Digital Trends: A reflection on the strides made in Kenya

Kenya is growing to become a hub and a leader in digital technology and mobile innovation in Africa.  The exponential growth in the number of mobile phone users, the strides in mobile banking innovation and the increase in mobile penetration is phenomenal.

Perhaps the most widely known aspect of Kenya’s adoption and leadership in mobile banking innovation is in the M-pesa service which is well documented. There is also M-Shwari – a new mobile paperless banking service which has hit the Kenyan market and has rapidly received wide acceptance.  Over KShs 2.8 billion ($ 32,558,139) has been deposited and over 1.6 million customers having used M-Shwari in less than four months after its launch.  This will deepen financial inclusion to the many unbanked Kenyans.

There is evidence that Samsung is now emerging as the leader of smartphones in Kenya, over and ahead of Nokia and Apple. The Samsung Galaxy note II and the S III have been well received by many early tech adopters.  I expect Samsung Galaxy SIV to be hugely successful in Kenya.

Social media usage is growing among Kenyan brands as a communication and marketing channel. Kenyans are now demanding accountability from their leaders via social media discussing politics, food, sports, relationships etc.  It is evident that most online users do not understand the stickiness of the Internet when it comes to what and how much they share online. There’s a lot of private data being shared online including mobile numbers and physical locations that can potentially compromise one’s security or privacy.  Fact is that the Internet never forgets and one must be mindful of their digital footprint.

Kenya is only second to South Africa in terms of number of tweets sent according to a research done by Portland Communication.  Twitter has added Kenya as a trend location which means anyone can easily follow a Kenyan topic and see what is trending locally. 57% of Tweets from Africa are sent from mobile devices and 60% of Africa’s most active Tweeters are aged 20-29.

The surge in online communication including political debates on social media in Kenya can be attributed to the increased internet penetration and reducing cost of data by Telecommunication companies. Twenty years ago, you required a satellite dish mounted on a mast to get an Internet connection in most parts of Kenya.  This was not only pricey but also slow. Today, Kenya is now home to four sub-marine (Fibre optic) cables: – The East African Sub Marine System (EASSy), The East African Marine System (TEAMS), Lower Indian Ocean Cable Network 2 (LION2) and Seacom.

Kenya is home to over 30 million mobile subscribers and 16 million internet users according to the industry regulator CCK.  Also noteworthy is that there has been a significant reduction in the number of postal letters.

The growth in mobile and Internet usage has however brought challenges for the government, namely online fraud and hate speech. According to CCK, a total number of 2,408,266 unregistered mobile lines have been switched off as of January 8 2013, after the expiry of the December 31 2012 deadline. This was a measure aimed at curbing increased number of fraud cases done using mobile phones as anyone could buy a sim-card and commit a fraud without being traced easily.

The other trend is that while the usage of tablets continues to increase among Kenya’s middle-class, the PC desktops and Laptops will remain for some time to come.

The digital era is here with us; the question is whether brands are aligning their businesses to tap into the potential that it offers.

Article originally published at  http://www.cio.co.ke

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How To Create A Buzz And Drive Engagement On Social Media

While it is easy for brands to have a presence on Facebook or Twitter, driving engagement that can cause users to interact with a brand is a big headache for many. Brands must be creative and think of tactics that will cause your fans to be engaged.  You have to come up with strategies that will excite the online community, bring unique visitors to your site and cause stickiness on your social media sites.

There are many tactics and strategies that a brand can deploy to drive engagement and create a viral effect on social media. A proven strategy that works on social media is to run promotional offers that reward customers who are more engaged with your brand. You can give your customers freebies such as cash, airtime, phones, tablets to those users who play according to the set rules. This is called gamification.

Driving engagement alone does not add value to your brand. The trick about making a social media campaign successful is to ensure that it is not only driving engagement and increasing your fan-base, but that the campaign requires customers, users to buy or use your product or service. That would guarantee more leads, sales, traffic to your site and add PR value for your brand.  That’s the only way to reap maximum benefit from a campaign and ensure that you get a return on investment.

