South Africa, Full of Possibilities

Less than 20 years ago, South Africa was a country that legally separated whites and non-whites. Despite the suffering of its people, violence at home and international sanctions, the country did not end apartheid until 1994.

Although far from being problem-free, in 15 years, South Africa has gone from being an internationally condemned country for its racially oppressive government, to one that is slowly trying to recover from decades of damage and attempting to move forward to resolve its issues and present a better face to its people and to the world.

Despite acceptance by the world’s athletic community, recognition of the country’s natural beauty by travelers and the admiration of South African wines by connoisseurs, it is no secret that problems remain. The government is making a strong effort to position its brand and to portray itself in a more positive light while dealing with the issues that still plague and divide its society, including HIV and AIDS, poverty, violence against women and racism.

Shine2010_FNBLogoTopSouth African officials are very conscious of how they want to present the country to the world. Social media already has a place in South African government, with Facebook and the country’s Brand South Africa blog featured prominently on the country’s web portal. The website invites visitors to join the conversation, and asks how the world perceives the country, which ispoised to host the FIFA World Cup next year. Efforts to boost tourist traffic go beyond a website and a blog to include a frequently updated Twitter account.

Wider use of social media might give the world a different glimpse into modern South African society, and also enable sainfoSouth Africans to get a different perspective on how the rest of the world lives, bringing both worlds closer to each other. Social media by its very nature is more open, authentic and transparent—and, for better or worse, not ruled by the same norms as mainstream media.

Heightened use of social media in a country that is embracing change to move forward presents opportunities for companies willing to take the associated risks. And although limited Internet penetration presents a challenge, mobile Internet usage is popular and on the rise in South Africa, giving marketers an expanded platform for reaching customers. The South African government, people and organizations have shown they can use social media to communicate with the rest of the world. With the upcoming World Cup events, as well as booming business and increased world attention on South Africa, social media tools give marketers a way of communicating their message to people and organizations in South Africa.

In her blog, South African marketer Yvonne Johnston commented that “new media poses an amazing opportunity, as everyone becomes connected by the Internet or cell phone, the possibilities for communication open up. It is up to Africans to tell their story because in fact, THEY are the brand”

Johnston writes also about the role all Africans play in helping build the African brand, and in contributing to change world opinion about the continent and the countries within it. It is a country poised for renewal, and companies willing to take a risk can both contribute to this renewal and benefit from it.

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2 Responses to South Africa, Full of Possibilities

  1. Nice post bringing together the use of social media to promote the South Africa brand and the World Cup and what it means for using social media as well. You bring in strong examples and links and they work well to support your main points. The only thing that could make this blog post even better is if you took the lessons from the examples you share about what is working and offer us some of your thinking on how South Africa could put these pieces together and what the country could do to push itself even further through social media. (3)

  2. mintybeth says:

    I think the eyes of the world will be on South Africa with the World Cup, cementing the country’s image in the minds of people around the world. If South Africa wants to change the image of its past, it must demonstrate that its social media, public relations, and marketing reflect the entire country, not just the privileged few. A lot can be learned from South Africa, if it succeeds in hosting the World Cup. The eyes of the blogosphere will be soon be upon the country.

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