The ultimate guide to Social Media Strategy for businesses in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world, a top tourist destination that attracts visitors from far and wide each year. Located on the Shores of the Indian Ocean, the country boasts of scenic landscapes, hospitable people, a vibrant economy, and stability that is rare to find among many Asian nations. Like most Asian countries with emerging economies, Sri Lanka has seen a huge growth in the number of social media users over the past decade. Today, there are over 6.7 Million Sri Lankans who use the internet, and 63% of them use mobile phones and other hand held devices. From a business perspective, these statistics are very important! The internet has changed how business is done and today, most of the branding, marketing, and battle to win new customers are all being fought online! Not so much on Radio and Newspapers as was the case traditionally, but on the internet. If you look at all the major businesses and brands in Sri Lanka today, they all have one common characteristic; they have a robust social media presence. From Distillers Company of Sri Lanka (DSCL), Cinnamon Air, Ceylon Tobacco Company, Daintee, DFCC Bank, and many more, all are very active on their social media platforms.
What is social media?
The term social media refers to the different online platforms where people can interact, communicate, collaborate, and share content. Like we mentioned earlier, the internet changed the way business is done and social media is the vehicle for relaying info, ideas, launching new products, share experiences, and so on. If the internet is the platform, social media is the vehicle. Think of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google plus and the many other different apps that bring billions of people from across the globe together. Here in Sri Lanka, we have over 6 million people who are active on Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms.
Why you need social media for your business in Sri Lanka;
Any business operating in Sri Lanka has a lot to gain by utilizing the power of social media as a marketing tool. A huge chunk of Sri Lankans who are active on the internet are young and tech savvy. They are to be found browsing over their phones researching on goods, services they seek, checking out the latest trends in town, reading reviews of products of people who have tried them, and so on so forth. As a brand, it’s not enough to have posters and signboards advertizing your business; your target customer base could very well be found online! In other words, it doesn’t matter the kind of business you are into, whether it is big or small; having a social media presence is a must. It’s the only way to remain relevant in the Sri Lankan Market. Actually, this is the trend all over, globally. Social media is not just a platform for marketing, it is also a platform to do business and make profits. For instance, ever asked yourself why today, you can order for a Pizza online from the major outlets in Colombo like Pizza Hut or Dominos, and have it delivered to your room or work place? Traditionally, such outlets would have to wait for customers to pop in to their shops and make a purchase; the internet has bridged that gap and changed how consumers and brands interact. And this doesn’t just apply to sales and marketing. Businesses are increasingly turning towards social media to have clients review products and leave feedback for others to see. Businesses love hearing complaints and compliments from their customers and social media is the best platform for speedy and prompt communications.
How can a social media strategy help?
Much as social media is a powerful tool for marketing and branding, it has to be done professionally! It’s not enough to have an active Facebook account or a Twitter handle that you constantly use to promote your brand. Nay, rather, you have to look at social media use from a strategic perspective. It’ll involve proper planning, implementation and follow-up, constant reviewing the progress made. This is why we talk of a ‘social media campaign’; because it is continuous, has to be sustained! Very rarely will a business be able to make the most out of social media without the help of a digital marketing company. Digital marketers have the tools and skills, even experience, that’s needed to help give your business more visibility online. More visibility means more clicks, and hopefully, more sales. A good digital marketing agency will take time to understand your business, your goals and aspirations, take note of your strengths and areas you need to work on, then help design the best marketing campaign. The beauty of it all is that it doesn’t matter how big or small your business is; social media offers a fair and equal platform for everyone to excel. It’s not for you to utilize the tools and skills at your disposal to edge your business ahead of the rest. Traditional business advertizing was costly as newspaper and radio charged amounts few small businesses could afford. But social media marketing is considerably cheap. Besides, the progress made can be tracked and measured, so that you know areas you need to improve on.
