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Social media gives firms an edge

10 February 2012, 08:10

Cape Town - Social networks gives companies advocates for the brand as long as firms engage positively with the public, experts have said.

"Something like social media gives you that direct contact to people who want to associate themselves with your brand. Something like a 'like' on Facebook or a follower on Twitter, in theory, that's an advocate for your brand," Stuart Anderson social media executive at FTI Consulting told News24.

Social media use is accelerating among South African businesses as companies look for growth in difficult market conditions.

A survey of 80 countries revealed that 55% of companies in SA are using platforms like Twitter to engage with customers.

"Online conversations are happening in every part of the world and our ability to capture them is critical to harness the potential of consumer awareness and brand power for a business," said Dr Corine van Erkom Schurink, analytics team lead at PBT, who evaluated the Regus survey.

Conversations

Businesses should be aware of the conversations happening in the social networks, and be prepared to join those discussions, regardless of the tone, Anderson said.

"They should definitely be listening and monitoring and aware of what's going on in these venues. These conversations are happening and don't bury your head in the sand and pretend that it's not because they are.

"The key of branding and marketing is to reach an audience with a message so therefore you need to be in the venues that your audience are occupying."

Some commentators have said that social media will replace traditional media channels in the way companies engage with their customers.

In developed markets, advertising has been falling in print publications while Facebook's recent IPO has seen the company valued at $100bn.

"Before the model was kind an interruption model whereby you do advertising, whereas now, it's really more permission-based.

"Basically now, it's inbound communications and that's where the currency is today," said Brian Wendel from FTI.

Information

Having conversations about a brand was more important than just lots of followers, he added.

Businesses should make better use of the information that they receive social media marketing, an analyst said.

"Many organisations do not know what to do with the information that can be obtained through social media. Through Sentiment Analysis, businesses can gain a clear understanding of the customer - as we are all well aware, customer is king - and where their prospects lie, which will enable organisations both big and small to compete more effectively and efficiently in their space," said Jessie Rudd, data analyst at PBT Group.

Key for companies is to align social media marketing with any kind of marketing that they engage in, said Anderson.

"People are getting caught up on this 'social' word. How do you deal with any kind of marketing? You formulate a strategy, you see where your audiences are, you create some messages that resonate with them and you engage with them."
 

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