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Online Identity Management (A beginner’s guide)

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on January 10, 2010

A dinner table discussion on Online identity management is what got me to write this post. Intended to be a nerd’s guide to “doing things” on the net.

Personal identities are migrating to the internet based social,crowd and professional networking platforms. Given the transformatory and disruptive effects that internet has brought on to societies, communities, businesses, information, and technology, it was about time that indentities went online as well. This post discusses Online identity management as a template.

Why do we need Online identities?
The “global village” term never seemed more true. What the internet has done is that it has multiplied reach and accessibility and democratized information. The internet is fast becoming every individual’s window to the world. What we choose to showcase through that Window is what we want to project ourselves as to the world at large. That is what i refer to as Online identity.

Online identities
The online identities may vary basis age demographics (assuming that the user is a normal internet user). So while students have a very heavy element of social networking in their online identities, executives and professionals will see a balance of social and professional networking elements. The reasons are obvious.

Thus we have established the two important platforms: Social Networking and Professional networking as the two pillars of Online Identity management. Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut are the prominent social networking sites and Facebook is the biggest amongst them. While Facebook also can be used for Professsional networking, my choice of Professional networking site is Linkedin because of the many other things that it allows you to do beside meeting and knowing people in the same profession. I use Facebook for my Social Networking and Linkedin for my Professional networking requirements. Sites such as Slideshare and Box.Net are important supports to my networking needs as they can be referenced readily for relevant subjects and material.

What has emerged with Twitter is the trend of conversation. Even before Twitter, Facebook, Orkut,MySpace and other Social networking sites featured conversations but then Twitter democratized it by taking the conversation to the crowd rather than limiting it to our immediate circle of friends and relatives and collegues.

Twitter thus has become a worldwide portal to meet people, discuss ideas, microblog ones opinions, create an online presence and publicizing self. It is also incredibly useful as a forum where one can talk to the experts and gain some recognition in the crowd. I strongly suggest refraining from status updates like “Taking my dog for a walk” on Twitter. That is a waste of time and unless you are Paris Hilton, no one really bothers about you or your dog.

In the heart of Online Identity management is the “I, me, myself” thing. And nothing defines it better than an online blog, or a website for self.

The decision to blog is not about an “impulsive do” but revolves around a larger context of “How i define myself? What is my expertise? What is my chosen area of work?” and a doggedness of voicing views regularly. As with the starters, it takes patience and time for the scale and number of blogs and the traffic to build. It takes time getting hits and reviews and comments. Hence this is a slow burn activity. WordPress and Blogger are the most favoured Blog sites around that Bloggers use. One can however support his blog with publicity on Twitter, Professional and Social networking sites. Depending upon the relevance of the message and the target consumers of the information, traffic follows. A YouTube is a higher order blog where you can audio-visual your ideas and thoughts. The thing with Online content is that it needs to be relevant to the audience else you end up making monkeying yourself.

The Fourth pillar in Online identity management is not much of “identity” stuff anyway. It is more of “convenience and storage” over the internet.So there are Google Docs,Calendar; there is Microsoft Sky Drive; there is GMail for all your mails; there is Picassa/Flickr for all your photos and more. It makes sense putting the data up in the cloud so that it can be accessed readily by you instead of lugging around your laptop.One good thing is that most of these portals can be connected through with each other such that a change in one updates others as well.

So there you have it.. It isnt easy.. It is time taking and the whole idea needs to be strategically thought through in context of how you are, what you do and where you are willing to go. The decision and the thought predate everything else in building the online identity.

Indian Telecom Story (Part XXIII): Re-cap and Challenges ahead

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on January 5, 2010

2000-10 has been a decade when Indian telecom industry took wings and giant strides ahead. It is slated to become one of the leading sectors contributing to the economy by 2014.This post recaps the last 10 years in Indian telecom and details the challenges ahead of the industry and the way ahead to keep the growth on the up.

