Category Archives: Marketing

South African social media trends

While I believe that many marketing fundamentals remain the same, there is no denying that in the fast-paced social media marketing world, you need to keep your wits about you to stay on top of the game.

Here are my top five social media trends from the past couple of months:

1. Social is mobile

For some time Facebook has been saying that it is fast becoming a mobile company. And the latest stats show that more than half of its 900 million odd users access the network with a mobile device. In South Africa, according to Social Bakers, 80.5 percent of 4.6 million SA Facebookers are mobile, while in Nigeria slightly more, 81.5 percent of 4.3 million users, are mobile. This is hardly surprising, seeing as we are such a mobile-only continent.

Indeed, according to the latest stats from research house World Wide Worx, 7.9 million of South Africa’s 8.5 million internet users go online using their cellphones. 2.48 Million only ever use a cellphone. Smartphone users are forecast to rise to 11 million + in 2012, from 8.5 million today.

What is surprising though, is that according to its IPO documents, Facebook has not earned any revenue from mobile. To be sure, the mobile Facebook user experience is not the best, and has no advertising or application integration. But it is likely, especially after a raft of acquisitions in the mobile space – notably Instagram earlier this year – that Facebook will be upping the ante when it comes to mobile and making money from mobile.

2. Business links up

Businesses have discovered LinkedIn – especially the financial services, recruitment and property sectors, based on the requests I have received to link up. But they could do better. While pretty much all connections on LinkedIn have some sort of professional networking element to them, I usually have met the person or it is very clear why they are wanting to connect: we’re in the same industry, for instance. More recently, there seems to be a very passive trend emerging, where the estate agent, finance advisor or recruitment agent doesn’t bother to explain why they are wanting to connect and never engages again, which seems like a bit of a waste of time. I’d suggest these online networkers would do better to browse the Q&A section of LinkedIn, where they can actively engage with a potential customer by answering a question or providing information and so building a relationship. Another good resource is Quora, a dedicated question and answer site, is starting to be used more often in South Africa.

3. Brands get pinning

Thanks to its integration into Facebook, Pinterest has grown by leaps and bounds this year. And where there is a gathering of consumers sharing their likes and preferences – as they are doing on this social network organised around shared online pinboards – brands following very soon. Some brands, such as Yuppie Chef in South Africa, are getting this right. But others, based on the communal groans that seem to be coming from the Pinterest fan corner, too many are getting it wrong.

4. Brands are slowly starting to close the loop

Social media campaigns are starting to move beyond generating “likes” and retweets for their own sake, to actually generating sales in the real world. One competition which has just started using the Evly platform on Facebook asks customers to enter by sharing a recipe using a certain type of Spekko rice, along with a photo of the dish and the rice. Unfortunately however, there seems to be little integration across the marketing teams – my local supermarket didn’t have the specific rice in stock, and there was no point of sale tie in to the Facebook competition. It will be interesting to see the results of the campaign, but one suspects these could be improved with some real world tie in.

5. QR codes and location services

The trend here is that we continue to see little take up of either of these services, which seem to fit so well with both social and mobile. There was a brief flurry of excitement amongst SA social media commentators in May around a clever QR code campaign launched by Guinness, but it doesn’t seem likely this will be launched locally any time soon, if at all. To be fair, QR codes are starting to creep onto the backs of wine labels and other consumables, but really as little more than a clever way to provide more information about the product. I’m hoping there is more to come from both these technologies.

This article was first published on African Business Review

What marketers can learn from Kony 2012

Kony 2012, the campaign started by US-based NGO Invisible Children to stop Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, serves as a reminder that in the bright and shiny new social media world, we shouldn’t forget the basics.

Kony 2012. Depending on your point of view, anything from the most skillfully executed viral campaign in history, mobilising people across the planet to demand governments do something about the world’s most wanted man; to a dangerous example of modern-day internet-powered colonialism, perpetuating the helpless African myth to further self-serving ambitions and arrogantly disregarding the voice of the people supposedly being helped.

This has already been discussed very eloquently by people far more qualified than me to comment on the complexities and dynamics of the Kony 2012 campaign. Writing in the week after “Cover the Night” – the culmination of the campaign – it strikes me that there are a number of important lessons that marketers can learn from this online sensation. And, ironically, most of them are to do with not forgetting good marketing and communication practices, irrespective of the medium you are using.

1.       Audio-visual is the key to something going viral.

But, this applies primarily to developed markets with fast, affordable bandwidth. Ironically, only around 2 percent of Ugandans have internet access, so viewed the video en masse in makeshift cinemas, and certainly were unable to forward it.

