Why African businesses need to take notice of social media marketing #SMWF

SMWF London It’s not coming. It’s here – Africa’s mobile using population is growing so rapidly it’s difficult for the statisticians to keep up. Last year, the vast majority of mobile internet traffic across the continent was taken up by social networking, with Facebook, Youtube and Twitter figuring highly among most African countries’ top visited sites.

Social media isn’t coming to Africa; it’s well and truly here. Innovative, home-grown services like the South African MXit, a free instant messaging application with an estimated 7 million users, are challenging the perceived dominance of the international heavyweights. Massive international and local brands like Standard Bank, Nike, Coca-Cola, Nu-Metro, Samsung and 24.com are already counted among the advertisers using MXit.

The infrastructure lag and prohibitively high costs around high-speed internet connections has served to drive triple digit growth in mobile internet usage across Africa, with the mobile web now extending to tens of millions of people across the continent.

The number of Facebook users in Africa now stands at over 17m, up from just 10m in 2009. More than 15% of people online in Africa are currently using the platform, compare to 11% in Asia. African businesses that aren’t thinking about their social media strategy could be seriously missing a trick. Are your competitors thinking about it?

Banish the fear – A number of savvy companies like Kenya Airways, Standard Bank and telecommunications specialist MWEB are using social media platforms to interact better with customers, and during recent elections in Côte d’Ivoire, candidates not only toured the cities and villages; they also moved the contest online, posting campaign updates on Twitter and Facebook.

However, in business or politics, there’s always an inherent fear involved in placing any conversation about your brand outside the limits of what is ultimately and directly controllable. However, it’s highly likely that these conversations will occur about your brand whether you’re a part of them or not, so a social media presence allows you a measure of influence over the negative aspects, while giving you the opportunity to reach out to customers in a more positive, personal way. The successful social media brands deal with negative online noise in ways that can actually strengthen their reputation.

South Africa’s Standard Bank has pursued a social media agenda for several years and, for them, the medium has gone beyond simply marketing. “It has become another way of connecting with our customers, potential customers, employees, investors and even simply those seeking advice,” it says. “We are now using social media to talk about issues beyond banking…issues that concern everyone, such as the environment and communities in need.”

Make social Media part of your strategy – Social media shouldn’t replace any part of your current marketing efforts. It’s another channel through which to connect with existing and prospective customers. It’s a tool that can be used effectively for customer service, to deal neatly with complaints in a public way that demonstrates to everybody how much you care, and a conduit through which to forge strong emotional bonds with consumers in a personal, meaningful way.

These issues are central to the agenda of Social Media World Forum in Cape Town on 1-2 June. Some of the world’s leading digital brands, recognising the importance of the African market, will be in attendance, alongside local social media businesses like MIXit and Motribe, and experienced practitioners like Standard Bank and MWEB. You’ll hear from African marketing professionals who are already using social media to connect with customers, and pick up the strategic tips and insight to start making a difference to your own strategy. To learn more about this event and register for a pass, visit the event homepage today.