Over the past couple of months we have seen the effect social media can have on various communities, Egypt, Libia and now, England to name a few. We have seen it affect business all over the world. Our reactions to these social media “explosions” vary, rejoice over liberation, sadness at rioters who seem too young to consider the repercussions of their actions, and anger at different business’ for not delivering to expected service standards. In each case I wonder, to myself quietly, are governments the world over keeping up with this ongoing cultural revolution or not. What worries me is when this form of the social media revolution hits South Africa will we honestly be ready for it, from a business and government point of view.
Business needs to keep tabs on their brands, ensure that they have their fingers on the pulse of the communities they create around themselves. From what I have heard South African breweries do it well, encouraging positive sentiment and often showing gratitude whilst engaging negative commentary and really listening to the community around them. Having an engaging and positive attitude towards social media can bring your brand great praise in the community that surrounds it. Social Media being viewed as a purely marketing tool is ineffectual and the hunt for ROI from social media is like chasing paper on a windy day. Effectively monitoring online mediums is the way forward in the South African market. Data is key in all we do online and monitoring sentiment, tracking conversations and who is speaking about you can help you gain valuable consumer insights and have a greater positive effect on your business than simply looking for ROI. Yes, with monitoring tools you can attempt to search for leads, and they will come up out of the humdrum of online conversation – treat them as a great opportunity to show people exactly how good your brand is, because you may get the sale, but if you slip up with that client they will go straight back to where you found them and let everyone know about your slip up.
From a government point of view, the losses that have occurred in the UK over the past week could have been anticipated and the effectiveness of the police greatly increased by accurate social media monitoring. Unfortunately the same could be said for the amazing revolutions that happened in Egypt, Libia and in Syria. Keeping current on the communities within your country should be absolutely vital to any country’s government, especially those who rule with consent of the ruled. Like so many things in life, social media is a two-edged sword and whilst the rioters are using it to do bad, some are using it to do good, have a positive attitude to the future and get moving forward – click here – which makes us aware of why social media has become the great, big driving tool it has over the last few years. It can be anything to all people.
As the youth within South Africa become more engaged, connected and opinionated one can easily foretell that we have to prepare for similar actions from our populace, hopefully not violent, but indeed a key influence in shaping the future of our country. For those who believe I have a gripe against certain political parties in South Africa, yes, I have a gripe against any government that over promises and under delivers, but that is government the world over.
Simply put, monitoring social media and engaging with the communities around you can easily forewarn you of impending danger and hopefully you can stop the snowball effect social media relies on, or redirect it. This is the case for government and business who should keep their fingers on the pulse of their communities to check their health. Listen, engage, interact and deliver – Four words to keep you going through social media and this age of hyper connectivity.