Social media for business is exploding. Everywhere one turns, it seems there is another online marketing specialist extolling the absolute necessity of a comprehensive social media strategy. A Facebook page, twitter account, LinkedIn profile, pinterest page… the list of requirements goes on and on.
Is this simply marketing hype from the social media industry, or an absolute imperative for business, and especially small business, in South Africa?
Before jumping in boots and all, the burning question should be: Is the return from social media investment justified? The starting point for a smaller organisation, consisting of a simple page across the ‘Big 3’ business platforms – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – will cost in the order of R5 000 to R10 000 depending on complexity, with an additional (optional) fee for on-going management and maintenance of content of around R3 000 per month. This excludes time for in-house staff to manage the social media platforms, planning time, and costs for inevitable upgrades.
With this in mind, is it all worth it? What real business benefit is social media bringing the average small organisation?
Cutting through the Hype
Understanding the cost/benefit of social media was a hot topic amongst entrepreneurs and small business owners at a recent interactive Understanding Social Media conference for small organisations, hosted by the Old Mutual Legends business development programme.
Catherine Wijnberg, CEO Fetola, which facilitated the workshop explains that the conference was hosted because every business needs to understand how to stay ahead of the pack, and because the concept of marketing is reinventing itself through social media almost daily. “We believe that one must first understand the basics in order to get the job done effectively, because without this it is too easy to be swept up by the hype and excitement of new technology and new social platforms,” she explains.
It’s clear that many organisations are feeling a pressing need for a social media strategy, but remain uncertain how to proceed, or how much time and money to invest in this channel. There is a real need to help people cut through the hype and get true value.
Conference attendee Phindile Mkhize, MD of Zan Zan Décor, concurs: “I have been aware that I need to integrate social media into my marketing, but was unsure where to start and what platforms were best for my business. I believe I now have a much better understanding of the dos and don’ts, and more importantly how to use social media in the correct way to grow my business.”
Experienced social media providers such as Lianne Byrne-Hammacott of Digital4Good, understand how to tackle digital media and mould it to benefit small businesses and non-profits. “People think that they can simply set up a Facebook page and post a few things here and there, and the sales will come flooding in. In truth, social media needs to be seen as an integral part of your overall marketing strategy and activities for it to deliver to its full potential,” she explains.
Lianne believes the rise of mobile technology, niche social networks, the ‘fan-sumer’ and increasing customer influence through online platforms are trends that all SMEs and non-profits need to take into account when assessing a social media strategy.
Dorian de Klerck, sales manager at digital media specialist agency Active Ice, agrees. “The mistake many people make is believing that their social media efforts will lead to the phone ringing off the hook and sales rolling in. This is simply not the case. Social media should not be seen as a quick return on investment scenario, but rather a medium to long term marketing and brand development solution.
“We reckon that a good social media strategy is 85% marketing and only 15% sales focused,” he explains. “This makes a proper online marketing strategy an absolute imperative. We advise clients to plan and think about every post, tweet or other communication, as well as the look and feel of their pages and platforms, for maximum impact.”
Beyond the Big Three
Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter are only part of an online marketing strategy however, and ensuring that your website is readily found by search engines still forms the foundation of any serious online marketing.
“There are two kinds of websites – those that deliver, and those that do not. People need to know how to structure their sites and take the necessary steps to ensure that they are found by major search engines, or the site can become a bit of a white elephant,” explains Jason New, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultant and Founder of Click Metrics. “This includes linking to other well-optimised and respected sites, and ensuring your content is fresh and compelling.
“Websites must be developed as part of an integrated online marketing strategy, making maximum use of the automated search tools, and if necessary using specialists to boost success. Almost no-one bothers to look beyond the first page on a Google Search, and often if you are not in the top three search results, you might as well be invisible,” he adds.
When to call in the Cavalry
Social media and online marketing still remains a grey area for many smaller organisations, and a common question is ‘how much can be done in-house, and when should one bring in a specialist?’
Catherine Wijnberg offers the following advice: “With any marketing or brand development, it is usually necessary to bring in experts for certain elements, such as logo design, copywriting, even assistance with overall strategy.
