Health practitioners, artists and other event-based businesses have moved their operations online, but they say that online presence is more than just using social media. Here are some of the tools they are using to create online communities
words by maki molapo
There are multiple changes taking place across many professional industries and most businesses have had to adapt or die. The pandemic has flipped the script on what normal is – forcing most professions to think fast and find ways of relating to their audience remotely. Social media has been the most convenient way of reaching audiences, and some industries have managed to take it a step further while others continue to struggle.
A notable change is the Health Professions Council of South Africa’s (HPCSA) guidelines which prohibits the use of electronic communication technology to treat patients where there’s distance between participants. This has enabled others to fill the void, such as the CarmenPhysio, a physiotherapist and private practice, which uses telehealth for remote individual treatment sessions. Physiotherapist at the private practice, Carmen Baier explains that they had been using online platforms such as emails and WhatsApp to assist patients but since the pandemic, and before, they’ve been using PhysiApp – an exercise prescription software facilitated by professionals – and telehealth. This means face-to-face assessments that were required to plan physical assessments, are now done virtually. However, there are limitations such as not knowing how the different components in the body feel but Baier says they talk their clients through doing some self-relief techniques and they, “work through giving them the correct exercises that will help correct the problem causing the pain”.
However, things are vastly different for freelance photographer Refiloe Letsie of Wreff Photography, who started by offering his services for free seven years ago to make a name for himself and eventually began charging clients three years ago, after buying his first camera because the reality of how expensive the equipment was, sunk in. He says he met paying clients through social media but most of his network was established through attending events and meeting people in social spaces. Letsie says because of the pandemic’s limitations, he is stuck with ideas he struggles to execute. “It’s hard to do presentations and show [people] what you can [or] are trying to do,” he says.
In relation to social media, Baier says, “we primarily use Facebook to share information and some posts on Google My Business; sometimes we [also] send emails,” with all the latest information. Although some creatives have resorted to showcasing their work on social media, Letsie says things “are really bad”, adding that “it looks like I might have to do more collaborations”, to pick up some steam. He says even though his finances have taken a knock, this period has forced him to introspect, think broader, challenge himself and invest more in his craft.
With these changes in mind, it’s important to know that moving a business online especially for a brand is more than just using social media. It’s about, “adding value for your target audience [effectively while also] trying to leverage their attention,” explains Ogopoleng Mushi, Founder and President of Trend Consultancy, a PR and Digital Marketing company. Mushi says “it’s time to look at your core value as a company and your mission statement” and communicate and convince your audience that you are who you say you are. It goes without saying that the pandemic is accelerating the 4IR and this has forced businesses to adapt faster. However, Mushi says the outcome will differ from business to business but if you “identify your niche of adding value” then you might transition safely.
Mushi says social media analytics will help assess your business’s impact by seeing who viewed your posts, “how long a person was on your [post], and if they actually finished watching [it].” Another advantage is that you can also checkout your competition’s progress through their analytics. As much as social media is the easiest way to have an e-magnet, Google Ads is another great option that will only be beneficial if you’ve distinguished yourself and created your own community. While investment is important in business, there are free features you can try to do things organically, which will take time or you can advertise through social media ads.
As we navigate and try to figure out the online terrain, it’s also important to remember that there’s an overwhelming number of South Africans who cannot afford or access these resources. However, this should not dissuade you, instead it should inspire you to fill whatever gaps the pandemic has so far exposed about your industry’s shortcomings.
image credit: Nick Morrison / unsplash