How social media is driving business in Africa

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you will have heard of social media. Anne Vicente, Account Manager at H+K Strategies considers the impact of this new media on the African continent.

While you may not be a committed user, nor know your tweets from your twits, you probably have a sense that this is something that your organisation needs to start getting involved in. Here are five compelling reasons that you need to be actively thinking about how you’re going to join the conversation.

Africa is connected
There are 650 million people in Africa with cell phones and while only 14-17% of these numbers are smartphones, feature phones that can access the internet and therefore social media platforms are ubiquitous.

African innovation is thriving on the back of demand for electricity to charge these cell phones. For example, a solar powered lamp was unsuccessfully marketed in a number of African countries, but when two USB ports for cell phone chargers were added, demand for the lamp surged.

Consumers want to reach you
This is a wonderful opportunity for you. Are you listening to them? Are you talking back? Or are you forcing consumers to do what works for you?  Social media has certainly given power to consumers in all segments.

GTBank (Guaranty Trust Bank ...

plc) – a Nigerian company – is a good example of this working well. GTBank is the biggest and most profitable bank in Nigeria based in Victoria Island, Lagos. It used Facebook extremely effectively to engage with its customers and to find out what they wanted. This customer feedback helped to inform it of where to put its ATMs – i.e. in locations that worked for its customers. The bank has 1 309 773 likes on its Facebook page (locally, FNB has 396 105; ABSA 107 202; Nedbank 33 010 and Standard Bank 277).

With social media at their fingertips, consumers are more likely to vent their anger at your brand via Twitter than taking the trouble to be in touch with you using more traditional channels. The younger generation in particular is not afraid to speak out and hold people accountable. The Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya were prime examples of this. The cell phone is the first point of engagement – particularly in the youth market.

It makes business sense Improved connectivity and new technologies mean that doctors are able to perform surgeries remotely. Literally cut and stitch even though they’re miles away. In addition a new smartphone scanner app can take a “10 vital signs” reading from a patient to help a doctor understand their symptoms. Have you considered how this sort of approach and thinking could help your business?

E-commerce The spread of internet connectivity and social media has greatly enhanced the opportunity for e-commerce and online trading. Local retailers such as Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths have devoted considerable resources to improving their online offering and it will be interesting to see what proportion of their business migrates to online in the next year or two.  It should be noted that in Africa, online retailers need to look at the entire delivery chain to ensure that customers receive their goods when they expect them, as often remote areas are not served by courier companies or postal services.

Brands need to become media themselves Social media allows brands to become interactive and dynamic entities. As demonstrated by the Nigerian bank operating via Facebook, social media lends itself to reaching out to consumers, listening to feedback and implementing their wishes. It is the ideal way to build a reputation and garner feedback on products and services. Of course, social media is one part of the greater brand strategy, but it will become increasingly important as the world evolves further and the younger generation becomes more affluent as they climb the corporate ladder.