By RACHAEL SHALINI FRANCIS
Lori Ruff, a LinkedIn and social media consultant included in the Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers twice, has this to say to businesses: “Social media is here. It’s not going away; not a passing fad. Be where your customers are: in social media.”
Social media, simply put, is an online communication channel available for individuals and communities to network and collaborate.
Approaching a decade of social media presence, industry analyst Theo Priestly addresses the elephant in the room with his article Why Do Companies Find it So Hard to Get Social Media Right?
It is predicted that in the future, investing in social media marketing will become more of a necessity rather than a luxury.
So, now more than ever, there is a pressing need for companies and individuals seeking to build a career in it to understand the mechanics and study its importance. This article hopes to help set you down that path.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA SCENE
In 2012, Malaysia-asia and www.nextupasia.com compiled statistics on social media from various websites.
In global terms, when it comes to using social media for businesses, studies show that:
· A staggering 90% of marketers utilise social media channels for business and 93% of them actually view these social tools as an essential need.
· A total of 91% experienced social marketers see enhanced website traffic as a result of social media campaigns and 79% are producing more quality leads.
· Around 30% of B2B marketers are spending millions of dollars each year on social media marketing.
In Malaysia, taking into account the online world, studies reveal that:
· There are 17.5mil Internet users in 2012 and in 2016, this number will increase by 20% to 21mil users.
· Internet users spend nearly 20 hours per week online, 32.1% of that time social networking, followed by 11.5% for entertainment.
· Social media accounts for one-third of all time spent online.
When it comes to specific sites, it was discovered that:
· Facebook has a total of 901mil monthly active users of which there are currently 13.3mil Facebook users in Malaysia as of July 2013.
· Those aged between 18 and 24 are the highest users, accounting for 34.5%, followed by those aged 25 years to 34 years (29.5%) and 13 years to 17 years (16.3%). There are more than 3.5bil pieces of content shared weekly on Facebook.
· Twitter has a total of more than 22mil unique visitors on a daily basis with 340mil tweets every day. 55% of Twitter users access the platform via their mobile.
· Pinterest hit 10mil monthly unique visitors, faster than any independent site in history. It is projected to account for 40% of social media driven purchases by the second quarter of 2012 while Facebook accounts for 60%.
· YouTube handles 10% of the Internet traffic worldwide and has four billion views per day. It accounts for 67% of all online videos viewed in Malaysia, out of an audience of 9.3mil. About 51% of Malaysians have an active YouTube profile.
· Of the 11.5mil people aged 15 and older who access the Internet from home or work in Malaysia, 92.4% visit Google sites and Google+ is the second-most used social network for sharing multimedia content from a mobile device (10%).
These statistics, if anything, show that social media is very much alive globally, especially so in Malaysia, and is a viable business tool.
Online marketers have benefitted greatly from social media. According to a research by MYOB, small and medium enterprises using social media as a business tool were 56% more likely to increase revenue.
The thing is, social media does not require a big investment. This allows companies to communicate with their target audiences and increase visibility.
Brian Boyd, author of Social Media for the Executive says “Social media is your opportunity to reach a massive number of people with transparency, honesty, and integrity.”
It allows companies to reach new customers, strengthen bonds with existing consumers and establish an online presence while allowing them to be further acquainted with the brand itself.
Here, social media allows companies to be more engaging. A new study from the University at Buffalo School of Management discovered that customers who engage with a firm in social media were patrons 5% more often than those who didn’t.
Establishing a bond is important because when customers are pleased, they keep coming back for more and better yet, to share experiences.
“Social media will help you build up loyalty of your current customers to the point that they will willingly, and for free, tell others about you,” Bonnie Sainsbury, social marketing specialist advises.
Today, what consumers tell each other about a brand becomes more powerful than what the brand itself says.
Francois Gossieaux, co-author of the award winning book The Hyper-Social Organisation: Eclipse Your Competition by Leveraging Social Media makes a point about how social media allows consumers to “get frank recommendations from other humans instead of from faceless companies.” In fact, studies in the United States show that 71% are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals.
Social media is the best way to get people talking about a product because “content-based marketing gets repeated in social media and increases word-of-mouth mentions,” says Marsha Collier, author of The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide: How To Connect With Your Customers To Sell More.
Social media allows two-way communication between companies and consumers making the relationship more personal. It allows companies to gain insight into customer preferences and wants.
An online presence allows consumers to provide instant feedback regarding a brand, allowing the organisation to further improve.
GETTING SOCIAL MEDIA RIGHT
Increasingly, many high profiled companies are opening up social media positions in their respective marketing teams. Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics says “we don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
To “get social media right”, we first have to be familiar with the platforms available. Many reputable and trusted websites provide such lists sometimes even breaking it down to categories such as networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), promoting (MySpace, Vimeo, YouTube) and sharing (Instagram, Pinterest). It’s important to use the right tool for the right purpose.
