As the year draws to a close, many companies are planning and strategizing for 2013. This will include making marketing strategies that will have an impact on customers and stake holders in the coming year. While constantly trying to find ways to be more effective in their marketing as well as reduce customer acquisition costs, surprisingly, many Zimbabwean companies are not including digital and social media in their marketing strategies for the coming year. Company executives are hoping that marketing executives will continue to be silent and many marketing executives are also reluctant to sell the benefits of digital and social media marketing to their senior managers.
Nowadays, the majority of us use the internet on a daily basis, so it’s easy to forget that our exposure to organisations and brands used to be limited to either personal contact or advertising that was streamed into our lives via the likes of TV, the radio, newspapers, magazines and billboards. If you think about it, that means that the majority of communication between companies and consumers was one way. This flow of information is also known as ‘push’ marketing, where the organisation in question literally pushes its advertising messages towards people, with no opportunity for interaction or response. Take a newspaper and ask any friend what advert they remember on a certain page, they will most likely not remember, but they will remember a conversation that they had about a brand, a service , a product with their friend recently.
The economic environment, not only in Africa but across the world, the advancements in communication technologies and the growing selectiveness and growing number of consumers who are tech savvy, has created a growing movement in the use of on-line services,, online buying, e-commerce, including social media for business. Customers have millions of brands to choose from, with often many marketing channels to select from and they will choose those companies that continue to create and add value to their ways of life. Price is no longer the only consideration in purchasing. How the brand makes the consumer feel about themselves is becoming one of the primary reasons for brand loyalty. Yet many companies are continuing to spent thousands, if not millions of dollars every year on outward bound, often, hit and miss marketing campaigns that your target consumers can not even remember.
What Is Social Media?
“Social media” is the collective phrase for a relatively new form of online media. A form in which interested parties participate, are open, enjoy conversation and have a sense of community and connectedness.
In contrast to traditional media which is broadcast and is ‘one way’, social media is conversational and is two-way.
The Growth of Social media
Ask any parent and they will tell you that their children are spending too much time on “social media” sites . While social media did indeed attract many under 21s during the initial start up period, because it is this age group that is often at the forefront of experimenting with new technology, statistics show that the fastest growing group of social media users are the 25 to the 55 year olds. Statistics also show that Facebook has over one billion users while more than a million videos are uploaded on You Tube every day in addition to the nearly two hundred million professionals on LinkedIn, and here we are just talking about the a few social media networks in the English-speaking world. In Zimbabwe and indeed many African countries, statistics show that there is an increasing use of social networks, with many mobile phone users already logging onto the Internet. There is growing traffic of people in Internet cafes and people buying modems. It boggles the mind how executives are failing to take advantage of this growing customer segment.
Many executives still have misconceptions about social media that we hope to dispel in this brief writeup. These misconceptions come out of lack of knowledge about how social media works, its business advantages and its useability.
Misconception #1: Social media is only right for certain brands
Social media is right for every brand as long as the brand is able to find its target audience within a certain platform and converse/interact with it in an effective manner. In fact, often it is the “duller” brands that experience the most growth out of social media campaigns because they experience a more substantial change in popularity between their starting point A and their ending point B than the “cooler” brands.
Misconception #2: Social media is all about getting traffic — and quickly
Social media customer engagement is a long-term process that takes time. Once a brand enters any network such as Facebook or Twitter, it takes time to build that brand’s community. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a community on Facebook. If you want to do social media engagement right and not just spam the daylights out of people, you must use conversational marketing to engage them.
Misconception #3: “By using social media we will lose control of our brand’s image”
Executives (especially in big companies) often think that their employees will go wild and start telling every horror story imaginable regarding their brand because the company will open a Facebook page. So here’s the scoop: People will talk about your brand whether you like it or not. Opening a Facebook page is not going to change it and not opening a Facebook page is not going to make it go away. The question is: Do you want to be a part of that conversation or not? By having a presence in social networks and blogs, you as a brand show your customers and employees that you care about their feedback and that you are there to listen and satisfy their needs.
Misconception #4: Social media is just a fad
I often hear people who say that social networks are just a passing fad. This is what I have to say to them: Social media is an inevitable digital evolution of our desire as humans to communicate with one another. It is a desire that we always had and will always continue to have as long as we are human.
Misconception #5: “I don’t need a professional to do social media for me”
Many executives think that they don’t need a professional to help them with their social media activities. They’ll just take a novice to sit on the social networks and play with their company’s branding. It’s inconceivable how on one hand companies can be so cautious regarding beginning to use social media and on the other hand they’ll give the work to an untrained and inexperienced staff member who could ruin their brand in a few hours just to save a few dollars. In order to engage in social media campaigns that are effective and successful, companies should use social media expert services at least in the first few months just to understand the specific rules of each community. One must remember that Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, are all communities with their own set of rules and it is crucial for brands to respect the community’s rules in order to survive.
Why Should You Bother?
“It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy not just companies but whole countries” – Rupert Murdoch.
Why should you use Social Media for business?
Like it or not social media and social networks are here to stay. Why? It is inherently natural!
• People have been involved with communities, clubs and networks for hundreds of year’s offline. Like-minded individuals enjoy sharing knowledge, ideas and product insights.
• Social media is the natural evolution of that sense of community, knowledge sharing and recommendation taken to the online world.
• As a B2B marketer you already know the power of word of mouth or recommendation to help spread the marketing and sales message.
• Online social media marketing lets you be part of the word of mouth process – at scale – to highly targeted groups of individuals, already interested in, or using your product or service.
• If approached correctly this is near utopia for the socially savvy company.
• Of course things will change and evolve and mature. New networks will spring up, some others will die off. The technology and the medium of social media is growing at an incredibly fast pace.
• Starting your social media efforts now will reap rewards going forward and enable you to be flexible to changes in social media platforms and new technology opportunities as this industry grows and matures..
And if you are still not convinced, think of the amount of money that you will save off your marketing budget by using the internet and social media to engage with and add value to your customers experiences.