During the pandemic, most New Zealanders had to work from home. It saw a digital explosion of customers buying online - and a rush to talk on social media.

Nearly 90 per cent of Kiwis are social media users, according to Statista.

YouTube and Facebook dominate the market and popular amongst all age groups. Instagram and TikTok are gaining in popularity, especially with younger Kiwis.

There are limited statistics on how many New Zealand businesses use social media, but US figures suggest it's gaining in popularity.

More than 70 per cent of US small businesses use social media.

More than 60 per cent of US customers expect businesses to provide customer service through their social media – 90 percent of social media users are connected to a brand.

It’s one of the most effective low-cost ways to market yourself. However, anecdotal evidence suggests some New Zealand business have difficulty harnessing it.

Tips for using social media

More than 70 per cent of consumers who’ve had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others, according to research. But how do you make it work for your business?

What’s your objective in using social media for your business? It can be to build your brand, form better relations with your existing customers or help attract new ones.

What platform should you use? It depends on how you want your content to look and what demographic you’re aiming for. Facebook does lots of the things other networks do, but in a single place. It’s easy to link your Facebook entries to your website and direct them to view and purchase your products and services. You can post pictures and videos, have conversations, provide updates and share special offers.

More than 70 per cent of consumers who’ve had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others

Facebook enables you to encourage your customers to have digital conversations with you. This could spread to their ‘friends’ on Facebook, helping grow your customer base. Customers can post reviews of your business, although this can be a two-edged sword (see box 'Can social media harm your business?’).

To attract customers to your social media send them an email or announce on your website you’re now in the social media world. Posting announcements about good deals and services on your platform will help kick start it.

Keep your social media active.  It’s important to keep conversation going and your followers engaged. However, over-using social media can be seen as invasive, with too many updates or superfluous information posted. Refresh your social media at least three times a week.

Don’t bombard them with digital PR. Pique their interest. Post interesting items from other social media contributors or post news items that may impact on them.

 Post questions and solicit feedback. People love to share their opinion or participate in contests or polls.

Keep your postings short. People want a quick read. Visual works better. Consumers prefer short video content (from 15 seconds to two-and-a-half minutes long).

Consumers are increasingly using social media for services issues. It allows you to have a direct conversation with them. But it’s essential you have a process to respond quickly. They get irritable with slow responses.

Paid advertising on social media is growing. It’s economical and allows you to leverage different social media platforms’ algorithms and internal data.

Social media can be a way to analyse what your customers think about your business. Invest in social listening tools which, not only analyses you, but also your competitors. It will help you make informed decisions about your brand and marketing it.

 

Social media is also about building a customer community. One idea could be to cCreate a Facebook Group where the community members can have conversations about topics raised in your postings. It’s a powerful marketing tool and makes your brand ‘sticky’ with customers and followers.

Businesses not harnessing social media may be missing out. In our new digital world, your customers see social media as just another way to talk to you - you must be there to have that conversation.

Can social media harm your business?

While using social media for your business is now essential, negative social media can destroy trust in your brand in minutes.

Besides hacking, the biggest issue is customers’ online complaints. It’s vital you handle negative feedback quickly to prevent it turning into a crisis.

Don’t try to edit out negative criticism – viewers are naturally suspicious of a business that just has positive feedback.

You must be prepared to respond to a complaint or criticism on your social media platform before it gains momentum. Show genuine empathy and be quick to apologise. Advise how your business has overcome this issue.

It’s important you are prepared to handle social media issues. But respond with careful deliberation - not knee-jerk reactions.

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