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Monday, 29 July 2013 13:06

No social media quick fix

No social media quick fix

Social media has taken the world by storm, and most companies are anxious to cash in on its benefits. But there is no quick fix when it comes to effective social media use, says Karl Reed, Chief Marketing & Solutions Officer at Elingo.


There are huge potential benefits to using social media for sales and customer interactions. But companies that get it wrong risk cutting themselves off at the knees.

Published in Online
Monday, 08 April 2013 10:07

Can your C-Suite Tweet?

Can your C-Suite Tweet?

South African CEOs and MDs can no longer get away with not being digitally savvy: a new survey shows more than 90% of companies expect their head honchos to be up to date with the latest advances in the digital and social media space, as the online environment becomes more critical to sustaining a successful business.


According to Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, which polled firms in the traditionally conservative financial services, engineering, FMCG and manufacturing sectors, nearly all assume that the Head of the organisation will at least have an understanding of the importance of digital technology for the company, even if they personally do not engage in online or social media.


“Your CEO might not tweet or even have a Facebook account,” says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat of Jack Hammer, “but he or she must be far-sighted enough to see the potential benefit of these channels for the business. Obviously some industries are more likely to engage with such media but the days of ignoring the online space as ‘irrelevant to our core business and customers’ or ‘for the youngsters’ are over. As more and more South Africans get connected to the Internet and share information, so there are more and more chances for a company’s reputation and market share to be made – or broken.”


She strongly cautions against handing over your company’s digital presence to “a junior who seems to know they’re doing because they spend all day on their iPhone.


“You wouldn’t make someone straight out of school with Matric maths your CFO, so don’t fall into the same trap when it comes to your social media. There are numerous brands which had to put expensive PR campaigns in place to win back customers because an inexperienced person was at the helm of their social media accounts. There are seasoned professionals who are intimately familiar with the opportunities and challenges of the online environment - and they should be recruited into your strategic communications mix.


“Before hiring someone to drive your social media strategy (either internally or as an outsourced agency partner), make sure you’ve cut through the digital jargon, and have fully understood the individual’s background, their track record with similar initiatives in the past, and the impact, scope and cost of the project or strategy they are recommending – the same fundamentals you would use for any other strategic hire”, cautions Goodman-Bhyat.


“It’s quite easy to get swept up with the hype of new media and to feel compelled to participate in costly digital campaigns purely because ‘everyone else is doing it’. Just as a traditional Marketing Executive is expected to demonstrate a business case and tracking measures for marketing expenditure, so too the Online Strategist should have the skills and experience to do the same.”


Goodman-Bhyat says executives need to see digital media as “word of mouth… on steroids. News of great customer service or a poor product can spread within seconds and reach some of your most desirable clients and consumers. Many local companies have been burnt because they underestimated the power of social media. What you and your team took years to build up could be harmed within minutes if you don’t have a comprehensive digital media strategy and competent manager in place.”


And while reducing their business insights into 140 characters may be intimidating to some MBA graduates who run million-dollar multinationals, she points out that more and more CEOs and MDs are taking the plunge – and building up loyal followings at the same time.


“Visionaries like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Richard Branson (Virgin), Jack Welch (General Electric) and Martha Stewart (Martha Stewart Living) all maintain lively Twitter profiles. Even Zwelinzima Vavi, the secretary-general of Cosatu, has taken to the twittersphere.


“Modern consumers expect to have two-way conversations with brands via Facebook, blogs, forums, Twitter and even YouTube. As the head of the brand, you need to ensure that your team is empowered to harness these channels. With CEOs and MDs getting younger – the Jack Hammer Executive Report for 2012/13 shows that the youngest South African Top40 company CEO is only 41 - the time when PAs printed out emails and took down dictated responses to them is truly past!”


International surveys show that consumers who engage with brands digitally spend more than those who don’t. Research by The Economist Intelligence Unit shows that at least two-thirds of the organisations achieving the highest returns reported that their C-suites are “active advocates” of social media.


