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Chapter 1: The Story Begins…

—How It All Began!

Addiction, in my formative years, was a bad word. Most likely, even now, the word has its negative shades; thanks to the tireless campaigning by philanthropists against drug addiction, substance addiction, and their likes. However, as I grew up, and even now, when I sit to write this book, I realize that addiction can be actually good and it can bring you fortunes. Therefore, when my friends and family called me an “Orkut addict” way back in 2004, it did not bother me; in fact, I had this secret pride in being someone who mastered something that was becoming popular amongst the people.

Hi5 did enter the country first; however, among us, Orkut was a runaway hit. Primarily, Orkut (or any other social media) started as a leisure media; however, later it became a part of our lives. During my college days, social media was a new and exciting thing to do. Back then, not everyone knew about it; therefore the one who introduced it had a small pride. Orkut with its own scrapbook and testimonial features attracted me and made me spend time with it. It became virtually and literally my “second home”, a “kingdom come” after college hours. Quite excited about the possibility of socializing with people from around the world and playing around with real-time friends, it made me befriend about 2000 people and to have around 60 testimonials. The testimonials feature was so addictive; I wrote testi-monials on request, in favor, for a return testimonial (lot of transactions you see!) or as a surprise—it was one feature that made lot of us say things about each other that you would not share otherwise. By uploading crazy pictures and checking scrapbooks and testimonials of others, I was actively using Orkut for more than three years.

Social media, then again, was a part of my life. Of course, you learn, unlearn, and relearn many things while you are still on the journey. Fortunately, during my Orkut years, I had stumbled and later learned the wise use of social media for fun, friendship, serious networking, career, etc.

In 2006, a close group of college mates created a community on Orkut called 04–PB–Loyolites to discuss various…uh no…just to ridicule professors! A few of my friends and I created some fake profiles of professors and wrote some hilarious testimonials to each other with some crazy profile information that made the Orkut crowd literally laugh out loud; however, with the fear of cybercrime in mind, these profiles were deleted later. By the way, the community created for classmates became an alumni community and the most responded activity in the community of boys was a poll as simple as “Who is the cutest female professor in the department?”).

Orkut was also a platform for not-so-publishable entertainment. In internet cafés and browsing centers, it was also getting to become a sextertainment spot where the fake profiles of girls and boys met and had virtual relationships. Like with any technology, boys and girls always found a way out!

One valuable lesson I learned as early as the Orkut days was to never publicly use social media to express anger against close friends or relatives. Throughout my second year of college, I used to vent anger, express my feelings, and share all my thoughts through my virtual avatar. I never knew that a simple status message could make a small misunderstanding into a huge rivalry, which I am still unhappy about. How else would you feel when your genuine thoughts are bullied upon? I laugh about it now, but a valuable lesson was learned.

After my graduation, when I wanted to do post-graduation in the United Kingdom, the first ever time in an unknown country, I was confused where to go and what to do—the usual anxiety for a first-time visitor (usual now, creepy then). As I had various offers from many universities in the United Kingdom, I used Orkut extensively to join communities relevant to education abroad, education in the United Kingdom, and specific communities of institutes. In the mean time, I made several friends on Orkut; talking to them helped me finalize University of Leeds. A community of University of Leeds on Orkut helped me answer some queries related to the UK culture, weather, part-time jobs, etc. It helped me network with all other individuals from various parts of India who were planning their post-graduation from University of Leeds in the same year.

Orkut helped us connect and network even before we met in person in Leeds. We planned our travel together, decided on things to take along, talked about scholarships, etc. In fact, some of the friends I made via Orkut through the community of “University of Leeds” are now my most valuable assets for lifetime.

Even though some of the Orkut users were using the platform for other purposes, I was glad that I was able to pull this out for the most important decision in my life—a game-changer.

Four months after completing my graduation, I was in the United Kingdom with friends from across the globe. Most of them were not aware of Orkut, the period when I realized that Orkut was not the only virtual social world; it was popular only in India and Brazil. It was informed among us that all official information at our university will be shared through e-mail/internet and all informal communications—the ones apart from academics—will be shared through Facebook.

Facebook. Now what on earth is that?! That was the first time I was hearing of it. A ‘closed group’ was created on Facebook and I was in.

I soon realized that all my friends from different countries were also part of this community and this helped me boost my networking abilities. I was still active on Orkut as my 2000+ friends were still in India and wanted to know my stories from the United Kingdom. In 2008, Facebook was very simple to use. It’s pages never existed as it is now. The groups ruled the Facebook world and so did the community-centric networking. It became very popular among the Indian students in the United Kingdom as it gave us lot more opportunities of entertainment, engagement, and networking.

However, how did Facebook attract me so strongly? A simple but very effective tool called “Gaming” can make your audience stay put with you throughout.

Texas Poker was the first game that I joined on Facebook. I liked the social feature of this game more, which allowed us to play with other users at the same time sitting on table (especially with people from all over the world). There used be a chat box where global players could chat, discuss, share poker chips, and literally discuss about anything under the roof giving a complete club experience.

