THE economic environment in Zimbabwe is very tough, more so for the ballooning informal industries. Under such difficulties it’s becoming harder for companies to keep up with traditional ways of advertising that are somewhat expensive like TV adverts or even doing simple things like flyers and business cards.
Social media, however, has come as a solution at a time when new strategies and plans have to be made by businesses in order to survive, expand and reach more people at a lesser cost.
The growth of internet services and its usage through mobile phones has changed the way people use online services for business not only in Zimbabwe but Africa at large.
Zimbabwe is witnessing extensive use of cell phones and internet with a more recent and massive interest in social media — which consists of internet-based tools and platforms that allow people to interact with each other more than in the past.
This is one of the biggest global business and social trends – a major shift to digital or internet marketing with social media being the main driving force.
Examples of social media platforms are the popular Facebook with a database of over 1,4 billion registered users, YouTube- a video based social platform, Twitter- a short text based blog/messaging platform, LinkedIn- a business social site, Instagram- mainly used for pictures, Google+ and many others.
l Why social media?
Social media platforms like Facebook allows one to set up business pages or personal profiles in which Facebook users can visit them and learn more about their products and services.
The main advantage of using such platforms is that they provide opportunity for businesses to interact and build relationships with their audiences.
Through these platforms advertisements can be created, which have a huge potential audience reach that any marketer would like to tap into.
Any good marketer knows that not every product is for everyone and those strategies like market targeting and segmentation must be implemented to get the best return on investment for every marketing effort employed.
These platforms provide ready target audiences for anyone willing and able to answer the few questions that are asked when creating an advert.
A platform like Facebook allows you to target people in two specific ways mainly by psychographic and demographic.
Psychographic targeting refers to your likes and interests, which are captured by the random questions social platforms ask you when creating or updating your profile.
Demographic targeting refers to targeting information you submitted, for example, where you currently stay, where you were born, which school you learnt and so forth.
All this information is processed and placed into databanks so that advertisers can easily identify you through this information and directly target their marketing messages to the people most likely to engage with them.
Social media marketing adverts tend to be cheaper on the budget of course with great results.
For example, with about $5 in Zimbabwe, one can get about 40 A6 flyers ready for distribution, to a potential market, which means 40 flyers given to forty people who will then decide what to do with each flyer.
With a platform like Facebook one can use the same amount to potentially reach an audience of between 800 to about 4,000 people depending on the specifications of your targeting.
Furthermore, if an advert resonates with the person who sees it and likes it, they can begin to share it with other people who may be interested in it, creating what we call viral marketing.
Viral marketing is when a particular piece of online content is shared multiple times by various people because they like it and see value in spreading and sharing it with another person they may know.
Traditional forms of advertising should not be ignored and should be used hand in hand with social media marketing.
I, however, believe that these more traditional forms of advertising suffer from two major limitations the first being one-way communication and the other being no real time feedback.
Real time feedback means that an advertiser is there ready to answer questions when the marketing message is passed.
Social media allows you to answer and dialogue with potential customers as they make inquiries and visit your page.
‘Mari Smith’, a leading social media marketer and author explains in a book that all marketers should read what is called the new relationship marketing, that the power of social media is in that people are no longer willing to buy products or services because of their availability but because their friends or acquaintances buy them and they have a relationship with the company selling them. Social media allows you to build these relationships that can boost people’s perceptions and confidence in your brand.
The other great advantage of social media is easy access provided to international markets.
Whereas a local business can only be known to the people in its surrounding areas that it markets itself to, through social media, connections and business opportunities may be created to sell products and services to people in other countries who use the same platforms that they use.
A business can view what similar businesses in other countries do to succeed. With every New Year there are new trending strategies and products that a local business can easily learn about just by monitoring and interacting with these other businesses from international markets.
Closer to home one can do a competitor analyses to see what their competition is doing and therefore come up with a plan from that analysis to win a greater market share.
The uses of social media are inexhaustible and can be expanded further on. This was not intended to be an exhaustive list.
- Marshall Malaba is a digital marketer / social media marketing consultant and author with Zim Market Guru. He can be contacted on [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> or 0773 381 366