Businesses are flocking to the social media networks, setting up Facebook pages, LinkedIn pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and more. However, a Business Guardian survey suggests that most of these businesses are rushing where angels fear to tread. Matching up social networking efforts with identifiable benefits is critical, otherwise time is being wasted on child’s play. In other words, a company’s social media efforts should not be exempt from monitoring and evaluation. Doing it just because everyone else is doing it, or because all the millennial staff are glued to it, does not mean it makes good business sense. The objective of a business’ participation in social media is not to drive traffic to social media Web sites, but to pull traffic from the social media to the business’ store or to the business’ Web site, and ultimately impact positively on the business’ bottom line. Businesses in T&T are all over the social media these days. However, according to the survey, most of them are doing it wrong. They are driving traffic to other businesses’ Web sites, spending money to advertise their social media pages, and neglecting their own Web sites, while forgetting to monitor and evaluate social networking efforts.
What they’re doing
One beer company with a very well-positioned outdoor advertisement on Wrightson Road in Port-of-Spain encourages viewers to, “Find us on Facebook,” while there is no mention anywhere of the beer company’s Web site. On Sunday evening on a state-owned radio station for talk, a businessman made his pitch for business to the listening audience and closed with a call to action for listeners to find him on Facebook. He also gave out his e-mail address and telephone number, but never his own Web site. Newspaper advertisements replete with Facebook addresses, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and more recently Google+ pages are also easy to spot. To their own Web sites, these advertisers give one line: their Web address, but the social media pages get not only that line—known as the URL—but also a logo, a symbol and some words of encouragement to the reader to check out WhateverSocialMedia page.
What they should be doing
Digital Marketing Strategist Christopher Chin Lee, whose company WSI T&T specialises in digital marketing strategies integrated with traditional marketing, sales and communications, refers to this exercise as socially facilitated marketing and sales (SFMS) strategies. “SFMS is the new online layer that needs to be added to businesses that feeds the business with strategic information and measurements ... that opens up new relationships and customer interactions,” he said.
He identifies the key components of this new online layer as:
• Online reputation management (ORM)
• Customer relationship management (CRM)
• Business analytics
• New tools; and
• New training for the sales force
He is of the opinion that business owners “should realise three fundamental outcomes from their Web presence:
• Increased revenue
• Reduced cost
• Improved customer satisfaction/loyalty”
Making the case for careful use of social media, Mercedes Baltazar Lobato, an account director at Cohn and Wolfe, a global communications and public relations agency, adds, “Today, thinking about social media as a tool for crisis management is a must-have. You have to start monitoring social media even when you are not facing a crisis. However, while elaborating the strategy, the key is to identify why and how are you going to use this tool, as well as what are you going to say, and most important when.” Creating a social media page for a business just because the competition has one can also result in workers erroneously believing their company’s social media page is just like their own personal social media pages where they can rant with impunity. A good employee with a Facebook account and a zeal for using it to discuss whatever happens to cross his or her mind—just like he or she would with the personal Facebook page—is dangerous, and at times, downright offensive, according to Karen Masullo, an executive vice president at Firestorm Solutions.
She said, “On Easter Sunday, Ben Polis, a 30 year-old co-founder and now former chief executive officer of Energy Watch, Australia’s number one energy broker, went on a rant stream to end all rants; racist, misogynistic, outrageously offensive rants via his Facebook page, and this was not the first time.” She quoted a report by Australia’s Herald Sun, “a high-level manager at the energy broker sent Mr Polis and a number of other executives an e-mail in late 2010 advising the Energy Watch chief to shut down his Facebook page and stop using the social media site after noticing it contained disparaging comments about residents of particular Melbourne suburbs.” According to the report, within hours after the Easter Facebook postings went viral, a key sponsor of the company terminated its US$2 million deal with Energy Watch. Customers and advertisers quickly followed. In a statement on the Energy Watch Web site, the company was quick to announce that Polis has stepped down.
After talking to the experts, the Business Guardian collated these suggestions for companies thinking about going social:
1. Corporate social media pages need not be advertised except within the social network. The company’s presence there is to pull traffic from the high-traffic social media Web sites to their own Web sites, not to send traffic whence it was not bound in the first place.
2. The business social media page should be moderated by only ONE or TWO persons with training in reputation management, quick access to key leaders at the company to verify facts and get official opinions. The role of the social media page moderator is as powerful as that of an official company spokesperson.
3.Companies should use their presence on the social media networks to uncover trends and conceive new products and services that interest the target market.
4. Businesspeople with social media accounts should use them to monitor the competition because most of them don’t know what they are doing on the social media networks, and their staff and customers are likely to leak leads on new products being developed, new hires, departures and disgruntled talent to be wooed.
5. A corporate social media page should be used to garner testimonials and prompt users to discuss new ways products can be used. This can be done with a simple question that also works as after-sales care. Asking a satisfied and repeat customer a question like, “So how is life with your new ride?” could prompt that customer into writing a whole paragraph on how wonderful it is to have a new ride.
6. Social networking pages are for networking and staying in touch. Finding new customers takes time and networking. A social media page makes it possible to network with many people at the same time with consistency and regularity. Everyone is too busy these days. Some are too busy for in-person networking, so a social media page can be the perfect supplement.
7. The social media page should be used to help companies to “get found” by potential customers. People are searching. Just being there can be enough to be found when prospects are searching.