Why South African companies should look at Social Media now

There’s a big flurry of action around Social Media in South Africa at the moment.

It seems that Twitter and Facebook has finally become mainstream over the past year, and clients are asking more and more about integrating social media into their existing campaigns. The question that one has to ask however, is “Why would you want to do it?”.

When things become mainstream, it seems everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. Don’t do it because everyone else is doing it. Do it because you’ve done your research and it might be a viable complement to your marketing efforts.

As internet marketing consultants we come across many companies that has given up on social media because they made a miserable failure of trying to do it themselves. They gave up, because it didn’t work and in their minds that’s the end of it. It’s up to online marketers to convince these clients otherwise, but I thought I’d share some insights with you for things to consider when looking at Social Media in South Africa.

Points to consider for companies in South Africa looking to go into Social Media:

1. A small percentage of the market is actually online *

Only about 5-6 million people are actively using the internet through computers in South Africa (according to World Wide Worx). That’s roughly 10% of everyone in South Africa. These users are primarily higher LSM consumers. Also remember that out of this number, not all consumers are using Social Media. What now?

* This doesn’t mean that we don’t have good market penetration, because mobile internet usage is increasing dramatically in South Africa. There are more active mobile phones than people in South Africa and as the roll-out of cheaper smart phones improves, we’re finding that potential customers are jumping straight from no internet to mobile internet. Take note of this and gear your campaigns to mobile browsing and applications as well, whether through mainstream mobile applications like Twitter and Facebook, or custom developed mobile applications.

2. MXit, Facebook and Twitter has the best market penetration

MXit is South Africa’s biggest mobile social network at the moment. It’s a mobile application that allows users to chat on the mobile data networks at the fraction of the cost of a text message. It’s HUGE under the younger generation, but has so far failed to gain real traction market above 25. If you’re aiming for the age bracket of 12-25, it’s a good bet. The network is estimated to have around 15 million users world wide, and around 9 million users in South Africa. More info on MXit here.

Facebook is geared more towards ‘being social’, so if your brand does not lend itself to this you should have sound strategies on how to get traction. In the past year we have however been seeing much better results since there has been more third party applications that talk to Facebook and the ‘like’ buttons which improves social sharing.

Twitter is gaining ground fast as the premium medium for sharing information fast and in real time. The South African media has taken to Twitter in a big way, which was in part the cause of Twitter going mainstream here. The downside? There is a lot of clutter and users get distracted very quickly. If managed right, you can generate big traction for your campaigns and build up a loyal database of customers to talk to on a regular basis.

3. Location is everything!

Location based services is what social media was to blogging (yes I know blogging can be categorised under social media sometimes, but just indulge me here). We’d just about introduced everyone to blogging when we started telling clients ‘social is the next big thing’. Confusing? For sure, but that is the nature of technology and how word of mouth spreads. Generally the local industry is doing a good job of educating the market on new technology, but it does take time to get taken up. A few to look out for would be foursquare, Gowalla, Google Places/Local and now Facebook Places.

Gowalla, Facebook Places and foursquare work on the same principles, where users check in to a location (geo-targeted by their mobile devices). With the service knowing where you are, it can offer you specials that are at locations close to you, tell you whether your friends are nearby or just give you tips about your current location. They do have some distinct differences which I will not go into here, but each provides its own appeal. Gowalla and foursquare run like a game, where you generate points and badges for checking in and you compete against friends that you add on the service.

This has immense value to companies that are geared towards walk in business, especially in the hospitality industry. It also does wonders for bringing social media to the real world (physical in stead of virtual interaction). Facebook Places is not yet available in South Africa, but it probably won’t be long before it reaches our shores. This would be an interesting space to watch over the coming months as Facebook, foursquare and Gowalla battle it out for location supremacy. Gowalla does not seem to have as much traction as foursquare in South Africa at the moment.

4. Have a strategy

If you’re a company looking to enter the social media scene in South Africa, you have to know what you’re letting yourself in for. The reasons why social campaigns fail are not always clear, but it’s mostly because of the wrong strategy, pure ignorance or bad implementation.

Make sure you look at the following:

  • Use a reputable company to develop and implement your social media campaigns – anyone can create a Facebook page or a Twitter account, but it’s the experience that counts in pulling off a successful social media campaigns and there are many tricks of the trade that reputable companies have learned through experimentation.
  • Join the conversation – Social Media is much more engaging than a normal website, so you will have to keep track of what is going on and what is being said so that you can respond fast. Twitter especially is all about responding fast, so you will have to allocate the time and resources to look after this.
  • Manage your reputation – companies are often scared of going into Social Media because it’s an open platform for criticism. Own up and take it on, because it will only improve your own service to your customers and give you insights into your market like never before. Recent happenings like the Gap logo and Woolworths sagas will teach companies that their customers now have a voice in Social Media and it can no longer be ignored. In fact, even if you’re not actively running Social Media campaigns you might still be mentioned, so start listening!
  • Keep track – there are various tools that will help you ‘listen’ to what people are saying about your brands and products. A local product called BrandsEye has recently been released which does a pretty good job of automating your Online Reputation Management. Check it out!
  • Explore the features – all these different types of services have different advantages. Make sure you use them to your full advantage where applicable. Don’t just create a presence, expand that presence to its full potential!
  • Experiment – if you’re new to the game, run some experimental campaigns to test the waters. This can be done with lower budget, but follow the advice from your social media consultant (the one with experience!) as lower budget campaigns might sometimes not have the same reach as less time and effort has been put in. A good social media consultant will however aim for maximum return on investment for your marketing budget.
  • Have fun! – Why so serious? Social Media is about being social after all.

Hope you enjoyed the read, looking forward to your comments!



Author: Dirk

Surfer & Internet Entrepreneur @ Semantica Digital, Cape Town, South Africa

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1 Comment

  1. Social media for Africa – just arrived, and with analytics! http://bit.ly/hx4fcQ

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