Startup StayUncle just sent the coolest email of the year!

StayUncle Logo

Wow! Wow! Wow! EMail Marketing works. Here is how.

Its 2 am in the night as I write it, but I couldn’t help but post this right now. Saw this mail in the inbox captioned ‘I am on the way to build a million dollars company and I will tell you how’ and the text read “Hi Prateek, We are connected on LinkedIn :)” Now while that got me reading, it is only some minutes into the mail that I realised it was an automated mail sent via MailChimp sent so effctively that you can’t help but read it all the way through.

So I wouldn’t keep you from it, and would easily call this the coolest mail I’ve received this year. EMail Marketing professionals, that’s how you do it.

Mail reads –

Hi Prateek

We are connected on LinkedIn :)

A quick 3-minutes update seconds update over what has been going on with me lately.

If you read this till the end there will be small surprise waiting for you there.

I wrote to you last somewhere in February. I was getting ready to launch my first startup – www.stayuncle.com

I was a rookie at that time and needless to say the launching was a complete fiasco.

My own mother laughed at me. When will you realize you have no future in this poor country – she said.

She was at hospital at the time recovering from clinical depression. She keps blaming me for that.

We re-launched a month later. Noting better.

Around April we started seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

We were no longer doing one booking per decade. Transaction started happening daily. Well, OK every second day.

On May we got Ajay Naqvi aka Big Daddy to invest in StayUncle. He lives in Romania. His wife is really hot. and I kept her as my desktop background for a while. Please don’t tell him I said this.

That same month we moved into newer better flat at Hauz Khaz.

We bid farewell to Sanchit’s old bedroom. 

There was only one chair one table and a wooden bed. I used to sleep on it while Sanchit slept on the ground. Just one week before we got the money in our bank account, the chair collapsed.

May was a great month also because we got Nandi our CTO formerly working with General Electric. Sometimes he shaves his head for no reason. His mother is very cute. He keeps a Gurka (old Nepali military knife) in his locker, so please don’t tell him I said this.

Tough times returned during June and July.

I was absent from India and the core team was split. I am very bad at maintaining distant communication via Skype and stuff. Don’t ask where I was.

On August I was back triumphantly. We discussed the possible directionStayUncle would take on the basis the new learning we got.

We noticed that our most common customers are young unmarried couples looking for space to hang out privately.

I don’t know how much you know about India but this is a major issue here. Hotels refuse to let unmarried couples in because of cultural orthodoxies and fear of police raids.

That was THE moment

We decided to revamp StayUncle into India’s first online hotel booking portal which lets unmarried couples book a hotel for 10 hours and pay only for 10 hours.

Initially not much changed.

When you start running out of money your brain gets into power mode and the primeval instinct takes over. You lose the common code of civilized behavior. You start making sounds..

Aaarrrgh….

We weren’t radical enough. We had to turn fluid and re-invent ourselves in a way we could have never imagined.

We started selling neem sticks for 50 Rupees.

We started giving massages to boys all across Delhi.

We started selling tea on the street.

We evolved. New ideas started colliding deep inside us.
The guerrilla campaigns we started running made some people run after us and others full of gaze. Here is a preview of it

We were flooded with comments and plenty of critique.

They said in future you guys are going to face troubles from India’s moral brigade, Shiv Sena (a terrorist group) and perhaps even the police.

We say thanks and we leave. We could not afford to spend too much time around well-intentioned talkers.

We chose to hang around doers instead.

The team got bigger too.

We hired Tanmay from a dying startup. He almost started a fight once because a guy said something about his sister. (trust me she’s ugly).

Then Rajan came straight from his father’s threading factory. He has the funniest laughter you will ever hear.

In October we got Shravan, the brother of Ravan the demon with 10 heads and we daily enjoy his gambling stories from his past times in London. He used to sell SIM cards on the street at that time.

I don’t know if we are a dream team.

I do know that we managed to build something unique, a special maybe slightly dysfunctional family.

A family that sticks sticks together and get chased by the police.

A bunch of great people that must hide from their parents about what exactly they are doing (promoting pre-marital sex in India), else they’ll never get married.

How do I know that?

Recently I told them that we are likely going to be out of funds after two months and unless we nail it we are as good as dead. Therefore if someone is willing to abandon the boat in advance, and seek for greener pastures there will be no hard feelings.