Poker became a fascinating part of my life in the United Kingdom as I used to compete with my roommates who were sitting in different hostels. Virtual chips were almost conversed enough, begged enough, and were the talk of pride in my friends group.

The magnetic nature of gaming is infectious. When I took a one-month break from my regular UK lifestyle and was back to my country, I introduced Facebook to my siblings and friends, teaching them the global poker with virtual chips, which made my younger brother addicted to it.

My orthodox Indian parents blamed me for being the root-cause of bringing in the westernized culture of using internet 24/7. Now as I see my mom posing for photographs asking if I will post on Facebook, I wonder how social media has become one with us—it is no more a western thing. For me, Facebook started gaining traction slowly until I was back to India with people realizing the value of the social networking platform.

As the inventions of applications on Facebook have grown with time, my addiction shifted from Farmville to Mafiawars to Cityville to Petstore, Friend-based Quizzes, Anita Predictions, etc. and slowly I moved on from one to one until one day I thought that my own page is my identity. Of course, I will try and develop new applications on Facebook; however, stick on to my core—my own page.

An identity well gotten was through Facebook. The more I was attached to it, the more personal it got. The more personal it got, I decided to quit Facebook as a sign of venting my anger. However, that did not stay for long. I came bouncing back to Facebook—I just could not stay away from it. A new profile was created and I added whoever sent me a friend request. I had to relearn that my social life is to be controlled and regulated by me and only me, according to the people around. By learning the regulation of friend contacts, with enormous amount of socializing, making many friends, and joining network groups, I got into the skin of the true spirit of Facebook. Through Facebook, I got my identity which started giving me a voice and a place that I liked.

That is when I realized that addiction can be synonymous with passion. With my passion growing stronger, not only on Facebook but also on other channels of social media, I understood the value of this goldmine, in the field of marketing. I was vaguely giving a thought about taking up a career with social media.

Ah, there came my first job. First jobs are always special to anyone. I joined a popular marketing process outsourcing startup in our city in April 2009 after I returned from the United Kingdom and I was quick to grab the opportunity when my management gave me social media-related marketing. As I was in a startup, I was given clients to consult on digital and social media marketing. Apparently, the clients were globally renowned IT giants, nationally renowned ecommerce sites, and some more awesome brands to work with. This phase was important in shaping my once-a-vague-thought to a channeled career.

When I began blogging on www.soravjain.com with tips, how to’s, strategies, and lot more information on digital marketing, it helped me get a lot of attention globally. To promote my blog posts, I joined Twitter, which made my blogs reach further. Those initial days at Twitter were boring until I started following some fabulous conversationalists and social media professionals who inspired me to further research on the topic “The Social Media for Business” and write more about what I am doing right now.

My blog, as a social media tool, has played a very important role in helping me position myself as a practitioner of social media for business globally. As I used very simple language to write blogs, my blog posts on strategies were avidly read in non-English-speaking countries such as Spain and Germany. A few of my readers from a company in Spain called Elitad (a personal branding company for celebrities and politicians) connected with me on Orkut, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter in order to check my credibility before offering me to join Elitad in as their board of advisor.

At the age of 22, I was not too sure about the job offer; therefore, I declined the offer, but instead suggested them that they may consider outsourcing their requirements to India. That is how I had quit my first job and echoVME was born.

echoVME Takes Shape

echoVME was primarily focusing on serving individuals and businesses with social media marketing services. Later on, we began delivering social media marketing training as the Indian market was still not mature enough to understand the value of social media in marketing, which was merely considered as a hobby tool.

Ever since I started echoVME, my company has benefited and is benefitting from social media in various ways. Some of the benefits of using social media are as follows:

  • It helped connect with some top journalists fetching me media coverage.
  • It helped share my knowledge that got me customers.
  • It helped showcase my speaking skills that got me students and requests for training.
  • It has helped build my identity and credibility that got me connected with business tycoons.
  • It has helped me connect with many individuals to organize social media summit and my workshops.
  • It has helped me get many affiliates for workshops and services.

Social media is the base for the sales of echoVME’s services and training programs. Since the inception of my entrepreneurial journey, it became an inevitable part of my life. It may be tough for me to get published in a newspaper or get notified on a TV channel however, it is quite easy to build up my own communication channel on social media.

What’s more! I proposed to my wife by changing my Facebook relationship status from “single” to “committed” and tagged her.

Social media did not just create many good experiences however it has a few negative ones too. There have been seasons when some fights resulted in my un-following people on Twitter and un-friending them on Facebook. But as it is always said, it is your choice, as life here too is kabhi khushi, kabhi gum; sorry, it is actually humesha khushi thoda gum!

I am sure that there is more to come in the years ahead.

In this book, you will explore the various perspectives of social media for business, highlights on social media in India, interesting Indian case studies, and marketing tips on social networking sites.

Remember that social media is not just about marketing, it is much more and you will realize that as you live with it. It is real and can be prospective for anyone’s growth. It takes time to build a reputation online, but the patience is worth it. You can try various forms and platforms and socialize crazily—all for a good reason—for your growth.

You can be everything on social media; be all the time hooked to it! After all, remember, “addiction is not a bad thing.”

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