A few thoughts on an article published in the Huffington Post on the limited use of social media by Caribbean businesses.
Yesterday, the Huffington Post published an article, Why Are Caribbean Businesses Ignoring the Power of Digital Marketing!, written Ms Katyan Roach, a Social Media Consultant based in Trinidad and Tobago, who has written several articles for that publication. As the title of the article indicates, Ms Roach posits that Caribbean businesses do not see social media as a critical marketing tool, and so are not being as effective in their marketing efforts as they could be.
Without a doubt the writer appears passionate about the topic, especially social media, which was the focus of her discourse. However, the overall thrust of the piece seemed a bit broad-brush, when Caribbean countries, and by extension the region, often require more nuanced examination. In addition to the fact each business is unique, and how success is defined is different to for each owner, below are a few points that ought to be considered.
Inadequate resources to leverage digital social media properly
One of the first points that must be emphasised is that the majority of businesses in the Caribbean are in fact small and micro enterprises, that is under 50 people. Further most would be considered micro-businesses, as they have less than 10 employees, and frequently are single individual operations, or small family businesses, that just about provide an income for its workers, rarely never generate any significant profit. Further, they will almost never have a multi-million United States Dollar valuation, or become the darling of venture capitalists and angel investors. They provide goods and services that are needed, but essentially, subsist.
While some micro and small business may have a presence on at least one social network, it is more than likely true that the platform is being underutilised. However, in order to maintain an active presence, engage followers, and employ strategies that can result in increased sales, require resources – time, money and manpower – all of which the majority of micro and small business truly cannot afford.
Although it could be argued that investment in social media could help such businesses to grow, the business plan and model that have been established may not support that approach, and so the level of investment needed cannot be justified. Some understanding of the business’ goals is essential first to determine how best and the extent to which, social media, as one of many tactics, can employed.
Quality of input determines quality of output regardless of media
Regardless of medium, be it TV, print, radio, Facebook,Twitter or Instagram (to name a few), the effectiveness of the output, such as the marketing campaigns executed, is to a considerable degree dependent on the money and the quality of resources that can be applied.
For example, have you seen or heard TV and radio ads that made you cringe? Frequently, that reaction stems from the fact that the production and content were not as sophisticated as we have come to expect. The same can happen in social media. Hence while the previous point emphasised the need for resources to properly leverage social media, that very same argument are applicable to traditional media as well in order for the desired results to be achieved.
Social media to boil the ocean
Finally, and in today’s digital world, it is crucial for businesses to have a presence online, be it on a social network, and/or have a website, as a channel of engagement. However, it is even more critical for a business to understand its market, its customers, and the limitations of its environment, and thus how best to used the various media and platforms.
For example, while much is made of the size of popular social networks (Facebook has over a billion subscribers, Twitter has about 300 million, Instagram has over 400 million), the customers who may have an interest in your business’ goods or services might be minuscule in comparison. The following questions seek to illustrate:
- How much attention and resources should a Caribbean business be prepared to commit to a global (social) medium, if its goods and services can only be delivered within the country in which it is based?
- Further, although Facebook has over a billion subscribers, and using Antigua and Barbuda as an example, how much attention and resources should an Antiguan business be prepared to commit when only a fraction of the 32,000 Facebook subscribers that are located in Antigua (about a third of the population) may be among its target customer segment?
In essence, it is easy to get enamoured with the opportunity to market one’s business to a global audience, but it can be an illusion and severely misguided, if the business itself cannot service that market, or if it might not (yet) be necessary to promote the business’ brand globally. Typically, the actual target customer segment – for Caribbean businesses – is considerably smaller and so it is prudent for them to consider carefully their options, and the various media and platforms available, to determine how best to engage and market to their true customer base.
Image credit: Yoel Ben-Avraham (flickr)