We always hear the negative news about Africa -war, famine- and specifically this week in South Africa, a new report of government corruption, criminal investigations and dirty tricks.
Equally as troubling, for the first time, Freedom House, a Washington DC think tank, has lowered South Africa from a country with a free press to one that is partly free.
So you wonder if social media can be used effectively in South Africa? The answer is Yes.
“Communicating Africa: Transcending Borders with Digital Media,” presented by Georgetown University in 2009 featured a distinguished panel of experts who discussed the role of social media in telling the Africa story. As a first semester graduate student, my take away came from the last speaker, a Nigerian student named Jennifer Ehidiamen, who disputed the negative stories she constantly reads about Africa, saying there’s more to Africa than hunger, poverty and corruption.
For brands wanting to reach a major audience in South Africa, it’s still challenging but the one constant – the mobile phone-remains the primary communication tool. In fact, there are more mobile phones in South Africa than taxis, TVs and radios combined.
Out of a population of about 48 million people, only a little over 5 million have a personal computer. However, by 2014 it is estimated that 20 percent of the people will have internet access
In short, yes, these numbers support the optimistic outlook of the young generation of South Africans like Jennifer Ehidiamen.
For a prime example of a social media success story in South Africa, look to last year’s Soccer World Cup. Most of the major brands were marketed via YouTube, although Facebook and Twitter were used too:
Coca Cola sponsored a social media event where you could upload your own goal-winning celebrations on YouTube and win video awards;
Sony offered a “Twitter Cup” pitting tweets from opposing teams or the most amazing coaching strategies;
Budweiser presented a YouTube TV type reality show featuring 32 fans representing the World Cup Countries
It was the World Cup’s first use of social media. Sony, Budweiser and Coke are only a few of the companies who used social media. It was so successful that marketers and advertisers believe the World Cup brought the use of social media to a new level. I can’t wait to see what happens with social media at the 2012 London Summer Olympic games, 2014 Sochi, Russia Winter Olympic games, as well as the 2016 Brazil Summer Olympic games.
For Jennifer Ehidiamen, who wants the world to see there is more to Africa than the negative stories covered in the traditional media, social media’s heavy use at the FIFA World Cup did just that. If you’re going to do business in South Africa, put on your pin-striped suit, bring your mobile phone, rolodex and look to social media to sell your products.