SA company social media survival guide

2013-12-09 10:41
Twitter. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Twitter. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Social media is a hot property for companies and individuals as more people come online willing to share experiences.

However, if companies don't handle it well, social media can prove disastrous for the brand.

Gordon Geldenhuys, head of Online Reputation Management at Acceleration Media shared some of the top tips for handling social media in a fast-moving environment.

1. Companies should value digital properties.

"Digital properties have largely gone unnoticed and unvalued for quite some time. It is only of late, and once companies adopt digital more and more, that they find the true value of their digital properties," Geldenhuys told News24.

Online brand building has not kept pace with marketing on channels like print and especially TV. Many firms regard the online medium as secondary to their core marketing channel, regardless of the fact that people are migrating to online mediums.

Sites like HelloPeter have proved that customers will choose an online platform to express their complaints if they feel unheard by corporate infrastructure.

Facebook and Twitter have also emerged as communication channels for customers to communicate with companies.

Gendenhuys said that as more people shifted online, businesses would have to adapt.

"Many companies are realising similar valuations on their digital properties as customers choose to engage more and more on their mobile phones and computers instead of brick and mortar."

2. Personalise customer interaction on social media.

Geldenhuys argued that companies should be aware that customers who are online are not necessarily loyal to the brand and may choose differently if they feel marginalised.

"Today's customer is ever connected, always on, highly opinionated and on the move. This is a customer that now understands that they have power and they know how to use it. They have expectations and they have choices if those expectations aren't met."

Unlike print or even broadcast TV, social media messages can be tailored to a specific person, as well as audience. Vodacom often uses a strategy of communicating with an individual on general issues, before taking the conversation private to resolve a problem.

"They [companies] tend to post generic marketing messages to the masses in the hope of gaining traction. Companies fail to recognise this and similarly do not treat social as a one to one channel, where they take a customer's individual needs into account," said Geldenhuys.

He said that selling a product or service was no longer good enough and companies had to find ways to directly engage with customers on a personal basis.

"Companies can be more effective on social media platforms if they choose to recognise their customers and deal with their customers on social media as more than just numbers or accounts, but as unique individuals with a distinct set of needs."

3. Create positive engagements on social media.

The rush to build websites simply because of the pressure to do so is not of much value if a customer leaves with a poor experience.

"The brand value of any digital property, whether it be a company website or a Facebook page has to do with the number of positive engagements each has with its intended audience," said Geldenhuys.

This implies that companies have to put thought into the development of the website in a way that communicates the overall brand message.

But message should be expanded on social media platforms and companies should strive to ensure positive engagements with customers.

"A website no one visits has no value; similarly a website that someone does visit and leaves with a poor experience has no value. The brand value is therefore linked to the number of positive engagements a customer has with the property," Geldenhuys argued.

Geldenhuys conceded that it was difficult to quantify the value of a Facebook like or retweet for a company, but argued that it may relative to the type of business.

"There are good arguments for or against establishing a standardised value for social metrics such as value of a retweet or value of a Facebook like. However, many have arrived at the understanding that its relative to the business and there seems to be growing consensus that the value of a retweet or a Facebook like has everything to do with the nature of the business itself."

A Pew analysis of Twitter found that social media can be fickle as sentiment can shift quickly. Nevertheless, Geldenhuys suggested that companies should be focused on creating a memorable customer experience.

"They expect to be at the centre of your world, and as a company on social media, you need to put them there."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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