By Renay Tandy, Public Relations Director at NGAGE – The Agency for Industry

In South Africa, over 23 million people are active on social media. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ your business should be on social media, but rather ‘How do I manage this presence properly?’ I run an industrial marketing agency that branched into offering social media services just over six years ago. Back then when we suggested putting large industrial companies onto social media they laughed at us (literally).

I remember the first social media sales meeting with an existing public relations client, a heavy engineering group. We presented to a group of 20 board members, all on the other side of 50, who had already made their minds up before meeting with us, and who were of the opinion that the world of social media was meant for their grandchildren, and not the place for an industrial brand.

However, we were prepared. We researched who in government and in high-up places they were trying to meet, and stalked those people on social media. With an egg timer on the desk, we were given half an hour to change their minds.

The conversation started with how they believed that their target market wasn’t on social media. However, our presentation revealed that the Top 5 people in government and industry that they were pursuing were active on at least one social media channel. 

As the egg timer pinged, they agreed to let us prove them wrong. We decided that we would offer our services for free and put them on social media for a three-month trial period. The results blew even the biggest sceptic away. They went on to be a social media client of ours for many years, and are still reaping the benefits of social media today!

After giving the service away for free, and being laughed at in meetings, just a few years later it’s often the first service to come up in new business meetings with industrial brands. The question is how to manage this presence properly, and create engaging conversations that their target market are looking for.

The one problem that we currently find with potential clients, especially smaller businesses, is that they think a social media campaign will bring in new business as soon as it is launched. The campaign should be seen as a brand-building exercise, whereby the goal is to position your brand and value proposition in the minds of potential customers. When the customer needs your product or service, your brand will automatically be top-of-mind, as they have been following your channel and been exposed consistently to your quality content.

For my business, we’ve had a strong presence on social media for more than seven years. For me, the true power of social media is that you have the opportunity to engage with your target market in their quiet time. 

Decision-makers are being sold to and communicated with all day via email, telemarketers and billboards, etc. Their work days are busy and full of noise, so it’s easy for your sales pitch or message to get lost. If that decision-maker has followed your company on one of your social media platforms, they have invited you to communicate with them.

Each social media platform has its own unique characteristics, and understanding these platforms is vital for effective communication to the people who want to hear from you. Depending on the social media platform, and a few other factors, some decision-makers check their social media first thing in the morning and once or twice during the day to stay up-to-date with the latest news. 

Others can be seen browsing social media in the evenings after their kids are asleep, with their feet up on the couch, often with a whisky in hand (while they should be speaking to their spouse!) They are a captive audience who have invited you to communicate with them in this personal space.

But the most important part of the process is getting that message right. A total of 63% of social browsers use social media to research products. If you don’t have a strong presence on social media, you are missing out on this vital portion of the market.

As a Director, from day one I have taken an interest in the content and tone of NGAGE’s social media pages. If you want to launch your company on social media, management needs to be involved in the process in order for it to be a success. 

Here are a few steps that will help you in the process:

Step 1: Map out why you want to put your business on social media, and what you hope to achieve from the process. Who is your target audience? And, finally, decide which platforms you want to start with. We always suggest that clients choose one or two platforms, and do these well before branching out to others.

 

Step 2: After identifying your audience, do some research on the type of content that they engage with on social media. For example, your goal is to attract new talent to your company, and you want to target students: If they are using social media to learn new skills and further their education in their chosen field, use the experts within your company to provide valuable information to this market, in the form of blog articles covering key points, master classes and white papers that can be downloaded, etc. That way you will be seen as an expert in your field, and will be top-of-mind for new talent.

 

Step 3: Create a plan of action. Map out how many posts you will put out every week on each platform, choose your tone, and what you want your brand to look like on each chosen platform. Outline who will be responsible for sourcing content, and put deliverables in place to ensure that the plan is followed. Don’t follow competitors or stick to the norm. You need to stand out, and deliver content that your audience wants to engage with. This strategy will need to be adjusted quickly when topical events come up, so that you stay on trend and ahead of the game. Use videos (as people would much rather watch a two-minute video than read a long article), be clever with the images that you post, change your banners regularly, and think creatively in terms of what you are posting.

 

Step 4: Once the content is posted, you need to boost it so that it reaches your audience. Even if you have a huge following on your page, if you put out a post on Facebook for example and don’t boost it, it will only be shown to 10% of your audience. For my agency, which specialises in industrial brands, the content that we post is not relevant to everyone. Targeting is vital, and we measure our success based on the engagement that we receive from posts. If you have a page with a million followers, and only a handful of comments or engagements, it clearly shows that they are not reaching the correct audience.

 

Then, once your audience is engaging with you, you need to engage back and ensure that your pages have proper community management. Don’t become a company that doesn’t respond, or one that takes forever to get back to people on social media, or you will lose your audience.

With the world under lockdown, social media has become more important than ever before. During the Covid-19 pandemic, users have turned to their favourite platforms for the latest news and statistics on the pandemic, and ideas on how to keep sane at home, including recipes, taking the time to learn a new skill, or furthering their education while they have the time. Now is the perfect time to build your online community and make your brand relevant in the world of social media!

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