Elections 2014 : My first voting experience on 10 Apr 2014

my-first-voteIts election wave all around this April in India. India is undergoing polls to elect 16th Lok Sabha. Counting Day will be 16th May 2014. In India any citizen who is 18 or above is eligible to cast his vote. Though I am 33 but still it was my first voting experience. I could have started voting 15 years back but in this post rather than giving reasons why I didn’t vote earlier, I would prefer to focus on sharing my views on my first experience. The entire process took atleast one hour from reaching to the voting center, waiting in a queue, identity check, getting a finger mark (indicates you have cast your vote), casting a vote and reaching back home.

Voting center was a government school building. Because its a voting day, school was closed. While waiting for my turn, I couldn’t see one proper queue in which voters were standing. Ladies were standing in a separate queue and some senior citizens were arguing that there should be a separate queue for senior citizens as well. What about disabled citizens ? One guy (may be in the age of 50’s) behind me was talking about equal rights and was questioning (in a lighter tone) why separate queue for women ? He was calling himself as a senior citizen and later joined women queue to get an early turn. After waiting for around 35 minutes, I reached the entry point of one classroom hall. Polling was going on in one classroom of this school building. From this entry point (or open door), I could see what’s going on inside the hall. I could see six election officials and three police officials (for security). I was stopped by one security official at the door because he was allowing 3 voters at a time from each queue (one queue for women and one for men). At this point another 10 minutes passed and finally my turn came.

The election official guy took my voter id and voting slip (I received at my home before polling) and verified things like my name, serial number etc from his printed booklet containing details of all eligible voters. Then he written down my name, serial number on another booklet and took my signature in front of my details. The second election official sitting next to first one, then took my voter id card and voting slip. After verifying all the details again, he put a mark on my index finger of my left hand and gave me a slip mentioning some serial number. He kept my voting slip with himself and directed me to the third election official sitting at 90 degrees to the first two guys. The remaining 3 election officials were also sitting in the same hall at another 90 degrees. I handed over my slip to the third election official who asked me why my serial number is different. I had no idea of which serial number he is talking about but he allowed me to cast my vote. In the corner, behind some kind of clothing sheet (to make it looked like a closed area) I saw the electronic voting machine lying on a table. I had decided earlier to whom I should vote and it just took a second to press a button in front of my chosen candidate’s name and I walked out of the voting center. Finally I had cast my vote and used my voting right for the first time.

In the entire process, I was trying to analyze why it took more than a hour to cast my vote. If officials allows to make separate queues for women, men or senior citizens then I feel, citizens also expect that all queues are moving forward simultaneously which is only possible if the number of officials providing the service are equal to number of queues. One official attending voters from 3 separate queues will result in a delay and the purpose of having 3 separate queues doesn’t get solved. Another thing, to avoid so many verification processes (described above), I hope election commission of India thinks (in future) to make entire process smooth, automated and computerized rather than manual for speedy, accurate voting. How about issuing a smart voter id card having a bar code system ? You simply walk-in to the center, they scan bar code on your voter id card, computer verifies all the details in a second and you cast your vote. The major challenges in that kind of process would be data accuracy and data security. I wonder, if one day Internet voting is possible ? But one thing is sure, such an automated process can save lot of time and will encourage more voters to go out and vote. I don’t know what will be the fate of my chosen candidate or how he will perform if he wins the polls but I am feeling okay after casting my vote for the first time because – Every Vote Counts !


Getting success through improving content marketing

With the passage of time and advancement in internet, social media and mobile technology, more and more companies are realizing the importance of content marketing. The question is, How to improve content marketing which could help companies in meeting their short and long term goals ?

Whether any company is focusing only on improving revenues or keeping strategic goals to improve things like brand building, customer service, corporate social responsibility or business growth, effective content marketing can contribute in meeting those objectives.  Improvement in content creation strategy involved important step of writing effective content which must be relevant, useful, compelling and engaging. Certain goals like improving page views, comments, social sharing, traffic, conversions, downloads can be considered while creating good content.

But what is the use of creating good content if people can’t find it ? Solution lies in promoting it via different channels like email, cross linking of existing content, 3rd party editorial links, news release distribution, social media promotions, pay per click advertising and social media advertising. Promotion also includes implementing ways to enable people sharing this content in their network of contacts. Things like social icons, rss feeds etc are good examples of this. These things should surely improve content marketing to meet various objectives of any organization.

How to make video marketing a big part of online marketing strategy ?

When we think of watching video on internet, we think of you-tube which is a number one video site on internet with 2 billion streams per day and takes a big share of 70% of online video viewing on internet. With the increasing penetration of high speed internet, the trend of watching videos online is also increasing rapidly.

Marketers sees big opportunity in this medium to promote their products and services and to target new customers. This medium can be exploited using good video marketing and optimization techniques. The big challenge is how to present video content in front of your target viewers ? Search can play vital role in achieving that, provided, efforts have been put to optimize that video content so that it appears in every major search engine, you tube, google tv etc.