All of them remained.

That makes it a dream team right?

The game is on and is getting hotter by the hour.

Media is buzzing about the unusual gang of boys holding posters around Central Delhi which say – Couples need a room, not a judgement.

They seem to be alone against the world.

They get a lot of high-fives too. The ultimate satisfaction comes when a person comes to them and says – I am your client guys. Keep up the good work. Entire India needs this. Your market is huge.
We get excited when we hear that. We like huge things :D

Yesterday we got the information that the community is nominating StayUncleas a startup of the year. I made a public promise that if we win the award, I will dress a saree and walk around Delhi for entire day. Cast your vote here.

I guess I can stop now, unless you have specific questions to ask me.

Here is the surprised I announced.

I have this weird habit of sending people a list of 10 ideas that could solve a particular challenge they are facing – business or professional.

Feel free to reply back with your challenge and you can rent my brain to you for a while.

Till we talk again Prateek.

Blaze @stayuncle

Copyright © 2015 Stayuncle, All rights reserved.
Hi. A quick 3-minute update from me. We are connected on LinkedIn :)Our mailing address is:

Stayuncle

Gurgaon sub city

And if you are still wondering, you can download all your contacts from LinkedIn, and Mailchimp and most other ESPs (EMail Service Providers) allow you to use substitution tags to personalise emails. All I can say is Good Job you guys! And I am waiting for you for just writing this mail!

There is growing intolerance in the world of social media

intolerance is increasing online

It was an angry duel between two friends on facebook that made me write this and the more I think about it, the more it seems true. We are increasingly becoming an intolerant lot, and this behaviour is being best exhibited online.

Don’t know about the world, but there is definitely growing intolerance in the online world. Disliking one’s thoughts is one thing, debating another but people have stooped down to slandering and expressing hatred in extremely derogatory ways. People are ‘fighting’ over status messages, some are hurling abuses at each other, while trolling for a variety of reasons is widely popular.

This is a dangerous precedent we are all setting, and if we don’t keep this in check, then it will eventually simply spill over to the offline world. Here are some instances of what is fanning all this intolerant behaviour and what we can perhaps do to put an end to it.

 

1. Let us stop fighting over status messages

Ever heard of the right of speech and expression? I mean there is a line and its tough to say when one crosses it, but can we not be a little respectful towards other people’s thoughts? So they said something against your favourite political leader, about your community or religion, but how about engaging in a discussion over simply starting a war like debate that the world watches? What we don’t realise is that it’s not just the two people who engage in such a debate, but everybody else on the friend list and also the other public network that is watching this conversation.

While defending intolerance, or your community or religion, make sure you are not creating further negativity around it yourself.

A perfect case in point –

[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/prateekshah/posts/10156170346920471/” width=”550″/]

2. Don’t go crazy over rumours

The one big problem with online media is gossips and rumours. If the media could not be trusted in entirety, the online media is even harder to trust. The problem lies with everybody wanting to be the first and fastest. In trying to spread news quickly, many news agencies don’t even do one reference check before publishing something. Sometimes the facts they publish are not entirely true, at other times outdated, or sometimes just plain rumours, which they happily publish, because who cares about the veracity of something as long as it gets some views on the portal.

A brilliant case in point is Shahrukh Khan’s statement about rising intolerance in India. Watch the following video and see the reality behind what actually transpired.

 

 

3. Please read before sharing

We are a headline reading generation. Nobody has the time to read stuff. At best, most people read headlines. The headline of this article will in itself change opinions than the content inside. Websites make the best use of this. Click Bait is happening in full swing. Let’s get people to click and share, why bother about what they read. News is twisted and twisted further till it gets a website the right amount of clicks. Now they will not all always resort to twisting a headline for personal gain, but what about the ones that do. The common man out there doesn’t know the difference between a hundred websites, to him/her, they all look the same.

The more we rely on headlines, the more we are misleading ourselves. Please read beyond the headlines, and please read before you share.

 

In the time to come, what happens in this world will be less dependent by what happens on the streets and more by what happens online. We have a very important responsibility in our hands, and we must not let our actions further fuel intolerance. Social media is purely people centric, people driven and consumed by people; we are all like journalists and our friends like viewers, let us not let ourselves down by spreading hatred. This message is as much to myself as it is to you. We all need to learn, be a little calm and work towards establishing peace in the online world.

