Investing in social media takes time to get right

Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013

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Q: Should my business have a presence on social media?

A: This is a question many companies are asking, and the default answer to "just be there" is a bad one.

Social media is like any communication channel. To make it work you have to invest in it, and the nature of social media means it is a constant investment. You have to have time and mental resources to contribute to the channel.

A frank assessment of where your clients and potential clients are looking for services and products like yours is important. If your customers are farmers, you might want to ask whether Twitter is a forum you want to be on. The rural markets will no doubt be on social media somewhere, but define where and target those channels consciously.

You'll need to weigh up whether the investment is worthwhile too. Are you looking to gain sales through social media? Or simply build profile? Is it a channel to communicate to your membership only? These goals will define whether social media (and what channels) are appropriate for your business.

If you do this assessment and decide you're going to do it, ask the next question. What do you have to say? The social media space is so crowded that you have to appraise whether you have compelling content to populate social media broadcasts with.

Having something your audience thinks is worth hearing (ie, instructive, informative, controversial or humorous are some characteristics that underpin online cut-through) is critical or your investment is effectively social media white noise.

Social media consultancies abound, and many charge chronic fees for advice you can Google for free. But getting someone who knows their stuff to critique your social media footprint is invaluable. Ask around, look at what your competitors are doing, and build a picture of what you think you need and then ask someone to check it out.

The true test, though, is whether it works. Under all circumstances, test and measure what you do, and match it against what your business needs. Social media takes time, and that's the one resource we can't buy more of.

Nick Churchouse is the venture manger at Creative HQ, Wellington's start-up hub and entrepreneurship centre. CreativeHQ.co.nz

A: Social media is not for every business. Social media is about customer engagement not company broadcast.

Check whether your current customers frequent social media forums and use them for discussion about your type of product or service.

As a business owner you should acquaint yourself with social media tools and listen to start with. Only commit to creating Facebook and the like if it's relevant to your target market.

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Mark Robotham is an SME business adviser. Website: growthmanagement.co.nz

If you want to ask a question of either of our experts, email rebecca.stevenson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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