The Indian Telecom Success story

At the beginning of the decade, the Indian telecom industry burdened by high licence fees was struggling to survive. It was then that the Government came with the New Telecom Policy (NTP ‘99). It allowed telecom operators to move from a licence fee regime to a revenue share era.

Since then, the growth has been only gaining steam. From a little over a million mobile subscribers in 2000, today there are more than 500 million subscribers. Yet, mobile operators are adding over 14 million new subscribers each month. There is no doubt on the success of the sector. Almost all the targets that were set have been reached. It is by far one of the most competitive sectors. However, the intense competition has led to a shortage of spectrum

The sector has crossed all targets set by NTP ‘99. Against a target of 15 per cent telecom penetration by 2010, it is at 45 per cent now. The 15 per cent target was reached in September 2006 itself. Similarly, while the NTP set a target of 4 per cent rural teledensity by 2010, the country already has a 15.35 per cent rural teledensity as of June 2009.

Challenges before the Industry

Regulatory Uncertainty
The biggest challenge that the telecom sector faces is regulatory uncertainty. A clear regulatory roadmap will ensure that the sector is not continuously bogged down in controversy. This will result in greater investor optimism. Considering that communications is a key sector for overall economic development, this should be the topmost priority for the Government.

Slow progress on future growth agenda
Despite all the Telecom success story, there are areas where progress is quite slow. The 3G auction is a classic case. Despite TRAI coming up with its recommendations on 3G in September 2006, the auctions are yet to happen and have been delayed multiple times over.

Balancing Growth and Profitability
According to industry reports, the revenue figures across the industry for the quarter ending September 2009 were at Rs.38,755 crore, lower than the figures in December 2008, which stood at Rs.39,408 crore, in spite of the fact that the overall subscriber base was lower by 125 million in the latter case. This is primarily due to the fact that the markets now have 13 operators fighting for market share when the market can support 4 to 5. The fight is likely to get compounded when mobile number portability (MNP). This allows users to move between service providers without having to surrender their number. This is likely to remove the last barrier that currently prevents users from switching between service providers, and push up churn rates to as high as 8.0% per month. Even now, customer satisfaction levels with service providers are low in India and customers would be looking for better deals once MNP come in.

Way Ahead

The immediate focus of the Government should be on completing the auction of 3G and broadband wireless access spectrum. It should then ensure that mobile number portability is introduced across the country. That should be followed up by allowing the entry of mobile virtual network operators.

The concern over the slow growth of broadband could also be covered once the broadband wireless access (BWA) auctions take place in 2010.

The Government also needs to come out with a clearer mandate on mergers and acquisitions in the sector. Consolidation will also lead to better management of spectrum.

Though bidders are wary of the base price of Rs. 4,040 crore fixed by the government, most service providers badly need the additional spectrum that will come with the licences and are likely to fork over the money the government is demanding. This is also seen as the primary reason foreign companies are not interested in taking on standalone 3G licences, as the others with a captive 2G base would score over them in building sustainability.

Rural markets are the only growth area, but they also represent the low end of the revenue potential spectrum. With a measly 15% penetration in rural markets, the scope for growth is tremendous yet daunting in the fact that average revenues per user (ARPU) are already Rs. 200 or so, and will be down to double digits in the rural areas.

All these elements – per paisa billing, MNP and 3G licensing – are momentous events happening in the space of a year. They are likely to bring about a paradigm shift in the industry, and lead to a consolidation in the market in the coming years. Which players survive and what strategies they use will determine the health of the industry and will be under keen observation in the coming days.

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Demystifying Twitter and Facebook

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on January 2, 2010

In an earlier post, I had discussed about the Facebook-ization and Twitter-ization of the global social networks. This post compares and de-mystefies the twin phenomenon: Twitter and Facebook. It isn’t as much a Twitter versus Facebook thing as it is a Twitter and Facebook thing.

