Any relatively smaller brand seeking brand recognition, in one of the largest emerging economies, can learn from Finnair. At the time of writing this post, the video of a Bollywood dance performance from the Finnair cabin crew is at more than 4 million hits.

You can color me skeptical on the implied cabin crew grassroot initiative. Nonetheless, this video now viral on social media, has probably earned Finnair more publicity and goodwill in India, than any billion dollar commercial ever could.

With Facebook touting India as one of their largest markets in the near future, there are obvious benefits to hitching on to the Indian social media marketing bandwagon.  However, it is not clear that businesses in India are ready (like many businesses elsewhere).

Most social media efforts I noticed, during my recent visit to India, were heavily influenced by traditional outbound marketing methods, rather than relationship building strategies.

Companies seem to be using social media as uni-directional promotional tools with little thought to other opportunities. An example was my experience with and Jet Airways.

Social vs. ‘Policy’

I admit, it wasn’t my shining moment when I booked a round trip from Chennai to Mumbai, instead of the other way around. However, I did phone within 10 minutes of the erroneous booking.

Rather than rectifying the issue, I was told that the only way around the problem was to cancel. I had to pay a penalty too – half the fare of the round-trip!

Reason? Airline (Jet Airways) ‘policy’! The ‘policy manual’ was apparently, pretty much carved in reinforced concrete.

My tweet pleas to @cleartrip and @jetairways were met with similar responses. On the forums too, staff were clearly playing by the dreaded ‘policy manual’. Emails to Jet airways were apparently forwarded to the ‘concerned’ department (thanks Web Manager, Mr Chandra Swamy, a glimmer of hope…you deserve a raise).

Ultimately someone, somewhere, decided to play fair. My protests across these channels seemed to have the desired effect. I received a refund (minus nominal penalties) from, after about 3 days. The team deserved praise (duly tweeted) for finally tearing down that ‘policy’ wall.

However, the damage was done. Multiple opportunities to retain my business, by phone and via social media, were squandered. I re-booked my trip via, careful to avoid Jet Airways.

Social media marketing myopia

There is no rule that prohibits a twitter team from assisting a customer. If anything, the real-time benefits of social media allow departments to work together and react quicker to customer service and brand perception issues. A pass the buck to the other department game is dangerous when negative sentiment in a tweet, video, facebook update or blog post can go as viral as any Bollywood dance performance.

Social in a marketing only approach is pretty much doomed. The speed and transparency inherent in social media has made it ever more important for interdepartmental cooperation. This fact is still lost on many businesses.

Businesses have to be able to look beyond the ‘Like my page and do my contest’ approach to social media. There seems to be room for leadership, and rewards, for those who can turn things around.

Anyways, my opinions have probably been biased by my singular negative experience. Any examples of Indian businesses that are using social media effectively, across multiple customer touch points?

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