Social media has fundamentally impacted how brands communicate with their customers and many South African marketers are still grappling with this fact. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, they just don’t seem to be getting it right. 

Social media has shifted the conversation between brands and consumers from being a monologue to a dialogue. Brands are no longer required to be talking to consumers, but to be engaging with customers. Contrary to traditional media (TV, Radio, Newspapers), brands need to listen and respond to their customers and many brands suck at this. They take a long time to respond their customers’ queries (if they do respond; or give generic responses to every query. 

This therefore brings me to the top-five reasons why many South Africa brands suck at social media. 

1. Lack of understanding of Social Media best practices 

Based on the research I conducted for my Master’s dissertation, the majority of the respondents indicated that they did not understand the social media best practices. As mentioned above, many brands don’t respond promptly to queries or don’t respond at all. According to a Lithium-commissioned study by Millward Brown, 53% of customers expect brands to respond in less than an hour. When customers have complaints, the figure shoots up to 72%.

2. Deleting negative comment or disabling comments

Social media opens a room for brands to be criticised publicly no matter their intention. The emergence of “Black Twitter” has made many South African brands wary of social media. This is because some social media users tend to hide behind the handle and say nasty things about brands. However, deleting negative comments or not allowing comments on the brands’ posts is not the best solution, as brands may lose their fan base and a negative perception could be created. Instead, brands need to take on the challenge.

3. Using the same creative everywhere

One other common mistake that South African brands make on social media is using the same creative for traditional media on social media. For example, taking an entire TVC and posting it on social media, expecting it to land correctly. Each social media platform has its own unique features. Therefore, the creative needs to be crafted according each platform’s requirements. For example, GIFs work well on Twitter. 

4. Using the wrong influencers

Most South African brands fall in the trap of selecting influencers based on popularity instead of alignment. When a brand uses an influencer that is not aligned to the brand, not only does the brand run the risk of not getting their return on investment from using that influencer, but it can also have an adverse impact on the brand’s reputation. 

5. Not understanding the audience 

Communications 101 requires brands to have an understanding of the audience they are talking to. By gaining an understanding of their social media audience brand, they will be able to deliver better messages that resonate with their customers. A post that does resonate with the audience is as good as no post at all. 

Social media will continue to dominate how brands and consumers interact and it is up to marketers to make the process seamless and ensure that it works in their favour. In order to achieve this, South African marketers will need to work hard in avoiding the aforementioned common mistakes. 

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Thokozani Patrick Mahlangu

Thokozani Mahlangu is an internationally certified digital marketing professional and an Mcom Business Management graduate from the University of Johannesburg. He is the Chief Brand Creator of Pat onBrands and Pat onFitness- a fitness movement through which organizes weekly runs under the banner #RunWithPat.

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