Kenya: Online Brand Campaigns Fail to Click With Consumers

Digital Content

Many local firms have failed to get their strategies right in creating brand visibility and loyalty through social media, the latest industry survey has shown.

However, many companies have invested heavily on Internet platforms with an aim of tapping the growing online audience.

According to the TNS Digital Life Survey, 60 per cent of Kenyans on social media are resistant to brands and brand messages in their profiles, meaning that companies may not be getting returns on the investments they have made to reach the online community through the networks.

"The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube to speak to customers quickly and cheaply --but this study reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are a wasted resource," says the report.

The survey indicates that many firms have embraced the social media platform but without a clear strategy on who their target audiences are, leading to negative results.

"Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why," said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS.

"Many brands have recognised the vast potential of audiences available to them on social networks but they do not understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

Mr Froggatt says although the online world presents massive opportunities for brands, only precisely tailored marketing strategies can realise this potential.

The findings come at a time when the Kenyan social media space is full of content from local firms reaching out to users .But not all is lost as 54 per cent of online users interviewed in the survey admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products.

This implies that the use of social media to gain brand visibility and market penetration is not a misguided one. It only needs more direct strategies.

These findings back concern expressed previously by social media analysts over the unplanned and disjointed online campaigns adopted by most firms in an effort to build their brand visibility.

"Most businesses in Kenya enter social media but continue passing the same old messages as in traditional channels. Social media is more than just a platform to send your usual advertisement ; it has its own culture which means how people converse, the tone of the conversation, tone of channel (Facebook or Twitter),." says Mr Marvin Tumbo, social media specialist and CEO of Socialight Media, a company that provides social media solutions.

Tumbo says failure by brands to understand how social media works is what causes conflicts between consumers and business online, with the major challenge coming in crafting the messages. Most firms have not come up with a specific messages for social media sites but are channelling messages created for the traditional media and which may not be appealing to this particular audience.

The findings further state that users in fast growth markets like Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya are far more open to brands on social networks compared to developed markets like the US where brand tolerance in social media stood at nine per cent compared to 40 per cent in Kenya.

This means that businesses targeting users in developing countries have a wider audience base, albeit one that must be used prudently. "Social media is not a bad tool for marketing. But it is the tact and targeting that many brands are getting wrong", says Mr Francis Waithaka, a social media analyst.

"The first thing that brands must do is to listen and understand what customers want. Brands should do pull marketing and not push marketing. A great product and a good customer service will pull customers to your business."

Waithaka further adds that it is essential for brands to work on their products and services well before going to social media to market them. "With a bad product or terrible customer service, no matter what marketing strategies you employ, it won't work", he says.

In addition to this, disgruntled users have been known to tweet and post bad customer experiences to their friends and followers and this can go viral and end up being a crisis or an embarrassment to a brand.

According to the survey, 62 per cent of Kenyan social media users trust comments people make online about brands while close to 30 per cent of users share their experience with brands in social media. In addition to this, 19 per cent of users write about brands to praise the service or goods while 10 per cent write to complain.

"Most companies in Kenya have not thought through their social media engagement. There has been no strategy to their engagement and hence the high failure rate", says Mr Tumbo. "It's about time companies started having actual strategies and not me-too activities on social media."

His sentiments are echoed by Withaka. "No matter how good your product or service is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark. You'll waste a lot of cash, energy and time marketing to people who will never buy from you".