5 tips for S'pore SMBs to generate social buzz

Small and midsize firms already on social platforms to market themselves but lack sophisticated, substantive strategies to meet expectations of online users, insiders note.

Singapore's small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have been using social media for marketing purposes, but they are still finding their feet in terms of sophistication and crafting of their online strategies. This, however, is in contrast with the high level of discernment and demands of local online consumers, insiders pointed out.

Natasha Zhao, lead consultant at social media marketing agency Blugrapes, said while most SMBs are already on the online social space, the level of sophistication for their social media marketing activities is still nascent.

So far, the typical social media approach has been predominantly ad-hoc tactical promotions and giveaways instead of having a long-term strategy, she told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail. Companies also lack a thorough understanding of the various social platforms' features and restrictions, she added.

This is typical of smaller companies, which do not usually integrate social media into their overall marketing plans, Zhao acknowledged. More often than not, their social marketing initiatives are perceived as an afterthought or an independent marketing channel.

However, she noted that Singaporean online consumers are generally more sophisticated and harder to please.

Citing a Blugrapes study focusing on Facebook marketing campaigns, the consultant noted that Singapore has a click-through rate (CTR) of 0.03 percent, which is lower than its counterparts from developing economies. This is because consumers in more developed and sophisticated countries are usually more discerning when it comes to advertisements and are more reserved and cautious about the claims companies make on these ads, she explained.

Ryan Lim, business director of Blugrapes, said in the study: "Having lower CTRs and lead conversion rates do not mean consumers are not reading the advertisements or wanting to engage with the brands. However, it does mean that these marketers may need to provide more relevancy and value to consumers in terms of interesting content or compelling offers to encourage users to engage with [their] products or services."

Margaret Marshall, marketing and sales director at Menu, the food and beverage (F&B) company that runs Brewerkz microbrewery, concurred. "Singaporean online users, like the rest of the world's social media users, are young and sharp," she said in an e-mail.

In order to win the hearts, minds and wallets of local consumers, here are five tips ZDNet Asia has compiled for SMBs to conduct their online social marketing campaigns.

1. Invest resources wisely
SMBs typically have limited resources and manpower, so Marshall suggested they should "focus on free" when looking to social media marketing. If capital investments cannot be avoided, companies should hire a social media manager or specialist.

Zhao agreed that establishing a brand presence on social media requires much less financial commitment than traditional media channels, especially since popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are free.

2. Plan out social marketing strategy
There should also be a comprehensive strategy to attract online users, which are more discerning and demanding here. Marshall said SMBs must have a proper social strategy to maintain consistency since "folks won't stay engaged if you aren't".

She recommended businesses include keywords and search engine optimization as part of their overall social strategy, as these components are the "building blocks to all online success and fundamentals of online marketing".

Ben Israel, digital strategist at Edelman Digital, added that SMBs should think about their existing sales and marketing model, and figure out how to "replicate that [model] to work on social media".

He noticed that not many SMBs here have explored the possibility of building partnerships online to co-create content or activities as part of their social strategy, which can expand their reach as well as deepen customer relationships.

For instance, bridal boutiques can partner with florists or photography studios to co-create YouTube videos on wedding planning, or a restaurant can partner with a wine producer to organize wine-tasting events for its Facebook fans, he elaborated.

3. Target relevant audience with right platforms
The social media arena is increasingly a crowded space to be with other SMBs and enterprises all jostling for limited consumer attention, said Israel. As such, companies should focus their attention to reaching out to only relevant audiences. "Don't try to boil the ocean," he surmised.

Zhao, too, cautioned that SMBs can get overenthusiastic in using as many social platforms as possible, regardless of the platform's relevance to their target audience. This, she said, could lead to resources not being well-spent and sub-optimal results.

For consumer-facing SMBs, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are the most useful, while business-to-business (B2B) SMBs can consider professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn, the consultant noted.

Using Blugrapes as an example, Zhao explained that the company uses Facebook and LinkedIn as platforms to build its brand presence because though it is a B2B agency, it provides services for business-to-consumer clients too.

"We skipped Twitter because its users are generally younger and not our target audience," she added.

4. Drive traffic to your social media outposts
Establishing one's social media presence is only half the battle won though, Zhao said, addressing a common misconception among SMBs that think having a presence online is enough.

"The other half is about getting the word out so people know about you," she urged.

The consultant urged companies to make efforts to drive consumer traffic to their social media outposts, saying one way to do so is to leverage marketing assets and databases to inform and invite existing customers to these sites.

Another method is to use online advertising tools such as Facebook Advertising, which provides targeting options, Zhao pointed out. For instance, a small business selling children's apparel can run ads on Facebook targeting married women with children.

5. Foster interactions
Marshall also called on SMBs to have discussions with customers, saying it is critical.

Zhao added it is important to nurture and strengthen the relationship with their online social communities in order to build loyal brand advocates. Currently, SMBs here tend to use social media to communicate messages or promotions only, but this is not what social media is about, she stressed.

Some ways businesses can interact with customers are sharing useful, related content or seeking user feedback via questions or polls, the consultant added.


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