In the last few months, we have personally seen how social media can have a great impact on any business.  We started off with nuggets aka written tips for entrepreneurs’ and last month we introduce video nuggets. Our visibility on social media has increase dramatically.

Hence our topic this week is on SOCIAL MEDIA.

Social media plays an instrumental role in facilitating the spread of information rapidly.  Today, social media is used as a highly effective marketing, networking and communication tool and has become valuable and influential as it used by numerous persons on a daily basis.

Increased level of accessibility is one factor that has contributed to its level of influence on various aspects of daily life for many people.   Sometimes the experiences shared on social media platforms far outweigh the official reviews published.  The influence of social media might be greater in the services or sales sectors versus the manufacturing sector and can provide valuable opportunities for marketing and networking.

The pattern of use of social media by customers can be divided into three stages: pre-, during and post-experience.  These experiences all are inextricably intertwined and when reflected on social media can have many implications on the brand’s image.

ü      The pre-experience involves researching various options by reading reviews and other relevant information.

During usually involves posting status updates through testimonials, pictures and videos.

After-experience relates to sharing evaluations and reviews of specific services and experiences.

It is important to note that the use of social media by customers’ at all three stages has implications on the final performance of businesses.  This impact can be positive, as well as, negative depending on consumer experiences.

Social media provides marketing opportunities in a cost-effective manner due to its wide reach in a short time and maybe more effective as consumers tend to believe the experiences of people who have purchased a particular product or service to a greater extent than claims and promises made in traditional advertisements.

Mobile marketing is another social media-related opportunity that can be used for revenue maximisation. This approach involves messages distributed through mobile phones and its popularity has been consistently increasing over the past several years.

Affordability of social media as a communication tool is one of its main advantages.  Businesses of all sizes can set up and use blogs on official websites and make effective use of FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts with minimum expenses to create and maintain strategic relationships with stakeholders.

Social media can offer additional benefits for networking with external parties to find solutions to challenges faced in addressing customer expectations and concerns.  Official industry-related sites for example Caribbean Tourism Organisation and National Association for Health Care Quality can be sources of up-to-date knowledge that can be used to improve the level of efficiency in the hotel and health sectors.

Conversely, social media may also have detrimental effects on financial performances of businesses.  The viral circulation of news about negative consumer experiences can damage a brand’s image and is the major drawback of social media.   While businesses may see the spread of negative reviews about their products or services as a bad thing, it can be used to their advantage. By utilising social media, businesses can reach out to dissatisfied customers directly, within their own social media environment, to find innovative ways of improving the product or service they offer.

Another disadvantage to be considered is the waste of employee time due to excessive browsing and can be interpreted as a waste of human resources with obvious negative implications on the levels of profitability.

The damage to a business by the sharing of inappropriate behaviour and misconduct at the workplace or loss of trade secrets due to staff gossiping though social media also needs to be mentioned.   Loss of trade secrets may relate to details of future marketing campaigns, pricing strategy or any other valuable information that might be used by business rivals to gain a competitive advantage.

Effective use of social media for marketing purposes includes developing original and memorable viral marketing campaigns while constantly improving perception associated with services.

Social media in its various forms such as blogs, social networking sites, photo, videos and chatrooms need to be used by marketing personnel in an integrated manner to effectively spread the marketing message of a business.  Moreover, the great opportunities offered by the internet needs to be fully appreciated and exploited for example by the use videos particularly in a timely manner on a select topic.

Businesses must understand that use of social media for marketing, communication and networking is no longer optional and that neglect may result in loss of potential customers which will impact negatively on the organisation’s revenues.   Maximum effect can only be achieved by constantly improving products and services.  The use of social media is not going to contribute to the profitability of any business if there are fundamental problems associated with the quality of service and receiving good value for money by customers.  Therefore the improvement of customer experiences and increasing the extent and level of customer services are the most important tasks facing businesses in order to gain maximum positive impact of the use of social media.