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Local Firms Embrace Facebook to Market Themselves And Brands

A growing number of businesses are making Facebook a vital part of their enterprises in a bid to find new customers, build online communities and tap into information relevant to them. Businesses in Kenya are taking advantage of social media to build their reputation and brands.

"Facebook has a large Kenyan community and so it enables us to communicate to people at an affordable cost," said John Karanja, the proprietor of Whive.com.
Karanja has set up a social media platform, mainly targeting people in the region, to share ideas and react to the content on the website.

He has set up a page, with at least 2,000 people, that drives traffic to the website. He is one among many entrepreneurs in the country who are utilising Facebook to sell their wares or ideas.

Facebook has more than 500 million active users, with the average user having an average of 130 friends, according to the site. In Kenya, mobile phone penetration has made it easier for more people to log onto the internet, especially Facebook.

Insidefacebook.com says that as of March Kenya had over half a million users with an average monthly growth of 2.4 per cent.

This social networking website has grown in the past few years, from being a campus website to having a global reach with pages translated in other languages including Kiswahili.

For small businesses, Facebook is the best place to start.

Companies open pages that are different from personal profile pages or groups to attract fans who get updates on what the firms are doing, especially in relation to new merchandise.

One can easily create a web presence on the social sites, even if they do not have their own websites or can direct traffic to their sites.

A growing portion of some of the most valuable demographics is spending more time on Facebook and less on other channels, while the advertising system provides instant feedback with metrics like the number of clicks on items.

Most small business owners start by asking their friends to become fans of their pages so as to have a crowd before the pages start growing organically by word of mouth or by advertising.

By starting a group, businesses create a central place for customers, partners and friend to participate in conversations around a product. This is what Cynthia Muyoti, the proprietor of FabGuru, which sells shoes, did. She opened up a page, with friends and family at first, and today she boasts of over 6,000 fans. In March last year Ms Muyoti opened a business selling shoes from the boot of her car. As she went door to door using word of mouth to make sales as well as reach new clients, a friend suggested that she turn to Facebook to market her wares.

Ms Muyoti opened a personal account on the social media site and began spreading word on her wares. Soon she had 1,000 friends, most of them were interested in her shoes, leading her to open a page for her business from where she advertises her wares. "In the beginning, I saw the site as a gossiping avenue. But my perception has changed as I have seen the impact it has had on the growth of my business," she said.

Maintaining the Facebook page is not easy especially when there are new wares as she has to take photos, edit, upload, label the shoes, and price them before tagging her friends. "The response has been overwhelming and we still believe it was a sound idea," she says.

With a focused path, FabGuru has embarked on creating, managing, interacting and reaching a wider client base and has just opened up a physical shop as it works towards enhancing its online shop.

Many are using Ms Muyoti's model and uploading pictures, comments, videos and business applications on their pages in a bid to reach as many people as possible and keep them informed of the business.

Companies like Bagalicious.co.uk, which sells handbags, and totallytoto.com, which specialises in children's clothes, use Facebook to market their wares and direct traffic to their e-commerce websites.

These companies are part of a growing list of websites that are selling mostly foreign made goods to local consumers at competitive prices. They use Facebook as a major marketing and advertising avenue to reach as many people as possible.

In addition, they have adapted easy payment solutions that allow people to use mobile money transfer methods to pay for the merchandise that are delivered to one's doorstep. This week Facebook added a new feature that will help users share where they are.

The "places" feature that was rolled out yesterday, though in the US market only for now, will help users declare their whereabouts thus opening themselves up to offers, suggestions or advertisements from nearby businesses.

This will also help small businesses know more of the demographic of people near them and how they can reach them easily.

Companies are using different strategies with media firms uploading their stories on social network sites in a bid to create traffic to their publications.

In the US, Art Meets Commerce introduced a Facebook ad campaign to promote an Off Broadway run of the musical Fela! last year.

The campaign targeted Facebook users with interest in theatrical shows, particularly Afro beat.

The company says it generated 18 million impressions, more than 5,700 clicks and $40,000 in ticket sales - all for $4,400 spent on advertising..

Source: Business Daily

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