Being part of the SMCAKL team, we get to pitch our ideas at the start of the year and get a chance to MC our own event. As a social media strategist, I talk to business owners and ask what their business objectives are and why they think they are ready to plunge into the social media arena. Time and time again, the answer has always been to know more about social and how it can grow their business.

It was surely one of the most talked about topic in the small business space.

When asked what I’d like to do for this year’s SMCAKL, I said, “Money!” What I wanted to do was to showcase real examples of Kiwis using social to build their business and prove that it’s not just for marketing but also helps in getting the dollars into the bank. A lot are still skeptical and this was the perfect venue for us to prove otherwise.

The Event

Fast forward to June 17, the event was packed! As they say, “money talks” and it was proven by having over 300+ registrations. I was told that it was the most we’ve had since SMCAKL started, close to our Google Glass event years back. I was so happy!

The Social Marketplace had 4 panelists, namely Ken Brickley of Buddy Bid, Makaia Carr of MotivateMe NZ, Wendy Thompson of Socialites, and Alex Mackrill of GrabOne. Part of the event included a segment called New Shiny Thing where we had Sarah Evans of Semble discuss about the latest in mobile payments in New Zealand.

smcaklsponsors_june2015We kicked off the event thanking our sponsors and announcing the prize of the night from The Online Business Academy giving away two (2) free passes to this year’s Social Media Conference.

We moved to Sarah presenting a 101 on Semble, an app that encourages you to ditch your wallet and pay via your smartphone. She mentioned that getting all the telcos in the country to join in is phenomenal. Kiwis can now use ‘contactless’ machines that have the Visa payWave or MasterCard PayPass symbols to pay. It’s as simple as loading your bank cards onto the app and you can start paying.

After being in awe with Semble, I asked the panelists to join me on stage to take their ‘hot seats’ for the main discussion.

Social Savings or Social Sales

I started asking whether social media is more savings or hard sales that contributed to the increase in a business’ bottom line. There was a mix of answers from the panel in which they’ve stated that it could be both. It was a matter of using data to identify, attract new clients and also seeing the value of reviving a customer via social that contributed to the business’ growth and eventually led to sales. Some have said that having an engaged audience is key to get more transactions over the line.

With regards to conversions, I asked if there was a specific timeframe that a business should invest in social before they can see results. All of them agreed that you can’t but more of looking at the right channel and exploring your audience before you see any traction. Ken added, “It depends on the sales cycle of the product. As an example, the wine sector has seen 80% of sales are from ‘Buy Now’ buttons in social. Make content transactional and let them buy when they are excited!”

Successful Stories & Campaigns

I’ve asked the panel to share some successful campaigns and Wendy discussed one with Mitre 10. They used content such as videos and photos along with Facebook advertising to get the community engaged. One in particular was having to post photos of rugs on their Facebook page and asked consumers to pick their favourite. The campaign ran for three weeks and it resulted a 45% increase in rug sales across all stores.

For Makaia, as her business was born on Facebook and is dependent on it, she currently has 1700 active paying members and her retention rate is 80% annually, alongside with some products being sold to members exclusively.

The Social Channel that Drive Sales

“Facebook is King!”, the panelists agree. Despite the changes on organic reach, numbers still show that people are buying on this platform. Alex shared that Shopify has recently published a study showing what platform drives more sales for businesses in the USA. He added, that commerce features on other networks like the Click to Buy on Instagram or even Pinterest buy buttons are helping to move entrepreneurs look beyond Facebook. Ken also said, …”to bring your product in the channel where your buyer is and make sure the product is always available to be purchased…”, regardless of the social channel.

Wendy on the other hand has Instagram as her fave as it is working for her clients.

Next in Social Commerce

The news have showed that chat apps are starting to be a venue for e-commerce transactions. Facebook has started accepting payments in the US and in Asia, buying and selling are already being done via Viber, Whats App and even WeChat. Is this the next wave of social commerce?

Ken mentions that it could work for a close network of friends but could be problematic if you go beyond that but surely brands will find a way to get into the band wagon when needed. Wendy thinks it’s just another way to do commerce but won’t stop other channels. It could even be through our “eyes”, one wouldn’t really know but she thinks it is going to be interesting to see in the next 5 years.

smcakltweetplaymoneyI thought of throwing play money for the crowd to go ballistic and start scrambling for money but I guess that didn’t work. Nevertheless, there were two bills that had “winner” stuck to it for us to pick the winners for the prize of the night.

It was a great night and we had a few writing blog posts about the event. Melissa Fergusson wrote her spin on the event and Beyond Recruitment published their take on what they’ve learned that night.

The event was also published on The Register (thanks to Retail NZ).

It was an awesome night and thanks to everyone in the SMCAKL team, sponsors and the community for supporting the event!

Here are more photos for your viewing pleasure. If you also want to watch the recorded live stream, head on to the SMCAKL YouTube channel.

Photo Gallery

Credit: Megan of Blackroom Photography

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