Marketing Potential in Social Online Media in South Africa

Digital Content

Social-oriented internet media present "massive" opportunities for brands, advertisers and marketers if embraced properly, says Universal McCann Europe, Middle East and Africa's third comparative study on social media trends.

Social media describes activities that integrate technology and social interaction on sites such as Facebook and MySpace, blogs and webcasts.

The research study, titled Wave 3, collected information on the latest trends of social media from about 7000 internet users in 29 countries.

Mike Stopforth, MD of SA's only dedicated social media agency, Cerebra, said his impression was that except for technical factors such as limited broadband connectivity, consumers in SA still had not got out of the mindset of simply being spoken to and they did no t know how to be proactive with the brands they used.

Nevertheless, a small community of bloggers already had "a lot of brands paying social media a whole lot more attention in SA", he said.

Since Wave 1, Univeral McCann's research has created insights on patterns of usage, such as China having more bloggers than the US, emerging markets leading take-up and Japan shunning photo sharing.

Universal McCann SA's MD, Nazeer Suliman, said: "This is not about targeted advertising. Brands that approach social media in this way are on the wrong foot from the outset."

It was about identifying opportunities that created meaningful engagement and sustained relationships between the brand and communities, which went beyond advertising .

The study showed that the blogosphere -- or network of blogs -- rivalled any mass media in terms of reach, time spent and wider cultural, social and political effect. Globally, about 73% of internet users were reading blogs.

The study also debunked a view that social networking was slowing. Wave 3 indicated usage had risen 21% and the number of estimated users worldwide had reached 272-million people.

The research on brand penetration showed MySpace was still number one among a broad collection of international networks, with a 32% weekly reach. Its position had been maintained by its focus on music and commercial content, rather than on connecting friends.

Facebook was not far behind, on 22,5% weekly reach, and was number one in many markets. The global pattern was mixed and it was far from a two-horse race. In Asia QQ, Cyworld and Mixi dominated in home markets.

Business Day