Starting a business goes beyond having great ideas or proffering solutions to a business problem within a market through the launch of a new product or service, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although many businesses are lauded for the solutions they have provided or created, one of the predominant challenges that business owners encounter is marketing.
Years back, social media used to be a medium for socialising, meeting people, and making friends. Today, it has moved from being just a forum for socialising to being a powerful tool for marketing, so much that entrepreneurs use it to stay ahead of the competition.
In truth, social media is advancing each day and entrepreneurs are maximising the prospects it offers.
While some entrepreneurs have for a long time engaged in social media marketing, others have yet to ascertain its significance for business growth and continuity. As far back as 2014, Hubspot reported that 92 per cent of marketers attested to the positive impact of social media marketing and according to Statista, 97 per cent of the global shares of businesses have accepted social media marketing.
“Clearly, social media marketing is important for business growth because it is a safe place to sell products and also because it helps to expand clients’ base and business simultaneously,” said Yetunde Busari, a makeup and beauty products retailer in an interview with Africana Entrepreneur.
For Joshua Olabiwoninu, a shoe merchant, social media is an effective marketing forum which helps to create more awareness about products and services.
“Social media is an online shop where I have the opportunity to advertise my goods to people and where people have the opportunity to check out my services and evaluate their satisfaction even without meeting me physically,” said Aminah Kolade, who is a baker.
Adenike Oluwalana, an entrepreneur, added that social media marketing is no longer optional for business growth because it is a viable avenue to meet the target market regardless of the location, sex, age, or religion.
“Every category of an entrepreneur’s potential customer is on social media,” Oluwalana admitted, “and that avenue is in fact one of the most effective to connect with all of them.”
Grace Adeleke, also an entrepreneur said on the significance of social media marketing for businesses and their owners, “Social media marketing has been instrumental in making deliveries to places that I have never been to and to people I have never met.
“Social media marketing is definitely a means of reaching out to your prospective clients both within and beyond your immediate environment.”
Another individual who believes in the power of social media for business growth and sustainability is Christiana Akanni, suggesting that social media is a global community with an extensive reach.
Business owners, digital marketers, and business consultants are all inclined towards the prospects of social media marketing.
Oluwana added, “Social media marketing helps to reach a wider customer base. For my business, I do not have a physical shop but social media has served as my shop for years and it has undeniably fetched me a reasonable number of clients.”
Olabiwoninu corroborated this view stating that social media has made his business more popular beyond its geographical location.
It was the same story for Busari.
They all agreed that social media give entrepreneurs an opportunity to hear the views of their customers regarding their products and services with a view to improving their enterprises.
Feedback helps entrepreneurs to know the strengths and weaknesses of their business.
“Social media marketing has really helped my business to grow. Apart from the fact that it enables my customers to find me easily, my customers also give feedback on the product I sell. Most times, the feedback is always positive and serves to boost customer or prospective customer’s loyalty in the brand,” Adeleke said.
Busari noted further, “When prospective clients get positive reviews about a product, they also become customers. So it is always important to request feedback about the services rendered or product sold; sample opinions on the pros and cons.”
For most entrepreneurs, social media marketing has contributed significantly to increased brand awareness as there are over 1.7bn monthly active Facebook users, an average of 313m monthly Twitter users, not to mention the millions of people around the world using WhatsApp, Instagram, and other similar platforms.
Olabiwonninu said, “It has as well given me an avenue to know my competitors, their strengths and their weaknesses which guided me in making better business decisions.”
To be successful in social media marketing various approaches are involved.
“I try to do a strategic posting of products online. More often, I use WhatsApp and Facebook for product advertisement and I upload posts at the time when most of my customers would be online so that they can view the products,” Olabiwoninu.
Busari follows a similar approach.
“I target periods my customers are online to view the products immediately and express interest. More often, I use Instagram and WhatsApp for product advertisement. I also try to achieve the daily targets I have set because consistency goes a long way to build customer loyalty,” she disclosed.
Kolade, however, suggests that using sponsored ads on social media has a way of reaching out to more potential clients. She also emphasised consistency in updating one’s social media accounts and the need for entrepreneurs to get trained on how to utilise social media strategies for their business growth.
Another entrepreneur, Oyewale Oluwaferanmi, said she uses paid advertisements on television and also encourages her clients to do referrals. This strategy, she said, worked effectively for her chain of businesses.
Likewise, a photographer, Kolade Akano, said he has taken advantage of sponsored advertisements on social media platforms to gain more traffic to his site and increase his customer base.
Akanni added, “I have social media platforms where I market my products. I also enlist the services of social media marketers who are experts to handle marketing plans and procedures. Also, I sell products to retailers at wholesale prices.”
From its shift as an ordinary medium of fraternising, social media has become a veritable platform for entrepreneurs.
“Although some businesses survive without the use of social media marketing, I would advise that entrepreneurs should embrace social media marketing as it would allow for business development,” said Oluwalana.