Google “South African social media,” and interspersed with hits on mobile phone technology, you will find metrics, blog posts, and articles about how and why this vibrant nation is on the verge of becoming a social media powerhouse on the African continent.
South Africa already has the second highest number of internet users in Africa, behind Nigera. While only 10% of South Africans are online today, a recent report indicates that the number of internet users is growing exponentially. Increased growth is expected to continue for the next five years, taking the number of South African internet users to 9 million by 2014.
No longer relying on pre-apartheid stereotypes of what the face of a campaign must be, South African brands are now reaching consumers through social media platforms and messages that embrace diversity.
Launched in 2008, the campaign embraces the unique culture of urban black African youth to reach Converse’s target demographic, 16 to 24-year-olds. The campaign Web site serves as a portal to each of the communities Cerebra and Youth Dynamix created, and enables consumers to flip through a virtual catalogue of Converse products.
The Converse Century blog, the most successful portion of the multi-faceted campaign, was a top 20 lifestyle blog on AMATOMU.com, a South African equivalent of Technorati. The Converse Century Facebook Group attracted over 17,000 fans worldwide.
Converse’s Trace Your Lace competition, which was launched on the campaign blog, encouraged consumers to “take the brand to the next century” by submitting their own Converse shoe designs. The winners’ designs were featured on the campaign blog.
One of this campaign’s key takeaways is that today’s internet-savvy South Africans are ready for more than a simple product pitch. They are receptive to interacting with brands online and willing to respond to calls to action. Accordingly, brands in the South African marketplace must create opportunities for consumers to contribute to their trademark products, and provide them with the social media tools to do so.
Consumer-driven brands can accomplish this by enabling potential buyers to submit product ideas through a corporate blog or engaging target audiences to create a unique product blog through Afrigator. Facilitating niche product communities on Facebook or user-generated videos on Zoopy and YouTube are other viable options.
Converse’s messaging encouraged South Africans to share their unique personal style within the context of the campaign’s social media communities. Their call to action – designing a sneaker online – enabled consumers to take the brand to the next century.
Through strategic use of social media, other South African brands can and should seek to do the same.