10 Simple Social Media Lessons from Politics and Elections

10 simple social media lessons from politics and elections digital defynd

Over the past few years, social media has taken the political scene by storm. Whether its toppling regimes during Jasmine Revolution or helping countries find new leaders like we saw in the US and in India, social media is playing a major role in shaping political opinion, affecting outcomes and changing the very premise of politics in some cases.

Having said that, social media has its limitations and can many a times simply be adding to the hype without making many changes to the ground reality. To demystify all that and to help you make better strategies when planning for your social media campaigns for politics and elections, here are 10 simple points –

1. Social Media is not equal to the electorate

Now there are multiple ways to look at this. First let’s talk about the all important twitter. While twitter is one the most important news and discussion platform out there, the number of people actually active on twitter is quite less than what people imagine it to be. The ones who are active indulge in heated arguments, trade charges and create enough noise, for everybody to feel that twitter is the game changer. It is ‘a’ very important influencer for sure, but not the only one. Secondly, even though there are many netizens all around, it doesn’t always necessarily mean that they are voters or that they are the people, influencing whom will help you win the elections.

2. Likes are not equal to votes

Fans and followers can be, and are bought by one and all, officially as well as unethically, in some cases. No matter if you have a few thousand, lakhs or a few million followers, the number of followers or likes that one has aren’t really always the people who will vote or ask somebody to vote for you, but simply the people who are subscribed to you, which includes well wishers, fence sitters and also the ones who are waiting for the next opportunity to take a pot-shot at you. To be able to actively do that, some people even subscribe to pages’ notifications so they can be the first one to comment and criticise when somebody says something.

3. Never solely rely on social media

You see, the basic point is that social media is easy, and that’s why everybody does it. If you also unconsciously belong to the same category, then maybe it’s time to change gears. Social media can help create influence, can also help you win an increased number of votes, but if your entire strategy is a social media only strategy, then it can only get you as far. Depending on where one is contesting an election from, the social media influence will change (A simple way to know how many people in your region are on social media  is to log on to facebook advertising manager and select your city to get the number of facebook users, which can be a fair estimate of the total users as well). Eventually the work that you do on the ground, the way traditional media positions you and the word of mouth publicity that happens will all impact the results.

4. You see everybody and everybody sees you

No matter how smart a strategy you think you have come up with, everybody sees what you are doing, just the way you keep a track of what they are up to. This is in fact one of the most important characteristics of social media – everybody sees everything, and everybody can know everything. So while you act smart and think up new strategies, you need to be extra smart by keeping an eye on what everybody is up to so you can be a step ahead of the game.

5. LinkedIn can swing it

LinkedIn can contribute in immensely powerful ways to your campaign. While many global political leaders are already on LinkedIn, others also realise its importance and are slowly getting on to it. The logic is simple, to win an election, you need to influence all sections of the society. Even though the busy working class may in a lot of elections be a smaller percentage if you compare it with the masses living in the hinterlands or the people spending time on facebook, but that small niche segment of people on LinkedIn can give you a very significant edge over competitors, not just in terms of number of votes, but also in terms of finding sponsors for your campaigns, driving corporate support and spreading positive influence in the power corridoors of an industry.

6. Instagram and Snapchat should be on your radar too

Who does instagram and snapchat is the question lot of people seem to be asking. While you may not be there, lot of people are. The second argument that follows is that aren’t these same people who are already on facebook? Why should I spend extra time in reaching out to them on these frivolous apps. Youth, or early voters are increasingly becoming the key factor in deciding elections. It’s not just because they are large in number, but because they make excellent volunteers and have the power and passion to convince & convert others. No number of mediums could be less when it comes to talking to them. We are talking about people with really short attention spans. What if they missed you on facebook, what if they are too bored to be on facebook? What if you could talk to them on instagram, and even if you don’t directly convert someone into a believer, influence them subtly to become one? Not just pictures, but videos could also be an integral part of your strategy, and as these platforms mature, the strategies for these platforms will mature as well.

