When and how did Ardor Tech Ventures happen?
It all happened in 2006 when I and Arti, (Vice President of Ardor Tech Ventures) were both in college. We decided to launch our own website MuzikJoint.com. This portal focussed on Rock Music. Even after a putting in a lot of conventional marketing efforts, we were disappointed with the low amount of traffic it garnered.
Hence, in order to improve the traffic we researched about Social Media Marketing (SMM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and used these techniques to bring in traffic. The results we achieved were extra-ordinary for a website started by students.
However in 2007, I graduated and landed up a job in an IT company, whereas Arti was still continuing with her studies. My day job & her studies took up most of our time & thus MuzikJoint went onto the back burner.
Later that year when we once met over coffee, we suddenly became nostalgic about how successful we were in getting traffic to MuzikJoint via SEO & SMM. This gave birth to an idea, that maybe we can start selling these services to other companies.
So we started pitching our services to small businesses and agencies. We got our first contract somewhere in August 2007. It was a client in California knew about MuzikJoint.com. He asked us to create 17 websites and also gave us their AMCs. This seemed to be an excellent opportunity.
I also quit my job to pay undivided attention on the new business at hand. This client was very much satisfied with the websites we built & maintained for him & thus struck an opportunity to up sell SEO & SMM. This was our first professional exposure to Social Media Management (on MySpace). This is how Ardor Tech Ventures (ATV) was conceived.
Since then we have given services to over 200 clients across UK, USA, Australia and many more countries through SEO, SMM, PPC and ORM.
What are the core values that form the foundation of your agency?
We at Ardor Tech Ventures believe in our own-devised acronym CKD – Culture, Knowledge & Discipline.
Culture: We believe in a family like culture in ATV. We don’t call anyone in ATV as employees, we call them Team Members. We make sure that every new member feels like a family in our company. We are apprehensive to our clients calling us vendors; we want them to call us partners in success.
Knowledge: Since our industry is dynamic we always have to be on our toes. It is very important to be educated and updated about the latest happenings in the industry. We continuously share knowledge between various departments and move together as a team. Most importantly we also educate the client on the latest happenings in the industry so when the client is knowledgeable then they do not have unrealistic expectations, they know what we are doing and it becomes a win-win situation.
Discipline: We do not believe in the concept “Work from Home”. We believe in coming office and going home regularly. It instils great deal of commitment and professionalism in every team member. Hence all deadlines are met. Apart from CKD we also strongly believe in not over-committing.
Our belief is simple, “What can be measured can only be managed”. So we set the right expectations with the client, but that does not mean we do not strive to excel in our work. We always try to set benchmarks internally which helps in improving our performance on a consistent basis.
Please tell us more about the people who work at Ardor Tech Ventures.
If I were to define the people working at ATV in one word then it would be “Passionate”. We have Geeks, creative people, designers and marketing experts who make ATV special.
What was your biggest challenge when you started out? How did you overcome it?
When we started out, clients were unaware about the ROI that the Digital medium offers. Also Facebook was considered as a free tool and clients did not want to pay for the specialised services. They were not aware of the science or art of strategizing & executing social media campaigns.
So we had to spend a lot of time & energy in educating clients about Digital Media and how it can be a great investment from a long term perspective. With some clients, only to acquire the project we had to execute free trial campaigns to indicate showed the ROI of the medium as well as the professional approach we work with.
However, today the clientèle is very much educated abut Digital Marketing and knows about its power and possibilities. Now we do not face any such hassles on an everyday basis.
Please share with us the clients whom you have helped grow on social media.
There are lot of clients which we helped on Social Media. Although I cannot name all of them one recent on going campaign is Burgs.
One more campaign worth mentioning is for a UK based store for personalized gifts. Last Christmas we helped them sell gifts worth £ 8000.00 and that too only via twitter – @WeDoCompany
This was the first time any such company has sold so aggressively via twitter.
As an agency, what value additions do you bring to a brand?
Since our team is a mix of tech experts as well as communication experts we make use of all the latest technologies to make the campaign more viral. We see to it that brand’s communication is consistent & in sync with the brand’s communication on other conventional mediums. We always make it a point to define metrics and benchmarks.
Our main objective is to make the brand proactive as well as reactive. Proactive in the sense the our brand is the first to take a stand in for any issues of public concern and reactive in the sense that we react quickly and empathetically to consumer queries.
What is your approach towards social media? How do the wheels set into motion once you get a brief from the client?
Once we get a brief from the client the first thing we do is to conceptualize the entire brand positioning and communication strategy on Social Media. If the client’s Social Media Campaign is already ongoing then we evaluate the Strengths and Weakness of the current campaign.
Once this is done, we short-list the possible channels on which we recommend being present. This is then followed by periodic campaign plans and a weekly activity calendar. While doing so we also make sure all our communication on Social Media is in sync with the brand’s campaign on other conventional media.
