see, you don’t have to do entirely new things in social media for your products and services, rather if you tweak your status message slightly to suit your objectives and the audience, you might appear to be more engaging and informing in social media networks. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


10,000 is the amount you have to spend to make a return trip to Chittagong.
14,000 for  Cox's Bazaar. Yet it took me not a paisa more than
9,000 to make a return trip to Kuala Lumpur. Ask me how?

To answer this question, we have to turn to the magnificent 70's. When despite the Cold War's Russian roulette, a gentleman called Freddie Laker coined the infamous "Sky Train" service between London and New York. Laker Airways, which eventually failed... had started an era in air travel which would shape a large portion of what we see as the "airline industry" today. Low-cost aka. budget aka. no-frills airlines, are in simple words, airlines that sell tickets at considerably lower fares. Although too simple to address, this cost-saving is actually achieved though a very streamlined, effective and no-bullshit model. Over the years, airline behemoths like Southwest in 70's, Ryanair in 80's, Easyjet in 90's and last but not least Air Asia in 00's have started out with this no-frills model, sustained the global downturns and have survived to be winners at the end. In fact Southwest today is one of the largest airlines in the world, and also one that sustained the least (-) growth during the post-9/11 recession. I wonder why?

I am not a widely travelled person as many of you who are reading this could and would be. But I do know a bit of history and adding to that a few jargon from the business school, a few years learning the consumer traits... I do at time get an insight or two, right. Today's dissection will not be about the low-cost air travel model, that's for the travel gurus and airline pundits to solve. But what I want to bring to light, is the successful and almost unimaginable revival of a dead-concept in the hands of a magician, who goes by the name of Tony Fernandez. Unless you haven't figured it out yet (gosh! this article is so not for you, then)... I am talking about the latest and the bestest airline that flies to Dhaka, Air Asia...

1 Ringgit (Tk. 23) is how much he paid for taking over an ailing low-cost carrier by the name of Air Asia.  Although the token money was nothing more than a formality, he took over the debts of a dying airline with nothing but his exceptional management skills and a trusted bunch of investors (through Tune Group). He gave up his career as a Regional Boss at Warner Music, invested his life's savings into this unknown Tune Group and left the rest to his proven track record of turning things around. And this was all in 2001...

As 2002 drew the dawn of a new day in his own life and the life of his newest venture, Air Asia... It was nothing short of miraculous, when the airline posted profits within a year of its takeover. Some say marriages are made in heaven, acquisitions in hell; but this acquisition was simply too good to be true. And after nearly 10 years of doing business by selling a single class of seats, in a single type of aircraft (initially Boeing 737 and now Airbus A320), with no on-board meals, no refunds and exceptional turnaround times... Air Asia proudly boasts a fleet of 103 aircrafts (with 121 in orders) flying to over 60 destinations around the globe.

Their model was pretty straight-cut to begin with - keep journey times less than 4hrs , which enables them to have seats that don't recline, serve no complimentary meals and of course charge for everything from a reserved seat to extra baggage (well as opposed to a general airline, Air Asia offers 15kg of baggage per head) to even having some extra leg room (yes, they call it HOT SEAT :p). The aircrafts are maintained by some really efficient crew who have a turnaround time that can compete with a Formula 1 pit-stop any day (no wonder, Air Asia sponsors Scuderia Ferrari) and because they are all of a single type, having spare parts in dire times is never a worry anyway.

Ironically even after the arrival of this messiah (who has literally let everyone fly), the local scene hasn't changed much till today. United still flies return trips to Chittagong for no less than 11,000 and with almost equally shitty seats, they charge 24000 to KL as opposed to Air Asia's meager 17000 (at max on a peak period). Air Asia lets you pre-book tickets... not just any advance, but literally years in advance... Whereas for a traditional career out of Dhaka, web ticketing is a hieroglyphic and advance ticketing a myth. In the past decade, Bangladesh has seen the rise of a few private carriers (namely GMG, United and most recently Regent), demise of some other private carriers (Royal Bengal, Parabat, Best) and the continued disgrace of the flag carrier (Biman).

When the whole world is busy benchmarking them against the low-cost operators, Bangladeshi airlines' are busy fighting their own battle... staying in the green to stay in flight! Albeit we have one of the most discouraging air travel frameworks in Bangladesh - high cost of aviation fuel, non-competitive airport charges and subsidized flag carrier; the opportunities were always there. The moment Bangladesh government opened our skies for a short duration in 2007, airlines like Air Asia jumped into this opportunity. Foreseeing the ever-increasing spending habits of the growing middle-class and a lifelong "wanderlust" nature of us, Bangladeshis... Air Asia did what local airlines couldn't do in ages (probably could never have done, either).

They brought down flying to a "reasonable level"!!! By reasonable, I don't refer to the (throw away price) TkTk. 17,0000 I will be paying to fly off to KL once more in a few days via Air Asia. These folks from Malaysia, have not only made air travel an affordable mean of getting around (well ironically, only to KL and onwards for now) but also introduced us to a concept unseen, unheard and untried.

End of the day, all that we have learnt and tried to achieve is nothing but follow their suit by lowering airfares (when promotional fares meant 1 Ringgit for a KL-SG flight, we replicated it as 10-15% off on an already overpriced ticket of DHK-BKK flight), sticking to Cold War-era gas-guzzler aircraft (the De Havilland Dash 8s and even older MD-80s are nothing short of 10 to 20 years old as they are bought) and eventually getting themselves F*CKED (bankrupt) in the process (case in reference, GMG).