Safaricom’s Bring Zack home is an example on how social media can be used to amplify a good story. Bring Zack home was run in both online and offline media. Which brings me to another important aspect of a successful social media campaign- integration. When an advertising campaign is run in both online and offline media, the chances of making a great impact are doubled. Which means the message people will hear on radio or TV, they’ll find it on social media.

A successful campaign also requires that you develop bold and big ideas. Involve influencers or some crowdsourcing aspects that seek ideas from fans and the one who comes with the best idea and is voted by most followers wins the prize. The wisdom of the crowd never fails.  Safaricom has been using Influencers like Churchil and Maina Kageni to drive awareness about the Mshwari service.  Safaricom is also using the Nation Media group to increase fan-base on their Twitter page through sponsored tweets or postings. All these ideas are great. There is a reason why Safaricom was voted as one of the most devoted social brands in the world by socialbakers.

The greatest challenge for many brands on using social media for marketing campaigns is the fear of failure, the lack of big ideas and the lack of an experienced hand, somebody who can carry the whole campaign to the end.

There is another important value-add service that a brand can do to its existing customers – providing customer service support via Twitter / Facebook. This is the greatest value you can add to your customers. It shows you are responsive and sensitive to their needs. It shows that you care.  Customer service via social media is the glue that will make your customers to stick with you.

If you can’t solve your customer’s problems via a medium that they spend most of their time, then you’re losing it big time and any attempt to sell services or products will face resistance.  Big brands such as KCB group and Safaricom are earning their customer loyalty by sorting their issues via Twitter and Facebook. Why shouldn’t you?

Article originally published at http://www.cio.co.ke/

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The Importance of Optimizing sites for mobile devices

The latest figures from The Communications Commission of Kenya – CCK indicate that of the 29 million mobile phone users in Kenya, about 98.8 percent of them visit the internet via a mobile phone. This is an astounding piece of research.  Fact is that if your site is not optimized for mobile devices, the chance of turning away 98 percent of Kenyans who want to read the content of your site is very high.  As a web developer, or one who depends on a website for business, be real and read the writing on the wall. Optimize your site for mobile devices or continue losing business.

There are many benefits for ensuring that visitors to your site can be able to easily access and interact with your site. One of the main reasons why you need a mobile-optimized site is because more than 70 percent of shoppers search online for information regarding product / service before making the decision to make a purchase.  Many consumers of electronic devices would want to read online reviews of the device to understand its specs before making a decision to purchase. I personally have never bought a phone without reading reviews to know what I am buying. Content is still King.

Truth is that many companies and businesses aren’t investing into optimizing their sites for mobile search. Missed opportunities? If you do your business on-line, how much traffic, leads and business are you losing because your site cannot be viewed by customers who rely on mobile devices to access the Internet? 3 in 4 Kenyans have a mobile phone.  Fact is that the mobile device is ubiquitous; it is with everyone, it is easy to use and carry.

The nature of mobile optimization is changing rapidly as we are now moving to responsive site designs that recognizes the browsing platform ( Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome etc ) and adjusts accordingly.  A serious web developer should ensure the site is optimized for smartphones and tablets.  For users of the WordPress platform, there are many plug-ins that you can download and install into your blog to make it mobile-friendly. For example the WP Mobile Detector automatically detects if the visitor is using a standard mobile phone or a smart phone and loads a compatible WordPress mobile theme for each.  This is a free plug-in.

A keen analysis of Google analytics of any site would show you what percentage of traffic is coming from desktop, social and mobile devices.  So, what are you waiting for? Make your website mobile–friendly and you’ll notice a huge spike in traffic from mobile devices.

The ultimate purpose of building a mobile-optimized site is to ensure that the user experience and interactivity aspects are of the highest standard. Which means that there are no site visitors that are turning away just because of a poor site design.

Article originally published at http://www.cio.co.ke

 

 

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Effectiveness, Measurement and Conversion in Social Media, do on-line marketers get it?

Not many marketers of blue chip companies in Kenya understand these important aspects of social media; effectiveness, measurement and conversion.  This is the reason why many leading brands in Kenya’s corporate sector have shied away from playing their game in the social media space.  Yet, to justify why a brand should join social media, a marketer should be in a position to show how every marketing dollar used in social media would bring a return on investment.

