Social Media – Is it for South Africa?

I must say that prior to my readings about social media in Africa I had a quite narrow view of the subject. The only thing I knew about communications technology related to South Africa was that they are the fastest growing mobile market in the entire world.

One teacher from my graduate program was talking about this in class. Thinking back I should have given a little more consideration for the use of social media in class since many of the social media tools are mobile compatible.

Unfortunately, I am not the only one who had the wrong concept about social media in South Africa. During my readings, I realized that many people still see South Africa in general as s country with limited infrastructure and a place which suffers from poverty. They have a hard time imagining that a country that remains with basic electricity problems is some areas could possibly think of the internet.

After learning a bit on this subject, I`m glad to say that I changed my mind and I don`t see South Africa in this scenario anymheore. I think that things are changing and there is a big opportunity there. “It`s time for Africa,” as the official World Cup song says.

Let`s get back to my point. Social Media is possible in South Africa and if I had the money, I would certainly invest there. Now, I will give you some cases so you have a better reason to believe me. Here are some successful examples of some social media websites:

  • Afrigator: A search engine and blog directory. It`s has 8000 indexed South African blogs. I think that this site is an excellent place for a brand to advertise.
  • Blueworld: A social network community for South Africa. It`s a place where users can find friends, watch videos, join and create new groups and blog. At the time that I was looking at this community there were 3143 members online.
  • Zoopy: The first video and photo sharing social network. It can be used in different countries but it targets South Africa.
  • Muti.coza: It`s a social bookmarking for Africans or people that are interested in Africa. It`s like Digg in the USA. It`s pretty active and I think that it has potential for growth.
  • Ushahidi: A web mapping application that reports incidents of violence and efforts for peace by location.  The idea here is to create a space where people could pass the information via SMS, web or email. Once this person sends the information anyone that uses the platform can get the update and see it on the map. According to the website, “Our goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response”.
  • Amatomou: A space where you can learn about South Africa and read South African blogs. You can find blogs in different categories such as business, technology, sport, life, humor, religion, etc.
  • SEACOM: It`s the first cable provider that brings international cable channel to South Africa connecting Africa to the world.

If you are not convinced yet I also want to mention a few NGOs that have been doing an excellent job by using social media. The three NGO I will mention were the winners of the 2009 South African NGO web awards in the category of best use of social media.

I spent a few hours reading about their work and I think that they are going in the right direction because they know how to engage and embrace their audience. They have a strong reason to do what they do and are able to make other people believe in them and follow their work. These NGOs provide benefits and promote positive change.

Finally, the last thing I did to prove to you that Social Media in South Africa is possible was to check a few African blog and I contact a blogger in Africa named Mac-Jordan. He is very passionate about Social Media. While he is not South African he has a strong understanding of the potencial of social media in Africa generally. He has two blogs: “Rambling`s of a Ghanian Social Blogger” and “My thoughts, ideas and ramblings about ACCRA“.

Talking to him about Social Media in South Africa these were his thoughts:

“Social Media in Ghana & South Africa is really big. I expect the growth of Social Media to be as big as the growth of mobile phones in Ghana/South Africa. It needs a drive; fast and affordable internet.

“In the future, which will be soon, Social Media will be what people will turn to for news in South Africa and not radios and tv stations. Social Media will be a big platform for advertising and political campaigns.

“I think the people embracing Social Media at the highest level in South Africa are the middle class between 20 and 35. I think this group uses the most smart-phones and are more active in adopting new technologies. Will probably take my time, do some research and blog about this :)”

When it comes to social media, “It`s time for Africa!”

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Threadless successfully Using Social Media

Many companies in North America are using social media in order to create brand awareness and generate word of mouth (WOM). Social Networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn are used as well crowsourcing.

In this post, I would like to talk how the company Threadless is successfully using social media tools in innovative ways. Threadless, was founded by Jack Nickell and Jacob DeHart; they started the company with only $1,000. Since it was founded the company has grown quickly.

Why the success? Crowdsourcing is the answer.

Crowdsourcing:  The act of taking a job traditionally performed by an internal agent and outsourcing it to a group of people.  Presenting a task to the outside world without knowing what will result. Crowdsourcing consistently produces outputs that could not be created by organizations.

Threadless t-shirts have no corporate designers. This is the way it works: Every week about 700 participants create their T-shirt designs which are displayed on the website. Then the online community can vote for their favorite design, and out of all the competitors only six get to be printed as T-shirts. $2,000 awards are given for the winners.

You might ask, but what does Threadless get out of it? That’s easy: since users are all connected to the process by voting on their favorite designers, when the T-shirts are printed they are the first ones to purchase them.

However, before you start thinking that you are ready to create a business usingcrowds you better think twice because in order to succeed you need to show to the crowd that that you care, and will keep them engaged.

Threadless has being doing a great job in that sense. Visitors keep coming back to the website because Threadless gives users incentives to return. For example, if the user uploads a picture of himself using a Threadless T-shirt he will receive store credits, and if the user also refers the site to a friend and his friend buys a shirt this provides even more store credit.

On the Threadless website visitors are encouraged to write posts, comments and interact with the community.

Curious about their store? Check it out on the website http://www.threadless.com/

By the way if you end up buying a T-shirt don`t forget to say that I referred you– this way I can gain store credit!