South Africa’s entrepreneurs prove social media effective for consumer networking

Businesses in South Africa are fast turning to social media platforms to connect to customers, a new study shows.

The South African Social Media Landscape 2012 report released today shows that corporate in South Africa have woken up to social media, although they have not yet “figured out how to dress for the role.”

The survey, conducted by research firms World Wide Worx and Fuseware, analysed the use of Facebook, Twitter, Mxit, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Foursquare among consumers and companies.

“Most large companies are still neutral on the impact of social media, and are still feeling their way,” said World Wide Worx’s managing director Arthur Goldstuck.

According to the report, some 95 percent of major corporations in South Africa surveyed use social media to connect to consumers even though only 51 percent rate their Facebook efforts as effective. Only 33 percent believe their Tweets are effective.

“We interviewed representatives of 61 major brands, and found that corporate use of social networks tended to be a case of responding to media hype,” Fuseware’s managing director Mike Wronski said.

“The most popular social media platform in South Africa, Mxit, is used as a marketing tool by only one out of five large brands. This compares to Facebook, with nine out 10 using it, and Youtube, with two out of three.”

The report also found that 49 percent of South African firms surveyed let the marketing team handle its social media while 18 percent leave it with the public relations department. A further 18 percent outsource it.

Among the firms surveyed, social media was cited as an effective PR channel with 70 percent of brands using it for PR, while 62 percent use it as a core part of their marketing campaigns. Close to 43 percent use it for sales and lead generation while only 13 percent of firms are using social media specifically because their competitors are using it.

Social media has brought the corporate sphere to its clients who at first viewed the firms as unreachable.

However, as most businesses turn to social media tools to interact and connect with customers, there are a number of challenges apart from a budget to run campaigns.

According to the survey, most companies intend to make investments in training their current people in social media best practices. Nearly 36 percent intend to use specialist social media agencies to assist in their social media PR and marketing.

Skill is also needed even though only 15 percent say their skills are optimal to run this campaigns.

Apart from skills to run these campaigns, Wronski added that firms are facing barriers to o and not getting much out of social media and to which most of them cite the absence of time.

“Brands are struggling to allocate resources and time to manage social channels,” he said.

The majority of firms also fail to measure the effectiveness of these campaigns. Only 24 percent find out how many of their followers are customers, with only 72 percent viewing the comments and mentions. Only 40 percent consider comments made.

Facebook effectiveness is even more challenging, 83 percent of brands see comments and mentions to mean their campaign is effective while only 37 percent rate the positive and negative comments.

According to Goldstuck, the survey shows that companies have not quite figured out what is more important. He says it comes down to separating volume from value, and that takes time and energy, rather than just a dashboard of numbers.

The Social Media Week, a worldwide series of events for exploring the impacts of social media to organisations and individuals in the social, cultural and economic aspects, has just taken place. People and organizations come together virtually or physically to connect through collaboration, learning and sharing ideas.

According to Social Media Week: “Over the next 10 years, three billion new people will connect to each other through the Internet and mobile technology – more than three times the number who are currently online.

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