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Driving Business with Digital

Bottom line: the biggest reason why your business needs digital is because you want to make money – and as more people come online, the opportunities grow exponentially.

Monique Verduyn

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Are you still asking why you should get social? South Africa’s top digital gurus make the business case for why you should be using digital platforms to communicate with your customers and business partners.

Digital media and marketing can best be described as a multi-platform communication form spanning everything from web-based platforms like websites and social media to mobile platforms such as cellphones and tablets.

“The important thing about digital is that it’s not about technology, it’s about people and relationships,” says Kate Elphick, MD of Digital Bridges. “The medium is just a way of exposing them to the world around them.”

“It’s communication on steroids and serves the ‘instant gratification generation’ by always being relevant,” says Shelli Nurcombe-Thorne, MD of online publishing company Velocity Media. “Users want access to the latest information as quickly and easily as possible. The digital space is very much controlled by content quality – without great content for web users to consume, your influence and presence in the digital space is nowhere.

“Remember that digital is a form of two-way communication. Instead of just pumping out information, you are providing a platform for customers (or potential customers) to engage with you instantly. This becomes a conversation, and the usual rules apply: listen actively and respond immediately, and with care.”

Digital allows companies to gauge customer response to a product, service or advert, allowing them to evolve with the customer rather than dictate to them. If there’s a special happening in two days, you can immediately Tweet, blog and Facebook about it. Compare that to the turnaround times on print, radio or TV advertising.

“Digital also calls for more transparency than traditional media,” says Nurcombe-Thorne. “Bad reviews, for example, are very common and there’s no way for organisations to counter them, other than simply maintaining a high level of service and quality.

However, many of these sites, like Hellopeter, for example, allow the business to resolve the matter publicly and show how it intends to improve in the future. Companies also need to be very careful how they manage their social media interactions, especially where negative feedback is concerned.”

The mobile revolution

Importantly, digital is also a different way of thinking about business. “It’s the new way society connects and communicates and it signifies a big shift in how people make buying decisions,” says Mike Stopforth, CEO of integrated communication agency Cerebra.

“And if the number of digital marketing conferences designed for the SME market is anything to go by, there is no doubt that there’s a big focus on how to make digital platforms work in the sector.”

Prakash Patel, CEO of mobile solutions and digital brand strategist Prezence Digital, says that just three years ago no one really understood digital. “Now people in all sectors of the market are talking about how to monetise digital strategies.

We’ve seen a big growth in social media marketing, website and mobile site budgets. With the huge growth in mobile, it’s as important now to have a mobile presence as it is to have a regular website. Consumers everywhere are using their smartphones and tablets to look for local services – from plumbers to restaurants to car dealers. If you’re not online, you’re lost.”

Justin Spratt, CEO of digital marketing agency Quirk, agrees. “According to Google, 97% of people are searching for businesses on their mobile phones. Google Places for Business is a free local platform that allows you to add photos, update your address and trading hours, or promote your business with ads.

Places for Business lets you make the most of your listing and shows customers why they want to choose you.”

Being on Google Places for Business helps people find, share, rate, and recommend your business to their friends and people across the web. It also lets you see what people are saying, and respond to customer
reviews.

“The fact that Google is spending a lot of money on location-based search should give you an idea of how important it is,” adds Spratt.

How SMEs can leverage digital

Because it’s still early days, there are so many opportunities for SMEs that it’s scary, says Michael Balkind of digital strategy agency Content Bar. “If you’re going to build your Facebook page, spend money providing your community with content that interests them.

Brands are spending budgets on ‘likes’ but not much on original content. Paying traditional agencies to produce engaging digital content is like paying a digital agency to craft a TV commercial. Go with the people who have the right skill set.”

Balkind offers this advice to SMEs: “Create a digital strategy that outlines the content offering and communication strategy. This should be workshopped by the content team and the brand managers to identify a content offering that will appeal to the community while also ensuring the brand’s core values are reflected.

By identifying the community needs, brands can offer content that relates to the audience. Use content to promote content. Don’t take ads, but rather let the great content be used to promote your business.

He also notes that it’s important to identify distribution channels for the content. Is Facebook where the content will sit, or will it go on the business’s website or on third-party portals?

Mike Sharman, owner of digital agency Retroviral, says strategy is always the most important element of a brand’s communication. “It must support business objectives. Only then is it possible to fine-tune the necessary tactics. Facebook isn’t relevant for all brands, nor is Twitter.

