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How To Manage Your Business Reputation Online

Five things Emma Sadleir thinks you should know about building a reputable brand in the digital age.

Hanfred Rauch

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With the sun catching her iconic golden hair at a Waterfront hotel overlooking the Atlantic, Emma Sadleir looks every bit the part of a glamorous lawyer on an American TV show. She launches into a discussion about South Africa’s liberal approach to social media law – and what a fascinating case study we were for the rest of the world during the Oscar Pistorius trial, for which she was a correspondent for both the BBC and Carte Blanche.

Interestingly, though, Emma has used her “Barbie-of-media-law” image consciously to educate South Africans – especially children – about the consequences of their online actions. “Our only frame of reference is what happens on Suits and Ally McBeal – and it’s not even vaguely similar, so I found the media circus that erupted around the Oscar Pistorius trial was incredibly effective as an educational tool,” she says, adding, “I think all courts should be televised.”

When it comes to managing your reputation, Emma says, “I’ve always liked what Warren Buffet said, that it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” pausing for effect. “Nowadays, it takes five seconds,” referring to the speed at which digital media operates. “The whole world’s trying to work out the rules at the same time, so the laws are fairly global – except for America – they do their own thing with the first amendment.”

Related: Manage your Brand’s Reputation Online

So, what advice does Emma have for businesses on building a good reputation?

1. Social media won’t go away

From listed corporations and large media companies to schools across South Africa, a great number of businesses have approached Emma for advice on their social media policies. “Too many companies don’t think that they should be dealing with social media,” she says, “but I believe that all companies should have a social media policy.”

She uses an example: “Say you’re working at the front desk of a hotel and a celebrity checks in and you post: ‘Whoop-whoop, guess who’s staying at the hotel!’ – that can have a big impact on the company.”

“Because it’s all so new, it’s about getting people to understand,” says Emma, “People just don’t know what the repercussions are. The law is there – it’s just about educating your employees to mitigate your risk.”

2. If you won’t put it on a billboard, don’t put it online

Not many people realise the responsibility that comes with having a public voice. “It used to be that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish wrapping,” Emma says. “That’s not the case anymore. The internet is a very permanent place.”

“The screenshot really is the devil,” she says. “If you’re chatting to someone on WhatsApp, talking about how horrible your boss is – they post it online – you’re screwed. One rogue tweet affects the whole company.”

Emma cites the pandemonium that erupted on Twitter over Justine Sacco’s racist remark – that she could not contract Aids because she was white. Between the time Sacco posted the tweet at Heathrow and flew to Cape Town, #hasjustinelandedyet went viral across the globe, her company, IAC, had issued a formal apology and she lost her job. Social media posts such as these can have devastating effects on brands.

To Emma, privacy is your most precious commodity in the digital age. “If you don’t want it to exist, don’t let it.”

Related: How To Advance Your Reputation Globally

3. Everybody’s a celebrity

Having a voice means you have to manage your reputation. Using a fairly typical example, Emma says: “Before you meet someone, you Google them – see what comes up. In the same way, when you apply for a job, they’re going to check you out online.”

While celebrity culture might still seem like the refuge of the trivial, Emma believes we have a lot to learn from celebrities about reputation management. “It’s really about being conscious that we’ve all become celebrities and about starting to treat yourself like a celebrity – as well as your friends, your colleagues and your family. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s the reality of it.”

Whether as a business or in a personal capacity, Emma suggests adopting a default mindset of, “If people take pictures of you, it’s going to be published.” But, she adds, “The way privacy laws are set up in South Africa is that the more you look after your privacy, the more privacy you will have.”

4. There’s no better publicity than a happy workforce

The plus side of living in a digital world is that it has forced organisations to reconsider the way they do business. “Cognisant of the risk of social media, a lot of companies have adopted a policy of, ‘No one’s allowed to talk about us on social media’, but really, there’s no better publicity than a happy workforce,” Emma says. She suggests that companies should rather improve their business culture than try to stop their employees from talking about them.

“If all of a company’s people talk about what a cool company it is to work for – you can’t buy that,” she says, “so I think, trusting your employees and empowering them to use social media tools effectively is the best recipe for success.” She goes on to say, “But I appreciate that it can be very difficult.”

5. Every business is different

“The marketing people will tell you that you’ve got to be where your clients are – that all companies should be on social media,” says Emma, “But I don’t think that’s always necessary. What businesses need to understand is that they’re on social media even if they don’t want to be.”

She explains: “Their employees are on social media, their clients are – but what I don’t agree with is that a lot of these marketing companies insisted that all business should have a Facebook page, for instance. I don’t think it’s always helpful,” Emma says. “I think sometimes it just creates a platform for complaints.”

