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Using social media to reach masses

Ugandan businesses could save more than three quarters of their annual expenditure if they used social media platforms to market themselves, experts have said.

Social media are internet platforms where millions of people virtually meet and discuss. Facebook and Twitter are the most common platforms, although others like YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, blogs and Foursquare are fast catching on.

“Social media marketing is the way to go for every company. It does not matter what you deal in because you can find all types of customers on-line,” Prof Shawndra Hill from the University of Pennsylvania, USA said.

Hill, a renowned expert in economics, advertising and media, was addressing guests at the Social Media for Business forum held at The Hub cinema in Kampala last week. The forum was organised by popular online group, The 360 Degrees Network and attracted hundreds of company CEOs, business experts and marketers. Hill cited several success stories of online marketing by international brands such as Coca Cola, Pepsi and McDonald’s to explain social media can transform Ugandan businesses.

“Word of mouth is the primary factor behind over 50% of all purchasing decisions. Social media offers more platforms for conversation than any other advertising forum,” she said, stressing a need to maintain mass media marketing, alongside social media advertising.

Hill, however, warned that social media marketing could be disastrous if not properly handled. She cited the 2010 American Super Bowl event that drew a backlash from female fans because its Twitter ad had a naked model.

“Such irresponsible marketing can put customers off. You must relate the message to your audience and their needs. You must also be truthful,” Hill said.

Several other experts spoke of the need for Ugandan businesses to get on line. Airtel Uganda’s publicist Joseph Kanyamunyu said his company’s advertising expenditure has tremendously reduced ever since they joined Facebook last year.

“I was so scared of the inevitable negative posts about us. But I have since realised that some actually work in our favour,” Kanyamunyu said, declining to mention how much Airtel saves by marketing online.

The Blu Flamingo boss, Christian Abassi, said it is easy to measure the success of social media ads than those in the mass media since posts and tweets are countable. He also stressed a need for businesses to have a social media consultant. Hill could be preaching to the converted because according to Ham Namakajjo, the country manager for Google, over 1,000 Ugandan companies now have accounts with Google+.

pkamukama@observer.ug

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