5 questions to ask before using social media as a marketing tool for your business

5 questions to ask before using social media as a marketing tool for your business

Often, business owners and brand managers ask me if they should be on social media, and if so, which platforms are best suited to their brand. My response to this question is that they need to know and understand their target market and business objectives before making a budget and brand positioning commitment.

Here are the five most important questions to ask yourself before launching your brand on social media, or pitching the idea to your marketing team or CEO.

1. Who is your target market and are they on social media?

The first step to assessing whether your brand should be on social media or not, is to know who your target market is, what their needs are, how you can meet these needs online, and how your target market is accessing social media platforms.

It has been documented that 20% of South Africans have a smartphone, and more than 50% of South African Facebook users are accessing Facebook on their mobile device. Statistics like these will help you to determine what platforms and devices your target market are using to communicate, as well as the context in which they are communicating. Research, including statistics, LSM’s and social media usage figures, is vital when trying to understand your target market in relation to social media. However, it also comes down to simple concepts of common interest and adding value. Ask yourself: what is the key common interest that bridges the gap between my brand, and my target audience? If you can determine this you are already half way there.

2. Does your brand require the 5th ‘P’ of marketing – ‘People’?

As marketers we often refer to the 4 P’s of marketing, but it is the 5th ‘P’ (People), that will determine whether your brand is suited to social media. If it is people who drive your business then you need to focus on building a community. Essentially, this community will become a brand asset that you will need to continually invest in and converse with. The two-way conversation that takes place within this community that you create is vital to making your customers accessible to your brand, and vice versa. At the same time, this conversation can help you gain insight into your customer’s wants and needs.

Remember, the mere fact that you are on social media sends a very distinct message to your target audience: you are willing to take the time to engage with them on their level. 

3. Is your brand ready to open itself up to social media? 

Ensure that your business partner, marketing team or CEO understands the repercussions of opening up your brand to social media. All parties need to be educated on how it could potentially effect the brand, both positively and negatively. If there are concerns, explore a PR and customer service protocol strategy that deals with negative criticism. It is also essential to use an online monitoring tool such as “Brands Eye” to keep abreast of sentiment and what customers are saying about your brand.

4. Do you have other marketing channels that support social media?

While social media is a unique marketing channel, it requires content creation that relies heavily on your supporting marketing channels - both online and offline. For example, when integrated effectively, regular blog articles, PR inserts in magazines, or TV adverts can enrich your brands social media presence and search opportunities. It is important for brands and businesses to consider what media they can leverage. Equally important is to think about what tools are out there to assist you in creating media rich content.2 New online platforms such as Vine and Instagram Video are perfect examples of how brands can create micro-video content inexpensively from, for example, a smartphone. Finding ways to create unique content using all of your campaign material will result in a winning formula.

5. Do you have the resources to invest in social media?

Three years ago social media was seen as an inexpensive (sometimes free) platform to market a brand or business to a captive audience. However, marketers are quickly realising that it takes much more than simply opening a Facebook page or syndicating sporadic tweets to build and invest in a community that results in sales.

Determine how much money you have to dedicate to social media and how you can use this budget most effectively. A key consideration to ask before you start is: will you outsource this service, or dedicate an individual within your company to manage it? Content creation is vital, as fans and followers need to be more engaged and entertained than ever before! It is therefore important that this job role is taken seriously.

Business owners need to bear in mind that good ideas and innovation take time and energy, which means the production of content can be costly. There are advantages to having a dedicated individual within the business to create content, and it is essential that this content is meaningful and adds value. Time can also be dedicated to exploring new platforms, tools and social media solutions that can result in a better return on your investment in the long run. 


Considering a career in social media? Register for the University of Cape Town Social Media short course, presented part-time and entirely online throughout South Africa. Course starts 18 November 2013. 

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