Asking Emma about the future of social media, she goes quiet. A few moments later, she says, “Honesty is crucial…social media as a recruitment tool is a game changer…” She sits up. “Actually, I have no idea where we’re going. If you had told me six weeks ago that we’d all be playing Pokémon Go and that it would increase Nintendo’s shared market value by $9 Billion, I would have laughed at you.”

She feels, however, that people are reaching a saturation point – that social media addiction has become an active contributor to depression and that people are going to realise that real-world experiences are more valuable than virtual ones. “I always say, as far as the book of social media is concerned, we’re still reading the table of contents.”

nlighten-logoEmma Sadleir will be speaking at nlighten’s business leadership event, Exec Think Tank, on 11 August 2016 at Equinox, Alice Lane, Sandton. To find out more about the event, visit http://bit.ly/1ZbeAkT or contact Nicola on 021 794 7533 or email nicola@nlighten.co.za.

Hanfred Rauch is the Communications Executive at nlighten: Enhancing customer experience. Read more of Hanfred's articles here: www.hanfredrauch.com

Online Marketing

How To Choose The Right Digital Agency

The need for specialised digital marketing has inspired an increase in digital agencies and the hunt for the right digital agency is on.

Darren Mansour

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Finding a digital partner is crucial. Many business leaders find digital marketing challenging as they are spread thin when taking on their own digital marketing efforts, resulting in half-baked digital campaigns that can often do more harm than good. The need for specialised digital marketing has inspired an increase in digital agencies and the hunt for the right digital agency is on.

So, how do you choose the right agency?

1. Understand Your Needs & Budget

The better you are able to establish your digital marketing needs the better the conversation will be with potential agencies. Consider your website, SEO, advertising, social, and design needs in order to understand the costs involved.

Set and lock down your budget accordingly. It is important to remember that there is no set price, but, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. A great digital marketing specialist will be able to work with reasonable expectations and within a reasonable budget.

Related: Crisis Management In A Digital Age

2. Demand Transparency

A lack of transparency is an immediate red flag. First, take a look at the agency’s website. If location, about me and profiles, client and agency lists, and testimonials are nowhere to be seen, then move on. If it looks like something is being hidden, it more than likely is.

Be wary of big promises on delivery, at the most affordable rate, as it is not always the best option as a large amount of new clients choose agencies with little to no experience. Full transparency should be top of your list when it comes to partnering with the right digital agency.

3. The Importance of Credibility

How credible is the agency you’re looking at and what kind of experience do they have under the belt? Dig a little deeper and read through online reviews and client testimonials. Ask yourself if it all seems authentic. If there are no client references on their website and Linkedin, ask for them.

If the agency allows contact with clients where it didn’t go too well it should be perceived as positive. There is no such thing as perfection and it shows transparency while adding to credibility. Consider the agency’s website and how well it appears in search results. Look at the agency social pages to get more insight into what you can expect.

Related: Is Your Content Golden Enough?

4. Implement The Beer Test

The connection between the business and it’s creative team needs to be based on more than the marketing of a brand. Do the beer test by inviting the key players from both sides around a table for coffee, tea, a drink, or a meal, and test to see if you can work together.

It helps when the people who work together can get on with the work and each other. Choose an agency who is aligned with your brand, persona, and availability. A brilliant business partnership goes beyond the company. In business today, it is a totally acceptable concept to buy into people. Great working relationships contribute towards producing outstanding results.

Get in touch with So Interactive to set a beer test and discuss your digital needs.

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Online Marketing

Creating Power Digital Campaigns

Here are some general guidelines on how to create a digital marketing campaign that has a real impact on your bottom line.

Darren Mansour

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Innovative ideas work only if there is a plan in place. In order to grow your brand and your industry it is important your planning focuses largely online, since digital campaigns provide valuable data, feedback and results that can help you stay agile, thinking ahead, and reactive in an increasingly volatile market space. Here are some general guidelines on how to create a digital marketing campaign that has a real impact on your bottom line.

Establish Your Mission

Define your overall business and marketing objectives. Your digital marketing mission needs to fit into your grand plan and business strategy. What are the goals you want to achieve through your digital marketing efforts? This is your mission.

Analyse Your Past & Learn From Mistakes

You shouldn’t go into the planning phase with your eyes closed. Do your homework. Analyse your digital marketing strategies, your past successes, and your failures in order to focus on setting reasonable KIPs. Set a time period you would like to look at, it is often best to make it the same length of time as the campaign you are planning. Establish if you are going to analyse a 12 months period, the previous year, a quarter, or any given month in the past year. This data is all priceless.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Know Who You Are Talking To

Determine your target market, personas, and audience. You need to put your audience at the heart of your marketing strategy and campaigns. Once you’ve identified personas, focus on their emotional needs and strive to satisfy specific desires. Develop accurate personas by considering demographics and consumer market research.

