UCL Social Networking Sites & Social Science Research Project
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    The in-group influence

    By Shriram Venkatraman, on 13 March 2013

    Photo by epSos.de (Creative Commons)

    Photo by epSos.de (Creative Commons)

    Several cross-cultural strategy consultants stress that, in some countries, people are influenced by their “in-group/inner circle”, which mainly comprises of friends and relatives. They advise new companies to go through this in-group circle when attempting to influence their target sector. This can also be understood as “friends” influencing the target sector more than any other group. Facebook’s strategy on giving users recommendations of things/products or websites by “friends” has seen an amplified effect/impact with their revenue generation. Further, with brands and applications posting on behalf of a user who maybe an influential in-group personality for some, the strategy seems to be a marketable option generalising the impact of friends in all countries and specifically in those where an in-group effect is maximum. An aspect to look out for might be to check if these in-group influencing economies are digitally driven and use social networking sites. Furthermore, it looks like a lot more needs to be written and researched on how recommendations of “friends” (as in-groups) work for online companies and their associated products.

    New-Age Spiritual Gurus and Social Media

    By Shriram Venkatraman, on 13 February 2013

    It is not rare to see the social media presence of new-age spiritual Gurus in India. They have a steady following on several social networking sites. From Facebook fan pages and groups to Twitter to Youtube channels, you name it and they have it!

    Transcendent and immanent omnipresence, a spiritual nature of the soul in Indian philosophy, now finds itself rightly expressed through social media. With such high intense publicity, it seems like several such Gurus are driven by an incessant need to achieve the dream of several beauty pageant participants – namely ‘world peace’.

    Though there is nothing wrong in the branding that they wish to achieve in order to either bring in more followers or maintain their supportes – in other words an e-spiritual capital (or call it the i-spiritual capital, or prefix any other vowel that denotes the digital medium) that they build through their social media presence – it doesn’t take long to figure out the conversion of this e/i-Spiritual capital to an economic capital on the digital arena.  Most of their presence on social media are followed by links to their websites which more or less advertises the Guru and does an awesome spiritual marketing, pitching in their e-shops and souvenir items that was until recently only traded in US dollars.

    Rituals on the Facebook pages range from chanting (typing) the Guru’s name every morning, noon and night to expressing how an ideal life should be led on this earth. The pages cater to mostly the devotees and followers who are not residents in India. The digital medium is thus used to build memories of the Guru across space and time. Some of the best personal branding social media presence run by volunteers is that of these new-age spiritual Gurus. No wonder that they now advise CEOs and corporate entities on how to run businesses!