Social Media for African Businesses & Startups: An #mbgeeks Discussion

Twitter Cupcake by M i x y

Following the #mbgeeks Twitter Chat discussion hosted by Jesse Oguntimehin, last month I promised to write my thoughts out in a blog post to share and allow for the conversation to continue past Twitter.


Jesse is a friend  I’ve made through Twitter. A digital marketer based in Lagos, Nigeria Jesse’s active on Twitter and across the web making sense and cents of the online web. He blogs over at The Brand Evangelist. He hosts the #mbgeeks Twitter chat every month where he engages both West and East Africa, not to mention the rest of the social web with a selected guest. I was glad to be his guest last month. Below are my answers to his questions and I’ll continue to take some of your questions here in the comments and add to that discussion.

Note: For purposes of this blog, I’ve elongated my answers to more than 140 characters.

1) What can businesses in Africa use Social Media for?

In a nutshell, it could be broken down into 3 broad functions:

  • Branding & Awareness
  • Customer Communication
  • Lead Generation

2) Does social media work?

It certainly does. There’s still quite a bit of hype and if Google showed me correct, there’s over 2.4 Million “Social Media Experts” in the world so it’s got its fair share of voices. Bottom line though is that in Africa, mobile works and the mobile web’s #1 use is social. I wrote an article for  a while back and across Africa with the only exceptions being South Africa and North Africa, it’s clear that social media trumps search and by that I mean only in these emerging markets does social media rank above search engines (namely Facebook and Google) in how people use the web. Below is a snapshot from Opera Mini’s latest statistics on social media and it shows that it accounts for where 69% of all users accessing the web in Kenya (Facebook) and is more than 69% of all pageviews on the mobile web in Kenya. Other countries appear below.


Opera Mini Social Media Mobile Web Page Views

3) How do we best measure success in social media?

Real-world goals are the best way to start. If there weren’t any internet, how would the business (and more specifically, the marketing or communications dept.) measure its success? Forming concrete objectives from there is great, so perhaps it’s the marketing department looking at their brand building tactics and measurables and building on those. I reckon the better we know the person they are targeting, the better we can understand their digital habits and who they are online. Knowing who our audience can at times inform our objectives and tactics to reach them.

Over time though you can measure it with interactions, clicks, leads and participation in your community. Numbers tend to be the metric everyone uses to determine success when there’s plenty more to it than just that.

4) How do we localize our strategy so as to provide valuable contents?

Think mobile and Facebook ads don’t appear on mobile. So what that means is that you’ve got to think beyond just typical Facebook advertising and look to create content that makes it to your fans. What times are people most on? Before work? In transit, get the conversation starters first thing in the morning and see how you can work Facebook’s EdgeRank to your advantage. The News Feed is always where you want to be. Also knowing the climate of your country and it’s digital habits helps much.

Kenya’s going Android crazy at the moment so perhaps there lies an opportunity for a brand. To be honest even though we think social media I always tend to find out why a business is on the web to begin with and make their spend and efforts there as deliberate and focused as possible. Social Media is really just part of the larger equation here.

5) How have you been using social media to reach your clients?

Thought leadership. And I don’t just mean the buzzword, but genuine conversation that gets people thinking and challenging what they know about the web in Kenya and across Africa. It’s important that you also get this information into traditional media. I contribute to various television programs, newspapers and radio shows not to mention making myself accessible to the media if and when needed. Getting my writing published also helps. Not to mention just plain old word of mouth among clients I’ve worked with. Ironic for this conversation but traditional media does go a long way. On the social media side, my own domain, sharing links and Twitter has been by far the biggest influence of all.

6) Should social media be within the organization or should it be outsourced?

My last Marketing Africa column I tackled this point. If we look at an industry like customer service and emerging economies, they provide better outsourced customer service and the business case is clear that it is effective. It’s a decision that needs to be weighed. There’s varying viewpoints on this debate across the web. I don’t think there’s a definitive answer, but it’s preferable if the business invests social into their communications functions in the long term. I know that not all businesses can put up the resources to make those kind of changes right off the bat. In some cases the business case makes more sense to have it managed outside of the business in the short term.

7) Any other questions and conclusion.

Over to you, then. What burning social media question can I be of help with? Let me know in the comments and a big thank you to Jesse and the audience for the conversation.



image via.

  • Lunani Joseph

    smart ideas, true to core and well researched.


    Lunani Joseph

    • Mark Kaigwa

       Thanks Joseph.

  • Jesse Oguns


    wow! you did justice to the points here. True, Social Media isn’t the full picture, traditional word of mouth, traditional media (news paper and radio) still works better in this part of the world. We have a station here in Nigeria, WAZOBIA fm, the audience is so huge. Words can go farther faster using it for some products than using social media.

    As I have often said, the first question should be; “Do you really need social media for the business you are building?”

    Thanks Mark for the post :-)

  • Stephen Musyoka

    nice piece

  • Kachwanya

    Just wow..The new media requires new rules and still not forgetting what has worked for centuries. I can’t say it better

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