Tuesday, October 19

Social media: Feeding the frenzy


With a whopping 80.2 per cent of Malaysian internet users proclaiming themselves to being ‘hooked’ on social media, there is little wonder as to why corporations, businesses and even government agencies scramble to establish a presence within social media spheres.

On average, our self-proclaimed social media addicts have a total of four social media accounts with Facebook being the most popular, at a 96.5 per cent ownership within the group, according to data from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

This is followed by WeChat moments at 60.2 per cent ownership, Instagram at 46.7 per cent, and YouTube at 42.1 per cent.

The usage and perception of social media among our internet users also seem to deviate from their intended uses of just socialisation, as the MCMC survey also revealed that 86.9 per cent of us admit to utilising social media as a means of obtaining information

In comparison, search engines were only able to beat social media slightly at 87.2 per cent while news portals trailed sadly behind at 65.5 per cent.

What this means is that Malaysians seem to adopt a high participation and engagement in our social media platforms – spelling ample opportunity for local businesses to capitalise on this by enhancing their brand outreach and even business operations.

However, like many things that involve technology, our state seems to be a little late in joining the social media rat race – with many of our local business owners still very much reliant on traditional methods of conducting business.

This phenomenon is apparent as many of our local businesses are not even searchable online.

So to help all of us in Sarawak to get the accurate e-maps and business listings we deserve, BizHive Weekly has taken it upon ourselves to compile an anthology of stories from both local and foreign business on how social media has changed them for the better, to potentially sway business owners to start setting up an online presence.


Miracolo: Social media connects biz with customers

Local natural skin care retailer, Miracolo, has been around since 2013 but recently started to build up their presence online through actively posting on Facebook and Instagram.

According to owner and founder, Diana Su, efforts to increase their presence online was motivated by the belief that social media would be a good way to connect with their customers.

“In general for us, social media is very important because it is one of the ways for us to communicate and connect with our customers while also reaching out to new customers as well.”

She explained that because Miracolo had a business to customer (B2C) business model, social media was imperative to sustaining success as it was a way for them to show both current and prospective customers their products while engaging in a dialogue with them about the benefits of the products and how they can be utilised effectively.

“Frankly speaking, business with direct contact with end users will find social media very important to them as they can help not only advertise but also market their products and promotions to them and band presence,” said Su to BizHive Weekly.

On the other hand however, she believes that companies with a business to business (B2B) model will not find social media to be as appealing, as most communication within other companies would be through a network of contacts rather than through social media.

And since becoming active, Su noticed more customers are sharing that they found the store through their Facebook posts.

“We don’t have an exact percentage of how much of our customers come from social media, but we like to think that it does help a significant amount.”

In addition, Su adds that social media would also be great for starting businesses due to its cost effectiveness.

However, while social media is free, Su believes there still need to be a bit of investment in the exercise for a corporation’s presence to swell online.

She explained that direct ads in most social media platforms were available for businesses and would greatly help in gaining new customers.

“For example on Facebook you can post adverts for a limited amount of time. Prices can range from as low as US$5.00 and would be dependent on your set budget. In theory, the more you pay, the wider your reach will be on Facebook.

“However, it is still really a trial and error situation as it is not guaranteed that you might be able to reach your target audience despite a large budget.

“Sometimes you won’t hit the right spot, so you just have to keep experimenting with its advertorial settings until you get it right.”

Miracolo’s other social media platform, Instagram, also offers the paid advert function but Su notes her advertorial campaigns on Facebook has been far more fruitful due to her target market utilising Facebook more than Instagram.

While this is the case, she emphasised that it is still important to maintain both platforms in order to capture a wider audience. Looking forward, Su is also planning to enrol in any workshops and seminars to further her knowledge on how to enhance Miracolo’s social media presence and coverage.

And during the interim, she and her team at Miracolo will just need to “try and update as quickly as possible on what we have and what promotions we have.”


Bettazone: Every step is a right step regardless of how big it is

While Miracolo has placed a fair bit of efforts into their social media platforms, what about small businesses that do the bare minimum? Will social media accounts benefit small businesses even if minimal effort is placed on them?

Meet SK Tan, a 67 year old retired sales engineer who has been breeding and selling Betta Splendens fish in his spare time since 2002.

Also dubbed the Siamese Betta fish by the older generation, these colourful and elegant fish previously were not famous for their fins and scales, but rather their ferocity and territorial behaviour that makes them one of the most sought after fighting fishes in the Asean region.

The sport of Betta fish fighting was so popular in Thailand that it was regulated and taxed in the mid-1800s by the former King of Siam!

