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Cashing in on social media

Published:Sunday | September 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Yaneek Page, Conributor

Are local businesses cashing in on social media? A few, are, but most are barely scratching the surface in unleashing its potential to enrich their businesses.

When I say 'cashing in', I don't just mean earning a few extra dollars or gaining a few new customers. I'm talking about remarkable strategic value, such as forging strong relationships with customers, acquiring market intelligence, forging partnerships and alliances, creating innovative new products, entering lucrative overseas markets, drastic increase in sales, brand building, awareness and visibility, more targeted and efficient marketing spend, and strong returns on marketing investment.

A highly effective social media marketing effort which accomplished practically all of the above was Frito-Lay's 'Do Us a Flavor' campaign. The goal was to engage consumers through social media to get them excited about the brand and create a new flavour of potato chips.

Nearly four million people from 14 countries submitted their ideas for a new chip flavour via Facebook, all hoping to win the US$1 million prize.

Even more, sales increased by 12 per cent and a new crowd-pleasing flavour 'cheesy garlic bread' was created.

The campaign was so successful it was extended by another year to 2014.


I asked experts to weigh in on what businesses were doing wrong and how they can transform their social media marketing.

Deon Douglas, partner at New-York based digital marketing agency the Thinking Giant, whose clients include Absolut Vodka, Sony Records and RCA Records, said companies should stop approaching social media as a silver bullet for sales and revenue and instead see it as a nurturing ground to build customer relationships.

Online Marketing Specialist Desriann Champagnie-Blackwood of Irie Phoenix, who has worked with KFC and Courts Jamaica, believes too many businesses jump on social media before understanding how it works and its mammoth potential.

This was also the sentiment of well-known Internet marketing expert Sandor Panton, whose list of top blunders included random posts that have nothing to do with the brands, treating all social media platforms the same, and overused motivational quotes.


Here's what the experts recommend to cash in on social media:

1. Revamp your social media marketing

Even if you've made the biggest mistakes it's possible to turn things around once you start effectively engaging with your audience, understanding why they are on social media and fitting your brand message in rather than hard selling.

2. Create a strategy

The experts all agreed that the starting point in any great social media marketing effort is to devise a clear strategy. Desriann stressed that users are on social media to relax, engage, and be entertained - they don't want you to hear and sell to them every day; it's a turn off.

3. Hire an expert

Desriann advises that a good social media manager must have expertise and experience in marketing generally, and online marketing specifically, such as media buying.

Social media doesn't replace traditional marketing, it complements it. For businesses that say they can't afford it, I would say it's worth the investment initially to learn from them within weeks what took them years of experience, training, research and trial and error to learn.

4. Get educated

Understanding how social media works and some key statistics gives companies the leading edge. Globally, 74 per cent of online users use social media but only 14 per cent use Twitter, 17 per cent use Instagram, 21 per cent use Pinterest, 22 per cent use Linkedin, and 71 per cent use Facebook.

All audiences are different and so are their buying patterns. Of the 41.8 million people in the Caribbean, 15.444 million are Internet users and over half that amount, 8.556 million, are active social media users.

5. Know the limitations

As Deon noted, social media isn't the end all. In fact not everybody is online or on social media, so don't expect it to reach your entire target market.

While 54 per cent of Jamaicans are online, only 27 per cent of all locals are on social media, the same as the global average but less than the United States and Canada at 56 per cent, and far less than Trinidad at 46 per cent.

The vast majority of the 800,000 Jamaicans who use social media are on Facebook, with over 600,000 users.

6. Treat it as an investment

Social media is not free and your company does not own the platforms. Deon noted that it takes time, trained human resources and money for advertisements to get the best bang for your buck.

Sandor also warns against inconsistency in social media marketing; to be successful it must be treated as a long-term investment with an effective strategy and dedicated resources.

7. Listen and respond

Sandor recommends that companies see social media as their front-line customer service. Businesses must be open to feedback, conversations and complaints. Not having someone there to monitor your brand every day is akin to having a storefront with no staff.

Tweet deck and Google alerts are features he uses to monitor what consumers are saying about his customers so that he can respond in a timely manner and avert damage to their brands.

8. Be creative and unique

Create your own identity that's consistent with your values and your brand. Copying other companies' strategies is not effective in branding, the experts agreed.

One love!

Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer in entrepreneurship and workforce innovation.Email: info@yaneekpage.comTwitter: @yaneekpageWebsite: