Twitter puts out welcome mat for SA small businesses

Cape Town - Twitter has launched an advertising platform targeted at South African small businesses so they can take advantage of the globally popular social network.

On Tuesday, the US-based company launched the service to help small businesses extend their reach into social media.

"Businesses have been on Twitter since day one. The savvy ones understand that customers today want to have an ongoing conversation with brands and they proactively engage in these conversations, rather than try to avoid them," Barry Collins, Twitter director of SMB EMEA told News24.

The advertising platform is designed to allow small businesses similar reach on the social network as big brands, but at a more cost-effective rate.

Twitter says that a Market Probe International survey found that 86% of people will likely visit a business if a friend will recognise them.

Engagement level

The survey also found that promoted tweets are effective for 32% of people and 34% will interact with a business if they see an ad on Twitter.

Though the survey was only conducted among 500 people in the US and UK, Twitter interaction remains valid form of communication.

However, social networks can intimidate companies large and small because people "own" the medium and determine the level of interaction.

The recent South African elections demonstrated that a Twitter following is not necessarily indicative of the national sentiment.

Julius Malema is by far the most popular South African politician on Twitter, with in excess of 456 000 followers, but his party only garnered 6.34% of the vote.

See what Barry Collins had to tell News24 about the ad platform on Google Hangout:

"There wasn't much deep debate on social media about party policies, or how voters could compare one party's policies over another," social media consultant for Afrosocialmedia Samantha Fleming told News24 about the engagement on social media in the elections.

She added though, that social media was a valuable arena where companies could engage with customers.

"For companies wanting to use social media to build their following, the elections are another example of how many people are now turning to social media to listen and engage with subjects of interest. As the votes were counted, social media was abuzz with results."


Collins said that companies hoping to use Twitter should be aware of their goals and have a clear strategy.

"The first step to understanding the impact of any advertising campaign, whether on Twitter or elsewhere, is to understand what your objectives are. For some companies that might be general brand awareness, for others it might be driving downloads of a new app," he said.

Indeed, companies don't always get social media right and the failures can potentially have devastating consequences for the brand.

US Airways recently accidentally tweeted a graphic pictures was shared on Twitter numerous times before the company apologised and deleted the offending tweet.

British Gas asked its Twitter followers to give an opinion of the company on the same day that it announced a price hike and responses were mostly negative.

Collins said that companies should be actively involved in protecting their reputations on Twitter, rather than be idle observers.

"There are many great examples of businesses who have been able to turn around potentially damaging situations because they quickly saw the conversation developing and took an active role, instead of sitting on the sidelines."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
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