“Social media is no different. Just because it’s free to set up a Facebook page does not mean you should go ahead and wing it yourself. Managing social media badly, or simply ‘dabbling’ in it, can often be more damaging than having no online presence at all. My advice is that one should seek expert help to develop a strategy and get started, and then make it your business to learn what you need to know in order to manage things for the long term.”
Putting Facebook in its Place
Everyone is talking about Facebook timeline as an absolute must-have for business (this week at least), but it’s important to put Facebook in its place. Like social media itself, Facebook is just another marketing tool to get your message to your client. Don’t be fooled into letting social media override your core business prerogatives – integrate it into a properly designed and fully integrated marketing and media plan, and remember that at the end of the day your clients are not your contacts on LinkedIn or your fans on Facebook, but those who actually buy your products and services.
Facebook Dos and Don’ts
Using Facebook for your business is simple – you just need to know what to do.
What you should be doing:
1. Use Pages instead of Personal Profiles for Businesses
- Pages provide analytics
- Pages update fans on upcoming events or product releases.
- Pages allow custom landing tabs.
2. Track your Facebook activity and analytics
- Set goals, for example:
- “Let’s increase our fan base to 1 000 by the next quarter.”
- “Have 2 wall posts every day and continue to engage with fans.
- “Run three contests this month.”
- Track the success of your campaigns – which days were successful? Which days were not?
- See who is listening and discover your target audiences.
- Post 80 characters or less ( Thursday and Friday are the best engagement days – most people are on social media towards the end of the week
- Stay engaged, consistent, and always respond to comments.
- Make sure a link to your website and newsletter is well-placed
- Create a Welcome page for first-time visitors so they don’t land directly on your wall. Introduce yourself first!
- Post questions, polls and conversation starters – engagement is key!
- Create an editorial calendar (or content matrix) that includes a plan for posting a mix of content (industry articles, blog posts, photos, videos, etc.) – have a plan!
What you shouldn’t be doing:
- Don’t be sloppy! Fill in everything on your Page – profile, events etc
- Don’t post the following :
- Personal Information – refrain from posting phone numbers, email addresses, addresses, or other personal information.
- Draw a distinct line between personal and business. This happens more than you may think!
- Sales Pitches – do not be the folks on Facebook whose sales posts are annoying– let your fans’ interactions drive the sales.
- Post deals or special offers respectfully, without clichés.
- Don’t be overly promotional or pushy.
- Don’t turn off your user comments function.
- Don’t use Facebook Events tabs for RSVPS. Always have users sign up on your own site.
- Don’t send out mass messages to your entire network.
- Don’t post an update more than twice a day (max).
- Don’t delete negative comments. If you’re being transparent (and you should), use this as an opportunity to reply with intent on correcting the problem helping the customer.
- Don’t have your Twitter updates auto-post to Facebook.
- Don’t be shy about inviting people to “like” your page.
- Don’t post your website link on someone else’s wall
- Don’t forget to drive your customers outward—to your website
- Don’t take yourself TOO seriously!
For more information on the Old Mutual Legends programme and the support it offers small businesses and non-profit organisations, visit www.fetola.co.za
Everything You Need To Know About Instagram’s New Shopping Features
The app is giving influencers and brands new channels on which consumers can discover them.
Influencers and brands have two new ways to sell products to users scrolling and tapping through their Instagram feeds. After a summer of testing shopping buttons that drive purchases via Stories, the Facebook-owned app has launched them for businesses in 46 countries.
It’s also begun rolling out a personalised shopping section in the Explore tab, which Instagram redesigned earlier this year to feature AI-powered channels categorising content based on topic (e.g. travel, art, decor).
The shopping tab will be a place for users who know they want to browse and potentially buy, with Instagram’s algorithm serving up brands the user already follows or would likely be into, based on past activity on the app. Meanwhile, the shopping bag stickers in Stories will give users a chance to not just admire their favourite influencers’ outfits, but actually click through and learn more about promoted items.