Ask yourself what the problems are that you can help your target persona solve. Establish the emotional desires, goals, likes, dislikes, and what resonates with your target persona. When you have your target persona down it is the best time to identify your influencers.

Know Your Budget

It is crucial that you define your digital marketing budget based on your strategy. Establish your paid, unpaid, and earned digital media. Allocate a reasonable portion of your budget to the specific digital channel you want to use. If needed, be prepared to make changes while your campaign is running and rolling out. Should a particular element of your paid marketing underperform, revisit your strategy and budget, then reallocate that budget to the channel or channels that are bringing you the results you need.

Establish Your Channels

Determine which of the digital marketing channels you are going to use and which are most suitable to reach your desired target audience. Clearly establish what the digital channels you choose to use are trying to achieve, and the overall benefits of using each of them. Ensure you have at least one KPI attached to each of your digital channels.

Related: Dylan Kohlstädt Of Shift One Marketing Weighs In On Digital Marketing For Start-Ups

Plan To Be Flexible

Off the bat, no plan is perfect. Not every prediction is going to be spot on. And, although you have taken all the steps in the right direction by putting together a plan that is based on measurable data, results, insights, and analytics, you won’t know exactly how consumers will react, behave, and respond to your campaigns. It is essential that you monitor progress of all your campaigns and continually measure your performance, so that you can you can be flexible enough to adapt and change your marketing plan as and when need be.

Use a Digital Marketing Calendar

Take the time to highlight the key campaigns in your strategy, see which digital elements work well together, and allocate timeframes. Google calendars and spreadsheets are a great way to create timelines, share accurate production schedules, distribute information quickly, and effectively back up documents and data. Google docs allows you to share planning and scheduling with your team and make edits if necessary.

Read The Data & Measure Results

Read past reporting, analytics, insights, data, and statistics, when strategising, changing, and planning campaigns. Keep a record and create reports during and following each campaign. Create a measurement and monitoring plan aligned with your KPIs. Add required information as you need it and make changes when it is in the best interest of the brand and bottom line. Measure the success of your individual digital marketing elements, identify what is not working and what requires change. Create clearly defined KPIs.

Your Creative is Everything

Your creative is your brand voice, and it is vital that you are always on top form. Content being king is that marketing phrase that just always rings true. What you say, how you say it, and who you say it to forms an important part of how you market your brand, it’s a vital step in the process of creating powerful digital campaigns. Quality digital content is both affordable and when managed properly it’s completely priceless.

Get The Professionals Onboard

So Interactive is a leading digital agency based in Johannesburg. Get in touch to create powerful digital campaigns that push your brand forward.

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Online Marketing

4 Key Social Media Mistakes You Might Be Making – And How To Avoid Them

Social media can revolutionise your brand presence, or do more harm than good, depending on your strategy and execution.

Terena Chetty

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Whether or not you’ve already embraced social media in your business, the facts can’t be denied. Not only is it the fastest growing global communication medium, but it’s completely revolutionised the way brands and consumers interact.

The problem is that for many businesses — large and small — it remains unchartered territory viewed with uncertainty and even a degree of suspicion.

SMEs in particular seem to struggle with social media. This could be due to a misunderstanding of the role that social media plays in business, underestimating the sheer power of it and not using it effectively as a business tool.

Here are four common mistakes many SME social media pages display and some of the solutions you can implement to overcome these shortfalls. Why should you care? Because social media is a relatively inexpensive way to really boost your brand presence — if it’s used effectively.

Let’s get started.

According to www.imagibrand.com:

“Social media marketing done the right way requires skilled talent. Your brand should never hand its social marketing over to an inexperienced marketer or marketing team without making sure there exist true capabilities and talent to develop, design, produce and execute the volume of creative needed to have successful social channels.”

1. Misconception and misuse of social media

The problem: Social media is often (and incorrectly) perceived as a ‘nice-to-have’ but unnecessary by many SMEs. I’ve met many business owners who are sceptical about social media and its place in the business environment. Sometimes, the only reason that the brand even has a social media presence is because its competitors do.

Social media is also typically viewed as a platform for brand-centred content. Some use it purely for hard-sell advertising posts, while others use it as an online company bulletin board. Both are completely ineffective ways to use social media.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Why you should care: A lack of understanding often leads to misuse, and this is particularly true of social media. A vicious cycle results: Social media is already viewed as a waste of resources, but it’s still used (incorrectly) to push sales or publish fluffy content. These strategies (or lack thereof) do little to promote business goals, strengthening the view that social media has no place in business. An example of a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one.

Worse still is the misconception that your social media pages are there to solely promote brand objectives. This could cause serious brand damage as social media users expect, no, demand, attention and value from brands. Failure to meet such needs risks losing current and potential clients that perceive the brand as being ‘self-centred’.

