Social Trends Podcast: A Vision For A Business Operating System

The Social Trends Show where we meet social experts, brand owners, bloggers and all sorts of creatives got a high degree of ultra cool recently. We spoke to a cartoonist and all round creative, Meera Sapra. Now Meera incidentally, also wears another hat of being the social media guru at Zoho. She recently shared Zoho’s vision for a business operating system, no less. The company has recently launched  a new integration connecting its CRM product with its social tool. It does seem like our social measurement and data integration issues are being noticed by the industry. Is this the best solution for your business?  Listen in and find out more about why a connection between social and business process is gaining traction!

Listen to to the show here:

Social Trends Podcast: A Vision For a Business Operation System

Credits of the show/ music:
Production: hosted by Upasna Kakroo
Show Guest: Meera Sapra is a senior manager at Zoho and is a part of the team that is building out the Zoho Social product and their current CRM integration. Meera love comics, travel, art, food, books, conversations and the internet


Upasna: Hey everyone. Thank you so much for your comments, feedback and suggestions from our last Podcast. Some of you recommended that we should record a program LIVE and maybe we’ll do that next! Who knows? So, don’t count out people stopping you in the middle of the road to talk trends.

Today’s guest is very special. Have you ever been on Twitter and suddenly come across someone’s profile that feels too cool that you can spend hours looking through the creative aspects? That’s quite close to how I felt when I first stumbled upon Meera’s cartoons! YES, we have a cartoonist with us today. Isn’t that amazing? But she wears several hats and in one avatar, she’s the social media guru at Zoho. Now for those of who you don’t know, Zoho is a CRM maker for businesses of all sizes. Most recently, they launched a unique integration of their social product with their CRM system. This means, you can finally track which social channel is getting you business leads and assign an actual $ amount to how much you make per channel. That’s exciting stuff! And Zoho promises to be the only tool on the market being able to do that now.

Without further ado, today on our Podcast we have the senior marketing manager of Social media at, Meera Sapra. Meera works out of Zoho’s Delhi office and joins us from there.

Halt, halt! It takes us several hours to put these podcasts together, so before we start talking here’s a quick word from the production team.

The first season of The Brandanew Social Trends show is edited by Upasna Kakroo. Our theme music is called Fingerpoppin’ and our break music is called Celebration. Both of these come to us courtesy of

Upasna: Before the break I told you about Meera wearing two hats, being a cartoonist and a social media manager with a leading product company, Zoho.  This was such a curious mix that I was deeply inclined to know how Meera began her journey. This is her speaking about it…

Meera: In 2008 I started creating my own comics and blogging them. I really like comics and I believe that they are a very powerful medium. And once I started creating these comics and putting them up on my blog, I started using Facebook and Twitter to share my comics- which were the two big networks at that time. I was surprised that I found a lot of audience for my content and that’s when I realized how social media let you reach the right audience for whatever you’re interested in. And find people who were like minded and believed in the same things that you did. Social media is also about creativity and self expression. I found that I was able to adapt really well to these platforms. Then also at work at Zoho, I moved into a role that involved managing social media presence for our brand and for the 35+ products that are a part of our suite. I learned a lot in this role. There was a lot of experiments and had a lot of fun. I also used a lot of social media management products and that’s when I realized that none of them met our needs and we needed a tool that helped businesses manage all aspects of social media while also being able to plug it in with the rest of their business needs. And that’s when we started to build Zoho social and now I am a part of the team that works on building this tool.

Upasna: I have so much respect for people who have such an organic pathway towards social media or any technology. Being a blogger now for 13 years myself, I can tell you my own push towards staying creative for clients is stronger and my ideas come out of real challenges and experiments of my own. Listening to Meera somehow made me believe that she knows exactly what she’s talking about because she’s had such an organic and natural journey towards the field, having seen it as a consumer, and now as a product owner…And that somehow led me more into this consumer research mode. As you heard Meera say, the new Zoho Social product was recently launched. But apart from her own experiences, what really led to this new Zoho integrated product? Was this an express consumer need or had she noticing a change in the social ecosystem over time?

