The country called Facebook

12 04 2011

http://goo.gl/CqIf1

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The potential for social media in Nigeria

16 03 2011

There are obvious signs that social media in Nigeria is catching on, largely on an individual basis. Virtually everyone who has a mobile phone is ‘socially connected’ in some way. This is largely attributable to the increasing access to the internet via mobile phones, which has become the cheapest way of having 24/7 connectivity. This ‘always online’ status has also greatly influenced the use and access to social media platforms. Up until a few years ago when the Nigerian telcos introduced the BlackBerry service, internet access was largely limited via other points. But the BlackBerry service has proven extremely popular in Nigeria, and is continuing to influence the use of various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter (being the most popular platforms), and blogs via downloadable apps on blackberry devices and other smartphones (running android and symbian OS). This popularity is even influencing consumer product development by the Nigerian telcos. For example, Etisalat has services specifically tailored to meet the demands of its consumers who just want connectivity for the sake of being on Facebook.

On an individual basis, people feel the need to stay connected within various social circles (no pun intended to Google’s upcoming social media service), I suppose to satisfy the want of constantly keeping in touch with friends or to seem to belong to a certain group. This presents huge market potentials for companies who take a deliberate approach to targeting these groups of ‘friends’, seeing them as potential customers.

Many Nigerian companies do not understand social media, thus underscoring its potential to enhance their business growth. Many companies use various social media platforms (that is Facebook or Twitter) but do not understand how it can really benefit the business. A lot of Nigerian companies start a Facebook page or create a Twitter account just because others are doing it, without really understanding the strategic fit to the business. There are many cases where companies’ websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts remain dormant because no one is giving such platforms the much needed attention.

Nigerian corporate entities, and consumers, need to understand that there is a whole new market place to understand and serve, that is the ‘mobile consumer’. According the Nigerian Communications Commission (“NCC”) statistics for January 2011, there are over 88million active mobile telephone subscribers in Nigeria. This number presents enormous market potentials for any Nigerian business willing to approach this ‘new’ market sphere with a sound strategic framework. Without verifiable data, I’d like to assume that at least 20% of active mobile subscribers use their phones for online connectivity. Thus, presenting opportunities for companies wanting to use social media to drive growth in their business. For example, a Nigerian retailer could distribute coupons for its products to increase its turnover by increasing the savings to its consumers. Or a bank could increase its customer base by creating an online community of followers and ‘convincing’ them to use the bank’s services. There are quite a number of methods to be used in increasing a company’s online followership.

Those companies to benefit from the growing emergence of social media in Nigeria are those who take the initiative now before a formalised structure is developed for the social media industry in Nigeria.