Take time to study the strengths and weaknesses of each platform. It is important to know the demographics – you can’t market baby products in a teenager-saturated social media platform.
Once you’ve profiled the users, narrow down your choices to a few, taking into consideration important factors like interface and ease of use.
Focus on social media. Boyd claims that in order for businesses to stand out and succeed, the main focus has to be social media. Be fully invested, right from the start.
He says that brands that endure are ones with average-level executives who “understand the incredible opportunity new media offers them and commit to excellence in managing their social media presence.”
Beth Kanter, Author of Beth’s Blog: How Non-Profits Can Use Social Media notes that beginners don’t chart results or have an editorial calendar and post only when time is a luxury. She says if you don’t constantly make it a point to update information, you’re worse off than having done nothing.
“Social media takes time and careful, strategic thought. It doesn’t happen by accident,” cautions Boyd. Finding the right social media platform alone will not do. It pays to know specific “windows of opportunity” to post content. Equally vital, is the process of keeping track of methods and constantly working on improvement.
However, don’t get caught up in the frenzy of taking stock of fans, followers and subscribers. Focus your attention on your goals with consumers who have invested in your brand.
When you become too focused on building an online presence and abandon customer satisfaction, your business will suffer.
Considering how much more tangible a company becomes, there is a need for moderation of its online reputation.
Being aware of negative comments and handling it tactfully is a very important part of a social media marketing campaign and is crucial from a public relations perspective.
A career in social media requires more than just knowledge of how to navigate a social networking platform. It involves creating online profiles, monitoring online reputation, endorsing content, formulating social media strategies, and making the most of linking strategies. When done right, it can boost revenue but when done wrong, can do great harm.
With that being said, it can be a good idea to learn the tricks of the trade from professionals. There are companies specifically set up to provide such services.
Some companies have an existing audience and help you market from there and some provide consulting services. It doesn’t hurt to spend some time learning up on the basics before embarking on a career of your own.
We have interviewed some individuals who have embarked on careers in social media. Sunny Khiani, director of Hasrimy Technologies, Joanna Van, social media lead in VLT and Chris Wee, head of strategy at SAYS, share insights on their careers.
Sunny Khiani, director, Hasrimy technologies
What does your job entail?
Basically, I study brands to find out their current social media scores, and analyse and scrutinise target markets to determine the best potential mediums and social platforms to market them. I implement the strategy before measuring and analysing how successful the strategy is.
How can social media help businesses?
Social media can help businesses reach their potential markets in the most cost efficient and fastest manner. The best part about using social media to promote your business is that it “sticks”; by saying it “sticks” I mean that it’s always accessible via your business’ Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profiles.
However, social media can only help a business if it’s honest. If people like your products or offerings, there will be positive sentiment and if not, it will be negative. The best or worst part about the sentiment generated is that it “sticks” as well.
Joanna Van, social media lead, VLT Kuala Lumpur
What does your job entail?
In a nutshell, it’s basically marketing strategy via the use of social media platforms. It’s more than just Facebook (though that’s what everybody thinks as soon as social media is mentioned) but the use of other channels such as Twitter and Instagram (just to name the current popular ones).
We collect insights based on the brand’s target demographic, current trends and styles, plan a proper strategy for the brand including the voice of the brand, its content strategy, the overall tone and manner of messages and visuals, and even tactics or campaigns to further market the brand to new and current consumers.
I also manage the Facebook pages of a few brands. This includes supplying daily postings in the brand’s tone and manner, looking out for special messages to post about, replying messages and questions from consumers, supplying monthly reports on the brand’s performance, and looking at how to improve the brand’s social media health.
How can social media help businesses?
The best way to answer that question would be to look at a very successful digital campaign by Old Spice. The brand has been around since the 1930s and became one of the most popular brands in men’s grooming products. However, as the years went by, the brand was seen as old and something only grandfathers would use. Then in 2010, Old Spice launched a video ad gaining six million views in just 24 hours.
Later, it got the face of Old Spice Isaiah Mustafa, to reply to YouTube comments, tweets, Yahoo! Answers, and blog posts through personalised video messages that were launched on YouTube.
Even celebrities got on the hype and Old Spice seized the opportunity and replied to them via social media platforms, further pushing its publicity. The result was that Old Spice became a brand that today’s generation could relate to and even use.
Chris Wee, head of strategy, SAYS
What does your job entail?
My role is to bring the brand strategy back to focus on what is relevant to the consumer. Every good strategy starts with having the consumer as priority. SAYS, being a company that has a community of over 480,000 everyday Malaysians, generates social ideas based on what Malaysians respond to most.
How can social media help businesses?
Malaysia is one of the most social countries in the world. Social content and social media is a huge part of your consumers’ life. Being a part of their life would help your business.
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