August 29, 2011

Social Networking and Business 101

By Chester Ng, Sales Director (Southeast Asia) 
 
If you are a small business owner, you don't need to spend a lot of time or money to have a presence on the mobile internet. Free social networking tools are making it easy to create 'mobilised' content to attract and interact with consumers. You can also publish updates on your own, without having to depend on an agency or web developer.

Best of all, you'll reach a large market segment that depends on mobile handsets to access the internet.

In today's blog post, I'd like to share some examples with you of how major brands are using social networks. But whether you own a hair salon or a restaurant, work at a local retailer or manufacturer, you can apply these ideas to your own business in ways that will benefit your company's bottom line.

FACEBOOK
Some 300 – 400 million people access Facebook on a daily basis. Several hundred million additional users go to Facebook, but not as often. Facebook is the leading social network in most markets. You don't have to be a genius to create a new account or page. And it's mobile friendly. If you access www.facebook.com from a mobile device, the site will detect your handset and redirect you to the appropriate version of its mobile site, m.facebook.com, based on whether you have a touch screen or not.

Brands as diverse as Absolut Vodka, Acura, DBS Bank, Ernst & Young and Tata Docomo have a presence on Facebook.


Today, though, I'd like to focus on the example of AXE, a popular men’s perfume from Unilever, which wanted to launch a new product line in Indonesia.

Prior to this campaign, AXE did not have a mobile presence. But the company realised that mobile had to be a key part of their advertising strategy. More than 40 percent of mobile users in Indonesia say they rarely, if ever, use a computer to access the internet. And the BuzzCity Advertising Network reaches over 23 million people in Indonesia. Seventy percent are men, which is AXE's target market.

So AXE created a Facebook page and banner ads to promote it. The page offers info on AXE's latest events and promotions. The KPI for the campaign was to drive as many people as possible to “LIKE” the Facebook mobile fan page. To attract users, AXE offered a lucky draw for a free iPod Touch.

In just five days, AXE's banner ads attracted 1.7 million impressions. The Facebook page has over 700,000 fans.


YOUTUBE
YouTube's technology compresses videos into formats suitable for phones. It's as easy as uploading your video. Placing a TV ad online will give it a longer shelf life and reach a wider audience. You can also consider creating content especially for the web. Take a look, for example at Harley Davidson's YouTube channel. It's produced a series of short videos about its bikes and the people who ride them.



You don't need to produce professional videos, either. With flipcams and consumer video cameras, you can easily create and share videos of your merchandise, testimonials and more.

Even if you don't take action, someone else might . . . particularly if your ad is amusing. A Thai consumer, for example, uploaded this video about Bridgestone tires. (The previous link was for mobile; here's a PC version.)

TWITTER + FACEBOOK + BLOGGING + YOUTUBE
As you can see from this photo, the Hock Gift Shop (HGS) is not a very large store. But this 'one stop army shop' is quite popular in Singapore with men performing their National Service and annual military duties (“Nsmen” and “reservists”). HGS has also adopted an integrated social media strategy to publicise its merchandise. It posts Twitter updates a couple times a week with links back to its website. The most recent entry on its blog showcases new tools that the shop has to customise t-shirts. HGS' YouTube channel shows how products are made – from engraving dog tags to using a heat press to customise t-shirts; there are a few non-product vids posted just for fun as well. And the store's Facebook page provides a forum for customers to interact with the shop & pose questions and for the store to provide updates on merchandise and pricing. HGS has a website as well; and of course there's a widget on the home page linked to HGS's Facebook feed.

OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKS
Your choice of which social network to use will likely vary by market. In Thailand, HI5 is popular. MySpace is pretty US & Canadian centric. So far there's no business element to Google+ yet, but keep an eye on it.

THE POWER OF MOBILE
Regular readers of this blog are already attuned to the advantages of mobile marketing. But did you know that the primary mode of accessing the internet for more and more people is increasingly a mobile device?

In Russia, 19% of internet surfers rarely, if ever, use a PC to go online. In Egypt, the number is 70%.



So the bottom line here is this: social networking provides a cheap back-door onto the mobile internet so that you can market your business and interact with consumers. As always, though, you can't assume that 'if you build it, they will come'. You need also need to promote what you do. Fortunately, mobile advertising is cheap and has a high ROI.