“Think of it as another way of getting more people to be loyal to your brand – the more loyalty, the better your bottom line,” says Goodman-Bhyat.

Published in Online
Failbook: Why your Social Media page is not contributing to your bottom line (and how to turn it around)

“Social is not just a bolt-on marketing channel. It will have true business-wide impact,” says Accenture’s Tech Vision Report for 2012. The impact is already there to see: In the United States, Facebook has become the dominant tool for communication to such an extent that universities have stopped issuing email addresses to their students, and marketers are using sentiment analysis conducted in online forums and Twitter feeds to inform product development.

In South Africa, although most enterprises have Facebook pages and Facebook fans, only a few are gaining any measurable business value from them. “It’s past time / way overdue that we apply the same rigour to social media that we use in monitoring web sites. Hits or page impressions may stroke our egos, but unless they’re contributing to the bottom line they serve no purpose.

Too many companies with a “social media strategy” are all social and no strategy. If you are going to commit time and scarce resources to using a platform like Facebook, clear goals are essential. These goals are likely to fall into one of three areas where social media can benefit the business: Virality, engagement or entertainment, and business value.


“Going viral” is what most business owners are primarily interested in. Hitting the mysterious sweet spot that prompts thousands of people to start sharing your content with their friends can have an incredible impact on brand awareness. But it’s important to capitalise on the awareness: If your goal is going viral, you should do everything in your power to grow your “likes”, fans or hits to your web site or forum. Games, competitions, photo sharing and other forms of interaction are the easiest way of ensuring that your fans draw more fans to your page.


Even social media veterans battle with the question of how to keep social media audiences engaged in the long term. True engagement means that your audience has formed an attachment to your brand through consistent interaction– a key objective for any brand marketing effort. Simply posting inane questions (“What did you have for breakfast this morning, Facebook fan?”) or endless graphics from your ad department will only irritate your followers. If you hope to succeed, you need to find out what interests your audience and start a conversation, actually listening to your current and potential customers.

Business value

Social media presents an additional opportunity that only a few have learned to exploit: Harnesssing communities to create products and services tailor-made for themselves.

Let’s say you’re a wine maker, hoping to launch a new wine. You could start by asking your community whether you should cultivate Chenin Blanc or Viognier, Cabernet or Pinot Noir. Then offer a vote on bottle shape and colour; then hold competitions to name the wine and design the label.

Why not go a step further? Ask them where the wine should be sold, and for how much. In the end, you will have drawn your community into the creation process to such an extent that they feel as though they are part-owners of the final product. They become part of the brand story – and you can’t buy better engagement than that.

This kind of deep engagement with your target community requires some level of technical development. Simply putting something on your Facebook wall has no viral value – but Facebook’s rules will not allow you to upload a feature such as a competition without using a third party app.

Adding external functionality allows tremendous flexibility to create campaigns and projects that will draw your audience in, and also give you the analysis and management tools you need to make the system work ..  One popular tactic is to ask users to post pictures of themselves doing something remarkable with your product, then ask the rest of the community to choose a winner. This is a great way to get something to go viral. But doing this properly requires a much more sophisticated voting and management system than Facebook on its own can provide.

Another successful approach is to ask for ideas and input: How can you improve the customer experience, where should the next branch go, what is the biggest gap in your product line? The trick here is not to stop at the question – you need to assess the answers, find a way to choose winners, actually implement the ideas and provide constant feedback to your fans along the way.

Think twice before building your own apps, though: Development is always more complex and expensive in reality that it appears at the planning stage. There are existing third-party apps that can do practically anything you could imagine, are already bug-tested and can be implemented in weeks. You’ll need a strong business case indeed to justify going it alone.

Here’s the takeaway: A stagnant social media presence is a brand liability. But once you implement a strategy with clear goals, and assemble the correct tools to engage, entertain and research your market, you are far more likely to draw a tangible business benefit from your fans.

Published in Online

The SA Leader Magazine

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In the July issue

To become a great leader, you must become a great communicator

Is South Africa ready for Big Data?

How to choose the right leadership coach



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