SINGAPORE--Businesses here can now be trained and certified in marketing techniques that are focused specifically on social media platforms.
Local training service provider NetProfitQuest (NPQ), which specializes in marketing, said it is the first in Asia to offer a Certificate in Social Media Marketing (CSM) course, with certification issued by the International Professional Managers Association in the United Kingdom. Participants must complete three phases outlined in the course, which will start in Malaysia later this month and in Singapore from mid-January, according to executives from NPQ at a media briefing Wednesday.
K. C. See, co-founder of the local company, said there is a paradigm shift in marketing where consumers now want to be able to search and choose the types of information they want, rather than have marketing material thrown at them.
"People are tired of being sold to and advertisements have created backlash in the consumers' mind," See said. "They want to do research and find out about things themselves [and] the easiest way is for them go to a search engine. They also ask advice from friends and look at Web sites [which] rank products."
This, he said, has driven the push toward a more interactive, social media environment.
Citing findings from survey NPQ conducted, which polled 100 business owners based mostly in Singapore and Malaysia, See said there is a shift toward marketing activities that involve user interaction.
According to Willy Lim, NPQ co-founder, e-mail blast was the most popular form of marketing tool, where 69 percent of respondents said they used this platform, while events ranked second at 57 percent. Social media platforms ranked third, with 52 percent of companies polled using such tools as part of their marketing plans.
Lim added that Facebook, blogs and YouTube, were among the most popular social media platforms used by respondents.
See said: "Social media is critical not just to organizations but also anybody. You have to play the new game or you'll be left behind."
"There is a need to go on social media platforms, particularly for SMBs, if they want to surpass bigger players. SMBs have to find a new way to market themselves as they cannot match the PR (public relations) presence of bigger companies [in the] offline [environment]."
Social media marketing is ideal for SMBs because it is a low-cost option that is easy to measure and fast to implement, he said.
See added that it is the opportune time for Asian companies to start using social media sites as a marketing platform as there is still "little competition" in the region, where fewer businesses have adopted this marketing strategy compared to the West.
Lim explained: "Traditional media space in Asia is relatively crowded compared to new media. Most Asian companies are just getting ready for social media marketing, while some are not even at on the starting line. It's much easier now to grab 'real estate' on social media."
However, social media marketing will not replace traditional marketing platforms, Lim said, noting that it takes three to six months to build an online community.
According to See, there was a small percentage of Asian entrepreneurs who see social media as a marketing opportunity but do not really know how to go about implementing such tools.
Some large organizations with marketing heads who are more open to social media, and that have the resources and willing to experience on the new platform, have seen positive results, he said.
However, he noted that some still "go back to the old media ways" of marketing and tools that they are already comfortable with.
The certification course includes modules on structuring search engine optimized content, identifying origins of the company's site traffic and using platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for marketing.