Something that can be counted on is that social media is not going anywhere and it is a reliable place to reach customers. A constant gardener approach should be adopted with social media, remaining attentive to what people are sharing about your brand and being cognisant of whether your communications line up with your brand identity.

The social media landscape is forever morphing as new apps are introduced, some are made obsolete, old apps are used in new ways, new features are included and certain formats grow in popularity. There is no end point to a grasp on the subject and it is important to be aware of the ebbing and flowing trends in the social media arena.

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With 500 million tweets, 4,5 billion Facebook likes and 95 million photos and videos uploaded on Instagram DAILY and not to mention the wealth of information possible in these vast engagements, social media for business is no longer optional and to give you a quick synopsis of the current lay of the land these are some ways in which social media can give your brand a competitive edge in 2017.

 

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• Messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line, Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger are now bigger than social networks. Over-the-top (OTT)* messaging and SMS messaging are millennials’ preferred form of communication and Forbes findings show that 62% of millennials are more loyal to brands that engage with them via these channels. Users login to chat with friends and also to engage with brands – watch content, browse and connect. On Facebook it is now possible to click on an advertisement and go through to a chat window and have instant interaction with a particular brand. Some of the reasons why message apps are so popular that there will be an estimated 2 billion users by 2018 are that: a cellular connection is not requisite; colours, themes and stickers make these apps highly personalized and fun; anonymity is possible through a user name; extra features like knowing your message has been read with the trusty but sometimes troublesome double blue tick all make these apps more suited to the connected and in-the-moment millennial.
*A definition of OTT messaging according to technopedia “An over-the-top (OTT) application is any app or service that provides a product over the Internet and bypasses traditional distribution. Services that come over the top are most typically related to media and communication and are generally, if not always, lower in cost than the traditional method of delivery.”

• Real time content in the form of live video has been made popular by Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live. Perhaps it is a longing for authenticity on a format that can lend itself to inaccurate one-dimensional portrayals that is the reason, according to Forbes, why social videos have greater engagement that any other content format.
• Chatbots are being utilized to handle online customer engagement fulfilling the need for instant and around the clock availability.
• With the growing volume of information in feeds it is necessary to cut through the clutter to ensure your posts noticed are noticed, these paid for boosts are affordable and also provide excellent feedback.
• Staff training for social media is a must as it will help your staff understand the appropriate etiquette, know how to harness opportunities and certainly reduce the risk of a social media faux pas.
• Social listening is incredibly handy and by being the fly on the wall, can really give you the inside track to what your customer’s think about your brand, what motivates their decisions, what specific challenges they face, where they shop and so on. These insights have the potential for improvements in product development and communications and certainly provide one with an invitation to turn any negative experience into a public relations turnaround.
Social media, unlike other formats, is something that people invite into their lives, they welcome it and seek it out – there is an affiliation that exists and if used well by businesses, it holds the possibility of developing trust and loyalty with customers, building a following advocates and creating credibility for your organisation. The barriers to entry are low and your business can use social media in real time and with very low outlay to engage directly with customers and build brands. There is no down side – with the right amount of attentiveness, genuine response and strategic messaging you should start to see rewards for your efforts as you bring your brand to life on social media platforms.

REFERENCES
https://www.techopedia.com/definition/29145/over-the-top-application-ott
https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-for-business/ www.socialmediaexaminer.com
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2016/11/10/7-social-media-marketing-trends-that-will-dominate-2017/#124bb5c2d764

 

Written by Tracey Kelsey, Tracey has worked in the field of marketing and communications. She has completed an Honours Degree in Marketing Communications at the University of Johannesburg in 2002. Tracey worked in the NGO sector for World Hope International where she compiled course material for an HIV awareness program and at Childline Gauteng where she was involved in fund raising and building a community of support for the children of Childline. She has worked as a freelance photographer for the past seven years, her focus being lifestyle family portraiture.
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