2.       Viral doesn’t come from nowhere

There seems to be a perception that the holy grail of a campaign going viral springs from nowhere. In fact, as Kony 2012 demonstrates, an awful lot of planning, budget and an already mobilised community goes into creating an “overnight success”. Reports put the production budget for the first Kony 2012 video – at the time of writing seen almost 88.5 million times on YouTube alone – at $1 million. In addition, this video was seeded into a US-wide community of church and college-goers, who had been primed to be receptive to the message.

3.       Viral goes nowhere without real-life organisation

By all accounts the “Cover the Night” event, which was intended to make Kony famous by plastering posters of him all over major cities, was at best a damp squib according to most news reports. While personally I only saw a single Kony banner in Cape Town, the Mother City event was singled out by Invisible Children as a success – possibly thanks to 18-year-old Michel Comitis picking up the baton and running with it – at his own expense.

4.       Do your homework

As any events organiser can tell you – check out the date you have chosen for any potential conflicts. In Invisible Children’s case, “Cover the Night” fell on the anniversary of the Atiak massacre in northern Uganda by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday; and the informal celebration of “Weed Day”. If this was intentional it was an insensitive, problematic and bizarre choice; if unintentional it was arrogant and sloppy.

5.       You only get 15 minutes of fame

Invisible Children’s idea was to make Joseph Kony famous. They probably meant infamous or notorious – but the differences between these are becoming increasingly blurred in today’s celebrity culture. Nonetheless, fame is a fickle mistress and quickly moves on to the next big thing – the follow up Kony video has only received just under two million views on YouTube. In an unfortunate double whammy Jason Russell of Invisible Children, the director and “star” of Kony 2012, exacerbated the situation by becoming the next big thing with his peculiar and very public breakdown.

6.       If you start a conversation, you need to finish it

Even if it doesn’t go the way you planned. Invisible Children started off handling questions and critiques well, especially when it came to funding, with a dedicated web page and some slick infographics. Unfortunately however some of the feedback became ranty and emotional, which is neither helpful nor attractive.

7.       Be humble

From Russell single-handedly saving the world on behalf of his little boy, to Invisible Children’s lack of acknowledgement of other organisations’ efforts to stop Kony and improve the lives of those affected, to an arrogant assumption that a military solution was the only option – the Kony campaign displayed very little humility. Marketers can learn that humbleness at the outset can stand you in good stead when things start to wobble.

8.       Don’t only have one ace up your sleeve

So “Cover the Night” wasn’t the success it set out to be. However a campaign is seldom a slam-dunk affair and usually the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts. Unfortunately, apart from sketchy details about a pledge event at the United Nations in June and no details at all about something happening in November, there is not much left to hold people’s attentions.

9.       The internet is global

The general response to the Kony 2012 campaign in Uganda seems to be unease, offence and anger. While Invisible Children might have set out to create a campaign aimed at mobilising people in the developed world it was inevitably going to reach the people of Uganda – despite the limited access to the internet in the country. The arrogance of Invisible Children speaking on the behalf of Ugandans aside, several commentators have pointed out that Kony 2012 was perceived by the people it was supposed to help in the same way a campaign encouraging New Yorkers to wear t-shirts emblazoned with Osama bin Laden’s face would be.

This article was first published by African Business Review

Daily deal sites: holy grail or poisoned chalice?

Since Groupon, the big daddy of daily deal sites, launched in 2008, group buying has been heralded as either a revolutionary new way for small businesses to gain exposure or as a sales and marketing disaster.

There is no doubt that small businesses around the world are very successfully using daily deal sites to market their offerings. However, there are enough horror stories out there – most notably the UK bakery that had to bake 102,000 cupcakes at a £12,500 ($20,000) loss after offering a Groupon deal – for businesses to tread carefully when figuring out whether this type of promotion is for them.

Daily deal sites negotiate huge discounts for consumers based on the principles of collective buying: deals are only activated when a minimum number of people agree to buy. In return for massively discounting their products and services, usually between 50-75 percent as well as giving the daily deal site a cut (around 50 percent of the price paid by the customer), businesses are marketed to the hundreds of thousands of local consumers who have opted in to receive the deals.

On the one hand, the concept is fairly risk-free: businesses only pay if the deal tips and they get business out of it. On the other, there have been a number of reports of businesses brought to their knees by overwhelming demand or thanks to making an irrecoverable loss on the deal.

