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Vishwas Thakkar: Getting the most out of your social media and SEO strategies

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The Hong Kong entrepreneur has helped countless companies with their social media and SEO strategies. Now he’s giving free seminars at theDesk to help SMEs and startups.

Everyone’s online these days. If you own a business then you want it to have a strong presence on the internet. However, having an online presence is just the first step that’s needed for a company to make its products or services visible in front of the right audience. But what’s next? According to entrepreneur Vishwas Thakkar, having a sound digital strategy that a firm constantly updates can play a major role in the success of a business online. And he’s giving out free advice on this very subject at a series of seminars at theDesk co-working space in Sai Wan because he wants to ‘give back’ to Hong Kong’s SMEs and startups.

Thakkar, who’s lived in Hong Kong for the past decade, has helped countless businesses to get the best out of social media. He’s also helped them with SEO or ‘search engine optimisation’, which looks at how to rank your content as high as possible on search engines like Google. The 31-year-old, who’s based in Sai Ying Pun, just hosted a packed-out first seminar in his new series last week at theDesk, introducing himself, his expertise and the concept of ‘growth hacking’. His next one focuses on SEO and ranking content. And you’re all invited.

Thakkar was born and raised in Mumbai, India, which is where he gained a bachelor’s degree in engineering with majors in IT at university. He was then hired by a UK-based software consulting firm, E2E Infotech, which trained him in the software used for various stock exchanges around the world thanks to his background in IT. He also undertook an MBA at the same time. His ‘big move’ came, though, when Thakkar was in his early 20s, as Dutch bank ABN Amro asked him to join its team in Hong Kong. So he moved to our city and has been here ever since.

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Thakkar took up contract work in Hong Kong for a few years when he first came here, working as a software engineer with massive banks and businesses like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Thomson Reuters, Royal Bank of Scotland and, of course, ABN Amro. Over this time, he claims that he became familiar with ‘growth hacking’, which is a marketing exercise that looks at how best to use online platforms to grow a business in the most efficient way possible. He also learned about algorithms, which are basically computer calculations and processes that get from point A to point B. Google, for instance, uses algorithms. But if you understand how they work, then you can get your business from point A to point B efficiently too.

“When I came to Hong Kong,” says Thakkar, “I was working within algorithm trading platforms trading on stock exchanges in the Asia Pacific region. Google is also an algorithm, so I also got into SEO and ranking research because that was new at the time. Basically, when you work with algorithms in trade and stock exchanges, you’re trying to find ways to get the quotes you’re working with up to number one. Well, Google is the same. The algorithms are used to identify parameters to rank websites. The only difference is that you don’t get much time to get the quotes to the top when it comes to the stock market but you have time to get a website up to number one on Google.”

“While working at the banks,”continues Thakkar, “I was looking for a new skill and trade, though. So I decided to do a test. I went on Jobs DB, an Asian online jobs platform, and just wrote the word ‘java’ 500 times, painting it white, minimising the font to the smallest possible size and including my CV. Thus, whoever searched for the word ‘java’, as in the computer programming language, would see my CV as number one. Every time. This is an algorithm and it really opened up a new way of thinking for me.”

“You don’t need to be a big company with an internal social media team to get the best out of your strategies. You just need a sound plan and dedication.”

Thakkar says that his ‘tests’ were done six years ago but they paved the way for him to be interested in SEO and how algorithms work on search engines. Thus, he could learn how to get any website up to number one, with the right research and strategies. “This new way of thinking,” he says, “was enough for me to change my career to marketing, so i joined Localiiz, a website dedicated to all things Hong Kong. They were really impressed with my work with algorithms. I could get paid for something I was hugely interested in! I became the digital marketing executive and started to help the website to become number one on searches on Google and beyond. Plus, after that, I went to a web design and marketing agency, where I was the head of digital strategy, managing clients. This was Tickle & Rapture and I learned so much more there, helping businesses to get the best out of SEO, ranking about digital strategy and social media.”

Thakkar left Tickle & Rapture because he realised he ‘wanted to do something on my own’. “I wanted to help small and medium-sized businesses,” he says, “particularly in the realm of social media, growth hacking and SEO. I mean, getting the best out of social media isn’t rocket science. All you need to know is how to execute your social media strategy in the best possible way, monetising it and ranking your content. Everyone with a website wants help with ‘growth hacking’. This is basically how you give a boost to your leads and sales online. A lot of big companies like McDonald’s, Amazon and Starbucks have exact the same model as each other, step-by-step. Okay, SMEs don’t have the same sort of money as these giants but that’s one of the reasons I’m here. They can have the best strategies which work for them.”

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Thakkar’s second event in his series is on Thursday May 11, between 7pm and 9pm, at theDesk. All you need to join is to RSVP with him beforehand. He’s focusing on the subject of SEO for this one. “I want to helps SMEs and startups,” he says, “because I admire the fact they’ve taken the courage to, often, quit their full-time jobs and start a business so they can give back to Hong Kong. I want to give back to them. They may need to learn about the basics of SEOs and algorithms and need help ranking their website on the first page of a search engine. They may need to know what vendors and connections are out there. This is what I’ve been doing in Hong Kong for years and this is also why my taster seminars at theDesk are free. I want to reach out and give back.”

“I have results which work,” continues Thakkar. “And you don’t need to be a big company with an internal social media team to get the best out of your strategies. You just need a sound plan and dedication. When we talk about growth hacking, it’s a combination of what channels you will use in order to make sure that you’re really engaging the right audience. Don’t waste time and money on the wrong audience. Get genuinely good leads for your business. It’s all about doing the correct research beforehand and the correct analysis as you go. Research what has worked and what hasn’t worked. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Use my experience. Come to my seminars!”

Thakkar’s next seminar at theDesk is, he says, ‘most useful for business owners or entrepreneurs who want to learn about how they can grow their companies, as well as marketing managers who are looking to build strategies for their companies’. It focuses on SEO strategies and ‘growth hacking’. It’s on Thursday May 11, between 7pm and 9pm. RSVP by emailing him at vish@vishwasthakkar.com. Or go through his website at vishwasthakkar.com.

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