Like sitemap of webpages, video sitemaps are important for video optimization which can include all information about videos and these sitemaps can be submitted to google.com/sitemaps. If the website has been designed using content management system then relevant plugins can be installed to automate this process.

Through optimization, search results can be improved but more awareness can show better results. Paid video ad is one way to promote your content. Creative content that has the ability to engage people along with deep understanding of target audience is the key to gain success through video marketing.

Promoting Events Using Online Marketing Tactics

Most of the companies have a fixed marketing budget for the entire year. The potential cost to conduct and promote an event could be high to achieve marketing or business objectives. The promotion of an event is important to attract attendees, make presence within the industry, gain media coverage or various other reasons. There are many ways to promote the event using online marketing tactics. Some are listed below:

  • Event can be promoted using microsite or landing pages containing useful content by including specific keywords, videos, top tips, interviews of key people who will speak at the event, key topics to be discussed. Apart from quality content, some other important things like rss icons, social media buttons, whitepapers, webinars, sign up forms with autoresponders, live chat, event location details along with map, image gallery, staff testimonials (text, audio or video) can be added to increase sign ups for an event.
  • Industry blogs and publications could be useful in promoting content related to key topics to be discussed.
  • Different sites can be used to promote an event like video sharing websites (such as you tube etc), event listing sites(such as Zvents etc), social networking sites (such as facebook, twitter etc)
  • If the company has a email database of customers/clients, email newsletters could become very useful medium to spread the word about an event.
  • Request to regional bloggers (region where event will be held) can be made to promote your event using specially created event logo on their blogs and in reply weblinks can be exchanged.
  • Promoting an event as a limited time offer could be important tactic to motivate signups.

Measurement is very important of things like traffic to microsite or landing pages, checking e-newsletter data, social media monitoring of keywords and topics related to the event. Using these tactics and possibly others which are beyond the scope of this post, an event can be promoted effectively.

Advertising in Social Media

With the rapid evolvement of social media platform, time spent by people on social media websites is also increasing. This has increased the opportunities of advertising  for many brands on these social sites. Social media sites are becoming an important marketing channel for these brands to target new customers.

These social sites can be used effectively to create awareness about new or existing products or to offer timely discounts. Most of these sites also offer advertising tools which can help companies in collecting useful demographic information.

Social media site like facebook with over 500 million active users and over 30 billion pieces of content(web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc) being shared every month, is surely an important site for marketers that can be used for advertising. With the reasonable advertising rates and lots of guidance available from the site itself can help any company in gaining new customers on facebook.

You tube is another big site and is second most popular search engine after Google. More frequent visits from active users and sharing of videos makes this site another good option for advertising. Apart from advertising next to other videos, your own video content can also be uploaded for promotion.

Other sites like Linkedin, Twitter, Foursquare and Groupon also have good traffic and active users and these sites can be useful for social media advertising. By defining clear goals, creating simple yet effective ads that includes call to action and targeting the right audience,  companies can meet their objectives and gain success at social media. This success also depends on how much participation and engagement companies shows towards their customers on these sites.

Better customer engagement is important for social media success

Success in social media marketing is directly associated with better engagement with the customers. So it becomes important to understand who these customers are and what are their activities when they use social media. There should be a good reason that could motivate them to buy your products and services or recommending those to their contacts.

Some answers can be found by doing social media monitoring which will involve collecting data related to their conversations, what kind of search they are performing, understanding their buying behaviour and understanding the kind of content they consume and share.

Data can be collected using surverys by asking customers directly, making list of relevant keywords, demographic information and using appropriate web analytics tools to analyze the website statistics.

Using this knowledge, marketers would be able to make better content marketing strategy and can realize which social media channels they need to focus on. By having better understanding of the customers, success with social media marketing can be attained.

How to do effective content marketing ?

If you are working in internet or online marketing field, you might have heard 3 popular words “Content is king”. Indeed this is very true because search engines loves fresh, unique and quality content which can play vital role in SEO for any website.

From businesses perspective, content can create new opportunities in terms of attracting new customers and increasing sales of products and services. With the rapid growth in internet, most of the businesses doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned to exploit it fully. Whether it is search, social media, online PR, email or advertising, content can play key role everywhere.

Content has the ability to create a scenario where it connects customers with the merchant. Now a days sales cycle has gone longer as most of the people who are active users of internet, they prefer to search, read reviews, ask social media contacts before buying any product/service. After making a purchase, they like to share their experience on social media with their contacts.

Marketers can use this medium effectively by not only creating high quality content but also through optimizing and promoting the same as well. By defining clear goals, content marketing can solve many business problems from recruitment to customer service.

By having, better understanding of target market, customers, their requirements and steps required to meet them, knowledge of search and social keywords related to your business, knowledge of SEO techniques, quality content can be created. It should be followed by promoting the same on social media and finally measuring your results is equally important.