The social media strategy for hotels;
The magic of social media is that it allows you, as the business owner, to liaise or interact with your target audiences. How beautiful is that? That you’re able to interact with those you aim to target! Ever heard of the term ‘tastes and preferences’? As a marketer, you use the consumer’s tastes and references to serve them even better, make more profits. When it comes to hotels, this fact couldn’t be truer. The hotel industry in Sri Lanka is experiencing rapid changes as it seeks to balance between targeting locals and foreigners who visit as tourists. Mind you, up to 44% of all tourists that visited Sri Lanka last year were from Europe. Now, why would a tourist in Europe decide to visit Sri Lanka and book Hotel A, and not Hotel B? It’s their first time, why would they ‘prefer’ one to the other? That takes us back to ‘tastes and preferences’, remember we mentioned that? Most likely, such a tourist went online to research on the best hotel in Sri Lanka, spoke to friends who’ve visited before, or even researched from Travel Forums like Trip Advisor. A good hotel will have ‘positioned’ itself well in advance, not just in the form of a good business website but also accessibility and presence on major social media platforms and forums. Apart from the 44%, there’s the other 56% that includes locals looking either to have a nice meal in your hotel, or book a room for a few nights. You will need to target these too and one way to do this will be by researching on their preferences. A good social media strategy will involve a thorough research of your target market coupled with a robust presence on social media platforms. A Sri Lankan surfing the net looking for the best hotel to take his woman for a date should be able to get your contacts online with ease; more importantly, you, as the hotel, should be able to respond promptly. A timely response to business queries can make all the difference.
Why social media is a must for hotels in Sri Lanka
Like aforementioned, Sri Lankan hoteliers are all rushing to tailor their services in such a way that they can cater to both foreign visitors and local travelers. It’s not so much about how big or famous your business is; it is about how you position yourself online. For instance, some of the leading coffee shops and entertainment joints in Colombo and other major cities are frequented by both locals and foreigners. As long as you’re meeting your market’s preferences, you’ll always have customers flocking to you. Sadly, having a good menu and right pricing isn’t always enough; you have to make yourself ‘known’ out there. Instagram photos, You Tube Videos, Facebook promotional campaigns, blogging; you’ll need all these combined to catch the interest of your target market. You operate the coolest Fries and Chicken eatery in the City? You have fabulous accommodation packages for couples looking to spend their Honey Moon in Sri Lanka? Well, don’t sit back and bask in the excellence of your products; reach out to new customers and establish brand loyalty with the existing ones. There’s no better way to do this than by utilizing the power of social media marketing. Here at ClickDo, we pride ourselves of having helped many small businesses transform their fortunes by utilizing social media as a marketing tool. With over 2 million visitors having visited Sri Lanka last year alone, you too can target a segment of that chunk. The Hotel and Hospitality industry has really changed nowadays, you don’t even have to have a physical address! You could prepare nice meals and sell them online, have a delivery person dispatch them to homes, workplaces, hotels, and so on. A hungry worker in an office doesn’t care much whether the food was prepared in a restaurant or at your home; all they need is a nice meal delivered to them conveniently and affordably. What stands between your hotel and potential customers is internet presence, and social media is part of that presence! If you are a hotelier in Sri Lanka, there’s no shortcut, you’ll have to compete with global brands that are increasingly setting their eyes to the country. The Sri Lankan tourism development authority has been in the frontline in wooing international brands to set tent in the country, on the realization that the presence of major brands in the country greatly helps in branding Sri Lanka as a major tourist destination. Yet, where does this leave the local hotels looking to target the local and foreign visitors? It’s only via a carefully thought social media strategy that one can remain relevant in such a competitive and dynamic market.
Social media strategy for politicians in Sri Lanka
Ever since social media became such a central point of our lives, many politicians, celebrities, Sportspeople and artists have embraced it so much. So much that today, US president Donald Trump is synonymous with his daily tweets; some of the most serious decisions and policies that the US administration has come up with, have been communicated via Trump’s Twitter handle. Now, while one may find this quite debatable, truth of the matter is that social media helps one pass their message as they want it to be, no third parties, no chances of being misquoted by the media! Closer home, you’d be amazed to find that some of the leading stars and personalities in Sri Lanka have huge social media followings. Jacqueline Fernandez has over 22 million followers on Facebook, Kumar Sangakkara has over 4.6 million Facebook Followers, the Sri Lanka Cricket Page has over 2.9 million followers on Facebook. What does that tell you? There’s power in social media when you need to communicate something important. Politics is a dirty game and yet image counts a lot. You’ll be accused of corruption; your opponents will call you names and spread falsehoods. It may not be easy dispelling such allegations on the traditional media, which is where social media comes in. You’ll need a good digital marketing agency to help brand and spread the content you want your audiences to see. Besides, a big number of Sri Lankan youths would rather read about your manifesto and election pledges on their Smartphone, as most are too busy to attend your campaign rallies. Mind you, the average Sri Lankan middle class has little time to watch television or political debates; they’d rather follow it on Social media platforms like Facebook. According to one Dr S. Abeysinghe, who’s the dean of faculty, social sciences at the Open University, “Social media had a great influence in the last presidential election as well as the recent local government elections. People in rural and urban areas are informed about national issues especially through Facebook.” She went on to add that; “Facebook is now being used as a political platform rather than merely a place to chat with old friends and family. Sri Lankans, especially the rural population is yet to be familiar with Twitter, Instagram and other modes of social media.”
