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Submitted by admin on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 09:12

Charulata Ravi Kumar finds an analogy in the teachings of The Gita and Social Media virtues and vices cited by Venke Sharma and Hushidar Kharas in The Indestructible Brand


The holy land of Social Media favours those who are virtuous and righteous and is brutal on those treading the path of greed, vices and impulsive choices. The Indestructible Brand by Venke Sharma and Hushidar Kharas is a neat compilation of Social Media blunders and a good guide to critical steps organizations and individuals must take to manage, reverse and avoid mortal mistakes.

The examples of HMV’s handle going rogue with disgruntled employees or Alex Roth on McDonald’s could perhaps not have been avoided, but their snowballing might have been arrested. In drawing our attention to such instances, the authors have provided a comprehensive set of measures to identify stakeholders in the brand’s universe who may set off the domino effect. There are interesting techniques to identify possible crisis situations that may arise, but gaps in assessing human need, motives, and socio-cultural triggers that sometimes set off or catalyse a debacle. These can be caught early by analysing patterns to study future intent and not just current behaviour.


Greed, power and fame are strong motivations. Social Media has opened up a stage to play out a dual life for latent human needs. The virtual world and a virtual influence sphere, no matter how small, give an artificial sense of power with an urge to throw up a differentiated POV or a complaint that gives the writer the “I am a hero and I have the power to punish you” badge. In this respect, a scorned customer or employee retaliation can blow up to destruction. The larger the brand, the greater the momentum of community backlash. Organizations too have fallen prey to these misguided objectives and overused and misused Social Media.

Cintam aparimeyam ca pralayantam upasritah. Kamopabhoga-parama etavad iti niscitah.

Two examples from the book (United and VW) reinforce the fact that humans respond positively to humility and crack the whip on brand arrogance. In polarized contrast to United’s brazen act of unceremoniously offloading its passenger, Anand Mahindra’s humility, empathy and immediate apology to the Mahindra Tech employee further strengthened people’s views of the organization as one that values human respect and dignity above all else. With attrition on the rise, loyalty tends to wane. While contractually protecting the organizations from employee spew, employee and customer dignity must never be compromised. VW’s sexist comment on women being unable to understand a real driving experience drove the T-world into a frenzy. Their delayed, templated response of a compromised handle only pulled the noosetighter around them.

Amanitvam adambhitvam ahimsaksantir arjavam. acaryopasanam saucam sthairyam atma-vinigrahah.

The book highlights the need to educate employees periodically on Social Media etiquettes - Organizations must mandate this as part of formal training. Along with clearly laid down rules of engagement during the tenure with the organization, employee contracts must include expectations on this front. Above all, the actions of the leaders will determine what the team follows as SOP. With great power comes great responsibility.

Yad yad acharati shreshthas tat tad evetaro janah. Sa yat pramanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate.

The 10 vital Social Media commandments cited are a good framework for regular risk audits. Early detection of process and systems risks, whistle-blowing and retaliation management are critical steps that organizations must adopt. To this end, the Crisis Squad and Consumer Commitment Officer are great ideas. They must be assigned specific KPIs to evaluate risk and action reporting and change in ratio of positive to negative stakeholder sentiments. I would add the critical functions of Finance, Technology, Supply Chain teams to the Squad grid as well. Crisis Squad teams also need help. Krishna’s role, though passive, was supremely important to win the battle. The Squad must be supported by a sociologist and psychologist who can identify inherent consumer motives and preempt possible next moves while the mentor can help the squad stay calm and focused at all times. Turn to expert guidance and torch-bearers to seek the right path.

Karpanya dosopahata svabhavah prcchami tvam dharma sammudha cetah. Yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tanme isyas te ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam.

As the authors highlight, compliance is a must at all points in the ecosystem. To this I add transparency and verity. False product promises, fake celebrity assurances, etc., can lead to social harakiri. The Joan Rivers boo-boo called out in the book is a goof-up. But Aamir Khan’s statements about his wife’s comments can be far more damaging. Undercover investigations at the Huajian Shoe Factory in Jiangxi province revealed the worst labour rule violation. This is a high risk for the Ivanka Trump brand to which it supplies shoes. To avoid guile supplier actions, organizations must mandate their reporting on specific areas and periodically communicate to consumers to demonstrate self-imposed ethical practices. An organization must take the bigger onus on itself. L’Oreal introduced a Chief Ethics Officer. A good idea, but one that will work only if employees are rewarded for upholding ethics and not just policed and punished for trespassing and if the organization itself upholds ethics foremost.

Social Media planning and management are vital. Be out there in all honesty, humility, transparency and ethics and like the authors themselves who have featured multiple reviews in the book, put out a fusillade of strong sentiments to influence the consumer disposition towards you. Your level of obsession with Social Media or its effective management will determine whether it’s a blue bird that tweets for you or the blue whale that waits with bare jaws.

As a simple guide…Just keep doing the right thing.

Karmanye vadhikaraste, ma phaleshu kadachana. Ma karmaphalaheturbhurma te sangostvakarmani.

(The Indestructible Brand - SAGE Publications; pp 142, Rs 295)


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