NZTE, April 2012

Social media is working for Kiwi technology exporters.

The 2011 Market Measures study of New Zealand hi-tech exporters showed the use of social media as a marketing tool was growing fast, and effective use of these tools also correlated strongly with high growth.

Respondents in the survey felt that the primary benefit of social media was for building the awareness and value of their brand. They also thought it helped strengthen workforce culture, created value for customers and helped improve the efficiency of their operations.

Social professional networks (such as LinkedIn), other social networking (such as Facebook and Twitter) and online events were rated as the most effective social media tools in the survey. Virtual worlds, social Q&A and wikis were seen as providing the lowest return on investment.

Social media effectiveness

Companies rating of their social media activity Ranking
Social professional networks (e.g. LinkedIn) 1
Other social networking (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) 2
Events (e.g. Meetup) 3
Blogs (e.g. Wordpress) 4
Media sharing (e.g. YouTube) 5
Presentation sharing (e.g. SlideShare) 6
Wikis (e.g. Wikipedia) 7
Social Q&A (e.g. Askville or 8
Other 9
Virtual worlds/reality (e.g. Second Life) 10

Source: Market Measures Study, 2011.

A pioneering user of social media is Kiwi-expat Andy Lark, formerly a senior marketing executive with companies like Sun Microsystems and Dell Computer in the USA, currently Chief Marketing Officer of Commonwealth Bank in Australia (owners of NZ’s ASB Bank). He also sits on on NZTE’s North American Beachheads board.

In an excellent presentation to the 2011 Canterbury Software Summit Lark gave some excellent advice on how technology exporters can use social media.

Marketing is changing fundamentally as we increasingly go online, was the core of Lark’s message. The traditional model of marketing, targeting a segment and shepherding prospects through a sales funnel was collapsing, as people could assess and choose what to buy very quickly using all kinds of online tools, from a company’s website through to social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Whereas before marketers typically tried to first create awareness of their brand, and then over time a depth of understanding that lead to purchase, the instant and pervasive nature of the internet meant people could make decisions more quickly. The challenge for marketers had shifted to grabbing a busy consumer’s attention, says Lark.

He offered five ground rules for marketers wanting to succeed in this changing world.

One, to focus on ‘participation’ with your market, rather than just broadcasting a message, engaging in some sort of online conversation with people who might be interested in buying your product.

Two, being aware of the growing importance mobile devices (like smartphones and tablets). The statistics are compelling in terms of the number of people using them, and the amount of their online time is spent while away from a traditional computer.

Three, producing quality ‘content’ was increasingly critical. Not promotional fluff, but useful print, audio and video content that gives customers some real value – in terms of informing or entertaining them.

Four, ‘play’ was an increasingly critical component of online marketing, although typically more relevant in a business to consumer relationship rather than selling business to business. Introducing online games was an important way to engaging, and actually drives a lot of online activity.

Lastly, having some sort of purpose. Lark said being driven by a ‘reason for being’, i.e. trying to actually make a difference as opposed to simply fleecing people for as much as possible, made a huge different to your ability to build a good online reputation.

Phew! Is all that scary or what? Do we all need to rush to the spotty young geeks that can build all these fancy online apps and tools?

More important is actually have your marketing basics right first. The Market Measures study cited earlier showed that firms successfully using social media were also strong in their marketing ‘fundamentals’ i.e. they focussed on a clear target market, really understood that segment, and were willing to invest in a range of promotional activities.

Lark’s vision may be scary, but there are several fundamental ways almost any business can improve their use of social media, especially if exporting B2B.

Ensure your website is a good ‘platform’ for interaction with potential customers. Instead of spending time and money on designing the world’s most beautiful site, make sure you have a clean, functional web presence that is easy to update and connect to with tools like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

Second, get your LinkedIn presence right. With over 120 million members, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network and for many is replacing the business card rolodex and CRM system as the way to find and track your contacts.

Third, social media is driven by quality ‘content’. Content marketing isn’t new, Edmonds has been doing it with their famous cookbook since 1907, but it has got a new lease on life with the growth of online channels of dispersing it.

Content marketing is giving companies an ability to build their brand by providing ‘useful’ content, in written, audio and video formats. Not the tired old PR spin of old, but interesting, customer-focussed information that provides the reader with value and isn’t just trying to shove a message down their throat.

A local example is exporter Pivot Software, who creates a lot of content and publishes it on their website and through various blogs, social media sites and other online channels. It includes resources like a guide for developing remuneration policies in large companies – useful, factual information based on their deep experience in this area, that human resource managers can use in their day to day job.

Of course Pivot sells software to help with managing remuneration, but the guide doesn’t even need to mention the product. It focuses on giving the reader value, and reinforces Pivot’s brand as a credible provider in this area, as well creating an opportunity to interact with the reader and start a sales relationship when they download the document.

Starting those sales relationships over a hot keyboard is a little less exciting than over a beer at the local, but we all have to adapt to a changing world. From our remote little islands, social media offers a great channel of communicating with the world.

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