Social media keeps customers in touch

THE challenges surrounding the marketing function of a business are often amplified for small firms, as a finite number of staff tries to grapple with a number of organisational challenges on a day-to-day basis.

In 1999, Southern Cross University's Business School developed a new university subject called Electronic Marketing. The formation of this subject was to try to understand this relatively new business platform called the internet. Those were very different times. The 'dot com' bubble had not long burst, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had decided to move their search engine operation from a friend's garage into more appropriate dwellings and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was aged 13.

Few people at the time could have predicted that meteoric rise of social media with today's 900 million active users on Facebook, 200 millions users on Twitter and increasing numbers using Interest.

Given this explosive growth many small to medium size businesses feel a real urgency about using and quickly mastering social media to keep in touch with their customers.

But in the rush to gain a foothold in the virtual world, many businesses don't consider how this leap of digital faith ties in with more traditional means of marketing in their business.

The use of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs needs to be integrated into the overall marketing function.

Small businesses should constantly reflect on how social media platforms can add value to their offering, and how such resources can be appropriately deployed.

It is also vital that a business plans for the deployment of such tools, given they take time and resources to manage.

Just like the more recognisable mediums of print, radio and TV, social media is far from free once you factor in the constant commitment needed to keep the content fresh.

A recent study found that it takes approximately 10 hours per week to manage social media accounts. These hours need to be worked into an employee's weekly work routine. The key lesson for small business is to recognise that the use of social media means factoring in time and effort.

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