A few things the Facebook and WhatsApp self-employed marketers need to know

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Almost every entrepreneur in Kenya today is turning to different Social Media platforms to advertise their products and services in the hope to sell. And who wouldn’t? Social media is the one place people spend most of their time browsing the latest trends, keeping tabs with what’s going on in their industry and stalking people they don’t speak to anymore. From Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, to Instagram, startups and entrepreneurs know that there is a crowd to reach and will do everything they can to sell them their products and services. It’s clear that Social media has now become a necessity for every business, but are you doing it right?

When most of us log in to Facebook in the morning or whatever time you do, an invitation to like a particular page will hardly miss under the notifications tab. So will an advert about new products in a group you are not even sure you joined in the first place. The first reaction for most is usually to leave that group, and if you don’t know the person inviting you or are not interested in what the page is about, then you proceed to the ignore button. And if you like the page because you know the person inviting you, chances are you will hardly keep up with what they are selling. At this point, an entrepreneur has probably gotten the likes, but has lost on the one purpose they intended – to sell a product or service.

I used Facebook as an example because that’s where the average Kenyan entrepreneur is turning to in order to get the numbers and generate sales. The other common one that is gaining popularity in Kenya is Whatsapp, with most people providing their numbers in almost every posting to attract customers through the messaging platform. For those who do it right, Whatsapp and Facebook has proven a very effective platform in their business growth. But some have not been so lucky.  I have encountered various stories of entrepreneurs who lost their merchandise from cons on several occasions and are now afraid of using social media again. They prefer to remain to the old school way of marketing and doing business; understandable to some extent, but also a closure to untapped markets.

Is How You Are Using Social Media Crippling Your Business?

Away from the common risks of cons on Social media, (every entrepreneur will have to deal with this at one time or the other) there is the issue of using Social Media to your disadvantage. To lay out the facts, Social media is great for any business. It helps ease the marketing part of a business, creates and promotes brand awareness and increases visibility to your products and services. As an entrepreneur, social media helps you reach out to new markets, sell faster than you otherwise could, generate a huge following and profits are almost always guaranteed.

But with every greatness there is usually a weakness, and once you tap to the latter side of Social Media, it might do your business more injustice that you think. Whenever the average entrepreneur has a product or service to sell, the first thought that comes to mind is posting it on their Facebook page or in groups where people will see it and make an order. This move plays well for some, but not everyone gets lucky every time. Why? Because you forgot all about the schematics. For any business to do well on Social Media, you need to be consistent and make available what you are selling when people want it. It is not enough to put your products and services out there, you have to deliver on what your followers want. If you don’t, then they move on to the next better option.

Many small businesses have failed on social media for lack of consistency and engagement. Your Facebook page clearly says new products are in store, but when a potential customer inquires about it, you do not have it, or you post today about a service then wait months before posting something to your followers. Others will keep posting but never answer users’ questions in the comments section or answer back messages. The effects of this will be hard hitting and dire to you and your business, which is why most pages are not doing so well.

How to maximize social media for your business

Most entrepreneurs in Kenya are making the mistake of spending more time promoting services and products than they are engaging users and delivering on what customers want. This disconnect is what is hurting most businesses on Social media, yet the opposite is what would make any startup or entrepreneur grow at almost no cost. Facebook and Twitter, which are great platforms for promoting business, are available to every entrepreneur, with marketing capital or without. So why not use it to your greatest advantage?

To maximize social media for your business, you must be willing to engage customers on all the platforms you exist. You wouldn’t ignore someone who comes to your store, so why do you want to ignore them on Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp?  You also need to focus on particular items, instead of offering different products on the same platform; this may end up confusing your customers and one by one they start losing trust in the business.  As an entrepreneur, the most important thing you need to do is to create, maintain and promote a brand; having a focus on what you are offering is the very first step.

Every entrepreneur in Kenya needs to understand that a large number of Social media followers or page likes does not translate to an equal number of sales. You are better off with a smaller number that is loyal to your products and services than spend too much energy growing your follower base and in the process abandon your loyal customers. If you keep this small number happy, then these will be the same people sharing your existence to friends and recommending your products to others. At the end of the day, you end up with a large following that is actually buying from you, instead of potential buyers who never make a purchase of your products and services. But most businesses are still focusing on getting the numbers, which may be ill-fitted depending on what you are selling.

Social media is king today when it comes to marketing. Most people receive important news through Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp than they do on face-to-face or other traditional media, meaning they are the most ideal platforms for marketing and making sales. But these too require strategy and planning if they are to be of advantage to a business. It can be an easy road to the top when it comes to Social media, maintaining it up there and translating followers to sales is the bigger task. How prepared are you?

What is your opinion on the topic?
Selipha Kihagi
Selipha is a writer living in Nairobi, Kenya. On typical days you will find her typing away at her computer, while on best days she is caring for someone other than herself. She writes about any topic that sparks her interest and hopes to inspire change one word at a time.
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