2008 World Map of Social Networks

These two global maps tell the story of colonization of Global Social networks by Facebook. The last time, one would have seen such large levels of colonization is probably the British empire in the mid 19th century. The 2009 map is flawed because it doesnot factor results from Google Page ranks and uses the Alexa instead. This thus doesnot give a complete picture and is only 60% complete at best. The Orkut is not featured and it is a sizeable chunk in India and South East Asia. But the idea here is to show the remarkable spread of Facebook across the world. If not No.1 as indicated across, it is a respectable No.2 in lot of the geographies.

2009 World Map of Social Networks

There is a lot of chatter around Facebook versus Twitter. Is Facebook more happening or its Twitter about to upstage Facebook. The comparison to me is a Apples versus Oranges scenario. Lets look at the how these
two portals deliver social networking to the audience across geographies.

This comparison goes to show how the two networks cater to different needs. Facebook to me is all about my network, my friends, my clique whereas Twitter is “my voice in the crowd. To that extent Facebook is a closed circle and Twitter is as open as can be depending upon a user’s relevance to particular field. Twitter features personal updates, but then it is tending more and more to broader subjects and the philosophy of crowd sourcing.

A handy detail of the pros and cons of Facebook and Twitter are as mentioned here.

In terms of sharing, Twitter is more effective beating Facebook’s 24% with a 40% i.e there are 40% chances that a URL on Twitter will get more clicks and browsing than Facebook (where the metric stands at 24%). This may be due to two factors:
1. A sharing opportunity is very transient on Twitter. The tweet tends to get lost in the constant flow of conversation or if relevant, it gets discussed and evolves. Facebook on the other hand, is a static medium, which keeps the sharing opportunity on for a longer time. Thus the audience can come back in time to browse through the URL/message.
2. With only 140 character’ss per tweet, Twitter inherently encourages URL click throughs as the complete story while the Tweets act as headlines.

However, Facebook has larger within page click thru’s because being a closed circle there is a greater opportunity to browse easily and spend time on the portal of the referrer (because the referrer is someone you know).

Interestingly, the audience demographics on Twitter is younger than Facebook. While Twitter shows a healthy growth in users across all ages, most of its users are 32 years and younger ( called the Gen Y). The spending power lies in the Gen Y demographics and it is more likely that Businesses would like to talk to users through this medium. The RTs and @s deliver the business message on a one to one level with relevant consumer groups which is why a lot of the companies are increasingly use Twitter as the medium of communication. A statistic by Nielsen shows that Facebook demographic profile is around the 31-33 years mark and tending to the older ages whereas Twitter age profiles are 26-31 and tending to younger ages. What helps Twitter are the fan followings that the big crowd pullers get who are mostly less than 30 years. Check Ashton Kutcher, Ophray Winfrey, Shahid Kapoor, Chetan Bhagat, Priyanka Chopra, Genelia D Souza on Twitter. It is easier to follow them on Twitter rather then they have inordinately large Facebook accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Finally, the Facebook versus Twitter trends validate the usages that both these portals serve. For instance, Twitter serves up with News such as Iran Election, Gaza, Iran, Earth Hour, AIG, Wave, Windows 7 and more. Most of these topics are macro discussions and relate less to individual and more to a continuous news stream. The Facebook is about I, Facebook Applications (How the user indulges in his online activities), Fan Followings, Celebrities etc. Interestingly, Twitter also finds a mention as a FB trend.

Net of all things: The debate “Which is better: Facebook or Twitter” is quite fruitless. Twitter and Facebook help in forging the user’s online identity: a social side and an “interests”/crowd/community side. Both have commonalities but the usages are very different. For me, I have a Facebook account for my social circles, a Twitter account for the crowd conversation, a Linked in Account for my Academic/Professional pursuits and a blog for showcasing my thoughts and ideas. It isn’t as much “A versus B” as it is about being complementary.


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