John Bell, head of global 360° Digital Influence team – Ogilvy’s global social media marketing and communications practice, recently came to Cape Town to do some site trainings at Ogilvy South Africa. He presented his 2011 edition of The CMO’s Dilemma to a room of about 120 brands including some giants in the market like South African Airways, BP, KFC, Castle, Cell C. Bell followed up on his conversations with an interesting article predicting what is in store this year in social media and digital marketing.
Bell writes about the fact that social media is a given in changing the way in which brands are marketing themselves but also addresses the debate which is currently taking place around the world about how much of social media is effective and how best to apply it to the business practices.
He then goes on to address the role of social media in the South African marketplace and culture. Although South Africa may be viewed as a little bit behind in certain technologies, we can also see that new technologies are growing faster in SA than in many markets around the world.
Among favorable conditions for social media innovation and implementation in South Africa are the variety of social media spaces found here: MXit , Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin, Blogger, Wordpress, Posterous and Tumblr, the 6 million unique internet users in South Africa, the fact that there are more mobile phones in SA than Taxis+TV’s+Radios combined and more active sim cards than citizen and Facebook and Twitter statistics including: 3,861,240 million South Africans on Facebook and Twitter has approx 1 million local users (up from 90,000 in Jan 2010) - Information of favorable conditions provided by Ogilvy’s Chris Rawlinson.
Bell mentions some limiting factors in the South African context, many of which are not found in the social media spaces of the UK/US:
- Limited Broadband access and rate structure force internet users to pay high fees putting a ceiling on video usage as well as on media production.
- A stage scenery approach to social media where brands seem to be using social media channels but not necessarily in the most effective manner.
- A limited blogging community. Unlike the US, the blogger community is relatively small in South Africa with approximately 5,000 active bloggers writing frequently.
Bell concludes with a prediction that this will be big year for social media marketing in South Africa. He says that the conditions are right. “Can they leapfrog forward learning from other global lessons rather than slog through a few years of ineffective use? I think so.”
I full-heartedly agree. The blogging community in South Africa may be rather small, but it is one filled with talent and vibrant writers filling our news feeds with relevant and interesting information. Not all brands know how to properly engage via social media yet, but I am seeing more and more of them getting online and trying creative and innovative ways of engaging their audience.
Obvious limiting factors aside, I see South African social media efforts not lagging behind the UK/US but finding different ways to make social resonate in the local context.
Bell also says that social media can be just as effective and useful in an emerging economy. He writes that you do not have to be the UK, Spain, China or even the US to be really effective at using social media in the South African context. And who says that different is bad? South African social media marketing efforts should not attempt to copy those of China or the US but rather shine in their own unique ways.