Cleartrip: Conquering India’s Social Media Realm
Blogger, Gaurav Mishra, the CEO of 2010 Social and professor of social media at Georgetown University, predicted in 2008 that with the inevitable cuts in marketing budgets, more Indian corporations would turn to social media to reach their consumers in a meaningful way. After doing some research I must admit he was right!
Foreign companies looking to enter the Indian social media world already have some in-country leaders to follow. One of India’s largest and leading portals for travel booking, Cleartrip, has tried its fortune with social media platforms. Cleartrip has a profile on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and also maintains its own corporate blog. As of date, the company has 2,693 fans on its Facebook page, 2,281 followers on Twitter (both were launched on May, 2009), and numerous comments on its blog posts. Social Wavelength (2009) conducted social media monitoring for the Indian travel industry and concluded that Cleartrip was one of the most engaging brands when it comes to social media in India. Online company reputations are being made or harmed hourly. So how has Cleartrip been able to position itself in India’s online market?
1. Engage the Online Community
“Indians are in my opinion the loudest proponents of the Aristotelian theory of ‘Man being a social animal’. We believe in the Catholic theory of ‘Coming together’. And we are inherently conditioned to search for others like us. Social Networking works out well for us in this regard, because it offers an interest-based segregation of individuals.” Sreehari Nair (blogger from India)
Content is everything! You want to be able to keep your targeted audience interested. As I skimmed through Cleartrip’s online platforms I was impressed to see how active they are, their team instantly responded to inquiries placed by members and the information shared by the company is quite appealing (I have to admit I spent an hour reading-enjoying their Facebook posts). Why? Apart from providing information about travel deals and customer support, they share content that they find interesting even though it might have nothing to do with Cleartrip. As a result, they created a platform that promotes group discussions and rich media. For example, this is their latest post on Facebook:
On their Twitter page I had the same experience. I was fascinated to see followers engaged with the brand. Through my research it became apparent that Cleartrip has a clear understanding of what their targeted audience wants and needs and creates content that is clearly relevant and valued by constituents. Here are some examples of their tweets:
2. Listen via Social Media Monitoring
Unhappy customers will lead to negative word of mouth. When pressed with negative feedback Cleartrip became a case study on how to effectively manage online reputation.
The Kiruba Incident. When in 2009 a customer (@Kiruba) tweeted “Cleartrip.com took my money and DID NOT book my ticket to Malaysia” and within a short period of time 40 people retweeted Kiruba’s update, the company went on crisis mode. Cleartrip immediately apologized to Kiruba via Twitter, they gave him a refund for the ticket, and paid for an upgrade to business class for him and his wife for their return journey. The company then explained the situation to its customers through their blog. They had 81 comments on the post, 90 percent were positive. Some examples of comments are: “You did a great job and you should be proud.” “In the true spirit of social media, you have given a very transparent explanation of the events.”
3. Promote Transparency on all Online Platforms
Cleartrip was successful in handling a potential crisis that could have affected their reputation and stakeholder support because they were listening to the online conversation, and more importantly they understood that in order to maintain customer loyalty, honesty and transparency were imminent. I believe customers can accept that you aren’t perfect. What they will not accept is that you’re not being transparent, because that shows lack of respect. When it comes to a country like India, according to Ashwani Singla, CEO of the PR Firm in India, Genesis Burson- Marsteller, respect is an intrinsic part of the culture and this should be taken into account when communicating with this audience.
There is Always Room for Improvement!
Although Cleartrip is making decisive strides in the online world, there is always room for improvement. I was surprised that there is no reference to Cleartrip’s social media platforms on the homepage of their corporate website. It was not until I went to their blog that I was able to find information about the company’s social media presence. This can result in missed opportunities to engage key publics that are not aware of Cleartrips strong online presence. Furthermore, although they have 2,281 followers on Twitter, Cleartrip only follows 23. This is crucial because people often Tweet about their travel details, which could be useful information for Cleartrip in order to reach this key public with attractive offers.
Cleartrip is a great example of how companies can start positioning themselves in the Indian market through social media platforms. However, it is important to denote that it is not the actual presence on social media that matters, what matters is the extent to which you get engaged with your key public and make them understand and appreciate the purpose of your presence. Today, every customer has a voice and the opportunity to be heard. No matter how perfect your online strategy is, key public perceptions are built based on an overall experience with the company.