Love it or hate it, but social media has had an impact on not only the way we engage with one another but also the way we do business. Many South African companies have started using social media to supplement the more traditional ways of marketing their company.
More importantly, they are starting to use those platforms to build a better connection and relationship with their customers. Just as social media provides friends and family with a virtual real-time way to keep in touch with one another, so too does it provide companies with an effective way to keep their fingers on the digital pulse of what their customers love (or hate) about them.
Many decision-makers are no longer seeing social activation through online platforms as a gimmick but as something they must do. The challenge is to ensure that there is a uniform message across platforms whether it be in print media, broadcast, or on the social network they are using.
As mentioned, social activation is all about building a relationship with customers. The traditional one-way communication is a thing of the past. Today, customers expect to be communicated with on platforms they prefer. However, many companies are still on the learning curve of what is essentially a very consumer-centric way of doing business. Decision-makers are still looking at how to effectively mine the unstructured data they get access to and finding out how best to get the most value out of social activation.
One of the biggest lessons to learn is that social activation is not about volume but rather the quality of the engagement. One needs to take into account the influencers a company is communicating with and assessing the potential impact of that discourse.
As such, sentiment analysis has changed significantly over the past 18 months. It has evolved beyond just reacting to negative comments. It is now about trying to get more out of neutral sentiment. This provides decision-makers with the ability to see what people are saying about the products and services in such a way that they can derive value out of it.
The nature of social also means that to do it well, it becomes research-intensive and this is what catches many companies off guard. While almost all marketing and public relations agencies are offering a service to do social activation on the behalf of a company, the reality is that they need someone who understands the company values and ethos.
The mobile generation have also changed how social is managed. People engage with brands irrespective of where they are and expect real-time feedback. Part of this mobile engagement is to also ensure that a company Web site is mobile-friendly. It is indicative of how quickly things have changed when a large number of corporate sites are still not easily accessible on a smartphone or tablet.
This year, it is essential for companies to get the basics right when it comes to social activation. New strategies are required that are organic and can evolve as the technology changes. South African companies have the ability to become market leaders by learning from what others have done and mixing a truly African flair into it. But they have to be able to adapt quickly in order to get any value out of it.