It’s important to understand what your customers want from you and to tailor the communication accordingly. Budget considerations as well as target market are very important.

Spending hundreds of thousands on a Facebook app, for example, when you’re talking to a market accessing Facebook from a mobile phone is a waste as these apps are not yet designed for mobile browsing. Marketers are keen to jump on the social media bandwagon but considerations for SMS, email, and search engine optimisation must be made – these are still some of the most successful tactics in a digital marketer’s armoury.

Nurcombe-Thorne says the problem is that businesses that don’t have a lot of experience with digital strategies tend to go for the first thing they recognise, without realising that there are lots of different approaches that can be taken.

“The best strategy is ‘trial and error’. Try something. If that doesn’t work, try something else. With digital, you know immediately whether your customers have responded well. You can measure how many people have seen your ad, and how many people clicked on it. There are also ad serving systems that can track a user to the advertisers’ website and report back on their activity – did they merely show an interest or did they proceed and make a purchase?”

Sharman says that SMEs must develop a digital strategy, but also be open to changing tactical direction if need be. “Constantly assess and redirect. Set benchmarks. Listen to what your customers want. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing.

The research is out there and it’s free because your competitors are tweeting, Facebooking and blogging it. Use this to your advantage. It’s also important to identify brand ambassadors and influencers relevant to your industry. Find those people and nurture them.”

Stopforth says the beauty of digital is that it allows SMEs to dabble. “You can spend R100 on Google, see the returns and measure them, and then choose to spend R1 000 or R10 000, depending on what works for your business.

The other really cool thing is that from a PR perspective, digital marketing enables you to create a larger than life perception of your brand, even if you’re operating from a garage.”

Because production costs are cheaper, you can punch above your weight, adds Sharman. A great example is dollarshaveclub.com in the US. The company, which sells razor blades for a dollar, produced a transparent, simple message using video. It was so successful that  it went viral and global with over six million views.

Sharman makes the point that the Internet generation is more forgiving of user generated content than its predecessors. “That means home video style content is acceptable. Added to that, the costs of placing your message on a variety of platforms such as social media ads, blog ads, and banner ads is a lot cheaper, so your buck goes much further.”

Dollarshaveclub’s f**king great video

Here’s what makes this video so successful. First company founder, Mike tells us what Dollar Shave Club is and what they do in the first ten seconds. “What is Dollar Shave Club.com? Well, for a dollar a month we’ll send  you high quality razors right to your door.”

Then Mike tells us about his company and what they do; he informs us that his blades are, “F**king Great!”  The YouTube video too is called “DollarShaveClub.com – Our Blades are F**king Great.” It’s a catchy title and one that makes people laugh. “The number one rule in the digital age is don’t be boring. Boring sucks, and it fails. Rather take a risk and be interesting,” says Sharman.

Keeping your message alive

Many businesses seem to think that having one or two social media pages is all they need to be ‘digital’. In fact, every page created needs to be built and managed with a clear focus and with the intention of interacting with consumers.

Creating a Facebook page and never updating it, never commenting, never taking in information from your fans, and never informing consumers of ‘what’s new’ with the brand is worthless to the business. “Don’t give customers a voice if you’re not going to listen,” says Nurcombe-Thorne.

Elphick agrees that a social media presence is not sufficient. “It’s important to be there, but we need to recognise that engagement is critical. It’s incumbent on the people behind the business to entertain their audiences or provide a reason for people to give their attention to the SME. Time is precious. Make sure that you give people value in exchange for their attention.”

Patel says it’s important to go back to the basics of marketing when it comes to the digital space. “What is your brand, product or service? What are the benefits of being on Facebook or Twitter? The point is to reach your target market, recruit them and retain them.

The ‘retain’ part is key, and you can only do that by engaging customers in a conversation. Whatever you do, don’t do it half-heartedly, and make sure you are giving the customer value, such as useful information or a discount voucher that they can redeem in-store or online. There has to be some benefit and value for them or they’ll cease to engage.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Online Marketing

Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail

The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises.

Jordan Rittenberry

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The always-evolving communications environment has intricately linked reputation management with the digital world, and executives must now realise that brand perception functions more like a real-time trading desk with 24/7 news, social media and online conversations shaping brand perception without the participation of organisations.

