Faisal Alsaad – Riyadh

How Local Brands Are Leading on Social Networks

Faisal Alsaad – Riyadh Nowadays, hundreds if not thousands of local companies are trying hard to provide their customers with online services on Social Networks, in parallel to the services they provide on their websites. Yet, rarely do we see a local firm that masters the art of engaging with its customers on the digital scene. We will focus on the leading telecom provider in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, the Saudi Telecom Company (STC), which ventured into famous social networks two years ago, emphasizing its presence on Facebook and Twitter – the primary social networks used by more than 5 million Saudis.

Although STC was not the first in its industry to enter the social network space and its initial campaigns centered around product giveaways, a quick look at its official pages on Facebook and Twitter will reveal how their social network officers are engaging their fans with interesting content, rather than merely utilizing the huge number of fans they have to advertise and market their services. For example, when the Saudi Government announced its annual budget, STC thought that this was a very engaging piece of news and thus decided to share it with fans in an appealing way, without mentioning numbers, since that would be out of a telecom operator’s scope. An STC post asked people to spread happy wishes for the upcoming year among people, and wished a fruitful year for the whole country and King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. It all depended on the wording and the copy they used, along with the choice of media used – the richer the media, the bigger the chance people will interact. In STC’s case, a video was linked, dedicated to King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. This generated astonishing feedback from fans in reply to a topic considered somehow a difficult thing to pull in social networks nowadays, especially that it took place on a company’s Facebook page, and not on just a normal, generic Facebook page.

In mere minutes and after publishing this story on STC’s official Social Network pages, thousands of people liked it, shared it, re-tweeted it (the same piece of news was shared on Twitter as well), and commented on it. This proves that even if you are specialized in a certain industry and decide to become active on your Social Network official pages, you should be dynamic with your followers and fans when it comes to social and political events, in addition to anticipating what the mass are eager to discuss and talk about, in an effort to retain fans and followers.

They all say that the world has become a small village. This saying was common among people even before any online social network were created. Thinking that our world has become smaller is somehow a controversial issue. On the contrary, the amount of data and news is immense. Being on many different social networks simultaneously while maintaining your performance is a challenging thing to do. If the world is so small now, ask yourself: why do we see small companies still struggling to reach a bigger audience, while large companies can? It all comes down to a single factor: how good is your social media team? Do they know every single piece of information about your company, services, events, goals, values? Do they monitor and absorb the never-ending day to day feedback received from customers (online and offline)?

STC is one of the biggest local companies in the market today, ranked 14th by the number of subscribers worldwide, which makes it the largest in its industry locally and in the MENA region. Its presence on social networks could be a way to alleviate pressure on their customer care lines,, since the operator provides support on its social networks to all of its customers 24/7. Social networks could also be a way to increase marketing powers. Nonetheless, the fact that STC took a step forward and made its presence felt is a success and an example that is being referred to in many case studies throughout the MENA region. Recently, STC has shared on its official Twitter account an interesting information, about how it managed to collect contact numbers of people who willingly registered their names on the operator’s Facebook page to receive up-to-date news about the release of the iPhone4S. Amazingly, according to an STC report, this number exceeded the number of customers who registered using an SMS code.

Most companies tend to hire fresh-graduates who only have a personal experience when it comes to using famous social networks (Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube). They give them full trust in handling the official accounts. Yet, the same companies complain about not meeting their targets on these websites, not generating the estimated buzz, nor the projected sales that they were seeking. Here is where specialty comes into place and the quests above should be answered clearly by officials who are responsible for hiring fresh-graduates with no proper experience in representing the company on social networks. These young employees should have the skills of a marketer, a salesman, a public speaker, and a copywriter. They should also have an eye for creativity, a sense of humor, know how to solve problems, analyze, report, and take as much decisions as they can without referring back to their superiors with each and every inquiry they encounter. Consequently, if you were seeking professional presence on your official social media networks, you have to hire someone who is multitalented, and is capable of meeting your business’s objectives and targets. It sounds like a risky investment, while in fact, you should start thinking about it from a different point of view: it is an essential investment, one that you shouldn’t continue without – of course, you should make sure that your industry, product, service, and company in general, do fit the profile of social networkIng.

During the Second Arab Social Media Forum which took place a few months ago in Riyadh, Mr. Patrick Atallah, who is one of the social media pioneers in the region, stated that STC is considered today the most talked-about brand in the region on social networks. Taking into consideration the good old saying: “No publicity is bad publicity” and experiencing the growth that social network channels are witnessing, one can only agree to the inspiring social media rule: “Conversation is key”; so, no matter how big you are, no matter how complicated the process of customer support at your company is, you should start providing your services on social networks as soon as possible.

We are yet to arrive to a time when people notice which companies don’t exist on social networks, but believe it or not, very soon, people will; consequently, neglecting these networks will have its tangible negative effects on your business as a whole.

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