How to customize a social media plan for a small business
Now, as a small or medium business in Sri Lanka looking to make the most out of social media, where do you start? Most businesses and entrepreneurs give up too early, long before they have started. Here at ClickDo, we have a motivational quote we like sharing with small, upcoming businesses; with social media marketing, it’s never about the size of the dog but rather, the size of the fight in the dog. How much are you willing to get to understand and interact with your target market? If you do, the first step will be for you to come up with SMART goals. These goals and objectives can only be attained by adhehering to the below;
T; Time Bound
Specific; social media as a marketing model entails the use of different channels to get the message out, and interact with target market. There’ll be different goals on each of these channels. It’s very important that you’re specific in what exactly you wish to achieve. Social media goals should complement the bigger marketing strategy. Marketing tools like Facebook Analytics, often used by digital marketers will come in handy even as you try to penetrate the different platforms. Know your target audience and what platforms to easily find them. For instance, while you can reach a huge chunk of the Sri Lankan Baby-boomer generation On Facebook, new research statistics indicate that millennials are more likely to be found on Instagram. You don’t want to fire wild shots, know your target segment, and initiate specific efforts towards engaging it.
Measurable; what exactly do you wish to achieve? More likes, comments, and subscriptions? Conversions, generation of leads, web referrals, or what? Specific goals lead to measurable results. It’s worth noting that even personal branding is a form of social media strategy, and can be measured too. This is why we have opinion polls of the most popular individuals (politicians, celebrities), institutions and so on; you can set measurable goals on influencing perception among the electorate, fans, even customers.
Attainable; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, you have to be realistic on what exactly you can attain and what you can’t. Much as we spoke of having to compete with some major international hotel brands in Sri Lanka, you’ll need to stick to your lane and concentrate on what you’re good at. For instance, even with the right marketing and promotion are you capable of catering to 200 guests in your hotel? As a politician, will you manage to fulfill the pledges you make to your electorate and fans? Remember the old adage, ‘the internet never forgets’? Market and promote only what you can manage to offer; exaggerations and lies will only lead to your brand losing credibility. This is especially important in blogging and content generation; using hype to promote unattainable or impossible results is punishable even by Google and other search engines.
Relevant; social media marketing entails the use of dozens of marketing tools and strategies. These include Facebook Analytics, Sprout Social, Buffer, Hootsuite, Feedly, Tagboard, and so on so forth. Know the relevant tool for every particular goal or objective. Need to collect all the content and figures from all channels, read them all via one feed? Or you are looking for an automated weekly reminder that posts content after every 2 days, every week, or such? Identifying the relevant tool for the job will make the entire social media campaign easier to implement and track. There are numerous online tutorials on how to utilize these tools for the good and progress of your Sri Lankan business. However, it’s easier when you have a professional working with you to guide and take control of your strategy. Such a professional will work hand in hand with you, with your team, leading from the front and sharing regular updates of the progress being made.
Time-bound; all your efforts and aspirations must be achieved within a set time frame. The beauty of social media as a marketing tool is most platforms offer you an analytics to enable you measure the progress being made. Start by setting clean deadlines; what do you wish to have achieved within a month or two, within a year? Working without a clear time frame in mind is never helpful. Deadlines and targets help keep you motivated; they help employees and those working under you to work even harder to attain the set goals within the given time frame. There are quarterly reports that you can use to monitor progress being made, and decide whether more effort or improvement needs to be done in order to fall in place with the set deadline
There you have it, how to customize social media plan for a small business. Put a budget aside to get you started, set realistic time frames. Sri Lanka is a great place to do business, especially in the hotel and tourism industry. Even fashion, entertainment, you name it; Sri Lankan consumers and foreign visitors will continue trooping to this beautiful island nation famed for its beautiful beaches, scenic forests, tasty delicacies, and hospitable people. How have you positioned your business in order to benefit from the ever growing number of customers using the internet to shop and research about goods, services, online? Well, it’s never too late! Think big, think ahead and embrace social media marketing even if it means hiring the services of a digital marketer. This is the new way of doing things not just in Sri Lanka, but globally. Even major international brands like PayPal, McDonalds, Payoneer, iPhone; all these have a robust social media presence, and for a good reason!
ClickDo is a professional, world class digital marketer that seeks to partner with small, medium and big Sri Lankan businesses looking to create an effective social media marketing campaign. Talk to our team today and let’s schedule a free consultation session where we’ll discuss your prospects.