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There Is No Silencing The ‘Chatter’ Bots

In a world governed by technological advances, it is no surprise that the business world has adopted technology of their own to better their processes.

Jandre de Beer

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There has been a strong movement in the business environment towards automated processes through the use of Chatbots, introduced in order to support business teams in their relations with customers.

Chatbots are essentially personal assistants developed to assist you. They are artificial intelligence systems that we can interact via text or even voice interface. In the business world the idea is to automate repetitive tasks in order to lighten the workload for employees, allowing them more time to concentrate on more important tasks at hand.

As futuristic as this all sounds, the reality is that this is something that businesses are already using and the benefits are definitely worth mentioning.

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Business With Google PPC Ads

Chatbots in Business

The main aim of any business is to keep the customer happy – that’s where the money comes from after all. In such a fast-paced, technologically advanced world, customers are expecting so much more from businesses in terms of service delivery, so this is where Chatbots come in.

Unlike humans, Chatbots can work 24/7 without a break and without the added expense, two factors that will definitely benefit any business, never mind the improved customer satisfaction that comes with that.

Customers no longer have to wait to be put through to the next available operator; Chatbots are replacing live chat with other forms of contact such as text and emails, ensuring that customers are dealt with faster than was previously possible.

Chatbots can have conversations with thousands of people simultaneously, something that humans just can’t do.

Dealing with difficult customers is also a thing of the past. Chatbots are bound by rules and specific instructions so they will always deal with customers in a polite and professional manner, another positive for customer satisfaction.

In the travel and hospitality industry, dealing with customers that speak other languages is also a possibility with a Chatbot trained in different languages.

The Long-Term Cost Saving

There is major movement in all businesses to keep costs down, especially as the business grows. A major monthly expense for businesses is the paying of salaries. Although it isn’t possible to completely cut out this expense, Chatbots can help businesses reduce the amount of staff needed.

Related: The Best Conversion Rate Optimisation Tips To Help You Grow Your Business

Chatbots can deal with simpler customer queries and only escalate more complex queries to agents. Chatbots can also lighten the workload of a sales team by engaging with customers and gathering information about what the customers want, supplying the sales team with valuable information to help in the sales process.

Chatbots are a one-time investment, and any company with a website can make use of them – simple and cost-effective in the long term.

There are so many benefits to using Chatbots, and as technology continues to advance, who knows what these bots will be capable of in the future.

Having started his first business at the age of 22, and selling it at the age of 25, Jandre fell in love with marketing! Jandre is a sales and digital marketing consultant with an appetite for entrepreneurship, and is the Founder and Managing Director of V8 MEDIA: V8 MEDIA.

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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Online Marketing

Local SEO Is A Digital Marketing Tool That Most South African Businesses STILL Aren’t Using

You’ve has been using Search Engine Optimisation for a while now. But what about Local SEO? Make sure you go above and beyond when listing your business.

Steven Slotow

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If you’re running a business in the 21st century, you’re at an advantage. There’s never been more information freely available to your audience that’s working 24/7 to ensure that your business becomes successful, and nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to your marketing efforts.

The average South African business owner has a keen grasp of the power of marketing and leveraging a business brand in an advantageous way. Despite this, too many still stick to the same old means of online promotion (SEO which is frustrating in a competitive industry and AdWords which is expensive in almost every industry), with many valuable tools getting left behind in the process.

Canvas any number of digital marketers in South Africa, and you’ll find that many of their clients seem to stick to these more popular digital marketing efforts (SEO and Adwords), leaving otherwise fruitful options on the shelf gathering cob webs.

One of these incredibly effective and yet sinfully under-utilised digital marketing tools is Local SEO.

Just because it’s obvious, doesn’t mean everyone’s doing it…

Consider the following statistics:

  • According to Google, a third of all online searches are location related.
  • Over two thirds of people conducting searches on their smartphones prefer businesses that offer location customised information.
  • While searches using terms like ‘closest’ and ‘nearby’ have dropped, searches using terms such as ‘near me’ have increased.
  • The majority of people who conduct a local online search end up visiting a retailer within 8 kms of their location.

This tells us that while customers still want to experience a product in person before buying it, being able to locate the closest retailer and get their contact details and address online is critical. We can also see that customers now expect search engines to automatically use their geographic locations to provide them with relevant information, without them having to volunteer it.

Businesses should be falling over themselves to tell customers who they are, where they are, how they can be contacted and how a customer can get there. All this information (and much) more can be populated in a matter of minutes in a business’s Google My Business Listing.

And yet, the Local Search Association, tells us that 56% of businesses have yet to claim their Google My Business Listing.

