Local companies warm up to social media marketing

By Theresia Tjihenuna
March 2013
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Catching an employee chatting away on Facebook during working hours can sometimes cost one their job.

Conversely, the newly-appointed social media marketing manager at the Standard Bank Namibia (SBN), Janet Ndaitwa, gets paid for spending her working hours on social networking sites.

Hard-working and tenacious, Ndaitwa spends her time on SBN’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, monitoring trends and developments aimed at impacting the company’s bottom line.

Ndaitwa’s daily activities include strategising on the best approaches to take in answering clients’ queries, monitoring online traffic and tracing what SBN’s clients say about the bank on various social network platforms.

Like most young people these days, Ndaitwa is a social network fanatic, which is not surprising. Her new role involves changing clients’ negative perceptions about the bank into positive ones by using nothing but social media, which are now viewed as some form of a ‘suggestion-box’ for clients.

This means receiving a few unpleasant comments and complaints from clients about the company’s products and services from time to time.

“The key is to stay calm, not take the comments personally and address them in a polite and professional manner,” Ndaitwa says, adding, it requires one to be thick-skinned and yet tolerant, which are the two qualities that define who she is.

“I am a consumer and a client myself. I know how frustrating it can be when services slack. People want value for their money and they have the right to breathe fire down your throat when they do not get the services they know they deserve,” she says.

Ndaitwa has managed to win over the bank’s skeptics with her social media marketing and communication skills in just three months.

The former St. Paul College’s learner and Cape Peninsula University of Technology graduate started off as a graphic designer at an advertising agency - DV8 Saatchi and Saatchi - which is the same company that awarded her a scholarship to study graphic design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

“I also took up a degree in marketing and communication at the University Of South Africa (Unisa) while still pursuing my graphic design degree,” the 28-year-old confesses.

It was not long before Ndaitwa was promoted as an accounts executive, a position she held until she landed her SBN job last November.

“We knew clients were talking about us out there, we just didn’t know what they were saying. Now we have created a platform where they can post their complaints and have them directed to the right people,” she says.

She adds; “I work very closely with the bank’s social media consulting agency. I advise them on what to do, with relevance to what the clients are saying. We then analyse how to effectively respond to the comments.”

Gone are the days when the responsibility of updating a company’s social network page was merely left to an intern because senior employees had better things to do.

“Nowadays, managing social network pages has become a crucial part of marketing for any business, that it requires a seasoned individual to effectively do it,” equips Ndaitwa.

She admits, before landing the job, the bank’s social media marketing was non-existent. She had to start from scratch to get the concept off the ground: “It was a challenge because so many clients had their own pre-conceived ideas about the bank and changing people’s mindsets is never easy.”

Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the official website, Ndaitwa has managed to reduce the number of negative comments about the bank by addressing their complaints with useful and timely information.

“For example, there are a lot of customers talking about mobile banking. I take their comments to our business department, so that they are able to provide relevant feedback about mobile banking to the client in a timely manner,” she explains, adding, notifying clients of any changes is part of her duties. For instance, when ATM machines are out of order, she’d rather clients discovered from her first so that they do not feel as if the bank has pulled the mat from under their feet.

These days, almost every business has a profile page and has made their presence felt on social media. So what makes Ndaitwa’s social media marketing approach different from the rest?

Most companies, she asserts, do not know how to effectively implement the concept into their marketing plan to promote their products and services: “You need to spam your clients with loads of information. The mistake most companies make is, they forget to listen to what their clients are really saying and miss the opportunity to innovate products that are tailor-made for them.”

She says traditional marketing and public relations have both found a helper in social media marketing. “While traditional PR waits until the following day to relay information via traditional media channels, social media marketing works in real time by giving instant feedback. However, the two still complement each other,” she says.

Despite her current success, Ndaitwa still hopes to professionally grow and learn with and from every responsibility.

“So far, I enjoy what I do but I see myself leaning more towards the business side of things in future, as far as marketing as a discipline is concerned,” she concludes. PF