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We are currently in the Digital Age: information is now more accessible than ever before, and it has become remarkably simple to share it and stay connected. Small businesses need to change with the times if they want to have any hope of staying relevant.

 

The National Small Business Chamber Summit (NSBC), held in Midrand, Johannesburg on the 15th and 16th of February saw various speakers from all industries across Africa, and was attended by more than 30,000 people. Among the topics discussed, special mention was given to the changing climate of marketing one’s presence and establishing authentic relationships with customers.

 

According to Google South Africa industry manager Linah Maigurira, SME owners need to rethink their approaches for marketing their brands in the advent of the Internet; be present where their customers hung out online. “Be there when they (the consumers) are searching and browsing for ideas. Decide on the moments you are going to claim for your business.” For consumers, those moments included “I want to know”; “I want to buy”; and “I want to find.” “Think about your customers, their needs and how you are going to capture them,” she said.

 

Social media is a great catalyst to establishing an online presence in today’s market, considering the prevalence of it, and the amount of persons actively on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Leanne Rhodes, creative and social media head at the NSBC has attested to this. “Social media gave you access to a large audience on a shoestring budget,” Rhodes said. “The NSBC didn’t use traditional advertising for the summit; instead, it mainly used social media and its newsletter.”

 

She warned though that social media could be overwhelming. “Remember social media is only free if you don’t value your time. Clarify how much time you are willing to spend on social media per week. Set a timer if you have to.”

 

Sites such as Facebook may be great ways to introduce your company to a large audience, but it requires a constant effort of creating relevant content that persons will want to engage with. With regards to Twitter, it is usually a good idea to incorporate major events that are occurring around the region that may be of significance, or at the very least major events occurring in the business’ home country; taking advantage of topics that are trending in a particular region can prove beneficial.

 
As technology continues to evolve, business owners on the African continent need to learn to adapt to the changing climate of marketing and learn the proper processes to establishing their presences online to accommodate for an increasingly mobile consumer base. Small business owners shouldn’t shy away from social media altogether; rather they should embrace it and realize the potential it brings.