A wasted opportunity indeed.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Tips for a better than average Google My Listing profile

google-my-business-listing

Claiming your Google My Business Listing is pretty simple. It costs nothing, and you don’t even need to have a brick and mortal storefront to get it. Using a Google account, you can have yours set up and verified in two simple steps. The trick is not to stop at just the information required and instead to include over and above what’s being asked for. This could include the following:

  1. Asking your loyal customers for reviews. This will generate an average rating out of 5 that appears on your listing. Make sure that any less than stellar review is attended to and not ignored, as you’ll be judged on how you respond to these as well.
  2. Claim your map listing: Ensure your location information is accurate and that your map listing brings customers directly to your doorstep.
  3. Track and tag your location information. This will involve specialised SEO expertise, as it allows you to see what traffic is coming from map listings and searches as opposed to organically.
  4. Make it easy to make contact: Make it as simple as pushing a button for a customer to get in touch with you. Show them exactly what they should do to take the next step with your business without any confusion or ambiguity.
  5. Upload the right photos: Uploading a photo of your business logo is great. What’s better is including images of your product and service in use.
  6. Create a mobile only website: As mentioned earlier, many customers are going to be encountering your business for the first time on a smartphone-sized screen. Will your website load quickly if they click through to it? Ensure that you have one that’s easy to navigate, read and act on.

Finally, and most importantly, be prepared to actually convert any customer that ends up on your website into a sale. This means answering every call and email and chasing up leads. Be prepared to answer their questions to help them make a purchase and if they aren’t ready to make one yet, ask them if you can email them about future offers and promotions.

Within a few months you’ll be kicking yourself for not paying attention to your Local SEO sooner.

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Online Marketing

Putting The Brakes On Insta-Fakes

A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.

Daniella Shapiro

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Is it possible to buy friends? In the realm of influencer marketing, some brands seem to think it is. Let’s call a spade a spade: paid-for likes and shares create what is essentially a fraudulent illusion of high product endorsement.

“Sponsored” tags embedded deep within posts’ comments sections are inevitable. And because higher following means more attention, everybody feels the pressure to keep up. However, once an influencer is exposed as excessively using bots to generate traffic, they are black-listed. So it’s a catch 22 for brands who lack true grit. Most importantly, consumers value brand authenticity. A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.

Keeping it real is the new deal

Brands may find themselves treading a fine line, because influencer marketing has gone mainstream and is highly lucrative, bringing in almost $2 billion revenue in 2016, often delivering an 11x higher ROI. Of course, paid endorsements are almost old school now; they are common practice, and marketers have come to depend on this tactic.

32% of marketers say they cannot live without them. Nevertheless, there needs to be a balance between showcasing high-end popularity, but also communicating brand experience from everyday people. Relatable feedback builds connections between consumers and brands. Trust in a brand is invaluable in the long term.

Related: How To Become A Marketing Influencer Before You Turn 30

Living the dream?

With great power comes great responsibility. If you could buy likes and followers at a vending machine, would you? Well now you can, in Moscow, via credit card none the less.  This seems a far cry from the good old days of word of mouth brand recommendation. What happened to an endorser epitomising what the brand stands for, having actual connections to and experience of the brand? Consumers want true stories, relatability, and can tell the difference between what’s hot and what’s “bot”.

Cautionary tales

New measures are being taken in an attempt to weed out fake media frenzies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent “reminder letters” to some major influencers due to inadequate disclosure of bought advertising. The FTC now requires that more restrictive guidelines be followed, including disclosure in the first three lines of text of a post. Sanctions of up to 20 years have been imposed for inadequate disclosure.

Positive reinforcement

One suggestion is to shift the focus to incentives for disclosing paid-for sponsorship; for example, boosting posts that make disclosure. Instagram is moving towards a standardised disclosure process. Posts may soon include a tag disclosing paid partnership which also allows partners to view data relating to engagement.

Problem children

Bot spotting is easy for the savvy consumer. Extreme peaks and lows in comments and engagement disproportionate to the number of followers per user generally indicate misleading marketing ploys.

Instagram has unfortunately created the perfect environment for “pod problem”. Some influencers use Instagram’s algorithm to increase their visibility in Instagram’s Explore tab. This is done by joining with other influencers in a mutually beneficial relationship to make daily comments on each other’s posts. This increases engagement numbers and visibility. False brand competition and, ultimately, a disconnect between brand and target market are the undesirable results.

Related: The Launch Of Instagram TV

Elementary

The most vital element in the brand-consumer relationship is authenticity.  This is not a new concept, but it is refreshing to step back and recognise what matters. Brands with foresight see further than likes and shares. People want integrity and ethics from brands that are relatable to real lifestyles and needs. Quality brands will generate engagement because of what they stand for, without the need for grandstanding.

All we can hope is that with any new trend, the kinks get ironed out and these #ad posts get less #annoying and more #authentic.

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