Launching a social media communications/marketing campaign can be risky if not done correctly for even the strongest, most mature brands, but is even more so in an environment such as South Africa, where technology, internet accessibility and mobile communications are still relatively concentrated to the upper class. While some thought leaders feel as though South Africa has made enormous strides post-apartheid, others such as Mario Olckers, author of the blog “Social Media Today” argue that “South Africa is still in a very fragile state of uneasy equilibrium socio-politically, nearly fifteen years after the end of apartheid the overall majority of the black population is not very much better off than before the end of apartheid in 1994,” the result of which means that there is still unequal distribution of access to technology and subsequent tools.
However, one company – WildEarth.tv – is doing it right, making strides and therefore should be used as a model of what brands should do when constructing a South African social media outreach plan. What makes WildEarth.tv brilliant is the fact that the organization has not just created an integrated social network (which should be commended,) but rather they have produced a “social ecosystem” as outlined by Stacy Lukasavitz, author of “That Damn Redhead” in the post “Someone in South Africa’s doin’ social media right!!” This “social ecosystem” is thriving because of the interaction and engagement of the audiences. WildEarth.tv is not operating in a traditional top down way of disseminating information, but rather is fostering a two-way conversation evident by a community of fans known as “WEangels”, who have formed their own Facebook group and MySpace page. While WildEarth.tv laid the initial social media groundwork, audiences have taken on a form of ownership of the “social ecosystem”. In turn WildEarth.tv has become part of these people’s daily lives. Furthermore, the level of interaction by the fans is equal to that of the crew, thus solidifying a sense of partnership.
While the subject matter – adorable leopard cubs – works to the organization’s advantage, the inside-out communications model should not be underscored. In fact this method of listening to customers has been the focus of traditional public relations as outlined by the Arthur Page Society for many years. WildEarth.tv proves that there is not only room for these traditional ideals to exist in social media, but there is a real need for them as well.
Make no mistake; South Africa still has a long way to go in terms of bridging the gap between internet and mobile phone users due to the unequal distribution of wealth throughout the country. But by following a model based on engagement, two-way conversation and audience ownership, brands can lay the groundwork for success and truly manage for tomorrow.