Category Archives: Social media

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

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

Understanding viral marketing content

Is viral marketing really a category in its own right? Is it either accurate or feasible to say you offer viral marketing services, or have launched a viral marketing campaign? This implies that you can plan and predict a campaign “going viral”. Or is it more a case of the best a marketer can hope for is to set the scene, make sure all the right ingredients are in place, and then, if the timing is right, see the campaign go viral?

The latest piece of what I would consider truly viral content doing the rounds on the internet is ‘Buck Norris’ – the video clip of 17-year-old cyclist, Evan van der Spuy, being knocked off his bike in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa by a red hartebeest. At the time of writing, in less than a month almost 12 million people have watched the original clip posted on YouTube, not to mention hundreds of thousands of views of secondary clips, as well as spin-offs (you know you’ve made it on the internet when someone spoofs you), and international news coverage from UK daily Metro to online newspaper the Huffington Post.

Key to the clip was timing, both of the filming and the encounter, but key to the clip going viral was Max Cluer, owner of Team Jeep South Africa and organiser of the cycling event posting the clip up to YouTube immediately, while there was still buzz amongst the immediate audience about the incident. These Twitter and Facebook conversations were an ideal vehicle for making the clip spread virally around the world, earning Cluer’s Team Jeep brand unprecedented exposure, thanks to the logo on Van der Spuy’s cycling kit.

This is also crucial to laying the foundation for a piece of content to go viral: don’t be overly promotional. Team Jeep was seen in the context of super-awesome content that was worthy of sharing. It wasn’t a Team Jeep advert. Brian Mung’ei, Head of Business Development at Nairobi, Kenya-based web and marketing agency, Pamoja Media agrees:

“Don’t make the campaign an advertisement. A campaign doesn’t need to educate people about the product but rather on the benefits of the product. Think of a perfect online ad as a ‘behind the scenes’ version of a normal commercial TV advert. This means one needs to have a different mindset in that it’s not pushing a brand or product, rather about story-telling. The product does not even have to appear anywhere on the video for people to understand the ad and remember it,” he says.

Bozza’s Head of Brand Strategy, Catherine Lückhoff takes it a step further saying: “You don’t create virals – content either becomes viral or it doesn’t. All you (agency, client, marketing person etc.) can do is to know your market and create content that is sticky. Our experience is that contextually relevant local content is key. Content has to add value; be that through entertainment, education, a combination of, or giving users access to information.”

Bozza is a case in point. Dubbed a mobihood – a mobile neighbourhood – Bozza allows communities across Africa to share their stories and interact via a mobile phone. It launched a proof of concept on MXit in 2010, with hyper-local made-for-mobile video content. Within three days it had 40,000 subscribers and within three months, 170,000.

It can be pretty scary for brands to realise how little control they have over their brand anymore. But for content to truly become viral, they need to give up this control – or face an unpleasant viral backlash, as Brandhouse found out when it lost its sense of humour back in 2009 over user-generated spoofs of its Lou Gossett Jr. ad campaign.

Pamoja Media’s Mung’ei advises brands: “The web gives the audience greater control of how to interact with the campaign such that they can save, replay and most importantly share the advert within their networks. Ensure the video is free to access, download, embed and share online. This is basically the underlying essence of viral campaigns. If someone has to log on to your website to be able to view the advert and then ‘like’ your Facebook page to share it, someone needs to get fired.”

First published in African Business Review.

Twitter and Facebook marketing – are African businesses cashing in on free advertising?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? That seems to be the case when it comes to social media marketing, both in Africa and around the world.

There’s no denying that social media, by many once considered a here-today-gone-tomorrow fad, is a key arrow in a marketer’s quiver. It’s word of mouth on steroids and free, right?

Or not.

Social media experts in Kenya and South Africa warn companies not to view social media marketing, on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as free. Yes, these platforms are umpteen times more cost-effective that traditional advertising such as TV or print, but do need time, money and strategic thought to be effective.

Read the rest of my article on African Business Review.

How to raise an online profile in Africa

By using the internet as a marketing tool; and by using it properly, small businesses in Africa can gain valuable publicity and get ahead of the established market leaders.

You would expect the main challenges when running a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign in Africa to be fairly tactical things, such as communicating with small, fragmented markets; a variety of languages and cultures; poverty; bandwidth and infrastructure constraints; and the propensity for governments under threat to simply switch off the internet.

But according to a couple of Cape Town, South Africa-based SEM experts the education of businesses is still the number one challenge in the field; the result being that companies who do “get it” have an opportunity to get ahead of the established, traditional players.

Read more on African Business Review