The New Times (Kigali)

29 January 2013

Rwanda: Why Local Businesses Should Tap Into the Social Media, Online Marketing

When a firm wants to promote its products or services, the first medium that comes to the mind of the owner is placing a newspaper or radio advert. Few use other traditional platforms like outdoor advertising media, including billboards, posters and neon signs to market their products and services.

Despite its huge potential, a small percentage of the businesses have exploited social networking sites as marketing platforms. This is despite the fact that this is a computer era, where new media and social networks are the in-thing, presenting huge opportunities and audiences for businesses to sell and promote their goods and services, according to social media experts and enthusiasts.

Therefore, as you place that newspaper or radio advert, why don't you try to sell your goods or services online, among your social network friends, for a start?

Why are social media and websites the next big platforms for businesses to promote their wares and grow the clientele base?

According to Clarisse Iribagiza, an ICT consultant and Hehe Limited boss, social media marketing gives business people an opportunity to communicate with peers, clients and potential clients in a relaxed and conversational way.

For example, one can post a catchy question about their products or services on their Facebook page, which is likely to attract many similar responses. This is impossible with other usual channels.

"This endears the people to you and your business," adds the mobile technologies company chief.

Customers and potential clients can also post complaints, suggestions and advice about products and get instant responses and, hence, creating confidence among them.

Social networks can also be used to enhance customer care service. For instance, one is able to timely respond to a crisis involving their business or company and, therefore, avoid potential damage to their brand. Product discounts may also be announced to clients through social media friends, who can then circulate them to their friends, creating awareness about your business or a particular product.

"Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Baidoo or LinkedIn give a business person, especially the small enterprises, a platform to convey detailed information about their products or services.

"One could attach a link to their main website, where more information about the product or service can be found, making social media an exceptional marketing mode," Moses Kirui, a sales and marketing officer with a local media outlet, explains.

It is your first line of defence in a negative situation and the best way of building a relationship with positive commenters; he added.

"It is usually easy to convince people on, say Facebook, to check out the products or services offered by a given company since most times one is dealing with friends or close people unlike other marketing channels, where strangers are involved most of the time," argues James Kabindi, a regular Facebook user.

Business-related pictures and tips on how to use a particular product may be shared by posting or tweeting. This helps customers and potential clients to discover more about a particular product or service, thanks to you. Therefore, your website or Facebook and Twitter accounts should not be about you and your services, help clients learn new tips to do things, say something on how to prepare fruit dessert.

Social media marketing is also convenient for both the customers and the entrepreneur. For example, a corporate will find it more relaxing logging into their social network account to chat with friends than read a business magazine. Alternatively, an entrepreneur, in the comfort of their office, can post an advert on their social network page any time, giving him an opportunity to reach thousands or millions of potential clients at once. Remember, you are using a worldwide web.

Facebook and Tweeter alone have a combined total number of 1.5 billion users worldwide, which gives one a huge target market at their disposal compared to the traditional marketing platforms.

Besides, promoting your goods or services through social media is cheaper than other modes as it does not require a big marketing budget. All it requires is you opening up a Twitter, Facebook or Baidoo account and spending some little time and money to interact with clients regularly.

However, adopting social media modes of marketing doesn't imply that the traditional marketing platforms should be abandoned. Use the social media marketing to complement traditional advertising platforms.

Additional information from http://rwanda.smetoolkit.org

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