What you should be doing: Social media is a powerful business tool and should be treated as such. It has the capability to serve as an integral component of your organisation, and as a key catalyst for growth. For SMEs, social media holds incredible value, including the options of extensive audience reach, detailed consumer targeting and sales generation. Effective, well-strategised use of social media is the path to achieving these tangible returns.

From a content perspective, the main point to remember is this: It’s not about you. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian, nobody cares.

Social media is all about the user experience. When creating a post, view it from an audience perspective to ensure it has user-value of some sort. Ask yourself these questions: Is it informative? Is it interesting? Is it useful? Is it entertaining? If you can’t answer yes to at least one or two of these questions, don’t post it. Research your audience and craft posts that they are likely to engage with (i.e. like, comment and share).

According to dreamgrow.com, 46% of users will stop following a brand’s social media platforms for sharing too much promotional content.

2. Assigning management of platforms to junior and/or untrained staff

social-media-marketing-advice

The problem: Most SMEs view social media management as a non-essential, non-priority task. The general practice seems to be assigning this role to junior and/or untrained staff, such as interns, receptionists or any employee that happens to be available.

Why you should care: Consider this. A social media page is potentially the single most impactful touchpoint for a brand, making it a highly critical, powerful and very public portal. And then consider that many SMEs assign complete management and control of this critical contact point to junior or untrained staff. Can you spot the reason for concern?

Not only does this open you up to risk ranging from an undesirable public reaction to an unsuitable post or response, but in serious cases, could also result in legal action.

Aside from such drastic situations, poorly or inadequately managed social media pages generally lead to a negative consumer perception of the brand as a whole.

What you should be doing: Treat the position of social media manager the same as any other role: Assign it to an individual with the required knowledge and experience. As most SMEs are unlikely to already have a social media expert within their team, this could mean recruiting a new employee or agency.

While this sounds like an awesome solution, it may not be practical for SMEs with budget restrictions. In this case, consider ways to use current resources. For example, get managers of different departments to provide input and suggestions for content, as well as approve relevant posts. If possible, assign non-critical tasks to junior staff as a means to free up time that senior staff can then dedicate to social media.

Related: 7 Social Media Marketing Secrets No Marketer Wants To Admit

3. Not using paid advertising

The problem: SMEs often allocate little or no financial resources to their social media activities, such as Facebook paid ads. Instead, they rely on organic reach or inbound audiences.

Why you should care: For someone to see an unpaid post, they would need to actively search for your page themselves. This is the equivalent of leaving a stack of printed flyers on a table in a corner and hoping that people would stumble across it.

The recent Facebook Feed change further necessitates the need for paid advertising — the new algorithm restricts the organic reach of business pages. This means that the only way to get any real exposure is through paid promotion.

What you should be doing: Paid advertising means that you actively distribute your message to consumers. Your content appears directly in users’ content feed — they are exposed to your message even if they have never heard of your brand. What’s better, targeting means that you can restrict this to your desired demographic — it’s like handing out those above-mentioned flyers to a room full of people who have already indicated interest in your product or service offering. The result? High conversion potential and little to no wastage on irrelevant market segments.

(At this point, you may be shouting that you don’t have money for paid advertising. But keep calm and read on.)

Social media advertising is highly affordable. For example, Facebook promotions start from as little as R100 a post. Even though realistically you would need to invest a bit more to get decent results, the point is that it’s accessible even on a shoestring budget. Important: Read up on the dos and don’ts when attempting paid advertising for the first time (especially regarding setting spend limits).

4. No structured social media strategy

The problem: The vast majority of SMEs have a social media presence that lacks any sort of structured strategy. This is evidenced by a number of factors, including erratic frequency of posting, unclear purpose of posts, and even content that holds little relevance for a brand.

Why you should care: Without a planned strategy, your social media activities lack purpose. Any business task that serves no clear function or purpose is a waste of resources. It’s no wonder that decision-makers are reluctant to invest in social media as a result.

“Almost 90% of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic.” — www.smallbiztrends.com

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

What you should be doing: Rather than being an isolated function, social media activities have to form part of an integrated strategy linked to core brand objectives. The starting point is to identify priorities across your entire organisation, and then list key focus points. For example, if you have a current promotion, you can drive sales by targeting consumers through a paid social media ad. If you are looking to grow brand awareness, you can create user-centric content crafted for high reach and engagement. If your current focus is on product development, send out a poll to gain insight into consumer preferences.

Once planned, content then has to be crafted and scheduled to form a well-balanced strategy. This then needs to be tactically executed accordingly, incorporating a budget for social media ad spend to realise tangible results.

A result-driven strategy means that you can now measure return on investment. This includes social media generated stats (such as engagement rates and brand reach), as well as business data (such as sales volumes or leads). And once the numbers are out, my prediction is that decision-makers will become much more willing to allocate resources towards social media activities.

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