Nowadays, these pretty creatures have gain new fame for their beautiful colouring and delicate fins and tails.

The term ‘Betta competitions’ in Malaysia and Singapore no longer involves fish fights – instead, they are now ‘Betta fish beauty pageants’ as Tan describes, between hobbyists to see who has managed to breed the most aesthetically pleasing fish.

He initially encountered the fish species when his daughters came home excitedly one day from school, begging him to come see the fish with colourful tails at the local fish shop. And pressured by his daughters, Tan ended up purchasing a few Betta fish home that very day.

“The moment I took them home ,it was like a drug took over me. I started to learn everything about the fish and how to breed them,” he shared enthusiastically.

With newfound passion, he began breeding his Betta fish with such gusto that he soon become so overwhelmed with Betta Splendens brood. This oversupply led him to give them out to family and friends for free.

“I also started to give them to local pet shops for supplies and food in return. When that still wasn’t enough, I started selling them to other hobbyists,” he explained.

Unfortunately, Tan was still breeding way faster than he could sell. His daughters then suggested that Tan begin a blog to document his hobby and create exposure for his s business.

“My eldest daughter helped start up a blog for me and taught me the ropes of blogging. I would frequently update the blog with pictures of the fish I’ve successfully bred.”

Called Bettazone1944, the blog started off in 2009 as an outlet for Tan to share his collection of Betta Fish to the public and while his outreach has been a maintained a humble 90,000 views, Tan asserts that the blog has been very a huge help to his business.

“I’ve gotten many enquiries from all over Malaysia including ones from Europe. It can really help promote your business and open your brand to the market. Now if you say ‘Bettazone’ to the circle of hobbyists in Penang, it will get easy recognised,” he said.

Using his simple blog as a catalogue for prospective buyers to witness his most unique wares, Tan was also able to drum up enough attention from Betta fish competitors in Peninsular Malaysia to begin approaching him with requests for Bettas of special colours and fin shapes.

He has since begun sourcing Betta directly from Thailand to fulfil this demand.

And with the Betta craze not dying down anytime soon, Tan has decided to venture outside his comfort zone into other social media platforms to further gain exposure.

“I’ve asked my daughters for help in setting up other social media outlets such as Facebook to help me create more exposure as I’ve noticed that Betta fish in the market has more and more people joining in.”

Sharing details of his story, his eldest daughter Joyce Tan hoped her dad’s experience will end up inspiring others to pursue their passion and utilise social media to turn it into a small business.

“Social media has been an extremely effective platform for my dad to start-up from, and will probably continue to do so as he seeks to increase business.

“Every small step in adopting social media will be beneficial, so just create an account. After all, it is free.”


AirAsia: Reigning king of social media

One home brand well known to be synonymous with social media is AirAsia, because like it or not, it seems like every second or third scroll on  is either a legitimate AirAsia Post/Ad or a post by a friend joining a one of their many social media events.

With 10.6 million fans on Facebook, 6.1 million followers on Twitter, 730,000 followers on Instagram, 1.3 million fans on WeChat, and 29.7 million fans on Line, there really is little doubt that AirAsia is the reigning king in local enterprises adopting social media.

But what exactly is the reason for their overwhelming success online?

In its Annual Report 2016, the low cost carrier declared that they were one of the first corporations in the Asean region to embrace social media largely into their operations due to their desire to humanise the airline and form more personal bonds with their guests.

“Social media enables us to take the process of democratising travel a step further, dissolving the barriers between us and our guests to form one large AirAsia community in which we share our love for travel, music, sports, food, anything at all,” explained the airline.

And with that ideology in mind, the airline has slowly but steadily built up rapport with their guests through social media since its takeover by its current director, Tan Sri Tony Fernandez, in 2003.

Over the years, the airline has gained notoriety for their interaction with guests on social media, and in recent years they have attempted to further boost their presence online through elaborate campaigns and contests.

Here are just a few examples of AirAsia’s most prominent media campaigns:


AirAsia’s Friendsy campaign

When AirAsia extended its outreach down-under to Sydney, Australia in 2012 with its Sydney-Kuala Lumpur route, they knew they needed an ambitious marketing campaign to boost awareness and fill seats.

But rather than going with the traditional printed and video adverts, they decided this time to embark on one of their most ambitious social media campaigns ever – Friendsy – where all the seats on an A330s Airbus flying on the Sydney-Kuala Lumpur route were given away to one winner and 302 of their Facebook friends.

To participate in the competition, participants only had be a fan of the AirAsia Facebook page and finalise seating arrangements of 302 of their Facebook friends on an application called ‘Friendsy’ which showed a virtual representation of the Airbus A330s aircraft.

