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