Monday, February 21, 2011

Beyond The 140-Character Mark

Foreword: This week, I invited my good friend, Moksh Juneja, to share the fascinating tale of his travels to a remote village in South India with the help of his tweeps (Twitter friends whom he had never met IRL.) Though this piece was published earlier in an Indian newspaper, I asked Moksh if I could share it on my blog since it's a great story of the power of 140 characters and building a network, one tweet at a time. Moksh is a well-known name in the circle of social media influencers in Mumbai and is regularly quoted on social media trends and issues in leading publications.

By Moksh Juneja

I had to make an emergency visit last month to a remote village in Kerala called Thevalakkara. And Kerala, for me, is as good as Germany — I’d never been there and I don’t know the language. In moments of crisis, we think of our friends — and I thought of mine; my Twitter group.

The first person I thought of was @suddentwilight who, I remembered, studied in Kerala. Assuming she would be able to guide me, I gave her a call. She hadn’t heard of the village I was to go to, so she connected me to someone in her list — @nithinkd — who, although based in Delhi, belonged to Kerala. In fact, his native town is close to the place that I had to reach.

Hearing my exact situation, @nithinkd guided me through an itinerary. I sent him the name of my destination through a DM since I couldn’t pronounce it. He advised me to book my air tickets to Trivandrum and assured me that the logistics in Kerala are very manageable. After taking printouts of the tickets, I called him in panic. I’d booked tickets for Trivandrum, but the printout read Thiruvananthapuram.

A Stranger Offered Me His Car
He offered me his car to drive to the remote village. Just a reminder — I haven’t still met @nithinkd. To pick his car up, I need to reach Kollam. And to help me get there, he connected me to @bijunarayan.So I flew to Thiruvananthapuram, took the Volvo bus to the city, and then met @bijunarayan, who had taken time off from work to help me reach Kollam. He picked me up from the bus stop, took me to Trivandrum station, and bought me a ticket to Kollam.

Before we took the train, we went to this coffee house and I surprised both of us with the amount I ate. I hadn’t realised how hungry I was. While I was hogging on the dosas, idli and coffee, he connected me to @BaluKLM, who travels daily to Kollam from Trivandrum. (It’s how far Pune is from Mumbai).

In Safe Hands
I met @BaluKLM at the platform and realised that even though I hadn’t met these guys before, I was in safe hands. In the local train, we talked, and our conversations this time weren’t restricted to 140 characters. When we reached Kollam, @BaluKLM dropped me off at @nithinkd’s doorstep. Aunty had already received the call from her son, and she handed me the car keys.

Although @BaluKLM left, I wasn’t still alone. @nithinkd was taking me through the directions to reach Thevalakkara. In case of any eventualities, @BaluKLM had already informed @Ivan457, who stays close by in Shaktigualangara, that I was in town. Thanks to my Twitter friends, I reached the village in good time.

As I sat ruminating about Twitter, I realised the power of social networking. It helps in emergencies and is an excellent if you need to plan a trip, because it connects you to people who help. For this trip, the world became flat for me, and I have only my Twitter gang to thank for it.

Moksh Juneja is the founder of Avignyata Inc., a Mumbai-based social media marketing consultancy. Moksh has been at the forefront of social media marketing in India since 2007 and has created campaigns for Sony Pictures, Colors (Viacom18) and more sustained campaigns for Shoppers Stop and Inorbit Mall. In his personal time, Moksh believes in sharing his knowledge and teaches social media and public relations at colleges in Mumbai University and SNDT University. He also conducts workshops and sessions on social media marketing. You can check out his blog here or follow him on Twitter at @mokshjuneja

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