The goals of the campaigns were simple, to increase AirAsia’s fan base on Facebook via likes and to educate the public about its newest fleet of Airbus A330s aircrafts.

And achieve them they did as Noble Studios, one the UX and developer of the ‘Friendsy’ app, revealed that the contest had garnered more than 4,000 entries within just two days of going live.

By the end of the campaign, AirAsia’s Facebook fan base had grown by 30 per cent or 22,000 additional likes, received 12,500 entries and reached 2,291,483 people – a whopping 20 per cent of all Australians using Facebook.

In addition, the social media campaign was so well received that it has been a case study for numerous marketing studies online and was also selected as the Silver award winner in the 2013 Facebook Studios Contest and the Gold award winner for the 2013 Brisbane Advertising and Design Contest.



In a more recent campaign which ended just a fortnight ago, AirAsia enlisted the help of local social media influencers and ex-radio and television hosts Natalie Kniese and Denise Chan to help promote their most recent product – AirAsia’s Asean pass – a travel pass with credits that allows quests to book AirAsia flights with credits across 140 selected routes across Asean.

To promote the new product, AirAsia organised for Kneise and Chan to host a live interactive travel show across 6 destinations included in the Asean pass – Hanoi in Vietnam, Cebu in Phillipines, Yagon in Myanmar, Lombok in Indonesia, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and Luang Prabang in Laos.

The travel show was broadcasted on Facebook live over the course of six weeks and in conjunction to the event; AirAsia also gave away a total of one million AirAsia Big Points to 20 lucky viewers and commenters of the live streams.

While there are no official stats on how effective the media campaign has been, initial statistics taken straight from AirAsia’s Facebook page saw that their first live stream campaign had around double the amount of average views compared to their normal promotional videos and vastly more comments as comments in the live streams averaged in the thousands.

Based on BizHive Weekly’s calculations, the entire campaign involving six episodes of live streaming and additional promos garnered approximately 935,000 views and 31,200 likes on Facebook, with over 3,000 likes on Instagram from both Kinese and Chan’s combined posts on the campaign as of time of writing.


Not just for marketing purposes

Besides increasing exposure and outreach, AirAsia has also expressed that they find social media to be an effective tool to gain feedback from their guests.

“Social media also represents an extremely effective platform for our guests to provide us with feedback.  When they like something or someone related to AirAsia, they inform us. Similarly, if they ever have a bad experience, we get to hear about it too.

“And we truly value such feedback, both positive and negative, as it provides us with greater insight into what works and what does not.

“For our Allstars, feedback from guests can be an even stronger incentive than our annual appraisals, as it comes from the people who are directly impacted by the way we carry out our responsibilities,” said AirAsia in its 2016 annual report.

Currently, all of AirAsia’s social media accounts seem to be armed with customer service representatives that respond almost 24/7 to the simplest of queries from its guests – from booking issues to ‘which inflight meal tastes better?’.

Most notably is the group’s Twitter handle that deals purely with queries from its guests – AskAirAsia who has 180k followers and has sent off 389,000 tweets of query answers and or re-tweets of satisfied guests.

And besides that, the airline has also been seen to have utilised social media as a platform of disaster management by alerting its guests of potential scams involving the AirAsia name, technical difficulties, and or updates for new developments.

Due to AirAsia’s continued efforts in enhancing their social presence and connectivity with their guests, their social media fan base has grown steadily over the years.

In 2016 alone, it grew by almost 13 million across all their social media platforms and markets to hit a total of nearly 50 million fans.

This presence has not only enhanced the AirAsia brand name but also contributed to a significant amount of revenue as AirAsia reported that organic social media had directly contributed to 14 million unique flight searches on AirAsia.com during 2016.

Looking forward, the low-cost carrier has stated that their plans of social media integration for the coming year will not only focus on increasing their relationships with regional fans, but also concentrate on connecting their Asean fans and guests with each other too.

“Reflecting the value we place on social media, this year we are setting up a new social media hub in the Philippines as part of efforts to connect better with our regional fans.

“In fact, we have a more ambitious goal. As we become a more integrated One AirAsia, we would like to be able to connect the people of Asean with each other too.

“We believe social media will be a great tool for this, and will be looking at how we can create a more cohesive Asean community through online and on-ground engagement.

“Ultimately, we would like all our guests not just to like AirAsia but also the region that we call home.”


What do the experts think?

Having gone through a few examples of how social media has benefitted our local entrepreneurs and businesses, it is safe to assume that social media does hold significant potential to boost growth.