Many brands only have a mere presence on social media, but no one can clearly demonstrate how it is adding value to the business. That is why you’ll find many companies have a twitter or Facebook page which is hardly updated.

Let’s delve into the issue of the effectiveness of social media in a business. Social media is effective for on-line surveillance, data mining, communication, reputation management, marketing and customer care among others.  There’s a lot of value that a business can derive by actively engaging customers on Twitter by quickly solving their problems. Not only is it cheap, but saves time.  If your brand is not doing it, the question is why?

How many brands have considered the amount of business intelligence and the data that they can mine by analysing customer’s online conversations about products or services? Data mining is today’s internet gold. How come the US government knows almost everything happening in every part of the world? The reason is because they’ve invested heavily in intelligence gathering.

For a brand to do data mining, it will require an on-line surveillance system and a dedicated data analyst whose work is to interpret the data collected to ensure it makes sense.

One of the greatest headaches for most on-line marketers today is the inability to convert followers, fans or site visitors into buyers.  The best strategy when using social media is to ensure that your social media sites are not stand alone platforms, but should drive traffic to your website. In other words, your social media platforms and website must be integrated and shouldn’t appear to be doing separate things.

Once visitors land in your site, you can deal with the issue of conversion by setting a well-optimized landing page. To have high traffic in a website is useless if there is no call-to-action that will prompt people to do something once they land into your site. A good tactic is to request your site visitors to fill a form, buy a product or download a PDF file. That way, you are able to collect and build a database with contacts of your site visitors.

In conclusion, social media should be used to complement other marketing channels and not necessarily to be used alone.  There are import parameters that can help you measure the impact of your social media marketing by looking at leads, site traffic, impressions, customer satisfaction and the level of conversion among others.

Article originally published at http://www.cio.co.ke

 

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Social Media Strategy – Are organizations doing it right?

Social Media is here with us. Whether you like it or not, customers are talking about your organization / brand in the social networks. Brands must embrace and join social media since this is where customers are having conversations. The question is not whether brands should join social media or not, but whether they are doing it right. Social media is a room with high velocity of information and a lot of tact is required to achieve great results. For this reason, I will address myself to the issue of Strategy because I spend a lot of time researching and analyzing what brands / corporates do in the digital space.

The first thing that is critical when thinking of a social media strategy is to ensure that before joining social media, train your staff.  I have over-and-over thought about the merits of out-sourcing social media from an agency or doing it internally. I have come to the conclusion that your own staffs are best suited to deal with social media as they have your brand’s DNA. Your staffs understand the products and services offered more than anyone else. However, an agency would be useful for running marketing campaigns and offering internal training. The person facing your customers online must be confident; must know what to say and how to say it. This happens by training staff as social media is a new platform for engaging customers for most brands. Once you’ve trained your staff, empower them by giving them the resources that they need to do the job. Resources here may include; fast / reliable Internet, PC / laptop, a tablet / a smartphone and a social media management system.

While joining social media, it is useful to ask yourself what objectives and goals you intend to achieve.  The best practice is to align your social media goals with the overall business objectives. For example, your business objectives could be increasing market size, increasing sales, getting more leads, or getting better customer satisfaction.  Your social media goals should not be separate from the objectives that the business wants to achieve.

Altimeter Group asserts that there are social media risks to a business that you must identify, such as;

  • Reputational risks
  • Regulatory and compliance violation risks.
  • Legal and privacy risks.
  • Operational risks.

There is therefore the need to come up with plans on how to assess and mitigate those risks in order to reduce their impact to your business.

We live in a 24-hours news-cycle, and the issue of constant surveillance and monitoring is critical. Big brands should have online listening and monitoring systems that gives you alerts when your brand is mentioned online. Online monitoring systems scan the whole internet landscape – blogs, sites, social networks and give you useful intelligence or data. There are listening platforms that can analyze and give you meaningful reports such as the tone of sentiments from customers- whether they are positive, neutral or negative. These data is useful to executives as it shows trends that will help them in decision-making.

Brands should also ensure they master the practice of responding quickly to customer queries. Social media is a viral medium and the longer you take to respond to an angry customer, the more negative and agitated the customer becomes. Faster turnaround times are critical to an online customer service. For advanced companies, the issue of taking eight hours to respond to an online query shouldn’t even arise.

