One of the first brands that caught my eye in the social media scene in India was Titan’s Fastrack. Fastrack’s official website lists a Flickr page, a couple of Facebook pages (one, two and three) and even a Twitter stream.

The Flickr page is largely pointless – it almost substitutes the official website’s product page and literally has all the watches and sunglasses on display. Its thankfully called fastrack.marketing’s photostream.

The Facebook pages are slightly more interesting. There’s a page for Fastrack wrist gear which lists 312 fans as of today. There are a few photos, couple of videos and 5 wall posts, with some plug by Rajesh Lalwani of Blogworks who seems to be spearheading Fastrack’s social media program (besides being incharge of the media page for Fastrack). Such blatant plug by Rajesh looks quite awkward, even so in the other 2 Facebook pages – ‘Bikers on the Fastrack’ and ‘Life on the Fastrack’. The discussion in these pages, hopelessly stage managed and flogged by Fastrack trolls themselves, vary from useful to senseless. One of Rajesh’s new discussion thread is ‘Single and ready to mingle’ and his post starts with, ‘Single is more fun…what say?’. Now, I do understand that this could be remotely associated with Fastrack’s ad campaign, but this discussion thread is quite banal!

The Bikers Facebook page is where Fastrack really scores. There is very little product plug and the discussion is centered around an activity people like doing – not a product that people may perhaps buy if they get a good deal. And it shows – 1256 members as of today, with 85 wall posts and 32 discussion topics. Compare this with 1443 members in the Life on the Fastrack page that has 20 discussion topics and an equal number of wall posts – you see what interests people?

Fastrack’s Twitter stream too is interesting – they seem to be following a LOT of people – 1889 as of today, while only 369 are following their tweets. The tweets are mostly inane and seem to be driving traffic to the Facebook page or to a wrongly linked Orkut page. There’s very little useful tweeting going on here. But Orkut is where all the action seems to be, for Fastrack.

While the ‘Fastrack Fellowship’ community in Orkut ‘seems’ like the official deal, there’s a ‘FasTrack’ community with as many as 23,809 members as of today! This does not look like the real deal and seems like a fan page. There are a few more communities with 2288, 1554 and 638 members – and these look like fan pages too. With so many fans in Orkut, its rather strange Fastrack is focusing more on Facebook!

While I really admire Fastrack for taking a step forward in engaging via social media – this is a pioneering effort by any brand in India, there are many things that are completely wrong.

A few of them include,

1. Overbearing presence of Rajesh Lalwani from Blogworks. Trolls are the last thing that a brand needs online. If Rajesh is a fan of Fastrack’s products it doesn’t look like it – it looks like he’s desperately trying to whip up some online discussion to show some action to his ‘client’. The least he could have done is adding a disclosure about his role in Fastrack’s online efforts.

2. The ‘brand’ is communicating directly. All the Facebook pages are ‘owned’ by the brand itself. Social media is not about brands – its about people.

3. There is a LOT of top-down communication in the expectation that people will join in the buzz and start discussing. That seems to happen only in the Bikers Facebook group, for obvious reasons – it is centered on a real world activity!

4. The Twitter stream is a criminal waste. I stopped following it after a week – it was actually plugging for a newsletter. Huh? How’s that of any use to anyone?

5. There’s nothing different in terms of engagement except for the Bikers idea, across all modes.

What can they do better?

1. Start with having a real person as the owner of the Facebook groups. Simeran Bhasin is listed as the Marketing Manager for Fastrack. Why can’t she be the real face of Fastrack’s social media program? At the risk of sounding redundant – social media is about people, while brands are incidental!

2. Answer the questions, ‘Why would a person follow our tweets?’ and ‘Why would anyone want to be our fan in Facebook?’. Its a watch and a sunglasses brand – so create online activities that build interest for the users of these groups. How about a discount for a new member introducing 10 other fans online? How about something similar to a twitter user introducing 25 new twitter followers? Engage people on a one-to-one level…social media offers that incredible opportunity. Its a pity that Fastrack is treating a huge group of people like a herd.

3. Make better use of Flickr. Make it more meaningful. How about getting people to post photographs of they showing off their Fastrack eyewear in extreme conditions? How about a contest for best photographs of Fastrack watches under water? How would you reward participants? Gift coupons?

4. The fan communities in Orkut are terribly wasted. Start posting there as a friend and participate in the discussion. Make yourself useful and available.

5. Yes, Titan comes up with some cool promotional offers (like the 25% off one recently), but what is the incentive for someone online to participate. Fastrack should have that slight ‘extra’ for an online member to become a fan – how about a 28% off discount for a Facebook group member? That is a small extra but it will win Fastrack terrific word of mouth and would have people flocking online!

Given the fact that both their watches and eyegear are reasonably priced items, it may be fairly easy to build an online promotion package with the right ROI. Even getting 10 watches and eyegear for promotions and using them through the right promotional activity will will the brand a lot of brownie points. Its a known brand with no seriously negative image yet – its just a matter of time and a good set of ideas before they can become social media darlings in India.

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