Put simply, managing your reputation must be an active, ongoing strategic investment that starts well before any risk or crisis begins. Plans and procedures will prove useless if introduced as a crisis erupts. Preparedness planning needs to start at executive level with reputation management practices being built into the fibre of every business at every level.

The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises, which cannot be overstated as social media gaffes are occurring faster than we can write case studies to learn from them.

Establishing a preparedness programme

Handling a reputational challenge or crisis effectively starts with recognising the warning signs early. With an established programme, guidelines and procedures in place, your organisation can keep its finger on the pulse of conversations. This allows you to begin what’s known as the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act), quickly and nimbly during a crisis.

Recent data shows that 28% of crises spread globally within one hour. The very action of participating in a crisis exercise helps build “muscle memory” and organisations that effectively navigate a crisis are ones with detailed crisis management plans that they are familiar with.

Establishing protocols and systems ahead of a crisis, and then testing and training on them provides discipline and structure.

If the first time you’re reading through a crisis plan is during an operational or reputational crisis, you’re going to be behind the curve and with the pace of today’s digital age, it will be hard to recover.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Building a digital foundation

In times of crisis, reaching out to those who count the most to your organisation is critically important. This goes beyond determining who has the most followers on social media as people often confuse influence with reach. The former can be defined as the degree to which someone can inspire others to do something.

To prepare, first identify core groups ahead of time: loyal fans, industry influencers, key opinion makers such as journalists and bloggers, and those who aren’t fans. Knowing potentially negative influencers such as those who might be sceptics or critics is equally important as knowing positive influencers.

Consider online monitoring to be your first line of defence to gauge messages about your organisation. When set up in advance, this monitoring provides an understanding of your overall perception and it allows you to adjust quickly to conversational trends.

There is no “one size fits all” content strategy for a crisis. The sooner you can identify and engage with those who matter, the sooner you can begin tackling the situation directly.

Taking control

When you’re at the centre of an unfolding risk, you must demonstrate a strong voice to counteract the forces of social and traditional media that will quickly shape the narrative. Press releases and news conferences are insufficient to meet expectations for content that exists online.

Leveraging strategic content within the context of a crisis forces you to question how you are engaging your key stakeholders and audience beyond a simple text response.

Your owned media properties, particularly your website and social channels, serve as critical tools to provide information that frames the issue from your perspective, addresses misinformation and, if necessary, apologises for a situation with a clear action plan.

Related: Why Your Business’ Social Media Marketing Strategy Is Probably Wrong

Our goal, as a leading communications marketing agency, isn’t to teach an organisation how to simply tweet through a crisis. Rather, we expect our clients to walk away with first-hand experience of working under rapid-fire crisis conditions that mimic an accurate scenario.

There’s a great deal of nuance around effective crisis and reputation management, including what corporate responses are suitable for different crises. Don’t go it alone. Invest in a partner, which has a deep understanding of the complex variables that have a long-term impact on the public perception of your organisation.


Five variables to address ahead of a crisis

  1. Who have we maintained consistent relationships with? You must make friends before you need them. Develop a list of important online and traditional stakeholders and maintain steady communications with this group during the quiet times.
  2. What is your threshold for who is influential? Be aware of the fact that there are people who reside outside your list of key stakeholders who are nevertheless influential and could have an impact on your business.
  3. How quickly does a conversation need to build up steam to warrant a response? The internet and social media now reflect thousands of smaller voices who can find each other and amplify a message. Recognising how conversations gain critical velocity is imperative to gauge when to respond and a crisis partner can help in this scenario.
  4. What is the timing of your response? You don’t always have all the answers and that’s okay. Often, a community just wants to know that you’re listening to them.
  5. Where will you publish a response and notify stakeholders? Sometimes, a response on Twitter, or Facebook proves sufficient, although other platforms such as a website or a blog helps to frame issues more comprehensively. A crisis partner will help determine the best way forward.

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Why You Should Sort Your Social Media Policy (Like NOW!)

Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.

Entrepreneur

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With 2 billion active users on Facebook alone, sharing our toils, tribulations and triumphs online is becoming second nature. There are, however, downsides to the rise of social media. Habits online have the potential to affect your work and your business if not monitored appropriately.

