Churches flock to sign up for voice activated social media service to engage with followers

An unlikely group of clients has emerged for a social media start-up in South Africa which expects to sign up 500,000 users over the weekend.

Tawk2Me has been two and a half years in the making and allows voice recorded messages to be delivered from user to user, or, as is proving popular, be sent out by an organisation to a group of followers – similar to Twitter.

The start-up, based in Johannesburg and supported by investors Rorotika, lists the Twelve Apostles’ Church in Christ, based in East London, South Africa, as one of its clients.

The church has four million members and 500,000 will attend the Thanksgiving at the Sasolburg DP de Villiers Stadium, in Free State, tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday. Having signed up with Tawk2Me, the church will begin registering its members so they can receive a weekly voice message from its leaders and keep them updated with forthcoming events.

Chris Matthews, co-founder of Tawk2Me, said: “We are currently having the most success with the large black churches. That type of organisation which has widely spread followers around Africa need a convenient way to communicate with them.”

Matthews said Tawk2Me provides a solution for accessing Africans who do not have access to the traditional social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and also takes language and literacy barriers out of the equation.

The cost of recording, sending and listening to a voice message is usually the same rate as a standard voice call, but organisations can opt for reverse billing so they carry the financial cost of the service rather than their followers.

This is in the process of being set up in Swaziland with a group of clinics and pharmaceuticals. Once live, whenever a customer seeks medicine they will be added to the database so they can receive voice messages when the latest vaccines or medications are available.

Tawk2Me are also in talks with the African National Congress (ANC) and sports clubs who would use the platform to allow better access to their sports stars.

Matthews added: “Take Benni McCarthy for example at Orlando Pirates. This guy is idolised by millions of people and it gives them a chance to feel they are connected. Followers could sign up to receive voice messages from him in the build-up to a match and play it to their friends.”

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