7. Whatsapp for localized and remote marketing

Make no mistake to not consider whatsapp as one of the most important social media tools when trying to influence the masses. You see, apps like whatsapp have truly revolutionized social media. Facebook didn’t buy it just like that, they see the potential, they know this is one of the keys they need to reach everybody eventually. Talk to a vegetable vendor and there is a strong chance he uses whatsapp on their smartphone. They may not have facebook, but whatsapp, they do. Now extrapolate this information and apply it to rural areas. People may not have 24 hour electricity, may not have TV, but increasingly, you will notice, they have a smart phone. Mobile, as we know is the device on which the next billion will first access the internet. Carrying forward that thought, apps like whatsapp will be the first ones these people will come in touch with. While that is the part about reach, the other part is what whatsapp means as a medium. It’s a fun medium which people love to use. It’s a platform to share jokes, make groups and share multimedia. Effectively, whatsapp is like a mini tv for a group of people who also have the opportunity to discuss the same with each other, and if they like what they see, share the same with others who may not have access to such a medium. In a true sense, whatsapp can effectively be the medium that politicians can use to reach out remotely to the far-fetched corners of any country.

8. Advertising doesn’t win elections, good content still can

It’s the classic Advertising vs PR battle, and it’s no different on social media. Advertising can take you to more people, but it is the strong content that can make people come to you. Eventually, over a longer term, the idea is not to keep spending to reach out to people, but build a brand that people feel like getting associated with. Concentrate on the content, the thoughts and the messaging. Do that right and everything else will follow.

9. Customise content and strategy as per online analytics 

Your online analytics can tell you more about the people you are trying to reach out to than you think. The cities they come from, the age they belong to, the languages they speak – everything must contribute to  your strategy, your messaging and your offline campaign on the whole. After all people are people, and all data that can tell you more people is good for you.

10. Great Marketing begins with a Great Product

Gone are the days that you could do one thing, project another and win. We are moving towards an increasingly transparent world, one where your work speaks more than anything else. If you do good work, then great marketing will follow; do nothing and no amount of marketing can save you. Social Media works best for the people who do well to begin with.

Those are some things that I thought are important while planning and executing a social media campaign for politics or elections. What do you think are some of the ways in which politicians can leverage the power of this medium?

A trick Facebook uses to make you pay for getting more page likes

The web is full of tricks, and facebook is no different. While more often than not, it is the users who make use of smart tricks to outsmart the net, sometimes it’s the websites with a trick or two up their sleeve. So here’s a trick facebook uses to make you pay for getting more page likes!

If you have set up a facebook page anytime recently, you would have seen a welcome change from the social network’s side. Your likes increase almost without any effort. Just create, maybe invite some friends, and even if you don’t do much with the page, the likes on the page will keep increasing. Some of these likes will come from unknown obscure sources, no connection with you whatsoever, something that doesn’t usually happen when you are trying to make your facebook page grow.

Unnatural Rise Plateau Thereafter Facebook Page Tricks Like Digital Defynd
The unnatural rise in page likes followed by a Plateau

And to quash all doubts of advertising being behind this growth, here is the next graph that shows the source of these likes

Organic Likes Unnatural Rise Plateau Thereafter Facebook Page Tricks Like Digital Defynd
Organic likes led to this growth, no ads were run to increase the likes during this period

The posts published on the days around this growth also saw a lot of reach, but the same went down later on with the passage of time.

Most of these likes come via page suggestions like these, on your timeline or right hand side column.

startup saturday Noida page suggestion
A page suggestion I saw on the RHC Right Hand Column

Now here’s what facebook seems to be trying to do. First it tries to get you acquainted with reach, get you lot of likes, literally drive engagement at one point, and as you start becoming comfortable with such reach and engagement, take it all away. You can argue and perhaps also say that it is good on the part of facebook to be supporting new pages  by getting them much-required publicity, but what it does in the process is make them unnaturally grow, which is otherwise only possible through advertising.

I have been observing multiple pages and have seen this happen to many of them. Must admit that it doesn’t seem to be happening to all the pages, but yes somebody in the tricks department at the largest social network definitely seems to have come up with a neat little one to draw more people towards advertising. You might also be interested in reading Stop building facebook pages, start creating websites instead and Its time to start migrating from the city of facebook.