Manawatu businesses are pretty savvy with their social media use, and they may soon get more bang from their buck from their Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) is planning a series of workshops, based on the results of a survey.
The survey, commissioned by the Palmerston North City Council in August last year, found the city’s businesses proved a little more savvy with social media than the rest of New Zealand.
The Digital Journey Report found 81 per cent of Palmerston North businesses use social media for marketing, and 58 per cent have planned out a social media strategy. The national rate is 71 per cent, and 33 per cent, respectively.
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Council business development executive Mike Manson said there was still room for improvement, especially with over a quarter of Palmerston North business owners finding limited value in social media.
Manson said social media use had become a critical area of development for the city’s economy, and the council was working closely with CEDA to help businesses make the most of it.
“We’re in a digital era, and businesses are going to have to adapt [to social media]. Otherwise, they may not be able to effectively find their customers any more.
“For our economy to stay strong and grow, we need to ensure that businesses are doing everything they can in this area.”
CEDA acting chief executive Linda Stewart said the proposed workshops would cover everything from marketing to the basics of using information technology to improve the day-to-day running of a business.
CEDA would launch pilot workshops by Christmas, Stewart said.
Manawatu Muffler Centre co-owner Vanessa Farrington was keen to sign up.
Manawatu Muffler builds mufflers that the original manufacturers no longer make, and a lot of its orders come through its website.
Farrington said she ran a company Facebook page that pulled in some business, but she could probably double it if she knew enough to capitalise on social media.
“There’s a huge audience available online, but it all comes down to how you use it, [so] I would obviously love to learn how to do more.”
Halcyon Cafe co-owner Alesha McQuinn has made building the cafe’s presence on Facebook and Instagram a priority since opening on Cuba St in Palmerston North late last year.
“We mostly try to do visual stuff that people can engage with, and ask followers for their opinion about things we’re looking to try.”
She said it had had a noticeable effect on her business, with many new customers finding Halcyon through posts shared by their social media contacts.
“It’s the same principle as word of mouth, really, only it reaches more people.”
It also gave McQuinn an avenue to talk directly with her customers. For example, Halcyon recently began staying open late on Fridays after a social media poll showed her customers were keen for an evening coffee at the end of the week.
Steve Adams, co-founder of digital agency Socialize, has been travelling around the country for the past year, helping councils set up regional “About Us” pages aimed at making it free and easy for small business owners to get active online and ultimately make more money.
“Studies show that when a business gets online, they crank about another 20 to 30 per cent turnover … from an economic development point of view it’s the best thing you can do for a town,” he told Stuff.