Social media is fast becoming sewn into a successful company’s fabric and those businesses that haven’t already engaged with this internet phenomenon should be asking themselves why.
According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report 83 percent of marketers say social media is important for their business and the majority of them are looking to increase their use of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Calvyn du Toit, Digital Marketing Manager at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, said: “Social media is to marketing what websites were at the turn of the century. Some companies were on it. Others weren’t.
“The ones who had a website benefited and those who didn’t lost out. The question today is if companies are not using social media, why aren’t they and why are they gambling with their business?”
The ever-increasing need to be connected to customers, the vast majority of which are using or have access to mobile phones, tablets and computers, is of paramount importance.
Du Toit said: “Customers are already on social media so it makes sense to be where your customers are as they will be having discussions about your brand whether you engage with them or not. It is also important to plan and have a clear strategy on how you will interact and engage with your customers.”
When it comes to creating a social media strategy there are a number of crucial points to remember to ensure it is both effective and worthwhile for the company.
“Firstly, you need to determine which social media channels would best suit your company/brand. Some might not work for you and the last thing you want is a social media channel that has been created but left stagnant with no new content or interaction,” warned du Toit.
He also advised to beware of the term “social media is free”, as while the platform itself is free, there will inevitably be costs to a company in terms of man-hours needed to maintain the various channels the company is engaged with.
“You must be aware that social media is for two-way communication, so don’t just broadcast to your follower/fans,” he said. “Think about being at a party or social gathering. Do you want to talk to the person who just stands there and speaks about themselves the whole time? Most probably not and social media is the same. You want to have a balanced conversation with your followers.”
In the picture
When developing a strategy, companies need to think carefully about which social media sites they want to interact with.
For example a wedding photographer would have need for something like Flickr and might be happy to use YouTube for videos, but a film maker would ignore YouTube and is more likely to use Vimeo due to its strong connection to the industry.
Du Toit believes that in South Africa Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube are very popular. He said: “Pinterest also has garnered a lot of followers particularly among female users. Pinterest also works well for companies that have an E-commerce element and have lots of photos to “pin”.
If your business hasn’t already devised a social media strategy here are a few top tips to get you started:
1 List goals and objectives – decide which department or departments own social media within your organisation and make your goals SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Timely.
2 Do your research – find out which social media sites would work best with your needs and look at what your competitors are doing. Discover what are key influencers and trends within your industry and get to know your target audience.
3 Working together – Make sure you team are all on the same page using the SMART guidelines and write down your course of action.
4 Implementation – Assign responsibility to certain tasks and use a content calendar to help keep things focused. Promote your social media networks on company emails, letterheads, invoices, business cards and other places.
5 Monitor the strategy’s performance – after a few months evaluate how successful (or not) the strategy has been. Use specific metrics to analyse click rates, shares, likes, subscribers and sales.
Social media plays on one of the core human survival instincts, which is having information and according to du Toit is here to stay.
“I think social media will be around for a long time,” he said. “I am positive that the digital element of social media is here to stay. Soon all ads will be served digitally. Billboards, bus stops, movie posters, inshore advertising etc, will all become digital at some point and with it grants a world of flexibility.”