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Tapping the virtual markets
Career Times, 26 February 2010
Practical programmes impart internet skills for businesspeople to get their message out effectively.
With the internet and daily influx of applications playing an increasing role in people's lives, businesses around the world are taking advantage of widening horizons and growing markets, unrestricted by geographic boundaries.
Social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have emerged as cost-saving and effective promotional tools.
"The demographics of the online world have changed in recent years. Internet users are getting younger and older generations are becoming more familiar with the virtual environment," says Fione Tan, president and CEO, eOneNet Limited. "This is creating increased marketing opportunities for a wider range of products and services."
While search engines such as Google and companies' own websites remain essential platforms for e-marketing, social sites have in recent years been widely used for "soft selling" and brand building. By doing this efficiently, organisations can greatly reduce their marketing costs, Ms Tan adds.
Ms Tan and a business partner founded eOneNet Limited in Malaysia 10 years ago, offering one-stop online marketing services and internet marketing training to multinational companies and small business entrepreneurs. In 2006, they set up base in Hong Kong.
The company now offers a number of introductory and elementary classes in Malaysia and Hong Kong, teaching successful online business models and effective online marketing steps.
For instance, a four-day practical internet marketing programme, which focuses on the application of online marketing and the sharing of practical experience, has been particularly well received by the owners of business start-ups.
In the pipeline is a new programme that demonstrates useful skills in brand marketing through social websites. Students will be required to attend one or two days' classes every month and to apply the knowledge and skills they gain to devise their own step-by-step marketing campaigns.
Topics to be covered will include blogging, video feeds and how to set up and maintain Facebook and Twitter pages. Since the pace of conducting business on the internet can be very fast, the programme will also include updates on an ongoing basis.
Ms Tan says, "Companies are increasingly setting up Facebook pages, but not all of them know how to increase their fan bases or to tap into the right markets."
Updating the fan page daily, uploading photos and responding to feedback are the very basics to maintain "viewership", she points out. "Special offers such as shopping vouchers, which incur minimal expenses, work well to keep fans loyal," she says.
One way of quickly spreading a message across a social media platform is through invitations to exclusive events such as private sales. "The internet is all about speed and its reach is infinite. You can execute a marketing campaign with the touch of your fingertips and get results almost instantaneously," Ms Tan stresses.
Word of mouth by fans can be more effective than hiring mystery shoppers, providing honest and insightful feedback on the one hand and serving as an effective and free promotional tool on the other.
Ms Tan advises companies to keep track of positive as well as negative comments, particularly in instances where the latter could damage their brand image.
She adds that all management staff should be fully aware of their company's internet strategy and be ready to perform risk management on any scale at any time. "By acting decisively on negative feedback, it is possible to create new business opportunities," she adds.
There is also a growing trend for organisations to invite high-profile bloggers to new product or service launches, in the knowledge that their opinions will reach and appeal to a considerable follower base.
"However, companies should make sure that they choose people that fit in with the brand image they want to portray," she cautions. "People shouldn't underestimate the marketing clout of the internet. It pays off to appoint IT specialists to maintain and upgrade their websites, initiate internet marketing campaigns and monitor the results for them."
The alternative is to improve overall in-house internet marketing literacy by offering training to employees in different divisions and on different levels.
eOneNet now offers new programmes on brand marketing through social media and other costs effective internet marketing strategies. Students will be able to choose between Cantonese- and English-medium programmes, with 20 to 30 participants per class.
"With more companies eyeing the mainland China market, the programme will include a specific focus on addressing mainland customers through popular social websites," Ms Tan says.
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Learning programme to highlight the use of online tools
About eOneNet.com eOneNet.com, ranked Asia's top Internet marketing company with offices in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, and ranked No.1 Internet marketing company Asia by Google, specializes in helping SMIs to expand their business globally and get top rankings in international and China search engines, and offers services including guaranteed top rankings in international and China search engines, email marketing in the legal way, and Internet marketing training and coaching. Clients include both multinational companies and SMIs in the region. For more details, visit http://www.eOneNet.com.
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