The other issue is identifying and building an internal team of champions / advocates who will help push your messages out. These are your online ambassadors that help amplify positive messages.

There is also the critical issue of having a social media policy. Not many Kenya brands on social media have a policy document that sets the guidelines or the rules of engagement.  A social media policy will address best practices and empower staff to use social media responsibly.  A good social media policy must not be very restrictive as this would be counter-productive.

The last thing I would address is that anyone who wants to understand social media must keep learning. New platforms and channels will constantly be introduced in the market. The ability to learn them and identify which one best works for your organization is very important.

Article originally published at http://cio.co.ke/

 

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Three Things That Tickles Today’s Customer

When I see and analyze the complaints that I see from Internet Service Providers, Mobile phone operators, banks, shops and other businesses, I notice one key aspect. Many business providers do not understand their customer(s) at all. What does the customer want?  Do you know about the KYC – Know Your Customer concept?

The customer of today is complicated :- has high expectations and changing needs. The customer is well-informed, and knows want they want. They want to feel valued. Never has the tag line ‘Customer is King’ become so real in today’s business world.

You can make a difference to your customer by delivering on:

  1. Quality Product. The customer wants quality in the product that you are selling. Quality is everything.
  2. Excellent Service. Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. Most businesses value their customers during the time of purchase. After that, they dump them.  What do you do to your customers before and after? The Customer of today wants excellent service and a smooth experience when they come to your business.  This means even if you have a quality product, the customer may never come back if they feel you’ve offered them an experience that’s below par.Your most important customers may not just be the new ones, but the returning ones. The returning customers have a higher chance of bringing new ones.
  3. Value-added services – the small little things that seem meaningless on face value, yet they make a customer feel appreciated.  A call to a customer or a small ‘Thank You’ or ‘Birth day’ card can make a huge difference to a customer. It can be the only one thing that retains the customer with you. Kenya’s Safaricom is a good example. They may not have the clearest calls, but customers always stick with them because of the value added services that they offer.

Few businesses have taken time to study the reasons why they have low customer retention levels. Suppose you knew why your customers come to buy from you but do not return. This could be invaluable to your business. That is why customer feedback is not to be resented or fought. Your most angry customer can be the greatest source of learning. Listen to your customer.  Customers leave from your business either satisfied or unsatisfied. There are no two ways to it.

 

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Technology and Innovation in Banking – Key Drivers of Growth For The Next Decade.

I have recently travelled to five East African countries and made a few observations in business, specifically the banking sector. It became apparent that no single bank enjoys sole dominance in any of these economies- Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

There are two distinct factors that will cause financial service providers to either adapt or be completely irrelevant. Competition and changing consumer demands.  Competition in the banking sector is extremely stiff. You fail to change with times, and you become history within a very short while.  I venture that Technology and innovation have the potential to immensely improve customer experience thereby earning customer loyalty. This is what businesses are made to do.  The Focus has to be the Customer. – adding value while making money.  Business is brutal: – We live in an ever-changing business landscape. Only those businesses that will  adapt- by developing innovative products and services will thrive.

It is clear to all and sundry that customers hate long queues.  Long queues add nothing positive but sap energy and waste time for everyone. Making a banking transaction need not be a gruesome experience.  Sadly, this is the case in this part of the world. The only way for banks to have a competitive edge and reduce endless queues is to embrace cashless banking.  The immense power of technology through the Internet and the mobile phone have not been fully exploited I’m afraid.  Here is a huge opportunity for banks and other financial institutions: – m-banking and Internet banking both have been poorly thought out and marketed in this region. In some parts of Europe, I’m made to understand, online banking is being offered as a free value-add service. It is not charged. Here in the east Africa region, fewer banks have a robust on-line banking solution.

The future of banking is mobile. The future of transaction payment is mobile.  The question is which institutions are getting it right?  The jury is out, while the market is ripe with opportunities.

The fact that the new Samsung Galaxy S III phone (which is being touted as a real threat to the IPhone) has NFC technology, is evidence that mobile payment will remain to be a key area of growth in the next decade.  We thank Safaricom for innovation in Mpesa ( Mobile Money), but financial institutions must surely give us more innovative banking solutions and products.