Since Instagram began testing the feature in June, more than 90 million users per month have tapped to reveal tags in shopping posts, according to a Sept. 17 Instagram blog post. The app already allows brands to purchase ads in the form of Stories.
More than 400 million accounts watch Stories daily, and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses, Instagram also reports.
Instagram has been testing shopping in feeds for nearly two years.
Related: Creating Power Digital Campaigns
Back in November 2016, the company explained on its Business blog that online shopping often involves research and deliberation, rather than impulse purchases, which is what led Instagram to build out shopping posts that would provide consumers with information about products without having to leave the app until they’d made a purchase decision.
Salesforce has forecasted that the referral traffic Instagram drives to retailer websites will increase by 51 percent between the 2017 and 2018 holiday seasons, according to Adweek.
Speaking of leaving the app, Instagram is rumored to be developing a standalone shopping app, according to The Verge, but the company declined to comment on these reports to both The Verge and Entrepreneur.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Social Media Marketing For Start-ups: Essential Tips
There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.
Social media marketing, when you’re short on funds, can seem like an intimidating prospect. If you and your team aren’t already knowledgeable about digital marketing strategy, you may think it’s impossible for you to manage marketing campaigns yourself. With a bit of determination and a great deal of studying, however, your startup will be able to successfully launch, direct, and refine your own digital marketing strategies.
What things can you do to help your start-up get more press, attract more customers, and get more brand awareness? There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.
Get to know your niche
Many young companies adopt random acts of internet marketing. They’ll throw a few hundred dollars into promoting Facebook posts without necessarily understanding how to communicate to their audience.
Before you dive into advertising and promotion platforms, you should spend some time to define – and to get to know – your niche.
To help define your target market, use questions like:
- Who are your existing customers?
- How would you group them?
- Who does your product or service help?
- Does your product help business owners, stay-at-home parents, college students, or someone else?
- Who are you looking to reach out to?
- That is, are you looking to refine your target market or expand it?
Once you’ve answered a few questions like the ones listed above, you should be able to get a better idea of who you’re marketing to. With an understanding of who you’re communicating with, you should be able to craft a tailored message about your brand.
Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing
Choose social media platforms wisely
Many start-ups try to master as many social media platforms right at the start. Instead of dividing your attention between Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you should identify one or two social media platforms that will help you market your product or service. This is why defining your target market at the beginning is so very important.
You must first decide who your message is intended for before writing, editing, and positioning that message. After you’ve got your target market down, you’ll be able to pinpoint which social media platforms can serve you best.
Here are a few examples to give you an idea of which social media platforms are best suited for your needs:
- Best for blog links
- Frequent posts: 1-4 posts every few hours is the most effective
- The community is open to businesses promotion
- Best for communicating to existing customers
- Daily posts: 1 post every 2 days is the most effective
- Users respond best to images, videos, and clips
- Strictly promotional posts are undesirable
- Building readership and/or a following is slow
- Better suited for long-term growth strategy
Do your social media research
Start conducting some preliminary research about social media platforms. Build a profile of each, listing their pros and cons. Try investigating other social media platforms such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Quora. While these aren’t platforms as large as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they could have a far greater impact on your start-up.
Answering questions on Quora and interacting with other users on GitHub, for example, could help you build genuine business and customer relationships.
Concentrate on mastering a few channels
Ultimately, it’s important to concentrate on one or two social media platforms based on your target market and your goals. Attempting to have a significant presence on all of them will prove expensive, time-consuming, and, at worst, counterproductive.
Focusing on one platform will allow you to track your marketing efforts with greater precision, revise your marketing strategy more easily, and help you speak more directly to your target audience.
Digital marketing, while best left to a team of experienced marketers, content creators, and creative designers can be done by your team.
Start-ups tight on cash don’t need to fret, they only need to do a bit of market research and direct their energy accordingly. After narrowing down your audience and performing some preliminary research on social media platforms, you can start working on your social media marketing strategy.
