Africa online participation is ‘over-rated’

October 16, 2015

The last three years has seen brands online participation gather momentum with almost all businesses having social media accounts.Across Africa, online consumers are becoming more active in content creation and interaction, that level of engagement does not seem to benefit brands, new research has found.A new report in my possession has however offered an alternative view to assumptions about how much interest consumers have in engaging with brands online in Sub Saharan Africa. The report was based on a study of online behaviour and attitudes of 3,000 people across the region.The authors of the report notes that hype about African consumer participation is distracting media agencies from the real opportunities.The game changer is not participation, it is content that sparks a connection. And the value is in that connection, not the participation that may or may not follow. Participation is not why people connect.It is a response when people make a connection.

Cape Town South Africa I took this Dias Statue photo several years back
Cape Town South Africa I took this Dias Statue photo several years back

The study conducted by a South Africa based think Tank, found over 76 per cent of respondents are online-content consumers as well as interact-ors and creators, switching effortlessly from passive reading and watching to more active liking, sharing and commenting, to more proactive behaviours like creating and reviewing. Yet that level of engagement doesn’t extend to brands,report said.While going through the report, slightly over half of respondents said they were interested in consuming brand content, but only one in 5 were open to interacting with brands online and just 6 per cent of those surveyed had any interest in participating in campaigns from brands that asked them to create content. And this was among people who were already considering a purchase, and were therefore predisposed to the category. The interest level was far lower among people who were not looking to buy.In South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, campaigns that do generate lots of likes, shares and positive buzz do not necessarily deliver real results. In Nigeria, consumers who do participate with brands online are often existing consumers, so campaigns that spark interaction sometimes fail to actually generate new sales and that is the same with Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.That means there’s need to stop assuming interest in participation and create interest with content.

In Sub Saharan Africa, the key role of agencies is to connect brands with consumers. No doubt the report has unveiled steadily growing online participation by Sub Saharan Africa consumers. However, this is often limited to simple feedback such as clicking likes, making comments, or watching video clips. When asked to go beyond these, nearly half of Sub Saharan Africa consumers feel that the brands are too demanding. Interestingly,that was the highest percentage of the respondents among all ten countries surveyed according to the report.The study found that almost half of people felt like they were doing work for the brand that benefited the brand more than them and was the highest number out of all of the ten markets surveyed, and goes to show how sceptical the African audience is when it comes to participating in online brand campaigns. Creating a successful online campaign is what the marketing community wants in this age of digital transformation across the region with one of the fastest growing Mobile phone users in the world.I think Sub Saharan Africa should focus on participation of key performance indicators and real goal of growing the business.

Contador Harrison