There was consensus among members of the panel that although digital marketing and the impact of the social media explosion are no longer new concepts, they remain scary for some marketers, especially smaller entrepreneurs. We selected the following nuggets from the presentations and the ensuing discussion.

Panel discussion

  • Ricardo Rocha, Founder and Creative Director: Etiket Brand Design
  • Brent Tollman, Senior Strategic Planner: Metropolitan Republic
  • Aaron Van Schaik, Senior Stretegic Manager: Lighthouse Digital
  • Pete Case, Founder and Creative Director: Gloo Digital Agency
  • Steven Terblanche, Head of Digital Media and Marketing: FNB Business Banking

Control is difficult
Social media are difficult to control. Once a message is out there, it cannot easily be recalled. Indeed, trying to have it removed is probably not the best way to go about it. The backlash could be devastating. It is far better to trump the message. How? By using the element of surprise! If, for example, a customer is unhappy with shoddy service and complains about it in the social media space, take the wind out of her sails by making it right. If you succeed, chances are that she will go back to the social media space to sing your praises next.

Best practice does not exist
In business in general, the most common advice is to follow best practice. With social media being new, best practice hasn’t evolved yet. The best advice anyone can give at this stage is to keep on the look-out for any issues that may arise regarding your brand and respond swiftly to complaints.

Short attention span
Because today’s consumers are increasingly adopting multi-tasking principles, their attention span is relatively short. They will look at their smart phone screens while watching television and listen to voice messages while driving. For a message to break through the clutter requires that it is succinct and aimed at the correct target. Mass marketing techniques are no longer effective.

This has an upside. Because consumer behaviour can be analysed based on their web behaviour, customised marketing messages can be targeted with rifle shot precision. The late John Wanamaker, a US merchant, popularised advertising in the US. He reportedly said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” Thanks to digital marketers’ ability to mine big data, this should no longer be an issue.

Telling stories
Telling stories is a powerful medium, more likely to be heard and remembered than plain facts. Rudyard Kipling said, “If history were told in the form of stories it would never be forgotten.” He was right.

This approach is especially successful if the story grips the imagination of those who follow it. An entrepreneur who wanted to set up a coffee shop but didn’t have the funds required to adequately market it set up a website. On it, he described the trials and tribulations of getting the store build to fruition. The story attracted thousands of followers on social media and by the time the coffee shop opened its doors, people couldn’t wait to see the finished project.

ãKurt Illetschko 2013. Published with permission.

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