This post was contributed by guest editor Yeo Tee Hsien, Marketing Manager of DealShop in Singapore.
In the recently concluded Social Media World Forum Asia, held in Singapore, much was talked about in social media trends, how it impacts businesses and organizations and how a business entity could and should make the necessary changes to include social media in their strategic planning to reap maximum returns. Here are my key takeaways:
Knowing your target market
Businesses and organizations using social media to connect with their customers must know what their customer dynamics in the multi-faceted world of social media, be it Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Weibo, QQ etc. This is especially important for organizations with an international presence, because each country has a distinct culture, and also a distinct social media culture. For example, Indonesians may use Facebook on a much higher frequency than Thais, and Filipinos may be hardcore Youtube fans. Such information is crucial for a company when planning, thus putting in the effort to research on various trends in different countries will definitely help in the effectiveness and efficiency or implementing a social media strategy in them.
Measure your social media influence
Brands need to be involved in social media because it is the new mass media. Understand, engage, respond, it is as simply as that. As an earned media, social media could be more effective as compared to paid media or owned media in increasing revenue if utilized correctly.
That being said, companies must note that social media is not as basic as simply increasing your fan base. In fact, the number of Facebook ‘likes’ may not be reflective of a business’ financial performance, thus that should not be the main objective. At the same time, there must be other measures a company should take when they are involved in social media marketing, like impressions, buzz metrics, average time spent, click through rate to website etc. Companies also need to note that measures should be both quantitative (number of comments) and qualitative (quality of comments or sentiments).
Besides that, training employees on social media is very important. The saying that “all employees are a walking advertisement” has indeed become much more apt with the rise of social media, because anything and everything one says on the Internet is very much traceable these days. You may be posting something on your wall, which may be indirectly putting the company you work for in bad light, and you’ll never know how it may possibly influence the decision making process of current customers, retailers, manufacturers and more.
Social Media is for the Long Run
Social media is definitely not a blind dash, but instead somewhat like a marathon, thus having a sound strategy for it is of utmost importance. However, having a Facebook or Twitter page is not a social media strategy! It has to start with having a validated consumer insight, by doing proper in depth research on your target market, before a company decides if social media is the right way to go, and how its tactics for social media if that is the direction it is taking. That being said, a company should always start media neutral and take an objective stand. Seriously, a fertilizer company whose main clients are farms really don’t need a Facebook page, does it? Also, social media is definitely not a “standalone” entity. And as much hype it is getting at present, it is not taking over traditional media anytime soon. Thus, social media has to be integrated in a company’s overall marketing strategy, and has to be well thought through. Having the right marketing mix by combining online and offline marketing strategies will definitely translate to significant returns on your investments.
Turn on your social media radar
Yes, social media has indeed transformed communication in this conversation economy we are living in. LinkedIn Asia Pacific’s Managing Director Arvind Rajan said that companies now should first create a presence in social media, before attracting customers using certain acquisition methods like sweepstakes, lucky draws, then constantly engage their audience in meaningful conversations before they thrive. Of course, this four-step way of social media communication (interaction, participation, conversation, affinity) takes time and each step should be thoroughly planned and not rushed.
At the same time, brands should have some sort of online “radar” to understand the types of conversations that are going on about the brand and where these conversations are coming from. This is because with social media, communication has become much more diversified. Customers could be blogging about the brand, discussing it over forums, tweets, Facebook posts, Youtube videos etc. Thus brands have to be very alert and pick up this valuable information and address certain concerns where applicable.
Use clear, consistent and engaging messaging
Combining online and offline methods to build brand loyalty should be the way to go. Companies must take ownership of their social media engagement, because social media can indeed make or break a company’s reputation depending on how it is used, especially when something negative happens, like in the case of Nestle and Greenpeace. For many successful MNCs, cross functional teams are formed which includes the heads of departments as well to be part of the social media editorial board, to ensure that the content that goes up to social networking sites are well thought of, relevant, consistent and engaging. Of course, global best practices and guidelines are set as well, because social media is definitely not a one-size-fits-all concept, and strategies can and should be distinctly different for individual countries or cultures, keeping in mind the “Brand Voice” or what the brand represents is the underlying message that is brought across ultimately.
Examining the Social Shopper
Indeed, social shopping has been in trend recently with the outburst of group-buying websites. Tapping on the herd mentality, these sites are creating a phenomenon that have seen sales grow exponentially for some of the websites, like Deal.com.sg and Groupon, and make other traditional companies look towards these sites too, as seen by the recent acquisition of Bigdeal.sg by NTUC Link for an undisclosed sum. Much of this success has to be attributed to social media, and how these sites have successfully used social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to constantly engage their audience, whether by lucky draws, contests, feedbacks & surveys, to slowly but surely build up some form of brand loyalty. Looking forward, Deal.com.sg CEO Patrick Lindon says that there’s currently no sign of deal fatigue in this industry and he sees this trend going on for at least the next year or so. Why so you may ask? Because of the rise in social media, and the fact that incumbents and new entrants will continuously change their models to provide more value to the customer, whether it is coming up with location based services, introducing new concepts revolving around deals or even integrating everything into a mobile application for an all-in-one experience. So for those out there who are regular social shoppers, keep your eyes peeled for developments that will be rolled out in the next 6 months to 1 year!
In conclusion, no one can deny that social media has become an integral part of our personal lives, as well as in the economy. Businesses and organizations have to embrace social media and note that it is not a one-off tactic, but instead, something that is part of every day operations. Being a double-edged sword, businesses then have to be very careful when tapping on social media, and much emphasis has to be placed on training, familiarizing, planning and executing any social media strategy to ensure sustainable success in the long run.