Master a few channels rather than trying to dominate all of the social media space. Keep conducting research as you start your marketing campaigns. Each community naturally changes so you’ll want to keep up-to-date. Leverage your research and dedication to get the most out of your startup marketing.
How To Create The Best Small Business Website: 5 Easy And Effective Steps
Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. If you don’t have online presence, it will become difficult to obtain the results you expect. Your target audience is using the internet nowadays for almost anything. So, if you want to attract more customers and build your brand reputation, you need to build a website. This is how you will be able to expand your business in an easy and not so expensive way.
On the other hand, you don’t have to be a savvy web developer to create a basic website and let the others know about you. Web development and design software have evolved a lot and now you can use several website builders to develop a functional site. You will have plenty of templates to choose from to increase your business’ visibility.
Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.
Easy and Effective Steps to Create a Website for Your Business
1. What is the purpose of your website?
It doesn’t matter if you develop a simple or a more complex website. Before you start working on anything related to your website, you should start with saying what your company does. Your customers need to understand from the first minute they access your homepage what is your mission and vision. They don’t have too much time to invest when they enter on a website. So, you can make their journey smoother by telling them from the beginning about you. In case you are not so talented at writing, you can use writing companies like RewardedEssays or SupremeDissertations to give you a hand.
2. Choose a domain name and a web host
Even though many think they shouldn’t focus too much on it, the domain name is an important feature of your website. You will use the URL to promote your business to existing and future clients. So, this means that your domain name should be explicit and talk about your business to anyone who wants to find more about you. A domain name should be short, clear, without acronyms or numbers. What is more, you shouldn’t forget to check if your domain name isn’t already taken by someone else.
Apart from a domain name, your website will also need a server where all your data is stored. When you own a small business, creating your own web host will represent a serious financial effort. So, it would be more cost-wise to choose an external host.
As your business grows, you can choose a different host, or you can ask several providers to work on a personalised solution.
3. Build your website’s pages
You will need more than a homepage to create a good website. If you want your customers to understand that you are a professional in what you do, you will create several pages dedicated to different elements of your business. For example, you can include a catalog with your products or a blog.
Natalie Andersen, CEO of GetGoodGrade mentions that “It is obligatory that apart from the homepage, a website should have at least a page with the products’ catalog and a Contact Us page.”
Below you can find a list with the minimum number of pages a professional website should have:
- Homepage – here you will include details about your business, making sure that you also talk about your mission and vision.
- List of products and services – your customers need to know what are the products and services you offer. This will help them decide whether you can answer their questions and provide a solution to their problems.
- About Us – “About Us page is the place where you talk about your story. Your target audience wants to know more about yourself. This is how you will create a connection with your customers and let them know more about you”, says James Daily, Head of content department at FlashEssay.
- Contact Us – it should include your address, email, phone number and working hours. You can also include the links for your social media profiles.
Furthermore, if you want to achieve an international presence, you can also use the translation services offered by IsAccurate. Thus, you will be able to address your message to a wider group of people and expand your business on new markets.
Related: How To Secure Your SME Website
4. Test if your website works properly
Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior recommends that “before you launch a website, you should first test whether it works. You cannot tell your future customers about your website without knowing for sure that it will work without problems once you launch it”. Therefore, you should click on each page and check whether it has any errors. You still have time to fix something if necessary.
Once you have launched your website and something goes wrong, it will become more difficult to do any change. Plus, always remember that the first impression matters. So, you need to be perfect in the eyes of your customers.
5. Maintain your website
After you launched your website, this doesn’t mean that your work is done. You will need to keep your customers engaged and curious about your business. Therefore, updating the products’ catalog constantly or producing content for your blog will keep your audience informed about what you can offer and the latest trends in the industry. Plus, you should also check if your website is up to date with the latest add-ons. If you don’t know how to produce new content for your website or you feel that you are not talented enough, you can collaborate with HotEssayService or RatedByStudents for professional writing services.
It shouldn’t be complicated to create a website for your small business. As long as you keep a clear structure and create a story around your business, you don’t have anything to worry about. It is very important to understand that a website is very important for your business visibility. Thus, you should put all your efforts into it.
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