If you’ve heard of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube but aren’t exactly sure what they are about or what benefit they could be to your business, you should probably talk to Wendy Thompson. She runs Socialites (www.socialites.co.nz), a Kiwi business that specialises in getting NZ businesses sorted when it comes to social media. In the past, a website may have been the only online presence your company needed but now, Wendy argues, you’re missing out on a whole range of potential customers (not to mention marketing and PR opportunities) if you’re not involved in at least one channel of social media…
What’s the most notable change you’ve seen in the social media landscape in the past few years?
The industry has matured a lot in the last few years. There are now very sophisticated measurement and tracking functionalities which makes it a feasible option for businesses who were once dubious about the results you get from social media. From a practical point of view, it’s very easy now for marketers to split-test, which is a great retention tool. Also, you can now find groups of ‘look-alike’ consumers making the illusive ‘target audience’ a whole lot more real. The other great thing is that bigger companies are really embracing it, employing whole teams to manage their communities. Now you see job titles like ‘community manager’ and ‘social media marketer’ popping up in the jobs vacant sections. This one-to-many communication channel really is the way of the future (and I’m not just saying that because it’s my business to!)
Not every company is convinced they need to have a social media account, worrying the cost of having someone regularly updating their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc account would outweigh any revenue from it. How do businesses make money from social media?
It’s the same argument for any spend on marketing or advertising. As with all media, you need to measure your ROI – and luckily social media is the easiest and simplest to measure as you can see right through to conversion! Tricky to do with a billboard… In saying that, some businesses are better suited to social media than others – those that could benefit from building a community such as grocery, alcohol, retailers, beauty services and event companies do especially well. I’ve helped companies such as Redwood Cider company grow their sales ten-fold through the use of social media. The proof it works really is in the numbers.
For these social-media-wary companies, what should their first step be?
Hire me, te he! Seriously though, get advice from an expert. It’s not something you should give to your intern or receptionist just because they are ‘young’. Check the expert’s credentials before you hire them: a solid background in marketing/advertising is usually a good sign, and ask for case studies and testimonials.
If you could only do one type of social media (Facebook, Twitter etc), due to time and resources, which would you suggest?
For a B2C (business to company) business in NZ, it has to be Facebook. As a nation we are in love with it and that’s where most Kiwis aged over twenty spend the bulk of their social media time. To me, having a business Facebook account is as important as having a website. For a B2B (business to business) get into LinkedIn.
Is there a new form of social media on the horizon that we should be aware of?
Keep an eye on GooglePlus. It hasn’t got the numbers for good ROI as yet (unless you’re in technology or photography) but it’s actually an incredible platform to use. And as we all know, Google is pretty ambitious and likes to test things in NZ… so you never know!
You recently got to visit the HQs of Google and Facebook in America – what were your impressions?
I do a lot of work with Facebook NZ and Google NZ on behalf of my clients and they were kind enough to arrange visits for me. Google and Facebook are just down the road from each other but have quite different vibes. Google turns 15 this week and has around 50,000 employees around the globe. It’s a very modern looking, VERY well-resourced company. What struck me about Google is that they have a great balance between technology and ‘humanness’. For example, as a Google employee you have to spend 20 percent of your time on a project that’s not to do with your job. A very cool idea – it keeps people creative and from this some amazing inventions have come forth, including the self-driving car and Project Loon (www.google.com/loon). And yes, there is indeed free food, edible gardens, gyms, slides, treadmill work-stations etc. Very cool. I loved the Google bikes you can use to get around the campus. Facebook is much smaller at just 5,000 employees – looking after over a billion users! Facebook’s campus design embraces the start-up feel. There are signs everywhere about innovation and leading the way, such as “Move fast and break stuff”. Also there are piles of free food and candy everywhere!
What did you take away from your visit?
The biggest reinforcement for me was that we are so lucky living in NZ in that we have a perfect test market of a Western economy without too many regulations to get in the way. I can really see why big technology companies test things on us! However, it is incredibly easy to open ourselves up to world markets, something I think NZ companies need to do more. It is so achievable for us – we have Kiwis in high-powered positions all around the world just ready to help.
What’s the biggest mistake you see companies making with their social media?
The biggest mistake I see is ignoring it. Sorry, but social media is here to stay! Get on the bus or you WILL lose out to your competitors.
What’s your best bit of advice you could share?
If you’re new to social media make it a daily habit, like brushing your teeth – spend a little bit of time on social media each day and you’ll pick it up in no time. It’s moving so fast that it’s never too late to start, but it is only going to get more expensive so get in now.
Zac here: Wendy (and her sis Rosie and bro Rick) have just launched another software company called Start Social (another one of my clients, fun fun fun!). Start Social (www.startsocial.co) rocks in terms of companies being able to manage their social media accounts a lot more effectively and professionally… Go Wendy & co with Start Social, entrepreneurs to the max!