Meera: This mainly comes from our vision around building a business operating system. If you’ve taken a look at our site at,  we have products that fit every business needs. we have 35+ products. We believe that this is the future because businesses will move away from using standalone tools in the long run. If you have a business yourself, you know that you can’t have people using different tools that don’t talk to one another, and data doesn’t flow seamlessly from one app to the other. It’s very inconvenient. We believe all this will change in the future because people will start seeing the benefit of using a business operating system to manage everything that their business does. You don’t even have to think about moving your data or asking people to use another app because it’s all connected.  When we built Zoho social, we were sure we wanted to build a product that can help link social media with business goals. Because social media is not just another channel, it’s a part of your business. Shortly after we released the first version of the product, we started working on our goal of integrating with Zoho CRM. Linking social media in your CRM is actually the best way to see how social media fits with your business goals because you’re business is already out there on social media. You’re creating content, engaging your audience. It makes sense to channelize all this engagement and convert some of your audience into leads, make them a part of your CRM system, right? That’s what a CRM is for.

Upasna: This is an interesting way of looking at things, right? One of the pet peeves I’ve had since I have been a small business owner has been the background work around analyzing data, putting it all together and making sense of it. It’s so easy to spend all your day trying to see how social is working or which channel to invest in, instead of spending some fresh eyes on creating something fun and helpful for customers. I do admit, I’ve often felt let down by the tools I’ve used, because they only do one thing and usually never integrate well. Meera really did hit the nail on the head with this need. She also talked about CRM, so those of you who don’t know the term, it stands for Customer Relationship Management. You may be using a system to manage your leads, for instance Sales Force, or Zoho or even a simple spreadsheet. Let’s hear a little more on how this new tool proposes to generate business leads, because I am sure no business would say no to more conversions on social media, right? Here’s Meera on this lead generation topic again…

Meera: In fact, a lot of our customers asked us about this integration, right after we released Zoho social. And, now that the integration is already live, we believe this can help our customers generate leads in many new ways and they can also track revenue from their SMM efforts. For example, they can generate leads from their social media actions. They can even automate their lead generation process. So, you can set rules that if somebody likes your posts, they should be added as a lead in your CRM system. Or if someone comments on your posts with a certain keywords they can be added as a lead into your CRM system. So you can go in a manual way to generate leads or you can automate lead generation. But the main thing is that it links social media with your CRM and more importantly with your business goals. Most of the tools in the market in the SM management space are standalone SM tools and business owners who use these tools have absolutely no way to track how social media contributes to their business and whether or not it adds any value to their business. We know that it does, but they can’t measure this value. It’s something that’s intangible. If you’re using Zoho Social with Zoho CRM you will no longer have this problem because you will be able to see the direct impact of social media on your revenue and your business goals. Initial response of this has been very good I would say. Customers are really happy to have found a way to generate more leads from social media. This wasn’t something that was possible earlier at all. So we have gotten very good feedback and the response has been really good.

Upasna: Wow! That’s amazing right? But the analyst in me was a little shocked. Many standalone tools do not offer such a platform to integrate back with a CRM system or help a business generate leads in this fashion, so could we expect competition and other social media tool makers, moving in this direction as well?

Meera: That’s a good question. Since Zoho social is the part of the Zoho Suite and Zoho Zoho CRM is our flagship product, we have had the advantage of building a team playing between the two products. It’s a really tight integration. For example, not only can you generate leads, you can also make social selling work for your business by making sure your social media team talks to your sales team. For instance, if your social media team sees a hot lead or some social media activity with a prospect that they believe will help the sales team close the deal faster, they can use a feature that lets them directly lets them ping the contact owner for that lead and alert them. Stuff like this is only possible if you’ve build both the social media management tool and the CRM system. Most of our competitors can’t do stuff like this because they’ve only built a standalone social media tool, we’ve built both the CRM and the SMM tool and now we’ve connected the two. At the most some of our competitors may be able to build a third party integration that provides a very weak link, but those links are not tight enough to give you with enough value. Currently the biggest challenge in business software tools has been to find a way to make your data and your processes find a way to work seamless across various tools and apps that you use. Come to think of it, why do you use a social media management tool? Mainly because you want  a central place to manage all your social channels but why would you want to limit this only to social media. Social media is not just one thing that you do, it’s deeply linked to your business. It needs to be a part of your business. The best way to embed social media to your business is to use a tool that works well with the rest of your business. That’s where we believe Zoho Social or rather the integration between Zoho social and Zoho CRM really works. It’s really a way to make social selling work for your business.

