How Singapore SMEs can avoid the pitfalls of social media

Bigger isn't always better - more "likes", more followers - as these numbers do not always translate into ROI. The key is to turn customers into devoted fans.

PEOPLE'S attention will always follow the quality of content. As business leaders are bombarded with information on how to increase customer engagement and impact via social media, it can be tempting to post content fast, frequently and without rhyme or reason.

A solid social media strategy is not only worth its weight in likes and followers, but can result in strong brand awareness and engagement - while a weak one can hurt your brand in ways you never thought possible.

Many Singapore SMEs are still somewhat hesitant about investing in social media. The constant battle with budgets, return on investment and measuring results means the potential of social is often overlooked or considered a "nice to have".

But in a country with one of the highest growth rates of online advertising spend in the world, and with social media penetration of 70 per cent on mobile, small and medium businesses can't afford to miss out.

Helping to grab more attention these days is influencer marketing - the process of using other people (influencers) who are genuinely aligned with your brand or product to increase awareness and engagement of your business with their band of loyal followers.

Influencer marketing can be an effective social strategy, but given some recent negative associations, some small businesses are understandably hesitant to go down this path.

So, how can Singapore's SMEs make the most of the latest social media strategies and trends in a way that key stakeholders don't view as being such a risk?

Think big, go small

If you've made the decision to invest in social media, it doesn't mean you are required to splash your brand all over every available platform at once.

Many small businesses also wrongly assume the key to social influence is getting the highest number of followers or "likes". But bigger isn't always better at getting your message out to the right people - in fact, it generally fails to take into consideration the needs of the local consumer.

Don't waste your marketing dollars by spending budgets and time on social platforms that aren't relevant to your service or product. Similarly, don't place spend with influencers who have millions of followers without doing your research first. Just because they have a seemingly large following doesn't mean this will translate into direct engagement and traction for you. Quite the opposite, in fact.

You can't buy true and loyal fans

Authenticity is absolutely key for any social media strategy to work. Today's consumers are quick to spot a hard sell, and they can often pinpoint brands that have simply "purchased" followers and "likes".

Yes, there are plenty of websites where just a small fee can gain you thousands more followers to kick off your social media engagement - but if these followers (or bots!) aren't genuinely interested in your brand and willing to spread the word about it, what is the point? They won't comment on your posts, share your content, or turn into customers.

Quality matters. Authenticity matters. Genuine engagement matters. A returning customer has had a strong experience with your company, and will tell their network about it. They become fans. This is the audience you are looking to gain.

If you use influencers to promote your brand, make sure the people you engage with have built their following in an authentic way. They may not have millions of followers, but the fans they do have trust them, listen to them, and share their content, which bodes extremely well for you in terms of generating leads and direct sales.

Regular, consistent and quality engagement is key

Today's customer has access to more information than ever before, so they are taking more time before making purchasing decisions and deciding which service to use. A study by Forrester Research asked 3,000 online consumers why they left their online shopping cart before completing their purchase, and found three of the top reasons related to wanting to do more research before committing.

While your potential customers are making this decision, they're connecting with other consumers and influencers online to help sway them one way or the other.

This means local SMEs have to be part of these online conversations during the decision-making process. Being present on social media isn't enough - you need to have a clear strategy for where you are going to post and engage, how frequently, and also what you are going to say. Your messaging and how you interact with your potential audience is everything.

Understand how you will measure return on investment

More than half of in-house marketing teams in Singapore admit their ability to measure a return on social media investment is poor.

But it's not social media that is ineffective - it's a lack of understanding around measurement and being too concerned about followers and reach rather than meaningful engagement.

For example, your ROI metrics for Facebook campaigns might be total number of "likes", people talking about your business, or shares, but the true measure of the effectiveness of your social strategy will likely be around the number of converted customers and sales achieved.

At the end of the day, there is almost no point in implementing a social media strategy for your business if you don't have a clear idea of what the objective of social is for you.

Social media is undoubtedly an important communication tool for SMEs in Singapore, but ensuring you avoid these common pitfalls requires research, planning and an investment in offering more authentic and quality content.

  • The writer is co-founder of Visual Amplifiers