In Africa, South Africa is probably the most developed daily deal market on the continent, although a number of sites have already closed down, including Naspers’ Dealify and Avusa’s Zappon. Groupon, currently boasting a market cap of $12 million, added South Africa to the list of the 46 countries it has expanded to at the end of 2011 when it bought local Twangoo in January 2011.

African Business Review got in touch with Daniel Guasco, Head of Groupon ( in South Africa, to get his views on when it makes most sense for a business to use its services.

Read the rest of my article on African Business Review.

Facebook, Instagram and your privacy

What would you do if you had a cool $1 billion in spare change lying around? Well if you are Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, you snap up Instagram, the 15-month-old social networking/photo sharing/mobile phenomenon and its 30 million users.

This was only days after Android users had finally been able to access the service thanks to the newly launched Android app. I was quickly getting addicted to the various filters you can apply to your pics as well as the ability to tag your images and then browse through related pics from all over the world.

So I didn’t feel any of the rage and frustration that the die-hard iPhone users felt at the announcement that Instagram was now part of the Facebook family. (I guess the iPhone users were also still reeling from the shock of us low-brow Android users moving into the neighbourhood 😉 .)

Within hours people were announcing that they were moving their pics off Instagram before Facebook ruined the service. I for one think that Facebook is far too clever to mess with such a simple, elegant and well-liked service. But whenever Facebook’s name crops up, you do need to stop and think about privacy, if only because the social networking site seems to own so much information about individuals already.

CNET quoted Chris Conley, an attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, as saying: “Part of the concern is that it’s Facebook. And their history of privacy and respecting user choices is mixed.”

“The larger issue to me is that Facebook is adding Instagram data to its own,” said Ryan Calo, a privacy researcher at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, in the same CNET article. “Instagram users thought they were signing up for a simple service, of relatively little utility to advertisers or government. Now that data is likely to be combined with an entire social graph. I picture the consumer happily paddling down a data rivulet only to find themselves suddenly on the open waters of the social sea.”

Like I said, I’ve quickly become a big fan of Instagram for a couple of reasons, but mostly because it seems to make the world a smaller place. For example, I tagged my picture above with words like #coriander, #lime and #chilli. Then I could click on those tags and see pics from other people all around the world posting similar photos. See something you like, take a look at that person’s Instagram stream, follow another tag, and before you know it you’ve been viewing the most amazing photography from Tokyo to Tulsa.

But, if a picture says a thousand words, we need to tread carefully around what we share. A smartphone and a camera can be a disastrous combination – what seems like an hilarious idea at the time, can backfire very quickly.

So what should parents, and any Instagram user, for that matter, consider if they want to stay safe online?

Read the rest of this blog post on the Mobiflock site.

Traditional vs new marketing methods

The Super Bowl XLVI puts television advertising on the radar – is paying out $3.5 million for a 30 second spot really justified when digital marketing comes at a fraction of that cost?

There’s nothing like a Super Bowl to put television advertising firmly on the radar, as far afield as the southern tip of Africa, even if you’ve started consuming most of your media online. At $3.5 million for 30 seconds, and up to $4 million for the premium slots, brands must still be seeing value in this traditional marketing method.

But what does this mean for companies trying to work out whether to stick with the tried and tested traditional marketing methods vs. embracing the brave new world of digital media, in all its fresh-out-the-box shiny glory?

Let’s start at the beginning and take a look at the numbers, using South Africa and its 50 million-odd population as an example: TV penetration per household was sitting at around 72 percent in 2012 and currently Generations, the most popular TV show in the country, gets around 6 million viewers a week according to TAMS (television audience measurement survey) ratings. Radio is the giant, with 88.5 percent of South African adults listening to the radio per week, spending more than 3.5 hours listening per day, according to RAMS (radio audience measurement survey) stats. The largest South African radio station, Ukhozi, has in excess of 6.6 million listeners per week. Total circulation of the 836 members of the Audited Bureau of Circulation (ABC) in South Africa is a notch over 34.5 million readers – although these are unlikely to be unique.

Now let’s move into the digital camp and take a look at the reach here: according to the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) member sites saw 12.9 million unique browsers, accessing 424.4 million page views, but this comes from a base of around 6 million internet users. In addition, there were 1.5 million mobile unique browsers accessing 40.3 million mobile page views. Mobile penetration is famously sitting at more than 100 percent – although this doesn’t mean that every South African has a cell phone, with many people owning more than one SIM card. The country has 4.8 million registered Facebook users – just less than 10 percent of the total population and 91 percent of the total online population.

