How Businesses Can Benefit From Social Media

How Businesses Can Benefit From Social Media

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Viewed against international trends, South Africans are late adopters particularly in the use of online technology. For example it took us a while to realise that cyber space will not ‘steal’ money out of our bank accounts, and not all of the hackers out there are out to get us. The same applies to how South Africans market their businesses. Many of us would prefer to stick to what we know rather than explore new avenues in the hope of achieving different results.
Social media is about creating a buzz for newsworthy events. In addition, it is about ‘online conversations’ about brands, products, services, industries and business. The three biggest social media tools are no doubt Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Businesses need to understand why Social Media Marketing will become more important

  • Social media marketing is set to become the online PR management tool of the future. Currently ‘unhappy’ consumers either contact the Customer Service Department or send an email to the company that delivered the poor service. Some consumers voice their opinion on appropriate websites such as Hellopeter.com. But in the near future we will begin to see customers posting a thread on a blog detailing exactly what they think of your brand, product or service. And, it’s there for the whole world to see.
  • Stricter rules will be implemented by the Consumer Protection Act impacting on the traditional way that businesses communicate with customers, such as email, fax and SMS communications. Thus, companies must find different ways to communicate to potential and existing customers.
  • Social Media Marketing is a cheap way of getting exposure for your business as it takes up a very small portion of your marketing budget, yet it can increase traffic to your website and help to improve your rankings on Search Engines.
  • Companies that understand social media marketing and allocate more time to it will soon begin to realise that it is a tool that will even help you to identify new business relationships and, most importantly, close business deals.
  • In South Africa, many companies have already started to give their employees more freedom, allowing them to engage in social networking before and after office hours, as well as during lunch breaks. Is your business Social Media strategy geared for this? Do you want to implement Social Media Marketing? Where do you start?
  • Well, how do you eat an elephant? I don’t know, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will realise what the shortcuts are and the best strategy to follow. Remember that once you get involved with Social Media Marketing, you should do it actively and do regular updates, because to truly reap the benefits it is not a once-off exercise.
  • To get started, start your own business Twitter profile, as well as a Facebook profile and join the LinkedIn community. Also profile your business on social bookmarking sites / directories, such as Digg and Del.icio.us, to name but a few.
  • Tweet on matters that will add business or educational value, rather than just entertainment value. For example, give time saving tips, or draw attention to the variety of applications for your product. You can also advertise specials or host a competition. Most importantly you need to add value rather than hard sell your products and/or services. The average social network user out there is discerning in who they follow or become ‘friends’ with and you need to give them a real reason to want to engage with you in what is essentially their personal online space.
  • If you remain unsure on what to tweet on or what messages to post on your Facebook profile, start to follow other Twitter or Facebook profiles that you like or that are in line with your business offerings. This will probably lead to some good ideas.
  • You also need to put some effort into marketing your social networking presence. For example market your Twitter profile on your statements, quotations, email signature and website. It is also worthwhile placing your Twitter profile on your marketing collateral, including newsletters, special promotions and even business cards.

Remember that social media marketing differs from traditional advertising and corporate communication. In addition, it will not replace the traditional mediums, it is rather seen as a complementary marketing tool. Most importantly, we have to be aware of the behavioural patterns of the younger generations and how they interact with brands.

Author: Sumay Dippenaar, marketing manager at Softline Pastel Payroll

Entrepreneur
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