Global event takes conversations about a powerful medium offline

When the presenter asked his enthusiastic audience for an example of how social media had been able to impact the non-digital world, one young man answered: “It increased the popularity of Alok Nath.” His reference to the Hindi film and television actor who has become a star on social media thanks to a recent running joke had the audience in splits.

The interactive session featuring social media enthusiasts and experts discussing everything from branding and product engagement in the digital world to the changing face of political campaigns, began the second Indian edition of Social Media Week. The five-day global event, which is being held simultaneously in seven cities, is on the theme “social media for social change”.

On Tuesday, the second day of the event, there were sessions on branding as a conversation, on contemporary approaches to design and how social applications can help start-ups. Speaking at a session, Xanadu founder Arnab Choudhuri gave the example of Amazon, which integrates Facebook likes with other services and products available to generate ads tailored to customer choice to ensure higher visibility and interest.

Those in the audience included students, digital media professionals and corporate and branding professionals. The event had something for everyone, spread out across five locations — Barleyz, City Bar, Fava, Hard Rock Café and The Leela Palace. While some hosted master classes that aimed at equipping students and professionals with vital digital media skills, others hosted talks on topics ranging from education to culture and start-ups.

Says Rohit Varma of R Square Consulting, which hosted the event, “The idea is to get everyone on a single platform. Social media has changed the game for marketers, agencies and brands. Brands have had to embrace the huge shift from communication in the form of advertisements to conversations.”

Tinu Cherian, social media enthusiast who attended the event, said, “It was more of understanding the digital ecosystem, whether it is branding or ROI (return on investment). I learnt a few things despite having been on social media for long.”

Political purposes

On the first day, one of the most tweeted about events was a discussion on social media and elections. Rajeev Gowda of the Indian National Congress spoke about how the Congress was embracing social media to reach out to new populations. The session, which first started out almost like an election campaign until an audience member pointed out that this wasn’t a platform for propaganda, proceeded to host a serious and lively discussion on what political parties did and thought of social media engagement. The audience was most receptive to the speaker from the Aam Aadmi Party who spoke on how the party had used social media to connect to a very wide audience and translate that connection into support.

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