Perceptions of brands are made up of impressions that are formed by what people see, read, hear and experience across all their senses, and social media heaps its own complexities onto these already strenuous set of circumstances. Social media has embarrassingly made us forget about an age-old tradition we proudly engaged in whilst travelling on any road; as every eyeball never missed an opportunity to marvel at the intricacies of billboard advertising it came across.
The complexity of social media, though it may have arisen innocently enough, serves the interests of every business corporation regardless of size or stature, and provides an equal opportunity for every organization to advance its narrow interests, whilst serving its customers and the wider society. Any brand can become an instant sensation on social media, as a result of captivating messages.
Before social media disrupted our good old-fashioned marketing tools brands used to battle viciously through billboards on the roadsides to catch the attention of the unassuming public. Nowadays, glancing at billboards is no longer a noble and favourite pastime to any road user, which even boredom whilst in the midst of traffic is proving to be an insufficient motivation, as people are far more interested in the complicated beyond belief situations prevailing around them, to even bother about billboards.
One question naturally arises, where have the battlefields of marketing and advertising moved to? Social media, which has rapidly changed the marketing landscape whilst creating opportunities and competitive advantages at a lower cost than never before imagined. No business entity can afford to just sort of stumble onto the social media phenomenon, there has to be a plan on how to be valuable and relevant.
Social media has become the most influential low-priced marketing tool the business world will ever get, which has a global reach beyond any imagination. The future looks brightest for those who are embracing the phenomenon. The fact that there has been constant abuse of social media by some rogue elements within our society should not overshadow the infinite opportunities the business community has unexpectedly been presented with.
In any case, the sooner local businesses realize that doing nothing on social media is no longer an option: the better for them, instead of waiting for opportunities to stage surprise attacks on the outside world, they can figure out how to extract real value from the phenomenon, cost-effectively.
Social networks are in the here and now, and to put the problem in the simplest terms, most companies trying to leverage the global market potential presented by social media, find themselves in some terrible predicament with regards to creating appropriate content for the various platforms. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” Albert Einstein said.
Today, to show that most brands don’t understand social media the content published is haphazard, and one really wonders the thought process that went into planning for the social media activities. The best approach when planning for a social media assault is to fully understand the pros and cons of the different platforms, and figure out what is appropriate on each of them, obviously there is some content that can be posted simultaneously on several platforms.
The biggest mistake is to assume that one size fits all; therefore, the content used on one platform can be duplicated and then used on another platform. It’s never easy to make an organization understand why it might be charged a premium for Facebook marketing content, for example, than that for Twitter. Nonetheless, the reality dictates the content packaging is different for each social network.
The fact is that, some social networks are more equal than others; therefore the content posted on each of them should be different. Economics defines a need as something we can’t live without, and a want as merely a luxury. Alas, any business entity should figure out which social networks it needs, and which ones it can classify as wants.
The epitome of social media, on which every self-respecting organization should be actively involved on, is Facebook. Irrespective of size, every company needs Facebook, one way or another. Ignorance is not an excuse, Facebook is becoming a serious marketplace, and nobody can do anything about it. Any business person can choose to ignore it; nevertheless, Facebook is shifting focus away from merely being another online media company, into an open e-commerce marketplace like Alibaba.
Facebook, the social media monster that has managed to amass over a billion users globally, whose mission is to make the world more open and connected, is where business entities can interact with their stakeholders cost effectively and efficiently. Zimbabwe is estimated to have Facebook users running into several millions. For the forward looking businesses, this statistics represents an opportunity to captivate at least a million eyeballs at worse, and what comes out of it depends on the size and type of the pie you want.
However, don’t aim to be the one captivating the most eyeballs on social media, rather aim to be the one offering value and getting more out of the pockets of the eyeballs. Facebook is becoming a very innovative media company, which continues to transform itself into several things. The social media platform is trying out a lot of stuff for example, e-commerce. With hindsight another distribution channel is being created for business organizations to explore. The reach of the new marketplace is more than the whole population of the African continent.
Now, the most important thing for business is how to leverage their brands to get a competitive advantage using these new marketing tools. Content is king, and what keeps an organization relevant on social media is the quality of its content. On Facebook, thought-provoking, short and precise, engaging, and well thought out articles that focus on what benefits can be expected from using a company’s products or services, and any industry related stories have a far greater impact and reach than random posts.
