Using social media to grow your business

2010-06-24
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe

Over the past few years, the Internet has become a real necessity in everyday life. The pervasive nature of the Internet often causes people to wonder how they ever survived without it.



The story even got more exciting with the introduction of the Facebook and others, which have continually engaged millions of people as they log onto their websites for various reasons.



But while many people would rather visit sites for mere interaction with friends (near or far), experts say that the social media can really do much more.



The President, Nigerian Internet Group, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, says the social media is very useful, especially for small business owners, to promote and grow their enterprises.



“Social media is a platform where a number of people gather and relate in the cyber sphere. Presently, Nigerians, in their large numbers are in the social media. It is, therefore, a great place to advertise and grow one‘s business,” he notes.



According to a brand and social media expert, Mr. Yinka Olaitan, the profile of businesses in the present day economy has made it imperative for people to turn to social media as a growth strategy.



He says, “Today’s business is personal. People buy into you before they buy into what you have to sell. Business today is about contact, integrations, connection and relationship building. This is where ‘the godfathers’ assertion that ‘Business is not personal‘ is wrong.



Social media is defined as ‘conversations that happen online, where people share their opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other. It encompasses millions of tools that allow people to share comments, pictures and opinions.



As far as Olaitan is concerned, any business that is not using social media tools today to communicate, connect as well as engage may be on its way out. However, he warns that doing it well requires that any small business, must first take time to find out where the business audience congregates. He adds, ”Businesses now have opportunities to increase their revenue base as well as acquire new customers. This may come by creating Facebook pages, developing and engaging contents that are used as baits to get customers attracted to their services, among other methods.”



He states, “Based on statistics, almost every small business can find its target audience on Facebook, Forum, Twitter, blogs or other online platforms, where customers are daily exchanging opinions about brands.



“For instance, Facebook has over 400 million members that cut across ages. Nigerian population is around 1.3million, with a 10,000 acquisition rate every two days. This platform alone affords small business owners to bond, connect, exchange ideas and co-create services that will be acceptable to their audience, especially as consumers are gradually turning to the Internet. A recent report shows that there are about 23 million Nigerians logging on to the Internet. That is a good figure for any business.”



One beauty of using the social media for business promotion, Ajayi says, is in the fact that it comes very cheap.



According to him, the cost of advertising is next to nothing and you can pick information up quite easily. “You can also update your skills, and when you have a problem and throw it open in the social media, you will get answers from different people who use them. It is a platform for sharing information and if you can do that within the comfort of your home without spending any money on transportation, then it is indeed a great opportunity for small businesses. “Advertising in the regular media is very expensive, while in the social media an entrepreneur can actually spend next to nothing to advertise his business. If you advertise in Yahoo, it would charge per 1,000 hits and the fee is really small, like about $20. Anyone can afford it and they are very effective because in such fora, you target a specific audience.”



The challenges to using social media include illiteracy, hacking, lack of privacy and exposure to vices, especially among minors. But social behavioural experts argue that self control remains an answer.



Olaitan further advises small business owners to take whatever they do in the social media seriously.



He says, “I have had a cause to call a small business owner up with regards to a product he was promoting but only to discover that the phone numbers were not working. Besides, he had not had enough capacity to deliver. The lesson here is that small businesses need to prepare their capacity before promoting a product, otherwise that will affect their perception in future.”



While Ajayi cites people’s tendency to let out information on their businesses, which others can use to undermine business growth, Olaitan complains that small businesses do not update their contents regularly until there is something else to ‘sell’.



He adds, “Content creation and marketing consistence help small businesses to remain in the radar. Out of sight is now out of mind. Small businesses must not only update or connect ‘to take‘ but to constantly give. This is where many businesses will miss great opportunities,” he adds.

 

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