Success with social media

Hong Kong’s business community has taken up social media at a remarkable rate, but it still needs a lot of help in getting the most out of it.

The articles represent the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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Hong Kong boasts of the world's most wired societies per capita, with more than 75 per cent of its population accessing the internet and almost 60 per cent active on social media.

And, as an economy of small and medium enterprises, the pervasiveness of internet use has flowed through to businesses seeking new channels to capture customers and sales.

Some 76 per cent of the population of 7.26 million use the internet and, of these, 76 per cent use social media sites, says Andrew Davis, associate director-general of investment promotion at Invest Hong Kong.

Davis says Facebook is by far the most popular site, followed by Sina Weibo, WhatsApp and YouTube. He adds that Hong Kongers use social media as a way to find out about brands, while blogs are used actively to compare prices and quality of expensive products.

In its Hong Kong Digital Behaviour Insights Report (November 2011), market researcher Nielsen says a high proportion of consumers engage with brands on social media sites. Nearly eight in 10 Hong Kong consumers have clicked the Facebook ‘like’ button for a brand or organisation (79 per cent) and 72 per cent connect/interact with companies.

Nielsen says the rise of social media provides brands with more customer touch points and more information about customers and their preferences than ever before. Davis adds that only 32 per cent of Hong Kong businesses do not engage with social media.

This means that a large number of Hong Kong's 300,000 SMEs – more than 98 per cent of registered businesses in the territory – are on social media.

But SME owners still need to have a proper social media strategy – and the financial and staffing resources in-house to manage it, or should outsource the management to specialist service providers.

Social media experts say most SMEs have a ‘hit and miss’ approach, with some feeling disheartened when their so-called social media strategies fail to yield results.

Art Lee, chief marketing officer of PassKit – a platform that enables cloud and web interface with technology to help businesses manage and distribute mobile wallet content – says SMEs look at social media as a forum for the free market.

But nothing could be further from the truth, he says, because those who embark on an ill-planned campaign are often disappointed when, after three months, they see no results.

Mark Hellmann Regouby, himself an SME owner, says that typically he uses social media as a form of direct mailing, with giveaways and coupons. But such campaigns run their course in a few days.

Regouby, founder of Authentic Hong Kong, a social media consultancy, says: "We advise [all] businesses to build a real relationship with their fans. They have to move away from one-way marketing to listening and having a conversation with customers."

"Think about inviting someone over to your place," he says, "You do not just talk about yourself, you listen to what the other person has to say.

"We tell companies that in using social media they need to involve their customers with early previews and early designs to get their input."

Lee advises small and medium business owners to develop a budget and overall marketing strategy for social media. "It is not like getting someone to create an email campaign, and doing a mail-out once a month," he says. "It has to be an ongoing strategy.”

"My first question is: How much do you want to spend, and do you have an overall digital and social media strategy?"

SMEs need resources to commit time to managing their social media strategies. "Even if they can only spare five hours a week, which is not enough, it is still better than not having any strategy," says Lee.

But he advises against hiring a college student for the task because he or she does not have the owner’s same intimate knowledge, or passion, to sell their services or products.

The oft-repeated excuse is: "’I am so busy with my customers that I have no time for social media’. They are disheartened if, after three months, nothing happens," says Lee. Older SME business owners outsource their social media management to the experts. Firms like Authentic HK charge a basic fee of $US500 a month – and up to $US3500 – for all the bells and whistles.

These firms can help set up a new channel on Facebook and the business owner then needs to spend time to understand and learn how to use the media.

Quote: The oft-repeated excuse is: "’I am so busy with my customers that I have no time for social media’. They are disheartened if, after three months, nothing happens," says Lee.
80% of Hong Kong consumers have clicked the Facebook ‘like’ button for a brand or organisation

72% of consumers have connected or interacted with companies via social media

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