Using social media to profile your business

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Social media can be used by small businesses to market their products and services and to interact with customers. According to a 2009 report by TNS Research Surveys and MWeb, the most popular social media networks in South Africa (in rank order) are Facebook, YouTube, MXit, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and BlueWorld.16% of respondents surveyed in the report indicated that they used social media to promote their business, while 15% used social media to market a product or service. The importance of social media as a potential marketing and communications platform for small businesses in South Africa is borne out by recent independent research on usage statistics:

• There are an estimated 3.8 million Facebook users in South Africa, and the country is ranked 31st globally in terms of the number of Facebook users

• There are an estimated 1.1 million LinkedIn users in South Africa, and LinkedIn is the 11th most visited website in the country

• There are an estimated 55 000 active Twitter users in South Africa (unique users who Tweet at least once per month), and Twitter is the 7th most visited website in the country

The issue for local small businesses is how best to leverage these social media platforms. Developing a formal or informal social media strategy is a good place to start, identifying which particular social media networks to target based on user demographics and other criteria relevant to your business. As part of the strategy, it is important to understand the tone, style, and format of communication on the different social media networks in order to develop the right content for blogs, podcasts, photos, and videos. This is particularly applicable when using various social networks in combination with each other.

A distinctive characteristic of social media is that it facilitates two-way communication between a business and its customers (and the wider public), and requires businesses to be more consultative and open to feedback. If done well, the information and relationships established in this way can be used to co-develop products and promotional materials, easing pressure on businesses to guess or anticipate customer needs and wants.

By the same token, small business owners should avoid trying to transplant traditional marketing and communication techniques (which tend to be formal, impersonal and ‘top-down’) into the social media space as this can alienate target audiences and cause reputational damage. Small business owners in South Africa should boldly embrace social media as it allows them to compete on a more equal footing with more established or bigger companies. Social media also presents opportunities for small businesses to play a leadership role by introducing innovations in this dynamic arena.

Written by Fadzai Munyaradzi for Simply Biz 

 