Recent research combining a survey of 2,000 UK respondents and analysis of work-related Twitter posts has highlighted the behaviours of employees online that could lead to damage for the businesses who employ them. Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

The Risks of Social Media

Lost Working Hours

The average person now spends 25 hours a week online, with almost two hours a day (116 minutes) being used to browse social media platforms.

With so much time being spent online it’s almost inevitable that people will habitually reach for their phone to check Facebook during the working day. The survey research suggests the average person spends 52 minutes procrastinating every day, with most of this time being spent on social media.

Across the working year this amounts to 225 hours lost per employee, a total of 7 billion lost hours from the UK working population of 32,344,000. Failing to set clear boundaries of when employees can use social media in the workplace may cost you a lot in the long term.

Employee Posts

15% of employees say that they have previously shared something negative about their work online, and a further 5% said they would do so in the future. This means that one in five workers think it is acceptable to take to social media to air their grievances with their company.

The volume of tweets found in Twitter analysis that contain negative work-related phrases illustrates how widespread the problem of employees complaining online is. In 2017, 8,186 tweets containing phrases such as #ihatemyjob, #worksucks and #hatework were sent, a 43% rise on the volume of similar posts in 2015.

Related: Make Sense Of Social Media In 60 Minutes

It is not only negative posts from employees that pose a risk to your business – they might also be inadvertently sharing confidential information. Off-hand comments on social media about what they have done with their day may lead your employees to unintentionally reveal information about a client, future plans or other information that you would not want in the public forum.

This could result in lost business if a client feels their security has been compromised or may give your competitors important insight into your working practices, which they can use to their advantage. A clear policy on what is acceptable to post in relation to work will help prevent these risks.

bad-tweet-2-redacted

How Can a Social Media Policy Help?

Social media policies should be issued and explained to all employees. Their purpose is to ensure proper usage of social media, in a way which will not negatively impact on your business.

A social media policy can set out when usage of the platforms is appropriate and what employees can share with regards to your company. The policy may not guarantee adherence, but it does allow you to set out proper practice to all your workers in a clear, accessible format, which can be regularly consulted.

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Is Your Content Golden Enough?

Take a breather for a while and read our ‘gold-to’ guide for best digital practice in business.

So Interactive

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Leading digital researcher, GroupM, suggested in their annual ‘State of the Digital’ report that marketers should convey a brand message “within the first second” of every social video. Not to take the shine off your expectations, but if today’s CMO’s don’t level up and grab consumers’ attention on-play, your video is going straight to the dump heap. No stickiness, no interest, no shares no thumb stopping. Nothing. Nichts. Nada.

Golden content is what we strive for: Videos, podcasts and solid written content with that Midas touch; content that will seize that first second and shake the shares out of it. Take a breather for a while and read our ‘gold-to’ guide for best digital practice in business:

1. Hold it Before You Load It

You know what you want to sell, and you have a strong message to go. Stop right there. Before you dive for the upload button, do the 5-point sense check first:

  • Is this post too long, too short, too strong, too soft?
  • Will the post deliver better results on Facebook / Instagram / Twitter or YouTube?
  • Do I want audience engagement or audience awareness
  • What do I want to get out of this post?
  • What do I want my audience to feel and/or do with this post?

When you’ve answered these questions, and you’re clear about the what’s and how’s then, by all means, take that upload button and give it horns.

Related: How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives

2. Get off The Island: Let Video, Audio & Lit Work Together

One of the great benefits of digital is the opportunity to collaborate your communication in the same post, using audio, visual and literature, to get your message across. When you create a podcast, use your literature platform to support the podcast, with a strong rationale, call to action or written article.

Same applies to video: You should have a transcript or article supporting that video, to better land your message. And if you’re featuring written content as the star attraction (blogs aren’t dead, yet!) it will benefit greatly from keywords, images and diagrams that grab attention – or better yet, a throw forward to a film piece that adds juice. Golden content is not an island, it doesn’t need to live alone in order to make an impact.

3. Get The Experts On Board

From your social media to your online video it is vital that your brand is authentic and in a way that fully represents the values of your business, brand, and offering. Choose the right agency to help you create content that is truly Golden and help streamline that content to ensure it works holistically in delivering your brand message to your target audience.

Working with the right team can make all the difference when it comes to creating above average content that connects with your audience. Choose an agency with experience in creating content that is Golden. Speak to So Interactive for expert advice on creating golden content for your brand.

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