Social media websites have taken the world by storm and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
Websites like these give Internet users a place to socialise and share information with like-minded people. The ever-increasing popularity of these websites has left many business owners wondering if social media can be used for commercial purposes. The answer is a resounding yes.
What does this mean for South African business owners?
Thanks to social media, businesses now have a simple and convenient way to communicate with current and potential customers, both in South Africa and the rest of the world. These websites allow you to speak directly to your target audience and get feedback almost immediately.
Social media also gives plenty of opportunities for customers to give you public recommendations. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of advertising because people are more likely to take the advice of a friend than they are to trust promotional material from a business.
How to use social media effectively
Social media websites are all about making real connections with people. The golden rule is to have a conversation with individual customers rather than simply broadcasting information to anyone who will listen. No matter which website you use, it’s essential to be creative and get people talking about your company in a positive way. You can do this by sharing interesting content, holding competitions and offering good customer service.
On the flip side of being able to talk directly to your customers, they are also able to talk back. All social media websites have places for customers to leave comments and say whatever they want about your business. This means that if they receive bad service in one of your branches, they are free to say so. As this is now happening in a public forum, how you interact with unhappy customers is often more important than how you interact with satisfied customers. Resolving customer service issues swiftly and effectively can turn a bad comment into a glowing review.
Companies getting it right online
In South Africa, Nando’s is a company that is very much on the social media ball. Their simple poster design is instantly recognisable and each new one is ready to go in a matter of moments. They pick up on politics, celebrities and sports results – anything topical and interesting.
Internationally, Starbucks is well known for getting their social media right. Their strategies encompass many websites, including one they’ve built themselves: My Starbucks Idea. This website allows users to give the company ideas, as well as comment and vote on other people’s ideas. Most importantly, there is a section that shows the used ideas in action.
Here are five key ways to ensure you are using social media to its maximum benefit:
- Stay interactive – remember it’s a conversation.
- Embrace the medium, don’t try to own it. Companies that don’t allow people to have their say online will soon be forgotten.
- Build content quickly so that you don’t look like the new kid in school.
- Be reactive and opportunistic – talk about topical things relating to your brand.
- Most importantly, listen to your audience and give them what they want.