When I looked at the available statistics for social media usage in Africa for the first half of 2017, it was mind boggling. As we are now into the second half of 2017 I felt I should go through the data to understand how social media is impacting on businesses across Africa. What became clear, almost from the onset, is that social media in Africa is rapidly becoming an established and important feature of online activity and modern social behaviour. It is shaping the way Africans live. Across all of the countries i managed to analyze their data, 38% of all time spent online is spent on social networks, far and away the largest category.African users are one of the highest users of social media world wide. For every hour an African spends online 9 minutes are spent on social sites, 16 on entertainment and 2 minutes shopping online. Two minutes of online shopping may not seem much but the report also showed that time spent shopping online grew year-on-year for all countries surveyed, and that trend will continue.Overall the actual proportion of time spent on social networking websites has dropped slightly compared to same time last year. In Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa time dropped from 35% to 29%. However these numbers should not be misconstrued as waning interest. Instead it simply highlights the rise in access via smartphone and tablet apps as consumers become increasingly mobile device-orientated.Figures show that companies are realizing the return on investment from social media activity. In fact social media lead conversion rates are 22% higher than the average lead conversion rate and are producing almost double the marketing leads of trade shows.The survey also found that 67% of fans of brands on Facebook recommend brands to others, compared to 53% of average users. But the figure I found to be the most interesting was that approximately 39% of online users rely on social media when making a purchase decision. This clearly points to social media usage becoming firmly entrenched into African customers buying journey.
Facebook is still the giant in Africa. What is clear is that internet users are now becoming very comfortable with social media being embedded in their lives. They are using multiple platforms and using them often. The numbers shown in these reports strongly suggest that every customer-facing brand would benefit from a well thought through and executed social media strategy and content plan. If used wisely, social media can be a powerful business tool. Some of the opportunities and benefits of social media can include growing revenue as the most obvious opportunity is to generate revenue. This can be done through building a community or advertising your products or services within the social media platform. If a business choose to advertise in social media, the ads can either link back to the business’ social media page or sometimes to its website. This can mean that business is able to benefit from social media without needing to have a channel. Another benefit is brand development, using social media allows customers to connect and interact with a business on a more personal level. If a business already has an established brand, social media might be an opportunity to further develop the brand and give the business a voice.When it comes to attracting customers, social media can be a good way of attracting new customers. For example, a business can try to attract followers with promotions. Once a business has a good following, it can focus on more personalized social media campaigns to encourage them to stay.Also, with social media, you can conduct research, for example by simply logging on to see what competitors are doing in this space, or finding out what customers are saying about a business might be a valuable exercise. Many business in Africa are also using social media for networking, a valuable way to exchange ideas with like minded people to improve the way they do business. It is valuable to business, often for the purpose of knowledge sharing and also referrals. There are many more benefits for business in Africa to have a social media presence but one that i can’t forget to mention is the search engine discoverability. A business website’s ranking in the search results of various search engines depend on the size and influence of social network. As a business social media following grows, the visibility in search engines may also increase. Undoubtedly there are gazillion reasons for African business to embrace the benefits and opportunities of social media.