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30 comments
    Ifyou want to guarantee a more effective strategy a few social media tactics for brands to definitely use and ones to avoid. 1.Know who you are. Understand your identity your brand's identityand the voice of who is speaking on any social mediaplatform. You’re the one who knows your product production companyor brand best. Being able to communicate that is the first thing I recommend for clients so that on whatever platform they use people have a sense of who is doing the speaking. The rest of the tactics come down to language and specific things that you might do to turn a phrase on Twitter Instagramor Facebook.
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    2. Don't wait until after the fact. You don’t want to find yourself without a sense of what’s coming next or responding to controversy in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s coming from the same person who created a status update or tweet. You can get in a lot of trouble if you say one very appealing thing but you can’t replicate it. Another problem is if what you say goes against what you do in the company.
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    3. Understand your audience. It’s important to know who you’re targeting. What do they do? When do they live online? With a savvy social media expert you’ll be able to figure these things out. Understanding your goals will allow you to see how your successes and failures are working --social media allows you to see that faster than any other platform.
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    4.Don't make assumptions about your audience. It is a mistake to think your audience is going to act a certain way just because you think they will. Treat your audience as a subject not as an object. Your work on social media is a dialogue a conversation between you and that individual. Look at how your audience is changing. Learn about them by communicating with your social media team on a regular basis. They are the front-line people who can help you understand what’s working and what isn’t -- what people are really engaging with and what they couldn’t care less about. This is an opportunity to quickly understand how your brand is being received.
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    And also unless you yourself are a savvy social media strategist it’s probably worth the energy and expense to bring in someone who is an expert. You need someone who is immersed in these platforms to help you measure your goals. Whether your team is very experienced or inexperienced in application a good strategy is going to put you in a great place to execute.
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    I agree having a personal account is not the same thing as understanding the scope of what Facebook ads and Twitter-promoted posts can do. Because these platforms are refining and changing these specific things all the time having an expert on call is going to save you a lot of heartache in the future. It helps to have someone whose job it is to stay up to date on what’s going on.
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    Start out with your strategist and social media team to test the waters. Put out a variety of concepts to see what is working with your audience and what isn’t. The more you test out an idea and see if that hypothesis is validated by audience data -- which you can get very easily from social media platforms -- the better feature concept you’re going to be able to build. Learn what works and budget away from the things that don’t.
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    This is so true The TastyChef do not assume your audience will take kindly to everything you say. Not everything goes when building a profile and your brand on social media. What I like about these platforms is that you can actually pull data that informs you of your customer's needs and their consumption patterms. These will give you an idea of their pulse.
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    5. Protect your reputation I do believe that if you do have a few team members you really have to be careful of protecting your reputation you would want some security internal social media policies in place in your business because social media has potential ofeither buildor break your reputation after you had painstakingly built your brand and profile positively over time. Your team players should be conscious of what they can and can't post as it could jeopardize the brand. Remember Justine Sacco a former PR practitioner who had to be sacked by her New York PR Company after posting unpalatable content on Facebook and there are many other examples. Social Media can be very deceptive as it gives one an impression that you are alone when indeed you could reach millions of users. One post can expand your reach by 1000x.
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    You want to make sure that you’re engaging in a creative experiment to communicate with other people. If I’m out with friends every Friday and tell the same story over and over again I wouldn’t have friends to go out with on Fridays for very long. You want to keep engaging and developing partnerships with relevant communities. They can help you understand the broad strokes of all the things they’re interested in which will help you keep your brand interesting. Finally take a hard look at your social media strategy and make changes and additions where necessary. Always keep in mind that social media can potentially make or break your business. You want to use the strategies that drive people toward you and your business and make them come back for more.
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    With all things said it is possible to build one's small business profileusingsocial media as a tool to effectively marketproducts and services. The upside is that ifbased on the fundamentals of a soundsocial media strategyit can bethe most cost effective tool. One needs to understand who their target audience/market is and marry the choice of social media platforms with their consumption. Facebook and Instagram can be quite useful for any entrepreneur who sells visual products as they would serve as one's front end shop display. This reminds me of an article I read on 15 entrepreneurs who built their careers/businesses through social media such as Brandon Stanton - The creator of Humans of New York(HONY) who turned his misfortune of losing a job into a thriving non-profit venture through using theFacebook platform andGrace Ciao a fashion designer and artistwho became an accidental social media entrepreneur by using the Instagram platform. These and others had built their profiles and businesses via the social media platforms.It is doable.
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    True that The TastyChef true that social media has potentil tobuild or break your business guard your reputation with everything you have.
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    Starting internally is a brilliant test!
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    Marketing executives or business owners should only be concerned with one thing and one thing alone - ORM (Online Reputation Management)
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    We live in a world of 'search' - we search for everything especially when we are considering to buy something. It goes to reason then that if you want people to buy your products or services you need to be managing your reputation online. ORM is more than advertising.
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    So what then is ORM? ORM is about managing your reputation in such a way that people who are considering becoming your customer understand what you do/sell how you do it how your existing customers feel about you etc etc. So if this is ORM then it makes sense that social media is a huge part of building your own and your business' profile
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    Back in the good ole days of traditional marketing we wished we couldhave a direct way to communicate with new and existing customers and get immediate feedback. Our wishes were fulfilled in social media. So now we can engage with anyone who is interested in our products and services and have conversations get immediate feedback (both good and bad)create opinion leadership and so forth. With social media your profile is brought into the lives of customers on a daily basis and wen they are interested in receiving information about you.