The main purpose of keeping the written content short and precise, is to ensure that the audience can read and understand the subject matter without getting bored. Secondly, it’s to get a reaction from the audience; their comments are necessary feedback which can be used positively to improve a product or service. Furthermore, a reaction through the pockets is the ultimate objective of every organization. Marketing nowadays, is measured by sales rather than marketing expenditure.
Another efficient and effective form of content appropriate for this platform is visuals (images and videos). Since time immemorial, visual content has always been thought as having more impact than the written word, because the assumption has always been “to see is to believe”, and an image or video can instantly catch the attention of the audience whilst in the meantime conveying a thousand words to the mind, even without having any captions on it. Therefore, for Facebook an organization basically needs to be creative, whilst having a good mix of the written word and visuals to be captivating to the audience.
A golden rule is that Facebook is not a duplicate of your website where you can only be posting links to articles on your website. There is also need to be posting content specifically for Facebook, otherwise people can just visit your website if they need your content.
Another growing platform on which most industries can’t afford to turn a blind eye to, and miss out on exploiting is Instagram, which is a Facebook sister company. This is a platform on which visual content is the order of the day. One doesn’t totally forget about the written word, if on this platform, nevertheless, the written word is just for caption purposes to accompany the images.
The only thing that excites users on this platform is images and not words. All companies in the following industries need to have Instagram accounts; hospitality, fashion, sport, telecommunications, construction, automotive etc. With this platform never use the organization size as an excuse; you need to be active on this platform regardless of your size or who you are. Nike is a world-class performer on how to effectively and efficiently use Instagram to its benefit.
Creating content for this platform is not as challenging as on the other social media platforms. If your organization is not on Instagram, don’t be a dinosaur still holding onto the old days beliefs, because the Generation Y wastes a sizeable chunk of its precious time on this platform. Nothing is captivating to this generation than images, especially with smartphones having transformed themselves into mobile devices that revolutionized the capabilities and abilities of a mobile phone.
Twitter is another necessary social network, although it limits the written words to just 140-characters. It also provides companies with opportunities to use a mixture of words, images and videos. Even though the rhetoric is always that Twitter isn’t growing as expected, however new business pages are being created on this platform every day. Understandably, doubters will always exist, nevertheless the price of engagement is very low, and this platform isn’t just a passing fad for business.
Although, Twitter’s penetration and usage locally could be not at the scale of Facebook or Instagram, however, it is worth added to a business entity’s social media arsenal. Moreover, globally it is believed that a surprisingly 86% of social marketers regularly use Facebook ads, compared to only 18% who use Twitter ads. Nonetheless, the platform is worth every minute and effort to persist with, as its user figures are bound to increase in the not too distant future, as it just a matter of figuring out a valuable functionality which can elevate them back into the big time.
It is worth to note that globally; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest are the top seven platforms used by marketers, and Facebook leads the pack by a long shot. Every other platforms pale in comparison to these top seven. And since 2015 all of them have had contrasting fortunes: Instagram jumped from 36% to 44%. Whilst among the larger social networks, Twitter declined from 79% to 76%, LinkedIn dropped from 71% to 67%, YouTube went from 55% to 53%, Google+ declined from 56% to 49%, and Pinterest dropped from 45% to 40%.
There are three variables a company should monitor from its social media activities:
- Share of Market– are these activities assisting it to gain market share of the target market.
- Share of Mind– if asked to name the first company that comes to mind in its industry, what percentage of customers will name it.
- Share of Heart- if asked to name the company from which they would prefer to buy a product or service, what percentage of customers would prefer them.
In conclusion, Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller have generalized that: Companies that make steady gains in mind share and heart share will inevitably make gains in market share and profitability. There might be several competitors in your sector, nevertheless aim to be above the crowd. It is always difficult to be outstanding within the crowd, be that company that inspires positive emotions for us. In addition, make us feel safe and happy in the knowledge that you really care about us.
Nathaniel Mafemba is an entrepreneur, with a keen interest in building brands.
Contact him on (+263) 779 599967/ firstname.lastname@example.org /Twitter:@Natemafe @wadekarta