Numerous studies document the power that social interactions have in influencing buying decisions and improving sales for a company. Despite this fact, companies across the continent have not fully adopted social media marketing.
The term socialnomics was first coined by author and marketing guru, Erik Qualman, in his 2010 bestseller Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. Socialnomics is the use of social media to build brands and ultimately improve the bottom line.
To illustrate the power of social media for businesses, imagine a parent who has relocated to a new neighborhood and is looking for a new school for the kids. Instead of visiting all schools in the neighborhood or visiting/calling friends and neighbors to ask their opinion, the individual simply takes to Facebook. Within minutes, he sees that five of his friends' children attend a certain local school. All his friends recommend the school highly. In a few short minutes, he makes a decision. Think also of a company manager or owner planning to take staff on a team building excursion. Instead of scrolling through a physical directory or Google search results page to find a venue he knows nothing about, he simply checks his social media sites. He sees that two of his peers went to a certain place and they rave about it. It's also within the company's budget so he makes a reservation.
These are just a few examples of the power of social media. Many organizations in Africa are still experimenting with this new marketing channel and are yet to derive the full benefits. Those that have taken the plunge have not fully utilized social media to drive sales but merely use it for customer service. This is good, for now, because social media sites can help companies quickly find out problems, respond to customer queries and complaints, and ask their followers to recommend product enhancements and even new products. After all, who needs expensive traditional market research such as focus groups and questionnaires when you have thousands of Twitter followers?
Where is the Problem?
A lot of senior managers and business owners in Africa feel that social media is a waste of time. Those that have tried it claim it doesn't produce tangible results. The older generation sees it as a "thing" that young people tinker with and a fad that will soon disappear. Many suspect that the "power of social media" in business is over-hyped much like the US dot com boom was hyped in the 1990s before the bubble bust. But, author Erik Qualman gives several examples where social media has delivered tangible returns on investment. One such example is Gary Vaynerchuk who grew his family's wine business from $3 to $45 million by leveraging the power of social media.
The rate at which Internet penetration and social media usage in Africa is growing is the highest in the world. Companies must embrace social media in their marketing campaigns in order to thrive in the future. Qualman states it succinctly in his book, “The return on investment (ROI) of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years.”