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I can manage my social media every time I go to the toilet. 

That was the answer of a Phuket business owner three years ago when I offered my services of managing his social media business profiles.

Phuket’s business crowd has been very traditional and quite reluctant to change the way they market their products and services on the island. This is not entirely surprising. Astonishingly, 28% of social media service providers worldwide still have difficulty in convincing business owners of the importance of social media. However, consumers have become more savvy in their purchasing behaviour, doing all types of research to check facts – from forums, customer reviews, and other references found on social media.

More importantly, perhaps, is that customer behavior has changed significantly with information sources becoming easily accessible on their phones. They are  glued to their devices, which have become an extension of their bodies. Globally, mobile phones now own 52% of all web traffic, growing by 4% per annum. There’s also been an undeniable shift in attention to social media, with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and others platforms dominating the attention of internet users.

So, gone are the days of the “old type” of advertising through push-marketing messages of “BUY NOW.” It is simply not as effective as it used to be and businesses are increasingly pressured to change the way they deliver their marketing message.

It’s true that there is still a misconception that your advertising or content on social media will result in immediate monetary results. Unfortunately social media is not a silver bullet. No matter how good your marketing campaign, if your product or service is no-good, so will your marketing results be. And don’t expect immediate results either – you have to consistently post to the various platforms and extend your content to grab and hold the attention of your followers.

Nowadays it is all about content marketing, where a business story-tells about their services or products through different online channels. This is an important variable of a memorable campaign. Followers want to see more than promos and links: they want personal, human-centric content. That’s why selfies and story-driven posts typically perform so well. New generation consumers are “shrewd online shoppers” who possess a “keen understanding of marketing and media,” according to the most current research. Savvy business owners should master the art of subtle persuasion, convincing buyers from this generation to really want your product or service. This means presenting your content in such a way that it “educates them into buying.”

Converting followers to buyers is a challenge to most business owners who use social media channels in their marketing and advertising mix, so take heart and stick to your guns. The conversion path on Facebook, for instance, is still not entirely clear. The average click-through rate for Facebook ads varies depending on your industry, but averages around 0.9%; the average conversion rate across all industries is 9.21%. Generally, conversion rates on mobile devices hover around 2%, with users being more inclined to browse on their mobile and transact at their desktop.

There is much more to understanding the user buying process than the 4 stages framework commonly used: Recognising a need, Searching for a solution, Evaluating the alternatives, Purchase. You must understand that your customers have different motives that affect their buying decision, not all of which you have control over. However, it is up to you to ensure the quality of your product or service, to constantly remind potential customers of your product – it can take up to 365 days for them to make a decision to purchase your service / product – and to ensure the buying and checkout process is simple and functional.

Which brings us to another thorny issue – RETURN ON INVESTMENT. There is no simple way of measuring ROI on any marketing efforts and social media is no exception. Besides Google Adwords, which allows for at least some form of measurement, the ROI of a social media campaign is difficult to measure as it is a long term game of new customer acquisition and getting your product front-of-mind. Such long term investment will pay off, whether or not it’s possible to measure immediately. Nearly two-thirds of brands don’t, or accept that they cannot measure social media ROI, and 53% of brands say measuring ROI is a challenge on social media. Even so, social media, like other marketing efforts, has to prove its return on investment. Therefore marketers dedicate more time and resources into what’s working, and improve the tactics that aren’t delivering value. It’s the end of the road for vanity metrics. More organisations are looking to quantify social media’s contribution to tangible business challenges, such as lowering costs, increasing revenue from real sales, mitigating risk, and attracting talent.

In closing, there are 3 ways to generate business: 1st is by acquiring a new client, 2nd by retaining that client (meaning return-buyers) and the 3rd by developing and/or upselling that costumer. In cities with populations that do not fluctuate, these 3 ways to generate business are possible but they don’t apply to the hospitality businesses in Phuket or any other touristic cities. The constantly changing, fluid customer base of hotels, for instance, calls for additional measures to combat the complexity of customers-in-transit, with its unique challenges of acquiring new customers through online bookings. Effective and consistent social media marketing is one way of reaching and retaining loyal customers in this sector.

I still find, now and then, that a client believes that newspapers is the best advertising channel. This may indeed be true for a community paper serving closed communities or villages but can hardly compete with social media in acquiring new customers outside the community boundaries.

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