After researching numerous websites about social media in South Africa, two big movements are readily apparent: 1) the Brand South Africa campaign, and 2) interest in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I have never seen a similar branding campaign for a country before, so it was interesting to learn how the country is creating a unified, positive marketing movement for an entire country. A campaign of this nature will certainly help stabilize local marketing efforts, and plays an important role in the prevalence of World Cup news and information on many Websites. FIFA soccer is a huge event worldwide and puts everyone’s eyes on the host country, much like the Olympics do. By teaching South Africans to unify their overall message, and incorporate a bit of the soccer mania, the country is poised to become a center of attention, all while keeping focus on the offerings of South Africa. The Brand South Africa site even gives tips on how to take advantage of the coming World Cup. The Brand South Africa campaign as a whole delves deeper into social media with a full toolkit of Web 2.0 applications (picture at left), including videos, a Twitterfeed, Podcasts, Share buttons, and a blog. In terms of using social media to advance a brand, this whole campaign has overarching possibilities because if the country of South Africa as a whole is looked upon favorably, it follows that the companies and the economy should benefit as well. So in terms of social media being used advantageously, South Africa really took the use of new tools to a high level.
In addition to a nationwide branding campaign, the South Africans went a step further with an entire “series of campaigns aimed at mobilising South Africans to get involved in creating the country they want to live in” comprised of a “network of organisations that have come together to inspire and mobilise South Africans to become active citizens for good.” Known as the Movement for Good, this campaign provides tips on how all South Africans can help spread the good name of SA. Furthermore, within the Movement for Good, there is the Social Networking Platform For Good. On this Website, people can join the campaign and receive SMS messages providing details and information on how to take action to show South Africa in the best possible light. (SMS was the chosen medium of delivery because only 10% of South Africans have access to the Internet, while many citizens have mobile phones.)
Overall, this campaign is interesting because it allows the citizens to share their stories and thoughts about South Africa through the blog and by uploading videos and participating in social networks. Conversation is a cornerstone of social media and active participation from somebody other than a PR or marketing person is key to a successful campaign. But more interesting is that these campaigns are about an entire nation participating in social and traditional media. There is no blog of the United States like there is a blog for South Africa. Nor does the United States have a Facebook page. So in that regard, South Africa is using social media in one of the most interesting ways that I’ve ever seen—marketing the country, as a whole, as a unified brand. Though other countries have tried similar campaigns, South Africa’s approach is unique because of the social media implications and I will be curious to see if other nations follow suit.