While these stats are in no way meant to be an apples-for-apples comparison, what do they show us? At the very simplest level, the Super Bowl advertisers are right – stick to traditional advertising channels to reach the largest audience.

But wait a minute. Why does Forrester predict that online ad spend will eclipse TV spend in the next four years? Closer to home, a DMMA report says that while advertisers currently allocate 10.7 percent of their current annual media budget to digital platforms, “this far higher than what [they had] assumed for years”.

It’s not so simple, is it?

Read the rest of my article on African Business Review

Is mobile marketing overhyped?

Mobile, schmobile. Mobile marketing’s just another buzzword thrown around by your agency, marketing department or publications like this one. Rather than being the next evolution in marketing, it’s just a distraction from getting the basics right, and another way for your agency to charge you more.

Well, obviously here at Vomo we don’t share this view, but it’s easy to see how mobile marketing could be dismissed as a load of hot air.

Firstly it’s still pretty hard to measure the impact of mobile marketing, and industry initiatives around the world are still scratching their heads trying to work this one out. Then there are the over-hyped stats, like the number of iPhones in the market. When you do the maths, you realise that contrary to the headlines, this is a very small number indeed in the grand scheme of things.

There’s also the issue of desktop web-based practices simply being transplanted lock, stock and barrel onto the mobile device. Take banner ads – pesky on the desktop web, but downright infuriating on the mobile web, taking up valuable real estate. (And not to mention pointing you to an iPhone app, even though you are using an Android handset.)

And probably the final nail in the coffin for mobile marketing is that the characteristic of the mobile phone – that fact that it is both personal and portable – that makes it potentially such a good marketing channel, is also its biggest weakness. Get it wrong, and you’re screwing up on the device that matters the most to people.

Then there’s the list of killer apps that was going to transform mobile marketing forever. From QR codes to augmented reality to location-based services, for now, these all seem like damp squibs.

Respectfully we’d disagree that mobile marketing is just a bunch of hokum. Firstly the numbers speak for themselves – with more SIM cards than people in South Africa, if you want to reach someone, the surefire way to get to them is via mobile. Add into the mix that for many South Africans mobile is the primary, and often only, way of accessing the internet.

Then consider that people do actually want to be communicated with via their mobile phones – if companies make it worth their while. According to Google’s mobile stats for South Africa, 54% of South Africans don’t mind receiving ads on their smartphones if they get rewards or freebies in return.

What we would say, however, is that it’s still early days. We need to move past just transplanting desktop-based practices onto a smaller and more mobile screen. Then we need to work out how to best measure the impact of these activities. And we need to stop treating mobile like tactical lego blocks, tacking them onto a marketing strategy at the last minute, and instead look at mobile strategically at the outset of any campaign.

Then let’s talk again about whether mobile marketing is over-hyped or not.

Read this article on Vomo.
Read this article on Biz-community. 

How mobile marketing failed in 2011

Mobile marketing failures in 2011 were arguably less about campaigns going horribly wrong, and more about missed opportunity, too little integration of mobile into overall marketing tactics, and the need to be much more strategic about using mobile marketing.

Some of the areas mobile marketing has room for improvement in include:

1. Closing the loop with CRM

Mobile marketing is a great way to engage with customers at the point of sale when they have your product in their hands. From something as simple as an SMS to a shortcode to get a discount, to QR codes providing links to unique content, to the customer winning a prize for sharing a picture of them using the product, mobile marketing gives brands a chance to connect with their customers immediately, on the go and via a favoured device: their mobile phone.

Unfortunately all too often the very crucial next step doesn’t happen. Companies seldom use the opportunity to further engage with these customers, either by mobile, or by other channels such as social media, email or even a voice call. This wastes an opportunity to build on a positive initial encounter between the brand and the customer, where the customer has already volunteered certain pieces of information.

2. Real, ongoing engagement via mobile

As well as being a useful stepping-stone to ongoing engagement on other channels, mobile needs to be seen as primary customer engagement channel especially for the many people for whom a mobile device is their only internet device. And even if it isn’t, in some cases the mobile channel just makes more sense. For instance, towards the end of the year retailers will often send out discounts vouchers to say thanks to their loyal customers (and of course to encourage customers to spend money with them during the holiday season).

