With some 8 million registered customers and over 3.5 million mobile devices that can use the internet via a web browser or mobile applications , consumer behavior in Zambia is definitely changing. Worldwide trends show adoption rates for social media have skyrocketed with some 74% of all people with smart devices used social media, and usage rates being slightly higher among younger people. With a predominantly youthful population the dynamics of doing business has far reaching implications. Consider these 4 pointers, Social Networks, Business Blogs, Advertising and Research to get you thinking of which way your business should engage the evolving customer
1- Social Networks. Worldwide, 16% of all time spent online is spent on Facebook. In Zambia this figure is more than double. One would have expected to see Facebook popularity come down as other social networking sites become more popular. We know Facebook is huge, and so do most companies. 71% of businesses, of all sizes, have a Facebook page while Twitter has yet to catch on with only 59% of businesses using it. Instagram and Google Plus remain in the shadows. Having said that, Google still remains the number one search engine with YouTube (owned by Google) the 2nd most used search engine and Apple’s iPhone the number one device of choice. The use of “free” messaging services such as WhatsApp, Chat On, iMessenger will also come to the foray and demand a lot more of the time spent online. It is a phenomenon with far reaching implications that most organizations are failing to capitalize on. If you are a traditional media house (newspaper, radio, bill board, TV etc) retailer, wholesaler, financial institution, mobile operator, the list goes on, the writing is on the wall. Innovate or evaporate. This generation is going electronic and are very social about it. Business can no longer afford to remain outside the social media arena and watch from the terraces. Being a spectator is not an option in today’s world.
2- Business blogs. Have great potential and are great way to get in depth information and analysis out to your customers and social networks, and, unlike Facebook and Twitter, you can be the sole owner of the information you create. This under utilized media is only used by half the businesses who engage in the social media arena. Consider video blogging to communicate with an audience that might not want to read or is just punch drunk on advertisements, banners and unsolicited SMS. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and a video worth a thousand pictures. Moreover, Twitter tends to have more shares than Facebook, but have roughly the same life span. Things are shared within the first couple of hours of being posted and then sharing activity declines rapidly. Blogs have a steadier rate of decline. Further, you need to be aware of some of these patterns to understand what kind of content is right for each social medium, and when to post content. Too often we have seen content developed for one social medium “stretched” to a one size fits all. Then of course stating the obvious, if you post a breaking news story at the wrong time of day it will be lost in the clutter by prime time. Social media can be “controlled” for the less adventurous and blogging is a great way to start.
3- Advertising. A banner or random trailer is simply not good enough. This is tantamount to winking at a girl in the dark and hoping you caught her attention.
Understanding your potential customer and creating content that is relevant to them can be much more powerful than broadcasting to the public as a whole. Be scientific and focus your content and your message to best target your customer. Social media is a “softer” form of advertising, the costs are significantly lower. More importantly, are you investing enough in terms of money and time to make this an erstwhile venture? But at the same time, the very nature of social media promotes sharing of interesting and relevant content to reach beyond your existing customers through relevant “viral” content. “Word of mouth” is much more credible than any traditional medium, use it! This is a double edged sword and if you get the content wrong or slip up it is going to spread twice as fast. After all, when a dog bites a man, nothing is said but when a man bites a dog it makes headlines very quickly!
4- Research. The Harris Interactive Query Omnibus Survey of January 2014 provides some interesting insights into how customers respond to a brand. 34% of the customers say that they have discontinued their relationship with the brand after receiving poor disruptive or irrelevant marketing messages. Step back for a moment and think about all the irrelevant spam you get on your mobile SMS or email. Poor focus of content and target will cost you a third of your customers. Further 53% stopped using the brand because they continued to receive these messages through multiple channels. This is when one size fits all regardless. Interestingly 42% said they never signed up to receive these messages from the brand. It pays to ask whether or not your customers wish to receive promotional offers from you. I’m sure mobile operators could learn a thing or two from Social Media interaction. “KYC” Know your customer! 33% said the messages were too generic and the content meant for the masses and not for them. Other than stating the obvious in todays world, mass marketing technics are rapidly becoming obsolete.
Having said all this, the changing goal posts and amoebic shape of the social media playing field introduces new rules as to how the game of business is played. But the time old principle of putting the ball in the back of the net remains the only criteria as to whether you won or lost the game!
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