The rise of the African consumer is much touted by the global media. International brands are swooping to move in. Yet there is a shocking lack of information on social business across the African continent. Now a new report from Cerebra, powered by FuseWare, offers first-of-a-kind insights into the social practices of the top 200 African companies. Kathryn Cave speaks to Mike Stopforth, CEO of Cerebra, and reviews the report.
#SocBizAfrica is a 107 page overview of social business in Africa. The report was created by monitoring, documenting, and analysing the external social engagement of Africa’s top 200 companies (by revenue), then mapping that engagement against how those companies were equipping their staff for collaboration. Covering the whole of Africa, this aims to set its own unique benchmark and includes full findings for the top 50 performing companies, based on their use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Mike Stopforth describes how he wanted to provide information which didn’t exist anywhere else yet. There is a tendency to assume that social media in Africa is a long way behind the rest of the world. However, as Stopforth explains there are three ways you can look at social interaction. The first of these is social media as an infrastructure. The second is social media as a method of connecting with external clients and customers. And the third is social media as used by businesses behind their firewall. On this categorisation Africa is lagging behind on the first and third points, but Stopforth believes it is making serious headway on the second.
Despite this the market is still extremely unsophisticated. The most common uses of social media in Africa have tended to focus on special offers, vouchers and money off. More mature markets on the other hand will tend to take a ‘Content Marketing’ approach and use social media to engage people in wider ‘brand values’. The IMN 2013 Content Marketing Survey, for example reveals 51% of respondents have found social media the most effective ‘Content Marketing’ vehicle to date.
The most successful social brands in Africa are in the telecoms sector and the report highlights Mobinil, Safaricom, MTN Nigeria, Maroc Telecom and South African Broadcasting Corp as the top five. This is probably not all that surprising because they already have large established audiences. On top of which these brands are already integral to people’s lives, which means inhabiting the social space is not such a big leap.
Stopforth, who hails from South Africa, highlights the usual cultural problems you get with any business involvement in Africa. There is a tendency to assume that the whole African continent is just one country. Yet there are huge cultural differences across the region. One thing thrown up by the report that was especially surprising was that 80% of the most popular YouTube content was in Arabic French. This flies in the face of the assumption that English is the dominant language.
Other interesting takeaways include the calculation that social companies generate 63% more revenue than non-social companies. This is based on the revenue of companies with at least one social profile against those with no social profiles. In a similar vein the report calculates that companies with a higher social engagement index generate 53% more revenue, based on the average revenue of companies in the top 50 social engagement leaderboard, against those in the top 150. The report also states that the B2B space hasn’t had “any breakthrough brand” yet. On top of which, across the board earned media “remains a mystery”.
The problem with this report is that is spends a lot of time listing how various brands conduct their social media, when I would personally have preferred to have read more analysis. I would also have been interested to know how these organisations are using LinkedIn as this might help present a better picture of how businesses are using social media on a personal level. This said however, it is the first time this report has been produced and Stopforth plans to begin rolling this out biannually or annually from now onwards.
Overall, it is great to see a first report on how African businesses are conducting social media at present. This is new, fast-evolving landscape… and African businesses have everything to gain by learning as quickly as possible. Yet success in engaging Africans socially lies in a deep understanding of the communities that you are trying to engage. This covers existing customers, employees and potential new business.
Kathryn Cave is Editor at IDG Connect
An infographic summary of the findings is posted below. The full report is for sale here.
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