What South African companies can learn from US Companies when it comes to exploiting Social Media for Marketing purposes.
By: Dr Ivor Blumenthal
An increasing number of small to medium-sized businesses are using social media platforms to increase awareness of their company, build brand popularity, secure leads and close sales,. Social Media Marketing helps to communicate measurably with an audience. When it all first began, most business owners never thought of using sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for business purposes. Today, nearly 1/5th of all small businesses are making social media a “must do” on their list of daily tasks.
The question is whether PR and Marketing people understand the language and culture of social media or are simply doing the same old, same old, on these new platforms?
US companies appear to be the most advanced in developing a new language and work practice in-terms of launching their businesses onto social media platforms and South African companies would do well to learn the lessons which these path-setters are blazing.
The following case studies or real US companies illustrate generic lessons which apply to South African SMME’s.
SteelMaster. A manufacturer of prefabricated steel buildings initially saw no benefit in social media communication. After discovering the wide range of possibilities Facebook had to offer, SteelMaster realized that social media wasn’t just for B2C (business-to-consumer) companies, but B2B (business-to-business) companies as well. Through posting pictures of their in-process and completed projects on their Facebook pages and engaging on Twitter, SteelMaster entered into new markets and developed new leads. I am amazed at how reactive SA manufacturers are in their use of Social Media, rather than taking the initiative, being innovative and thereby proactive. The lesson to be learned from Steel Masters is to create the conversation, changing it regularly so that your product becomes the de-facto standard generic application in that conversation rather than simply one more product sold by one more company.
Kogi. This is a great example of how social media works for small business. Kogi, a food truck that serves Korean BBQ in Los Angeles, opened a Twitter account and began “tweeting” the location of the truck so that potential customers would know when Kogi would be in their community. After building a list of about 65,000 followers, Kogi had 300 to 800 customers every time they parked the truck. The Kogi truck would arrive to lines of people waiting for lunch, weaving around the block. Imagine consciously moving your business daily and using Social Media to create a follow-me scenario. South Africa has one of the highest uptakes per-capita on Social Media in the world. This means there is a user community out there. Get the customer to hunt you out and make it enjoyable. Make it a game and reward the customer handsomely for succeeding.
San Francisco dentist Dr Irena Vaksman. Dr Vaksman’s challenge was competing with hundreds of more established dentists housed in the same building. The doctor began a social media campaign which involved Twitter, Facebook and a YouTube channel. She uses YouTube to educate potential patients about various dental procedures, and has enjoyed hundreds of new patients thanks to a Groupon deal she signed up for and promoting special offers on her Facebook page such as a free teeth whitening sweepstakes fans can enter. In SA I am bombarded daily with Groupon-type organisations offering all sorts of special deals to members. What SA Professionals can learn is that there is no shame in treating a Service like a Commodity and marketing the hell out of that service. The use of teasers and neutral information-sharing again tends to make your Service a generic one rather than something simply being sold.
Coffee Groundz. This is a highly successful Houston coffee shop that was one of the first to use Twitter for takeout orders, Coffee Groundz uses Twitter to promote upcoming events, the special “flavor of the day” and to target discount offers to specific groups of people such as college students. The Coffee Groundz hashtag (#Coffeegroundz) makes it easy to send out a quick tweet. Hashtags simply allow you to highlight a topic or keyword, so that those searching for something specific can find it. For instance, those searching for information about the Paralympics could use #paralympics or #oscarpistorious to find tweets related to the topic, and thus a group of people with common interests. The company also communicates with customers through its Twitter timeline and attracts new business to the coffee shop by publicizing monthly tweetups (an in-person meet-up of Twitter users). The challenge here is that using social media requires a commitment. It is not a once off thing. Just as you write your specials up on a black-board, so daily you are required to update and refresh your information in cyberspace and play with challenges to your client-base. day-in, and day-out.
Eugene, Oregon based Coconut Bliss. This organic dessert company has experienced huge popularity of their products thanks to effective social media practices. Basically, Coconut Bliss takes captivating pictures of their products and integrates them across social media platforms. The company also makes use of partnerships and contests to grown their fan base. Blogging is one strategy that works for the company; by rotating photos on their home page, they keep things fun. According to Technorati (an internet search engine used for searching blogs), photos are used far more than videos by bloggers to engage readers. The internet encourages sensory integration. Imagery, especially still imagery. Photographs are the most powerful sensory tools. Photographs require less memory than video’s and especially in SA where broadband is pathetic, video’s are still not considered an effective brand or product marketing tools. Pictures on the other hand are. Use consistent images across social platforms which are easily identifiable with your brand.
BreakingPoint. BreakingPoint Systems, a cybersecurity solutions company located in Austin, Texas, uses social media strategies to create strong relationships by building leads with hard-to-find prospects. The company utilized a multi-pronged approach to social media which includes blogging, monitoring relevant conversations on social media platforms, focusing on their industry on LinkedIn, sharing information and conducting polls on Twitter, and using email signatures to promote social media channels. After only 6 months, BreakingPoint’s internet leads increased to an impressive 55% of all of the company’s leads. As BreakingPoint did, creating a LinkedIn page is particularly effective for professionals. With more than 150 millions users worldwide, many of the members are generally more affluent and educated than you typically find with other social media sites. Building an effective LinkedIn page to promote your company, products, services and brand involves creating a business page, building followers by encouraging employees to link up with your page and sending announcements, and posting a call to action within relevant groups. You then provide updates about breaking news or jobs which are engaging to followers. It’s also essential that you communicate and network with those you follow on LinkedIn. As in the “real world,” LinkedIn is a place where the old adage “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” holds true. Help other companies, and they will help you. Lastly, you will want to use the “Analytics” feature provided by LinkedIn to help you monitor and track visitors to your company page. This is the most amazing real-time feedback tool which if used effectively creates a closure channel which is highly effective on leads.
These case studies serve to prove just how effective social media marketing can be for small and medium-sized businesses when properly applied. Is it time to dip your toes into the possible business opportunities and exposure offered by social media? Any PR or Marketing Practitioner who ignores social media does so to their client and their companies detriment. This ship has sailed long ago.
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34 Case Studies That Prove Social Media ROI. http://barnraisersllc.com/2010/10/33-13-social-media-case-studies-prove-roi/.
5 Small Businesses Using Twitter Right. http://sproutsocial.com/insights/2011/12/twitter-small-businesses/.
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