AS usual, the big end of town has been the first to embrace one of the newest advertising strategies – social media advertising.
But while the radical new world of social media is drawing interest from the likes of Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble, SMEs are still trying to figure out exactly what the benefits are to being seen in the social media world.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is that social media is one of the cheapest and most targeted forms of advertising around.
"Social media advertising is pretty interesting at the moment as brands try and find their feet in this space," Peter Noble, CEO of Melbourne digital agency Citrus says.
"Facebook is growing in significance to everyone. You've got to be in this space to have any chance of remaining relevant to consumers."
It's a sentiment shared by Tiphereth Gloria, social media strategist at legendary advertising agency George Patterson Y&R Sydney. She says social media is practically a requirement for businesses these days. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs and online forums give even the smallest of businesses the opportunity to create a virtual personality and reputation seen by potentially millions of people online.
"There has been a realisation from businesses that their consumers are in this space, and that they really need to be playing more in these areas if they're going to have any chance of remaining relevant," Gloria says.
Kim McKay, director of Sydney specialist online PR firm Klick said small businesses are finally starting to understand digital.
"Facebook has changed a lot in the past 12 months. It's a lot noisier because there are more businesses on there fighting to be heard, so it's harder to cut-through, but with a smart strategy, it can be done."
And yet despite the opportunities social media offer, just 28% of small and medium businesses are actively using social media, investing on average 6.6 hours a week in this unique style of marketing.
The Optus Business Social Media Index revealed that more than 50% of businesses aren't taking advantage of social media as a marketing tool to promote their business. The research, released in September in association with the Council of Small Business of Australia, found that 47% of the 380 businesses surveyed sell products or services through social media sites, with Facebook emerging as the tool of choice for 58% of sellers, followed by YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.
However, 56% of businesses don't use social media at all, nor have any plans to start any time soon. More than 50% of businesses surveyed felt that social media was not appropriate for their industry; while 25% don't believe there is a clear reason to invest in this area.
This is despite the fact that nearly two-thirds have an annual marketing budget of less than $10,000, and with social media marketing being one of the cheapest forms of marketing on offer.
Phil Offer, marketing director for Optus Small and Medium Businesses said social media presents a powerful opportunity for businesses to connect with prospects and customers. Yet the survey results indicate that the majority of businesses are yet to be convinced it is worth the time and investment.
"Social media is still perceived as the 'digital wild west' so many businesses are still learning and experimenting to determine how social media can help them achieve measurable business benefits," Offer says.
Advertising on social media
One way to advertise on social media sites is to place a banner ad, which work much like advertising anywhere else on the internet. On Facebook, these ads appear on the right hand side of the page on a person's wall.
Facebook enables you to target your ad to reach an audience defined by location, gender, likes and interests and even education and work. You can set up your own ad on the Facebook website with a few clicks of the mouse, with the site guiding you through the process step-by-step. People only pay when they choose to view your ad and you can adjust your daily budget at any time.
Kim McKay explains that Facebook gives users 100 characters to write an ad. You can also add a picture.
"With Facebook, you know where people live, if they are engaged, married, have kids and what their specific interests are, because it's all listed on their profile. This means when you target your advertising, you know you won't waste one single eyeball. Nothing has ever been more effective to my experience," McKay says.
Natalie Giddings, founder of Melbourne's Pollen Marketing recommends social media advertising to her clients.
Facebook allows a business to set a daily budget. Depending on the market you're chasing, it can cost a business just .37c each time someone clicks on your ad, she says.
"That means that you can run a campaign with a daily budget as low as $100 and be reaching more people than you could with any other medium for that kind of money," Giddings says.
"This sort of advertising is still pretty experimental but apart from mailing lists, no other advertising medium can be as targeted," Giddings says.
Social influence marketing
While placing an ad is one thing, the holy grail of social media is what's been dubbed 'social influence marketing', which refers to brands getting involved in the conversations in the social media space.
Gloria says businesses realise that their consumers are in this space. "Businesses are starting to understand that they need to be playing more in these social spaces. With Facebook, you only have to build your fans once. Then all it costs you is the time to update your status to be communicating with your consumers or fans," Gloria says.
Ben Hourahine, strategy director at digital agency Amnesia Razorfish, says businesses that wish their fans a good weekend by updating their Facebook status can earn more kudos than a traditional product message. Social media works for all businesses, no matter what industry it operates in, he says. "We view social media as earned media space rather than paid media space."
"You have to work at it to get there, and you have to be upfront and honest to stay there. Brands need to not think about it as advertising, but as a way to connect with their consumers in a one-on-one relationship," he says.
Reinventing the wheel
Arnott's used social media influencing to build sales of its Wagon Wheel brand. The company was looking for a way to make the ageing icon famous again, so, with the help of ad agency George Patterson Y&R, set up a Facebook page for the historic brand, which worked to reinvigorate fans and kick started online conversations. It also created a viral campaign, which was put on Facebook, YouTube and its own website.
The additional interest in the brand helped the company secure pride of place in petrol and convenience stores, protecting a valuable sales channel for Arnott's outside grocery. The product sold out for the first time in many years and baseline sales continue to grow.
Other social media options
Businesses should also look within their own industry for social media options to help them build their online profile. Relevant blogs, websites and online forums are worth considering. Twitter is also in the throes of introducing several advertising plans. It's worth learning more about the site given that it has experienced startling growth, exploding to 160 million users globally in the last two years. Some larger brands have also been experimenting with Twitter, paying celebrities to 'tweet' messages about their products to followers.
Noble from digital agency Citrus says businesses need to take this space seriously.
"I actively encourage clients to advertise in the social media space. If you're not taking it seriously, you're missing out because this is the way of the future."
Tips to create effective Facebook ads:
- Be direct – Speak to your customers using direct and concise language. Don't use marketing jargon and be authentic.
- Keep your ads fresh – Revise your ad ever few days and swap images for new ones.
- Use promotion codes – Offer exclusive discounts or offers to Facebook users through promotion codes that can be redeemed upon checkout on your site or in-store.
- Include a call to action – Use a clear call to action to give users a reason to click on your ad.
- Choose images wisely – Use a colourful image that stands out against Facebook's blue and white pages and tailor the image to the demographic you are targeting.
- Use dynamic keywords – Include words in your ad copy that you also have included in your keyword targeting.
- Think outside the box – Put yourself in your audience's shoes and find different ways to reach them. Don't always go for obvious keywords.
- Invest in success – Focus on your top performing ads by pausing weaker ads. Gather insights from advertising performance reports, demographic profile reports and conversion data to maximise ad performance.
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