A month ago, I was transferred from the omy.sg editorial team in Singapore Press Holdings to ST701, our online classifieds for the local market, consisting of four main verticals: STProperty, STCars, STJobs, and STClassifieds.

Globally, print classifieds, yellow pages, and directory businesses all have been severely affected by online competitors over the past decade.

I view ST701 as a strong strategic product to fend off competitors. Together with our print older brother, it provides both advertisers and users with a better cross-media classified experience – one sole online competitors cannot offer.

The ST701 team has some impressive results to show, following a series of re-launch and re-branding efforts since the middle of last year:

  • STproperty was re-launched in August 2012. Since that time, it has since clawed its way from relative obscurity to the No. 2 property site in Singapore in terms of absolute traffic.

  • STJobs is at No. 3.

  • In April, SPH acquired the top car site in Singapore, SGCarMart.

There is still much work to be done until we reach the No. 1 spot for all four verticals. Marketing for online classifieds spans the full gamut of marketing – from traditional outdoor ads, newspapers, e-mails, and online banner ads, to newer Web-specific channels like SEO/SEM and social media.

In fact, when I first joined the ST701 team, I was pleasantly surprised to learn we have a dedicated social media team that is churning out daily content about the four verticals on social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

There is also an analytics team that will crunch numbers for the social media team and discover trends in support of driving social media engagement back to our classifieds sites.

Despite the relative youth of the four re-launched verticals, each has more than 100,000 fans on its respective Facebook page – way ahead of any other local competitors. With a dedicated executive for each vertical, we are able to pump out relevant and timely content to constantly engage with our fans.

For instance, a post on the most popular condominiums in Singapore on STProperty’s Facebook page garnered more than 3,000 Facebook likes, 300 comments, and 1,000 shares, keeping our fans engaged with relevant and interesting content.

In addition, with Teachers’ Day just round the corner, STClassifieds is now running a contest to giveaway flowers for teachers on its Facebook page. This post has already garnered more than 1,000 likes and more than 40 shares in just two days.

Amazing, isn’t it?

And this is just the beginning. There is still more work to be done for other social channels.

How did the team achieve this?

“The philosophy behind our social media initiative is based on the four principles of ‘be seen,’ ‘be heard,’ ‘be found,’ and ‘be engaged,’ which is what people do on social media,” said Johnson Goh, vice president and head of SPH Online Classifieds.

“Barely a year ago when we re-launched, ST701 zoomed in on social media as a flanking strategy to grow an area which our competitors are weak at,” Goh continued. “Today, we have a combined reach of more than 400,000 fans across our four verticals’ Facebook pages, and it is still growing on a daily basis.

“The battle does not end here, and we are now working on conversion to direct the fans back to our core products.”

I think most industry peers would have the notion that the classifieds business is more old school and “boring.” Follow us on our Facebook pages. I believe ST701 will be able to dispel this myth for you.