Paving the Way for South African Social Media

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. 

image_galleryHowever, one company – – 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 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. 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 laid the initial social media groundwork, audiences have taken on a form of ownership of the “social ecosystem”.  In turn 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. 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.


4 Responses to Paving the Way for South African Social Media

  1. Hey, thanks for the ping!

    For those that are interested, I did a follow-up interview with Graham Wallington,’s founder, that goes more in-depth into the history of WE and their social ecosystem. I’ve let him know that you featured WE here and I’m sure he’d be more than happy to answer any more questions you have about WE.

    On a personal note, since I featured WE on my blog I’ve made a lot of friends in the WE family and I continue to be amazed at the fluidity of its organizational communication and sheer camaraderie in the community. Definitely one of the best things on the internet, IMHO. 🙂

  2. Thanks for a great article and for helping to promote WE.
    I think that one of the major changes in South Africa, from an access to tech point of view, is the massive rise of mobile phones in the past 10 years amongst all sectors of the population. I think that the western world probably now lags behind rural Africans in their use of mobile technology. Everything from mobile based payment solutions to Facebook status updates … we are not as unconnected as you might think. 😉

  3. @Stacy – Thanks for sharing that interview and for reading our class blog!

    @Graham – Thanks for commenting and for reading. You’re right about the western world lagging in mobile phone use and that this points to a connected future that may rapidly outstrip what is possible in the US thanks to antiquated carrier policies and other factors.

    @Shannon – WildEarth.TV is a great example of the potential power of social media and you do a great job of bringing it to life in your post. This week you definitely benefit from choosing a strong example to write about, as it seems this post came to you much easier and your excitement for the site and interest in the subject come through loud and clear. The lesson in this you should take is that finding a hook in your blog posts that you can get passionate about so it seems like more than just a writing assignment for a class should be your goal every week. (4)

  4. Gregg Rapaport says:

    WildEarth.TV, by pulling together common interest across platforms and allowing for discussion and content creation to flow organically, built a great holistic communications model. It appears that Google is close to rolling out a PACKAGED ecosystem called Wave. Mashable explains:

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