Social media is fast becoming the preferred route for business communication, both in terms of promotions and product updates as well as for customer relations. Most businesses are now leveraging the power of social media. It has become such an integral part of business marketing that you may find that you are more active on social media than on your website these days.
Social media has its obvious advantages but can also play against you at times when it comes to irate customers who want to tarnish your business image. However, social media is unavoidable and businesses should not shy away from it. Whatever your social media presence, just ensure that you do have an active and growing presence through platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
In this lesson we will cover some of the strategies that you can utilise in growing your social media presence. It is a broad topic that will be covered to some extent in future lessons.
Establishing Your Social Media Presence
Facebook dominates the social media scene with an estimated 11.8million South African Facebook users in 2014. Twitter comes in at second with 6.6 million South African users recorded in the last quarter of 2014. While Google Plus and its business pages feature has tried to gain a foothold in the market, it is lagging behind.
Local social media users are a large part of your customer base for most businesses. Ignoring it is as good as not marketing your business. While social media cannot always deliver the same volume of targeted traffic as a high ranking website on search engines such as Google, it is nevertheless a very effective tool.
Establishing your social media presence is simple. You simply need a Facebook page and Twitter account for your business. These profiles can be created within minutes but it is what you do with it that really matters in growing your business.
Always ensure that your Facebook page clearly identifies your business and brand. The same applies to your Twitter profile and you must ensure that your Twitter handle (ours is @ontrepreneursa) is in line with your business name, product/service or sector of industry.
Take the time to do with the little extras like uploading a relevant picture or logo, briefly stating what you do or offer on your Facebook about page or Twitter bio as well as sharing links to your business website and products/services.
However, just these undertakings will not grow your social media presence. You will need to make a concerted effort to increase your likes/followers and ensure that you are reaching relevant traffic based on your business’s market segment. Paid ads on social networks is one way to go but do not worry if you have a limited budget. It can be done without spending a cent.
Growing Your Social Media Presence
Customers may find you on social media but it is equally important for you to find your customers. This involves two methods – regularly updating your profile with interesting and relevant posts as well as finding and following people in your general target market.
Facebook does have an invite feature which you can use to attract new followers to your business page but this is not necessarily very effective. The problem often lies with the fact that your Facebook friends are more often than not your personal contacts in the early stages.
You may instead want to actively promote your Facebook page on your business website and in links within your emails to customers. Gradually customers will like or follow your page but do not be concerned if it is few and far between. As we will discuss in future lessons, there are simple ways to spur on your customers to indirectly attract other customers from their Facebook contact list.
Growing a following on Twitter that is within your market segment is sometimes easier. Twitter will actually make relevant suggestions on people to follow. In future lessons we will show you how to optimise your profile so that Twitter will suggest you to the your potential target market.
For now though you will need to do some of the groundwork yourself. Most Twitter users state their location and a few simple signals on their bio can give you some idea if they fall into your target market. For example, it is rather pointless following Twitter users in China when your business only caters for South Africans.
The user’s profile picture will give you an idea of age and gender. The information in their bio or their predominant tweets and retweets helps you identify their interest. Just as important is who they follow on Twitter. You can source a lot of information by taking the time to sift through the profiles of your customer’s followers or the suggestions that Twitter offers.
Content is the Key
Content, be it articles, videos or pictures, is the cornerstone of your website but your social media postings are also important pieces of content. What you post and when you post it can help attract followers on social media more effectively than paid advertising at times.
People relate to people, and more so to people with the same interests. So allow prospective customers to understand that your business is made up of people just like them. You should primarily post about your business, products or services but also include posts that may be fun and interesting to your target market.
The informal nature of social media is such that non-business postings are not seen as unprofessional. It just reflects the human element of your business. However, it is important that you keep your non-business postings within a specific genre.
Avoid adult content which may include pornographic or obscene words and images. Stay away from contentious topics that are hotly debated. Beware of humorous postings that may be laden with prejudice or hate speech. It is largely a matter of common sense.
One of the popular genres of non-business postings on Facebook and Twitter that you may want to consider are links to motivational stories and news inserts. Learn how to use relevant hashtags on Twitter so that you can be noticed in the crowd but also identified as one of the group.
Of course you can use a number of other hashtags especially on Twitter. If you are reaching out to other businesses or entrepreneurs then you may want to consider #business or #entrepreneur. Budding entrepreneurs often use the #entrepreneurmindset tag.
You can also target South Africa by using #AdvancingSA, #BuildSA or #BrandSA or just stick with #SouthAfrica. The key is not just the quote and hashtag but the frequency and consistency of your tweets.
Social Media Courses
There is no shortage of social media marketers offering ebooks, webinars and even live courses in South Africa. Some of these courses are excellent and can really help you and your business. If you have the financial ability then it is advisable to attend these courses or seminars but ensure that it is by a reputable social media marketer.
Fortunately many reputable social media marketers also offer free introductory courses. However, you need to be cautious about the courses you attend and the individuals who you take advice from when it comes to social media marketing.
There is no shortage of individuals claiming to be social media marketers. Some will even dare to say that they are experts or gurus in the field. Unless you have Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) claiming to be an expert, do not get taken in by these self-proclaimed ‘experts’.
Ask the social media marketer who wants to train you or handle your business’s social media marketing campaign about his or her credentials. More often than not these individuals are focussed more on creating a sort of ‘celebrity status’ for themselves on social media or eventually selling you an overpriced marketing campaign rather than offering real value to your business.
- Does he/she have any marketing qualifications from reputable educational institutions?
- Has he or she undergone any formal training in social media marketing and campaigns?
- Does he or she have a history of successful social media initiatives for reputable companies that can be verified?
- Most importantly, does the social media marketer have any experience in establishing and growing their a business beyond their social media marketing business?
Unfortunately individuals with these credentials and expertise as social media marketers are few and far between. There is no shortage of marketers with absolutely no relevant academic background or verifiable experience who lay claim to being successful entrepreneurs and experts in social media.
Be careful of those who claim to have attended the University of Life (UoL) meaning that they have acquired knowledge through life experience. Do not be surprised if they dropped out of college or university at some point. There knowledge in social media is largely self-acquired from websites, cheap ebooks and YouTube.
Also tread cautiously when it comes to those marketers who double up as motivational speakers, life or business coaches who can supposedly turn around your business and grow it if you fork out large sums of money for their material. Five out of seven businesses in South Africa fail in the first year and a social media ‘expert’ is not secret to business success.
There are many reputable social media marketers who are also business and life coaches. So do not shun every marketer or coach who approaches you. However, the industry is often tainted by the fly-by-night experts and sometimes even con men among the mix. Do your homework before you part with your money.
Sometimes an effective social media marketing requires just a small investment in Facebook and Twitter ads on top of your own initiatives. You may find that this small social media spend will do much more for you business than any expert advice, ebook or seminar.