People say, men in the army have their brains in their knees; strangely it seems... so do the pilots and aviation aristocracies!!!

And thus we remorsefully realize... NOT EVERYONE CAN FLY!!!

The beauty of BUZZ!!!

Social networking, microblogging, instant messaging, twitting... all this make up for the world that we live in. A world which is LOUD, too OPEN for the closed-minded and COMPLICATED beyond definition. Yet we enjoy living in it... complain or not, suffer or not... we do like livin' in this "chaos". Such a world is nothing but a creation of ours; well at least I tend to think so. As we get more and more involved with the "power of the internet" over "actual human skills", we consistently make way for the "new world" to take over the old one, the one we define as our planet... a place where we have lived in for thousands of years. This change isn't a overnight process though; over the years... through the million hours we have spent making this world more a spiderweb, grapevine or whatever you wish to call it.... we have become victims of creating a BUZZ about everything. Everything that moves, every soul that sneezes... makes a BUZZ! In simpler words... we are a victim of the very buzz that we create to keep ourselves content, recognized and most importantly going on for more.

Sitting here in my desk on a random saturday night, with my facebook window open, MSN signed on, gtalk in "away" status... I am conveying my message through a blog. A message against buzz is ultimately going to be promoted via another buzz. That's how ironic the whole process is, yet that is how we have come to accept life as. We live in it, we breathe it, we look forward to creating a bigger and better version of it every freakin' time... We simply are... and will be...BUZZed!!!!

Authored by Sabih Ahmed at

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cause marketing for Bangladeshi NGOs

This is that one time in the UK when patriotic Britons don the poppy in response to the annual call from the Royal British Legion's poppy appeal - As they mention that "each year the nation expresses its unequivocal support for The Royal British Legion's charity work through the Poppy Appeal. Our emphasis this year is the need to help the Afghan generation of the Armed Forces and their families - today and for the rest of their lives. Our target in 2010 is £36 million and we call on the nation to give generously and to wear their poppies with pride". Starting from day to day commuters to TV presenters,from football fans to students, Britons from all walks of life proudly seem to show off their support and engagement with the cause, as appealed by the British Charity. Some key observations which the Bangladeshi NGOs and charities can take note of.

1. Performing a ritual
One of the most important elements that binds together a group, a tribe is the act of performing some routine acts depending on the time of the month, sighting of the moon or it can be any other relevant social norm to which everyone adheres to at the same time. British Legion has successfully branded this period of the year as if its the 'poppy period' where every interested British citizen buys a paper poppy clip from off-licence shops, tube stations for a pound or more and puts it on their clothes to show their affiliation to the cause. Its pretty amusing to see every next person around the city wearing it, be it on TV, work, public transport etc. As if its a yearly ritual which is unwritten in any holy script or in the country's constitution, but its the charity's appeal to practice this ritual for a noble cause it has been advocating for.

2. Connecting patriotism
The British Legion successfully linked its cause to a wider hook - patriotism. Whether the UK should have sent troops to Afghanistan or not, that might be entirely a different discussion. But the dignity that is involved in serving the nation wearing uniforms and the pain and losses that the families endure is something which has a very strong emotional appeal, much beyond any political myopia. Its very likely that social causes related to patriotism will almost always appeal especially to the young generation and prove more effective than calls and causes related to religious beliefs.

3. Using technology
The charity has made it easier for donors to make their contributions in a variety of ways combining mobile and web based channels. They have made it easier for people not only to donate money but also to track their contributions by providing transparency enabled by technology. They have also opted for outdoor advertising.

4. Adding glamour and peer pressure
The charity has successfully endorsed famous celebrities and media personalities to wear the poppy without signing any of them in exchange of any fat checks. The glitterati have picked this up as an accessory, as a 'must wear' during this time of the wear, lest they get branded by the British media or public as 'insensitive' to the heroics and sacrifices of the British troops. This sense of obligation is a type of peer pressure which spreads in common public as well, when you will see majority of the fellow commuters in the morning bus/tube wearing that, either you will become curious to know more what this is all about or you will end up getting one for yourself too, in order not to be left out of the current craze.

Once upon a time Bangladesh was called the land of mosques. Now its also the land of NGOs. We are so used to asking for alms to foreign donors with our palms up that we have completely forgotten to put our hands back in our own pockets. I wonder what does it take for a social enterprise or any NGO to release coatpins, badges of Bangla alphabets from a week before 21 February every year? NO. We would rather sell red roses and red baloons during that time because that's what 'others' are doing. Why doesn't Muktijoddha Foundation come up with such schemes which say a campaign called 'Amra ekti phul ke bachabo bole juddho kori' every December and asks for a donation of 5 tk. in exchange of a Shapla (water lily) pin or a wrist band which everyone will feel like wearing? Shapla - the national flower of Bangladesh, to remind the new generation that the valiant freedom fighters of Bangladesh had taken up arms to protect the innocent flower and the innocence of our motherland in 1971. Cynics will always claim that we don't have money, but I really don't have any urge to refute these claims, everybody knows very well how rich some rich are getting and how poor some poor are becoming in Bangladesh. Moreover when we already have a socio-religious ritual of zakat or fitra every year, I honestly believe that even religious NGOs could add some sort of innovation in their appeals for causes which can give them some uplift from stereotypes and prejudice. Finally, I can safely claim that Bangladeshi NGOs have enough clues and hooks in our culture and history to innovate the way they go about doing their business. Atleast this time, we should not wait to see first in Zee TV or Star Plus how this is done and then try to duplicate it.