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2014-07-04 08:17

Social Media has contributed significantly to the explosion of content on the Internet.

Have a look at the figures below for South Africa as at the end of last year. It will be interesting to revisit the updated figures for the first half of 2014 when available:

Social Channel2013
Facebook9.4 million
Twitter5.5 million
Google +466,000
Instagram680,000
Youtube4.7 million
LinkedIn2.7 million

Social Media is about connecting with people. The creators of these social channels understand this (need) and have made the tools available to do exactly that. The fast-paced world we live in constantly bombards us with news and information. Yet in the midst of it all, the need to connect with others seems stronger than ever. The creators of social channels have brought together two seemingly unlikely partners: business and social. You either work or have fun, right? But business is now conducted on the very platform where one would ordinarily just chill with your friends. Have they succeeded in integrating the weekend into the normal (work) week?

The power of Social Media is that users generate the content themselves. They are able to put their views and ideas in the public domain. Social Media has thus become ‘story telling technology’ or the platform where you speak your mind. Yes indeed, Social Media has been embraced by people of all ages and social standing. World Wide Worx Social Media Landscape Report (SA) for 2012 reported that the fastest growing age group on Facebook was users over 60 years.

Using Social Media for business purposes is still about engaging but with your customers, not your friends. Social Media has also empowered consumers as they can now share their experiences whether good or bad. The bad ones will probably get more attention. But businesses if prepared and equipped can actually turn a very unhappy customer into a brand advocate by simply handling it in the right way while everyone is watching. South African companies are increasingly tapping into the power of Social Media but there is still some catching up to do on countries like the USA and the UK. One thing that should be abundantly clear by now is that Social Media Channels are not just a fad. In fact, it will only get bigger and better!

It is worth pointing out that not all social channels are suitable for every business. It is prudent to focus on the most relevant ones for your business and give it the attention it deserves. Also, a haphazard approach will also work. Adopt a more holistic approach which may include the formulation of a Social Media Strategy. The value of this exercise is that the business can define where it would like to go with its digital marketing and how it intends getting there. The social channels will bring its own flavour and value to the company’s marketing efforts. It will however require a consistent, well- planned and ongoing effort to reap the rewards.

Bigger businesses (with more $) use social media agencies or may employ their own internal team to look after their needs. But smaller businesses can also gain a lot from investing in Social Media. A Facebook business page for instance is a good place to start. Facebook remains the biggest social channel with an estimated 1.3 billion users worldwide (680 million via mobile). It grew by no less than 22% from 2012 to 2013 so it’s as popular as ever. The typical visit to the platform is for about 18 minutes.  The big enough audience is there and for long enough - the only challenge will be to get and retain their attention!

Facebook

  • Is easy to use – don’t we all love this?
  • Campaigns can be customised to be very cost effective
  • E-commerce through Shopify Facebook Store
  • Excellent platform to interact with customers and turn them into brand advocates
  • Valuable insight can be gained from informal surveys as customers (and potential ones) may be more forthcoming because they feel more comfortable to share on a platform that they know (and spend a lot of time on)
  • Share the business’ involvement with the surrounding communities in a more authentic way
  • The business will become more visible on Google searches (will benefit SEO)

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