What do you think? Leave a comment here.

 

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Social Media Marketing – Where Should You Start?

The number of social media users is growing rapidly in Kenya, providing immense opportunities for businesses to communicate with their clients. Social Media Marketing works for brands and businesses whose customers use social networks.

Target Audience, Determine Channels and Build Internal Capacity

Before any business or corporate decides to use social media as a marketing channel, it has to evaluate the following things. Who are your market audience? Do your customers use social media? Which Social Media Channels are best suitable to reach your customers? Is it Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ Pinterest? Do you have internal capacity to do social or you have to out-source from an agency? There are the pros and cons of using an agency to do social media marketing for you, compared to doing it internally. Capacity building for staff would be the first step if a business decides to do social media internally. You need someone who has your brand DNA to be your face on social networks.

Engage

The other important thing is that Social Media is not a monologue. It is a dialogue. It is conversational. You get loyalty and trust from your online community by constantly engaging them. You can’t just create a Facebook profile, abandon or just push messages. There is always a cause and effect. When you post content, expect reactions from your audience and respond to them swiftly.

Constant Surveillance 

Social media also require constant monitoring and surveillance for any positive or negative brand mentions. If you do not do a 360’ real-time surveillance on social platforms, you risk losing a lot of brand reputation, goodwill and business opportunities which cannot be measured. In the era of connected consumers, Real-time is not fast enough. A brand must constantly be on top of the game.

Allocate budget for Digital

We are in the digital age where most consumers are tech-savvy and well-informed. It is therefore important for marketing departments to always allocate a certain percentage of their marketing budget to digital marketing in order to be relevant to the ever-changing and competitive marketing landscape. We are seeing more and more consumers using mobile devices to communicate and interact. The benefit of being on Social media for a business is earning customers loyalty and trust. This happens if you have a clear strategy that responds swiftly to queries and serves customers well.

Never Ignore Negative Comments

Don’t Ignore negative or critical comments. Respond to every Comment. Be professional and respectful to negative comments. Stick to the facts. Provide accurate and reliable answers.
Never delete a negative comment ( feedback) from a customer, it could be a great source of learning. If you convert an angry customer into a happy one, he/she becomes your online evangelist or advocate.
But of course, never fight with a bully (pig), because everyone gets dirty and the pig likes it

Strategy

The greatest headache for social media marketers at the moment is how to convert social media fans or followers into sales. A proper strategy is needed. I can discuss this in another article.

Article originally published at How We made it in Africa

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The Best Way to Learn SEO – Search Engine Optimization

How to learn seo

All Credit to Digital Marketing Agency Koozai

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Why Digital Media Will See Exponential Growth Despite Recession

The year 2012 is predicted to be a year of slow economic growth world-wide. That’s what market and economy analysts are saying. Some European countries such as Greece are already in recession. The world is going through an economic stagnation. These are hard times for many businesses, governments and families as extra cash for luxury is drained.

But despite all this gloomy outlook on the economic front, there is a glimmer of hope in the area of digital media.

Digital media is the creative convergence of digital arts, science, technology and business for human expression, communication, social interaction and education - Wikipedia.   

The people who will leverage their businesses with digital media will make money despite the recession. Learning institutions, celebrities, politicians, media organizations, artists, farmers and businesses should think of how to use the enormous power of digital media in reaching more audiences through technology plat-forms.

I see a huge opportunity for businesses in the following areas.

  • Data Mining and Analytics
  • Cloud Computing
  • Digital / Online advertising
  • Online Marketing
  • Content creation – video and text
  • Web development.
  • Applications development
  • Smart phones
  • Tablets
  • Online games.
  • E-Learning

But you may tell me that Francis, we have enough of all the above. I think there is still a room for quality products and solutions in these areas.   I think that we haven’t even scratched the surface. The opportunities are enormous, but we need people who will develop GREAT products, solutions and services. Consumers will continue to buy high quality products and services. Watch this space.

What else do you think will drive growth in businesses in 2012? Add your comment here, Let’s engage.

 

 

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