It’s one thing to email a statement to a customer, but it makes no sense to email a voucher to a customer, hope the customer hasn’t already gone on holiday and actually receives it in time, and then expect the customer to print it out (especially when the you’ve just sold them the idea of email statements as being environmentally friendly) and remember to take it along to the shops with them. Far better to send a mobile voucher that can be redeemed via the mobile phone – a device that the customer will definitely be checking all through the holidays and will definitely have with them when doing their shopping.

Likewise physically posting reward vouchers is problematic: it’s costly, not very green, you risk the customer only receiving the voucher after the expiry date.

3. Clever use of new technology

QR codes, augmented reality and location-based mobile technology have been derided as a waste of time in some quarters. It can also be argued though that we just haven’t seen these technologies being used in compelling ways that capture people’s imaginations and get them talking about it. Nine times out of ten, the cleverest use of a technology is also the simplest. Hopefully in 2012 we’ll see some interesting uses for QR codes, AR and LBS.

4. Spam

Unscrupulous and possibly sometimes just careless companies risk turning people off mobile marketing by spamming them. Email spam is one thing, but SMS and other types of mobile spam are so much more invasive, taking place on such a personal device people carry with them 24/7. For the ongoing success of the medium, opt-in needs to be the cornerstone of all mobile communication.

Read this article on Vomo.
Read this article on Biz-community. 

Geo-targeting: revving up mobile marketing

I regularly receive SMS alerts from an independent fishmonger that I support. They’re owner-run, only support sustainable fishing, affordable, and the fish is far fresher than the supermarkets with their elaborate cold-chains. The problem is that they are located in a part of Cape Town that I don’t often go to, and am unlikely to go to just to buy fresh fish, irrespective of how enticing their offers are.

Sure their regular SMSs keep them front of mind for when I am in the area, but how much more effective would it be for them to send me personalised offers when I am in the area, perhaps based on what I have previously purchased (tuna, yes please; hake, not so much, thanks)? Or, if I have driven past the shop three times and not popped in, a super-duper offer to entice me, once a loyal customer, back into the store?

Done well, this geo-targetted mobile marketing could make me feel valued as a customer, get me back in the shop to see new products, increase sales for the fishmonger, and make me a loyal customer once again. Who knows, I may drive past just to see what specials pop up on my smartphone.

Done badly, this could be a super-creepy, very annoying service that at best makes me unsubscribe from the service, and at worst makes me find a new fish shop, complain bitterly and publicly in person and online, as well as taking the shop to task for spamming me.

So the devil is in the detail and as with all marketing, the detail starts with getting your customer to opt in, making it very clear what they are opting in to, and then making it very easy to opt out. When it comes to personalisation, there is a fine line between creating a connection with a customer and coming across as a downright stalker. (What do you mean you hope I enjoyed my leftover tuna mayo sarnies for lunch today?!?)

From the point of view of the marketer, clever processes need to be put in place to make it appear that they are sending me a suitably personalised message, when in fact it’s the same message sent to a group of customers with a similar profile.

So that’s the deal with the devil that mobile marketers have to make. On the one hand, the very personal, “take it with you wherever you go” mobile device unlocks the ultimate in customer targetting and personalisation: geo-targetting. But, the flipside is that a badly implemented campaign has a similar potential to anger and alienate customers like never before.

Of course in my example above, a mechanism would have had to be put in place for my fish shop to pick up my location when I was in the neighbourhood. First prize for them would be for me to agree that they locate me automatically as soon as I enter a certain pre-defined area – this way they don’t have to rely on me checking in to know where I am. Personally I would need to have a very trusted relationship with a company or brand to do this, and the benefits to me had better be pretty good. I can see this working well for extremely aspirational lifestyle brands, but also even mom ‘n pop shops, like my fishmonger, where a personal, off-line relationship already exists.

Other options are for companies to tap into existing social media location services such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places. While the element of personalisation might be slightly less in these instances, savvy marketers should know enough about their customers to pinpoint what deals will entice them to their business.

Finally, as mobile advertising and mobile ad networks become more sophisticated, it will be increasingly possible to target advertising by location. For instance, you could do a search on Google for a plumber in central Johannesburg and have a web ad for a plumber pop up on your screen. Add time into the mix and things get more targeted: searching for a restaurant at 7 am in the morning and you’re probably looking for a breakfast venue, while the same search at 5.30 pm implies you are probably looking for a dinner deal.

So, while I would argue that geo-targetting as a mobile marketing tactic is still approaching the runway, it is poised for take-off, and done right can up the rev count of most marketing campaigns.

First published on Vomo.