You have worked with several big brands such as HDFC, Pidilite and USHA. How is working with a big brand different from a start up or an SMB?
There are always 2 sides to a coin. While working with big brands, there is always a transitional delay in terms of approvals for campaign ideas, creative ideas and day to day activities. Whereas, there is lot of professionalism and you have no budget constraints to limit your creativity.
On the other hand, working with a start up or an SMB is interesting just because of the sheer excitement the stakeholders have about their products or services. However, since they come up with a shoe string budget it curbs your creativity. At the same time it becomes difficult because of their unrealistic expectations within that given budget.
The one brand campaign that always makes you swell with pride?
Although we have evolved to a great extent in the last 5 years there is one campaign from our early days which strikes an emotional cord.
This campaign was for a Californian Rock and Roll Singer called Blake Fullmer. This singer was participating in a talent hunt organized by one of the leading radio station in Los Angeles. There were 24 other singers who were participation.
The winner was to be judged via public voting through SMS and radio channel’s website. In a limited span of 25 days which we had, we promoted the artist extensively on MySpace which was the only social media site at that point of time. In a matter of 25 days, his friends on MySpace increased from 15 to 9000 and above.
We sent across links to hear his music and thus they liked his music and were appealed to vote. This extensive and aggressive campaign was one of the reasons to help him win that talent show and grab a cash price of 1 million dollars and an album contact with Universal Music. The best part of the campaign was that there were no paid ads used. Everything was organic and viral.
You have worked with more than 250 clients. We are sure there must be some funny and interesting incidents that must have happened. Can you share a few with us?
There are many such incidents but one that I can remember right now is about this client who had a florist shop chains in New Mexico.
We were recommended to this person by our client in UK. So we took all the details and we made a conference call. Firstly we introduced ourselves by our name and then we started mentioning him about our company profile, our achievements and our strategies for him and how he will be benefited by social media. After around 20 minutes of introducing ourselves he just replied in one sentence, “I only speak Spanish, not English”. ;)
What do you think lead to the phenomenal growth of social media as a marketing channel?
There are 2 major reasons for it.
Peer to Peer Recommendation Psychology
Everything is based on recommendation. If one wants to go for a movie then first he will ask for a friend about its rating and should he go for it or not. This is the same with social media as well.
Liberty of speech on an instant platform
On social media whatever you say is on a public platform and your voice is recognized. Earlier there was a fear, that your opinions won’t matter but now public opinion is given due importance. Even the sudden penetration of Internet and mobile technology has lead to the phenomenal growth of Social Media.
How do you view the current social media scenario in India?
The current scenario in India is quite interesting one, but an alarming one as well. As per a recent study which I came across on the web, just 40% of businesses in India are socially active, but now some SMBs have started allocating independent budgets to Digital Marketing and Social Media. With the fast nature and fast paced penetration of internet and mobile technologies we can expect more and more businesses in the next 3 years and the industry will grow four-fold.
If there is one thing you want to change in the Indian social media scenario? And why?
As I said earlier, the current social media scenario in India is interesting, but an alarming one too. Brand Managers in India consistently look at numbers and they determine the success of the campaign on the basis of these numbers; which is a very wrong way to perceive social media success.
They are forgetting that Social Media is not about numbers but it’s about sentiments and what your audience feels. I think it’s high time for all Brand Managers and agencies to look beyond such numbers and look at user engagement, responsiveness and sentiments. If this is done smartly then you can expect the same ROI from a smaller follower base with constant engagement; when compared to a huge follower base with no engagement activities.
The focus should also be on the number of conversations, number of sentiments and emotions of user base and also the highest priority should be on giving your users what they need rather than what you want to give. So to sum it up don’t just look at fans or followers as numbers but look up to them as human beings.
What does a usual day at Ardor Tech Ventures look like?
I would call it chaotic passion. People are chilled about their work in the morning but however pull up their socks by the second half with less burdened compatriots offering help.
A common scenario on a daily basis is Arti (VP of ATV) howling at every team member about their work. Sheen Kaul the (Project Manager of Social Media) running across in a very confused state. Milind Patil (Account Manager of SEO) always proactive in giving his “Gyan” to others. Some HIP HOP music for those who stay late post 7 pm. Then of course, we have Denzil Fernandes (Account Executive of Social Media) always coming up with innovative excuses, for delay of something or the other.
Your parting words for those who are looking to build a career in social media.
Be ready to spend sleepless nights on Red Bull and coffee ;)
On a serious note Social Media is a highly dynamic and highly exciting industry to work in. However it’s not a regular 9 to 5 job and you always have to be on your toes in terms of responsive management and client management.
However it’s a rewarding career with lots of growth opportunities, since it is in its early days. To be one of the experts in this industry you should always have the hunger to learn new things and you should be able to speak creativity and technology in the same tone.