Upasna: Hmm… there are quite a few interesting things here that Meera touched on. Many of us struggle with finding ROI from social media and often question what difference it makes to the bottom line. While the intangibles of creating a brand and community are key, it’s also critical to have a sense on actual numbers and revenue. We do often build teams that work in silos such that the sales team isn’t really fully connected with the social team, and often conversion rates across platforms suffer. Is this tool going to be that missing part of the puzzle, and help us truly realize the vast potential of social? I guess a lot of it will depend on how people adopt this new tool and the ways in which they explore the opportunities social provides, but we can all agree that it’s going in the right direction…Just how many managers do you see struggling with integration and data issues? Maybe this is the secret potion we all need to have better Monday mornings…I like this positivity, and to gaze a little into the crystal ball of what our social media future holds. I did ask Meera to talk about how she sees social media evolving in the future, given that we were already talking about extensive ways to use social selling or lead management and deeply integrated systems. Listen to her share her ideas on the future trends you can expect for your business, after this short break…

Social Trends Podcast A Vision For A Business Operating System

You’re listening to the first season of The Brandanew Social Trends Show. Our theme music is called Fingerpoppin’ and our break music is called Celebration. Both of these come to us courtesy of

If you’re interested in social media and digital marketing trends, don’t forget to check out the content marketing 101 eCourse listed on Invest in your own learning and stay ahead!

Upasna: Welcome back everyone. To recap, we are talking today with Meera Sapra, a senior manage working for Zoho. Zoho has a full range of business products with Zoho CRM being its flagship solution. Most recently, the team at Zoho, that Meera is a part of, launched an integration connecting Zoho Social and Zoho CRM helping businesses find the missing link between social media engagement and revenue tracking. Before the break we asked Meera about the trends she foresees for businesses in the social media area in coming times. This is what she had to share…

Meera: We’ve already come a long way. Social media is no longer considered a nice to have or an extra frill or fancy. You no longer have business owners asking I already have a website so do I also need a Facebook page? They already know they will need the Facebook page at least as much as they need the website. So they already create a Facebook page and a Twitter handle when they are creating the website. So it’s no longer in that phase where we had to work to explain the value of social media to businesses. They already see the value, but, I think the future will mean a deeper integration of social media with business processes. I’ve already talked about how standalone apps will no longer work in the future. At least they won’t be as convenient as integrated apps that sync everything for your business. I also think, that businesses will no longer have a separate social media team. Every person who is a part of your business, every employee would part of your social media team. You will not have a dedicated social media team. Maybe you’ll have one of two people guiding your team, but everybody needs to be listening in to what’s being said about the business, participating in conversations.

For marketing too, a lot has changed but the bigger changes are yet to come. With newer social platforms, there’s a lot of emphasis on visual content, video and real time messaging. I was just reading how Instagram has now launched Instagram stories, which is their version of SnapChat. Instagram was already a popular social network among brands and users and now they’ve gone the Snapchat way, added another way to create and share visual stories and messages on their platform. It will be interesting to see how brands use Instagram stories. Most of the popular social platforms are focusing on media that’s more expressive and real-time. Visual messaging and video are going to be the future. So from a brand perspective, brands have to be prepared to come up with ways to engage with their audiences on all these platforms. They have to be prepared to start dealing with an audience whose attention span is not growing but shrinking and the expectations are growing. This is an audience that needs to be entertained in different ways with different media, an audience that expects to be engaged in real time on social media channels. So you can’t do just one campaign and disappear for the rest of the month. Your consumers expect you to be constantly around and engaging them.

Upasna: I was falling of my chair thinking how this we’re all social team would look. Can you imagine a time when our coffee conversations would be like, “oh did you see Jan’s Instagram post on the new design of the plastic mold? So many people are now calling customer support to enquire about it. We’ve spent the whole morning listening in to comments and calls. What fun!” Oh well, who knows right? Too much business is not a problem we mind do we?

Thank you to Meera Sapra for sharing her wonderful insights and give us the heads up on her new revolutionary social tool. If you guys get around to using it, or have any other feedback drop us a line on Twitter @brandnewco. Till the next time then, stay connected!


Upasna Kakroo

Upasna co-founded Brandanew in 2014 for the sheer love of storytelling and authentic connections. She has been blogging and documenting digital stories since 2003.