Using social media as a business tool has been "fast-forwarded by years" as a result of Covid-19, a digital marketing expert believes.
Social media trainer and consultant Bea Pole-Bokor says the opportunity for traditional business dealings such as face-to-face meetings were extremely limited during the pandemic-induced lockdowns.
"Since then I have noticed a growth in demand from businesses for help in utilising social media," she says. "People are much more receptive to the idea and everyone knows what a Zoom meeting is now."
Yet she says many business owners remain overwhelmed by the digital environment and struggle to know where to start or how to navigate the world of likes, shares and hashtags - a scenario that risks taking some "out of the game".
Pole-Bokor, who established Nelson-based B!Social in 2017 to train businesses and other organisations on ways to leverage the power of social media, says by its very nature it is social and demands effective interpersonal or 'soft skills' to communicate and engage with people and customers.
Her comments come as a global analysis by professional networking site LinkedIn has identified soft skills such as creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence among the most in-demand attributes employers are looking for in 2020.
In data sourced from LinkedIn's network of over 706+ million professionals and over 20 million job listings, creativity topped the list of attributes employers are looking for (they also included key 'hard' skills such as cloud computing competency).
This demand is also recognised by the University of Auckland Business School which is offering study in Digital Marketing – and Strategic Management – through its Master of Business Management.
Margot Bowker, the University's Programme Director of Master of Business Management programme, says it provides an opportunity for people wanting to upskill or who are thinking about changing their career.
"With the rise in start-ups and entrepreneurship, there is a demand for soft skills," she says. "The world of business is experiencing rapid change, disruption and expansion and as unemployment and underemployment increases (in the pandemic), more people are looking to change their careers."
"The top soft skills are more human-centric and are the essential interpersonal skills that make or break our ability to get things done."
Using social media is a big part of this and Pole-Bokor - who is an industry expert for the Master of Business Management - says it is a powerful tool for business communication and marketing because its platforms connect people and provide "networking on the internet". Often potential customers searching for a business go to platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube and, if they like what they see, will then visit a company's website.
She says how businesses use social media is therefore crucial: "But a lot don't know how to deal with it and worry about whether their posts are good enough and what people will think of them. How you communicate is vital, even down to how you say hello, or how you respond to questions on social media."
Pole-Bokor says she works with a diverse range of clients from beginners to those at an advanced level to help determine which platforms to use and how to create content and key messages that will attract the right customers.
She says with the disruption caused by Covid-19, now is a good time for businesses to educate themselves on digital marketing – although she believes it is wise to keep other marketing options up their sleeves.
Although social media is a wonderful tool, she says is just one of many available to market business. "It is always good to have options and social media can be excellent to use in combination with websites and traditional methods of marketing such as face-to-face meetings and media advertising."
Pole-Bokor, who this year was named as a finalist in the Social Media Marketing Institute of Australia's Best Social Media Educator of the Year Award (for Australasia), says she has always loved hanging out on social media.
She is originally from Hungary where she worked for 10 years as a diplomat in the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She moved to New Zealand five years ago - she and her husband fell in love with the country after holidaying here - and decided to utilise the communication and people skills she learned as a diplomat in re-inventing herself as a social media trainer.
The University of Auckland's Master of Business Management is a flexible, practitioner-focused programme allowing postgraduates the opportunity to study full or part time. It also runs evening classes for those who have jobs.
To learn more about the range of opportunities available to upskill, reskill and change career direction go to: www.business.auckland.ac.nz/pg