Ryan HogarthRyan Hogarth

“The rate of change is leaving individuals and businesses breathless,” said social business strategist Ryan Hogarth, during his keynote presentation at ITWeb’s Social Media Summit in August.

Previously the line separating our personal lives and work lives was distinctly drawn, whereas now the line is a little blurry. The world has changed, and continues to change.

It is not surprising, then, that businesses were forced into becoming more social. “Businesses need to be always on, always available, always different and always changing. Being connected is as important as having electricity. If you are not connected, you are going to be left out.”

According to Hogarth, businesses need four elements: mobile, Internet, social and technology. “We have to embrace technology, but to do so, we have to understand it.

“Big business used to own the media, thus they could control the message. Social media – the biggest media in the world – is owned by us, and business has lost control of that message. It is you and I that are changing this world via social media, and it is business that is desperately trying to keep up.

“Your customers and employees can be your greatest assets. You just need to allow them to be. We need to be looking after our people. The most successful businesses in the world realise that their greatest assets are not their plants, buildings and machinery, but rather their people.”

People – the point also driven home by the founder and CEO of Procliviti, .

“Technology is useful, but people should be at the forefront of all things social. The technology is an enabler, but social media really is about people.”

“Social media is about engaging with people and about understanding what they are all about,” adding that social connections allow us to engage with others and help people to learn faster.

When it comes to social media, Khan stated that a lot of businesses use their social media presence as a form of advertising. “This is a mistake. These forums should be used to engage with and listen to customers.” Khan suggested that an influx of negative feedback via social networks should rather be used by businesses to solve customers’ concerns in a quick and effective manner, citing a study that found those who were unhappy with customer service and yet received a favourable response from the company, ended up being happier than before their initial complaint.

Humans want validation, and that is what effective use of social media allows companies to do, Khan concluded, adding that the rise of digital businesses makes connecting with customers easier and more important. “Social media and social businesses are about engagement, about people and offering value,” said Khan.


Businesses have various social media platforms at their disposal, making customer engagement faster, better and easier. Begging the question - which platform is appropriate for which business?

, Google+, Twitter, , Facebook and entered the ring for the social media platform smackdown and five experts strapped on the proverbial boxing gloves to champion the different platforms.

Jamaaludeen Khan, ProclivitiJamaaludeen Khan, Procliviti

, chief marketing officer for , noted that the platform allows users to subscribe to brands to receive content from those brands. There needs to be value in what is sent and brands should keep an eye on their subscriber bases to accurately gauge how the public is responding to these messages.

According to ’s head of partnerships and product, Jared Molko, the belief that is not a social network is incorrect. “Social media centres on communication, and it is about trying to capitalise on something that marketers have been trying to tap into for years – word of mouth. does this well.”

Molko also discussed Google+, stating that companies can have a branded page, which allows users to engage with the business and vice versa.

According to , owner of Media, Facebook allows business to target people very effectively, tailoring their engagement with a specific audience.

For brands using social networks, all content should be well thought out. “Tailor it, track it. Don’t post something if it is not of value to the user; you are posting it to make the user think that what they are receiving is not an advert but rather some form of information that the brand is giving to them,” reiterated Wallace.

, CEO of Avatar, defended as the third busiest site in SA, with 71% of users exploring the professional platform to network and 54% who want to stay up to date with industry discussions.

Businesses using can join relevant groups and should embrace an inclusive strategy, he said, mentioning that most people who use are doing so with a business mindset, not with a conversational and recreational mindset.

Fighting the fight for Twitter, , social media publicist, campaign and event strategist, said the platform can work for businesses, warning that organisations need to be thinking about strategy. Brands using social media are often too focused on content, but she stressed that responding and engaging should rather be the focus.

Brands shouldn’t use social networks to shove marketing in people’s faces, Shaer said. Effective use of social media is about getting people to market us, without us having to market ourselves, she said.

However, “don’t’ be stupid” warned Nozipho Mngomezulu, partner at Webber Wentzel.

The legality of social media is not simple and many questions are best answered with a tentative ‘sometimes’. At the end of the day, if you are unsure about the legality of it, don’t publish it.

“Social media enables us to exercise our right to freedom of expression that is entrenched in the Constitution, but people seem to have this misconception that their right to freedom of expression is limitless when it comes to social media. “They think that what they write on social media is immune to any sort of legal consequence. This is a gross misconception and simply not true.”

The legal complications surrounding social media are varied, and include the posting of sensitive, inappropriate or offensive content and employees badmouthing clients on persona blogs. Defamation, breaches of privacy, confidentiality and legal restrictions may not necessarily be observed by members of the public, and may cause problems for businesses.

Mngomezulu’s advice is to adopt a social media policy, involving legal advice from the very beginning. This sets up policies and strategies that will avoid expense and embarrassment down the line. “Adopt a basic list of ‘dos and don’ts’, and make sure employees are aware of it.”


By listening and engaging, organisations can control talk about them on social media and make sure their audiences get the content they want. These are the words of Matt Barclay, senior client acquisition manager for Africa at Meltwater Group. After monitoring social media platforms, he urged those in charge to feed insights back into their organisations and the marketing department. Social media requires us to defi ne new sets of rules, particularly when it comes to return on investment (ROI). People like to spread ideas, and in order to capitalise, brands need to ensure their messages are creating public conversation and encouraging engagement, said , founder of PiKE and the Digital Academy.

The social media age requires conscious interaction with an audience, Pike noted. Social media is about more than communicating with consumers; it is about how people are talking to each other as a result of that message.

Lara-Lee Magnus, MD of Second Floor Consulting, agrees, pointing out that we shouldn’t be trying to measure social media effectiveness like we would other channels. “People want reports on where social media investment money is going. Financial managers are not very interested in likes and followers.”

What happens after a message has been transmitted, and how people engage with that message, is important when looking at the effectiveness of a social-media-based campaign, added Pike.

According to , MD of Clockwork Media, when looking at the value of social media, brands should be asking questions about sales, leads generated and complaints resolved.

Rather than viewing social media as a trend to be worked at separately, by specialists, , CTO at SA, suggested it should be viewed as an important component of an overall strategy.

“The ROI is adding a social capability to super-charge your application. Social media should be used as a design element; it is something in the mix, rather than the cake itself.”

Starting to think of social media in these terms should cause a change in how we think about social media strategy.

, marketing executive at FedGroup Financial Services said effective use of social media is reaching a target market, rather than how many “likes” a brand gets.

Organisations are misguided in believing that the more followers they have, the more effective their social media strategy is, he explains.

For Field, focusing on the “unlikes” is more important than chasing “likes”. “Something I did changed people’s perceptions about my brand. I need to go back and find out what I did wrong to chase them away.”