KOLKATA: If you love spending time on Facebook or Twitter, you may soon land a plum job. Companies are planning to take on board social media specialists as they tap the platform to launch products, undertake consumer research and interact with customers.
Sanjay Verma, a 2010 commerce graduate, early this year landed a job at a leading BPO as executive (social media). He says his job is to create “excitement” on the Facebook page of his client, which is in the consumer electronics space. “I post updates on forthcoming product launches or the latest ones, monitor feedback from people and respond to them, and even try to look at ways to grow traffic to the page,” says Verma, who is logged on to the client’s Facebook page for nearly eight hours everyday. During his college days, Verma was an avid social networker and was always live through his mobile.
These days, he admits, he barely gets a few minutes a day to check his own Facebook page. But his is just the profile companies are eyeing. ITeS firm, 24/7 Customer, has hired over 1,000 social media experts in its facilities in Bangalore and Hyderabad over the past nine months and plans to take on another 5,000 specialists over the next one year.
Genpact this month acquired a media research firm, EmPower Research in the US, where 75% of the 360 employees are working in the social media space. Marketers like the UB Group, LG Electronics, Canon and Future Group too are forming dedicated social media teams and hiring aggressively.
“The rold of social media expert is set to become niche and specialised in India,” says Ma Foi Randstad MD & CEO E Balaji. The trend is growing in consumer-oriented sectors like aviation, retail, telecom, consumer goods, banking and financial services, he says, adding, BPOs too are hiring experts to beef up their customer service function.
Nearly 10,000 jobs for social media specialists will be created in India by 2012, according to Ma Foi estimates . In the West, hiring of social media specialists has matured over the past two to three years. America’s largest airline, Southwest Airlines has a chief Twitter officer who tracks Twitter comments and monitors a Facebook group.
Computer maker Dell made headlines last December when it launched the Social Media Listening Command Center in the US where it monitors more than 22,000 Dell-related topic posts in social media sites. The Centre has a dedicated team of more than 5,000 social media specialists who track the company, engage with consumers and even undertake customer service.
And now, Dell plans to expand such centres. In India, the demand is hotting up. While a few specialised social media marketing firms have come up over the past few years, corporates have started to hire such specialists to beef up their internal strengths.
Liquor major UB Group, whose Kingfisher page in Facebook has the second largest global following in the beer segment, has poached digital media experts from Yahoo India and other Indian websites to form a dedicated social media team.
The group is investing around 2% of its marketing budget on social media, which will be increased to 5% next year, says senior VP (marketing ) Samar Singh Shekhawat. “We want to become the largest liquor brand in social media and are now using such websites for consumer research.
For instance, before launching Heineken in India, we got 500 responses for a consumer study within two hours,” he says. Imaging company Canon is using social media to work out camera launches and even decide product colours.
“The average customer age for gadgets is 20-25 years and a lot of transactions are happening online. So, it makes sense to create a separate team for social media,” says Canon India senior vice president Alok Bharadwaj. ITeS companies too are planning to offer social media services to clients. Social media services is expected to grow at 50-80 % next year, which will lead to similar growth in hiring, says Genpact’s senior vice president (analytics & research) Pankaj Kulshreshtha . “With the explosion of activity in social media, companies are increasingly feeling the need to globally track social media conversations so as to understand consumer preferences and perceptions towards their products and services.
Social media is one of the fastest growing research domains and will create jobs,” says Kulshreshtha. One need not be a techie to join the social media teams of these companies. For instance, 24/7 Customer is looking out for young graduates with a flair for customer service, English-speaking skills and an analytical mind to understand the context of customer queries.
B-schools like the IIMs and ISB are warming up to the market demand by drafting courses on social media. ISB Hyderabad, for instance, has partnered with web product company Directi to roll out an elective, while NIIT Imperia has started an advanced programme in social media marketing.