Even as social media platforms experience exponential growth and marketers look for better ways to engage, SMS and email remain the primary and most effective ways to market to consumers.

“One would argue that SMS should have been replaced by email. It hasn’t. Email will not be replaced by social media either, in fact research from McKinsey shows that email is 40 times more effective as a marketing tool than social media,” Scott Cundill told Fin24.

Cundill is the founder of integrated communication solutions provider Majestic3.com and author of the books How NOT to Start and Run Your Own Business and 7 Ways to Double Your Sales, among others.

According to research data from World Wide Worx, there are 11,8 million Facebook users in SA with 8,8 million accessing the social network on mobile phones.

But even as companies race to engage this huge audience, results don’t always match the investment.

“A 2014 research study from Forrester indicates that individuals are not interacting all that much with branded social content anymore. This research indicates that ‘on six of the seven social networks, the brands we studied achieved an engagement rate of less than 0,1%’,” Cundill said.

But that doesn’t mean that companies should abandon social networks and focus exclusively on older technologies such as SMS and email.

“Guaranteed messages to a phone can only happen via SMS, which makes it powerful. As more and more people access email on their cellphones, and apps become more prolific, SMS will be phased out over time,” he argued.

Fast-food brand KFC has experienced a steep learning curve on the pitfalls and power of social media this year.

First, workers at a KFC restaurant in Braamfontein were recently filmed washing chicken on the ground, which the company insisted was meant to be discarded. Then a second incident in which KFC workers are alleged to have sharpened kitchen knives on a pavement resulted in the brand taking a serious knock online.

Both incidents were widely condemned and people reacted angrily on the KFC Facebook page, despite the brand’s assurance that it had no knowledge of the practices.

Cundill warned that social media is an ideal platform for consumers to vent their anger and frustration at company service and culture, rather than embarking in direct engagement on products and services.

“VB News says consumers complain 879 million times a year on social media alone, and 20% of these complaints are made on Facebook. One thing that we know for certain is that social media carries the risk of impacting a brand negatively.

“It is common knowledge that many customers and individuals leverage social media as a means of complaining or venting their frustration towards a brand, and this poses significant business and reputation risks.”

Social media also falls far short of email as a communication tool in that control of the database rests with third-party companies, unlike email where a firm can control its own user contact list.

“Although social media has the potential to integrate with, support and complement a business’s email database, a significant insight is that a company has full ownership of its email contacts. The same is not true of social media, which leaves businesses with extremely limited ownership rights and negligible control of the data contained within their social media pages,” Cundill said.

But that doesn’t mean companies should abandon social media. In fact, the investment into social media should augment a wider and deeper customer engagement strategy, Cundill added.

“Social media is more likely to be leveraged as a means of complementing or supporting a marketing strategy, rather than driving it.”

– News24Wire