Agreeing with this is Neil Fraser, executive director of Corepro PR Sdn Bhd – a PR firm specialising in crisis, risk and reputation management.

In an interview with BizHive Weekly, Fraser shared that social media campaigns tend to deliver sizeable returns on investment for their client in terms of customer traffic and sales increase.

“There’s absolutely no doubt about it, that a strong and effective social media campaign, properly managed and monitored, can and has delivered real and tangible business results for companies inside and outside Malaysia,” he said, emphasising that adopting social media is more than just short-term growth for a business.

He explained that social media with its immediacy, permanence and openness, has allowed businesses to engage with their stakeholders quickly, dynamically and effectively.

“As such, businesses, public-sector organisations, NGOs and charities have all come to embrace social media as a mainstay of their communications, and, with the rise of social media across all markets and regions, the direction of travel is that it’s here to stay as an incomparable asset for all organisations in this digital world.”

However, despite the importance of social media in our current landscape, Fraser cautions that social media can also be a source for reputation distrust and a threat to consumer confidence if it is mismanaged.


Properly managing social media

So how do we avoid the pitfalls of social media?

Fraser says the first step in creating a successful social media plan for businesses, is to figure out what needs to achieve in order to have clear objectives.

“A social media plan has to be exactly that – a ‘plan.’ A working group made up of people from inside the organisation and external consultants is a great way of putting heads together to help develop objectives and from there a strategy.

“Once you know your objectives, you can decide on the type of social media: paid or unpaid, which platforms, the type of content you want to develop, who will develop the content, who will manage the social media assets, developing a schedule for materials, and so forth,” Fraser guides.

Adding to this, Krista Goon co-founder of Redbox Studio (web design and Marketing service provider) and co-author of ‘Web Wisdom’, cautions businesses owners to be more mindful of all factors during this step as not all individuals would be suited to the task of managing social media.

“If you are a business owner, you need to find the right person to manage your social media accounts. Get someone with a strong communications background, understands social media and likes being online.

“This person’s job is to uncover what’s interesting about your business and update your accounts daily.

“Never put an intern in charge of your Facebook page – this is your image and if an intern does a bad job, there goes your professional image and brand!”

To further help the management of social media accounts, Goon also suggests that businesses should start drafting out a set of rules for its manager to abide by in order to avoid miscommunications or PR issues.

In particular, Goon notes that the procedures in dealing with enquiries and complaints from consumers should be clearly defined before moving forward.


Measuring success

Once you’ve got your social media accounts up and running, it’s time to measure the success of your endeavours and to do so, Fraser has put forward that there are several clear indicators that are measurable.

“For example, ‘is the online sentiment positive or negative?’, ‘is there an increase in positive on sentiment over the course of the campaign(s)?’, ‘has there been an increase in enquiries about an organisation or its services?’, ‘has there been an increase in sales direct attributable the campaign?’, ‘what effect does the social media platform(s) have on employee engagement and social cohesion within an organisation?’, ‘has the social media campaign led to amplification of stories across different media platforms helping reach new audiences or customers?’.

“These are just a few of many,” says Fraser.

While a large number of positive correlations to the aforementioned factors would certainly be a cause for celebration, lacklustre results do not necessarily call for a cause for despair, especially for businesses who are just now starting their social media plans.

Goon explains that social media is not an overnight fix for businesses to boost sales and will take time and investment before tangible results can be expected.

“Set your expectations right. No one is going to buy your product the moment they see it on your Facebook page.

“It takes time to build trust and when trust is established, then you can think about the sales.”

In addition, she also notes that ‘likes’ on social media accounts also do necessarily reflect the success of a campaign if its main objective is to drive sales.

“Most people think that a huge number of likes is important. To an extent, yes, a high number of likes signals popularity BUT likes don’t necessarily translate into sales or revenue.

“It is easy to “like” a page because it doesn’t need a big commitment from your fan. It’s much harder to turn the “like” into an actual purchase.”


Final word

All things considered, it is clear that social media is a useful and necessary tool for organisations of all sizes to connect with their consumer base and to drive marketing and PR efforts.

But despite the benefits, social media should not be used as a replacement to an organisation’s official website.

Goon who is also a co-author of ‘Web Wisdom’ – a book on how to effectively build websites, advocates that the two (social media and websites) are not interchangeable as they have different functions, and should instead be used together to boost the effectiveness of both digital tools.

“Use social media as a channel or pipeline to draw people to your website. Use it as a means of advertising if you want to, but always bring prospects back to your website to learn more and find out more about your business.”