I have always been fascinated by fairy tales. I vividly remember the beautiful story of Cinderella who was transformed into a beautiful princess by her Fairy God Mother, who made all her dreams come true. What could Cinderella have done, if there was no Fairy God Mother?  Every person needs a powerful and magical tool to turn unrealistic dreams into reality. These dreams could involve getting your ‘prince charming’, or, in a more contemporary world, getting an excellent career.

I would like to equate young students and professionals to Cinderella. They have potential and ‘charm’ but the traditional physical barriers of hierarchy seemed to have played the role of their evil step sisters for ages. The budding talents have always found it difficult to get a platform to be heard amidst the abundant talent of experienced experts. Traditionally, the youngsters have had to follow a long and tedious process involving years of baby steps towards climbing the ladder to finally reach the top and be heard. But now, they need not worry. Their Fairy God Mother has arrived.

I come from a generation that has spent its high school on Orkut, and college on Facebook. For me, social media is not ‘just a website’. She is my Fairy God Mother. She helped me discover my long lost childhood friends and my first job. Furthermore, she empowered me with the confidence of building a great future because of the magnificent opportunities she opened up for me in the market research industry. For the past six years I had been using social media just as a ‘past-time’ tool. I used it for personal interaction with friends, and never with strangers. Facebook was the only place where I was actively uploading photos, tagging and commenting with friends and acquaintances. I did not know that I was missing out on a huge chunk of conversations happening outside my small circle of friends online. I had vaguely heard of Twitter and thought that it was just like a ticker on MTV where people followed and gossiped about movie stars. Hence, I had preferred to stay out of Twitter.

In many spiritual scriptures, it is clearly mentioned that the path to reach God is through a “Guru” or a teacher. He acts as a mediator who guides you towards a path to understand and get acquainted with God. For me, ESOMAR played the role of a guru in the avatar of Ray Poynter J!

Last year I was given a life-changing opportunity to attend the ESOMAR APAC Conference in Malaysia where I witnessed the best presentation of my life. It was Ray Poynter’s presentation on the wonders of Twitter and how market researchers can communicate with each other using Twitter. I was amazed at the power of this tool! It was the first time I was introduced to the concept of hash tags like #ESOMAR, #MR, #MRX, et al. The best thing about this was that there were no barriers. One does not need to be in the “inner circle” to be able to tweet with a hash tag. Earlier, I was an ‘outsider’ to the MR community because I was a shy student who did not have any possible means of having a one-to-one conversation with the senior level managers, CEOs of global companies that present at ESOMAR. I feared that whether it would be considered a blasphemy for me to physically barge into a conversation among MR experts. After all, I was just a 21 year old student. And I knew that it would be almost impossible for me to physically attend another international ESOMAR conference until I became a senior researcher which would take at least 3 years time. But I sincerely wished to be a small part of the “inner circle” – to learn and interact with the who’s who of the MR fraternity. As soon as I made this wish, my Fairy God Mother appeared clad in a blue dress with wings (like a tweeting bird), and struck her magic wand. Voila! I had a twitter account @Tanvi_MR J

I started following (stalking is a better word) Ray Poynter and all others who tweeted with the hash tag #MR (which later became #MRX). Initially, I was a silent observer and follower. But gradually, I realized that my fear of blasphemy was impractical. There were many interesting conversations happening on Twitter and all the people were extremely friendly. Hence, I finally plunged into the conversation. My tweets were respected and reciprocated to by the community. This boosted my confidence further. It was only through tweets that I discovered webinars in the topics on market research. Webinars are a boon for students and young researchers who do not get an opportunity to attend conferences in person. I can proudly say that without Twitter, my education in market research would have been incomplete. I tweeted to MR experts and gained their suggestions for my thesis which has now become a masterpiece. Frankly, twitter helped me more that my professors for my thesis!

Another very useful hash tag that has inspired me is #NewMR. It was because of this hash tag that I found out about the New MR Virtual Festival where I got to participate in their poster design competition. I had a wacky idea in my head after playing Farmville on FaceBook. My Fairy God Mother asked me to make a poster on “Choiceville” and upload it on NewMR: (more information can be found here)

My Fairy God Mother struck her magic wand again. I received an overwhelming response on Twitter that made me win the competition. I owe a lot to you, Twitter.

The only thing that saddens me is that nobody in my immediate student peer group has started using Twitter professionally. They feel that it is very “limiting” because of the characters limit. They feel that having a Facebook account is enough because it is ultimately the same kind of interaction in all social media sites. But I would like to make it clear that Twitter has its own unique and powerful magical features that no other site can provide – the power to be heard and to enter the “inner circle”. I would like to request all young researchers and students out there to make use of twitter – but don’t spam! The Fairy God Mother awaits your arrival.

TANVI GUPTA, Eternal Student and Research Associate at Millward Brown, India. Reach me on twitter @Tanvi_MR