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    Exactly the point I made earlier. ORM is important. In complete agreement with you YaviMadurai. BEFORE YOU POST ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS - Why should I care what people are thinking about me as the owner and my business? - What am I saying about myself and/or businesswhen posting something? IF -It is likely to cause members of the public to view you negatively or bring you into disrepute like political or religious statements swearing or foul language; -It is dishonest or unfair towards anyone that it is about; -Or impolite towards other people you work with or your customers partners or competitors or even the general publics. Stay away from it as it might not only result in costing you or your businessa reputation but some of it might result in a litigation process. Avoid liability at all costs.
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    So how do you do social media to build your profile? Whats the tactics. - engagement is the holy grail of social media (marketing) & the no 1 rule of engagement is : Be AUTHENTIC -make sure that the community of followers you have on your business pages know about you and your business but do it in a way that you are talking about something that would be valuable to your customer and then you happen to talk about your brand products and services... so that its not advertising its called content marketing. Think Knorr Whats For Dinner app that gives you ideas for dinner and the recipes just happen to have Knorr products. - Remember that no matter how many people do what you do there will always be that thing that is unique to you - thats called a USP and its that thing that defines why you are special. Identify what that is and make sure you 'push' that in your messaging. -always always respond to people online as quickly as possible because remember others are watching. You are conducting a conversation in public and you have the opportunity of speaking to others while speaking directly to someone. Maximise that and leverage it. - keep your pages active. Read up on how SEO works. The more active your page with a focus on engagement not advertising the higher your engagement rates the higher you will rank on Google. The aim is to organically rank in the top 3-5 posts when people search
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    You seriously remind me of how Earl Tupper as far back as in the 1950s found the formula of social networking when we did not have online social media only made up of three characteristics - know your clients what their desires are and a way to rally them at a central place to communicate your brand’s messaging. Tupperware lunch box was born and sold directly to like-minded people who were gathered. The only difference now is that we have technology at our disposal and yes those three characteristics still stand to date. Our rallying place is online; data analytics help us understand our clients and what their desires are.
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    Authenticity is fundamental.
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    Absolutely @phindiXaba ... Social Media is NOT the conversation its simply where it takes place!
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    Other social media tactics for online profiling and ORM - things that will get high engagement rates : - Thought leadership : on all social media platforms find chatrooms discussion groups and portals. Contribute opinions that are based on skill and knowledge. Ask questions. Comment on other thought leaders opinions.Thank them for insight. Give and receive graciously. You will soon be perceived as an 'activist' in terms of being knowledgeable of the industry and giving valuable insight and opinions
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    More tactics : - Start a BLOG and if you are brave enough start VLOGGING (video blogging). A few minutes a week or even monthly will give you the ability to share knowledge and information that is useful to others. When contributing any opinion leadership ensure that you follow the R-rule : Is it RELEVANT? Is your tone and message RESPECTFUL? Would it be so filled with insight that it will be REPOSTED/RETWEETED many times? Is it Reactive or Proactive - tobe a thought leader you have to be proactive and visionary? Is it RELATEABLE - are people in the industry (peers competitors clients etc) having the same issue and will understand what you are talking about? Most importantly - Is it RESPONSIVE - are you pulling people in to engage with you or are you only pushing out information?
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    More tactics : - 'storytelling is the latest trend in marketing : for social media profiling make your clients and their stories the heroes of your business story. Everyone wants to know they have contributed to someone else's success and while they will bask in the spotlight they will reciprocate and peer recommendation is the most impactful form of advertising in todays world. Advertising as we know it is DEAD so please don't use a 'push' strategy EVER (brand push product push image push).Its an advertising 'sin' in todays world so if you want lower/no engagement rates (which assists in SEO) you will basically take a print ad and put it up on your Facebook page. Think about this for a second - when you see an advert by a company in your FB/Twitter feed do you stop and look every single time (unless its a discount or sale or something YOU are going to get out of it but here I am referring to a pure sales pitch about how wonderful the product is because you think so)? I bet at least 90% of you say that you find most advertising useless or intrusive. Unless its about giving you something you will not be interested. So why would you think your clients would be different and they really need to see an ad from you.
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    More tactics : Follow the WIIFM philosophy : Whats in it for me (this is what your client is thinking always) - Do some basic research on things of value in your industry or in your clients industries - provide some factual information that could help them and is relevant to your business e.g. you are a payroll processing business - with the last Budget speech the tax structures changed so your value would be not to just readvertise the new taxes but to give information about how it would affect someone earning R...... and what that means for their pocket and relevancy thereof so maybe the tax increase pertains to you not buying your daily cup of coffee from your local coffee shop or one less visit to a nightclub in a month of weekend entertainment then show them how they can make up their money by cutting down on mobile data maybe and finding wifi hotspots (give a list of franchises with free wifi) and so on and so on.
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    Some rules of thumb : - choose your tools last not first : check where your target market is and go there.If your target market is 50 year old males you will not put your brand on Instagram and Snapchat - Donot isolate your online activities from your offline activities - make them work together. leverage it for maximised effect - Social media does not replace traditional marketing it simply provides your already current efforts with another platform with more reach - Its NOT about YOU ... ever! Its ALWAYS about them (the customer) so don't push product brand and image. Its a PULL strategy so bring people to your brand and products through effective content marketing - Have a weekly plan for at least 6 months so you don't have to think every day about what you are going to put up on social media. If you don't have engaging content don't put anything up of your own rather retweet someone else's - Be Authentic... Be Genuine ... Be Real ... Be Transparent (get the picture of how important this is) - When in Doubt dont - Internet = FOREVER (even if you delete it someone may have taken a screenshot) so think carefully and with deep consideration before you put something out there - Respond quickly and efficiently on queries questions and concerns.Be extra vigilant about a complaint -remember others are watching so this is not a one-on-one as would be with a telephonic or emailed complaint. - Be bold be unique be innovative be clear in your call to action - KISS - Keep it simple stupid
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    Crisis Management - when things go wrong : - respond online and take it offline for resolution - even though you maybe keeping the entity who created the crisis informed offline (telephone email etc) please make sure you update the page followers on whats happening - be transparent - even if you are wrong say so don't hide. But provide a solution to the problem and a sustainable way forward - ask others for their opinion on how they feel about the crisis - if you pull the rug out from under your critics they will have nothing to hold you at ransomover - Close the matter online (the way it started)
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    Yavi I quite like the inline/offline strategy and being open to advice from others and then closing the matter online.
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    Their narrarive matters.
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