Twitter comes to low-end phones

Telecoms

In a move that will increase its reach in Africa, social media site Twitter has partnered with MTN to allow cellphone users with feature phones to access the service.

The use of feature phones, which have fewer capabilities but can access the internet, is high in Africa compared to smartphones.

Twitter vice-president of sales for Europe Ali Jafari said in an interview on Thursday that the company had worked with mobile network providers in countries where infrastructure and access to data are "a challenge, to make Twitter a reality to people".

MTN SA chief marketing officer Larry Annetts confirmed the partnership. He said the company was in "a technical exploratory phase" with Twitter to provide its customers using feature phones the ability to access the social media platform via SMS.

When completed customers will receive updates from the people they follow and post tweets, Mr Annetts said.

The collaboration was currently limited to MTN SA and "is testament to MTN's ongoing commitment to bridging the digital divide and to bring its customers into the bold new digital world," said Mr Annetts.

Twitter has 288-million active monthly users globally. It is estimated that in SA it has 6.6-million users.

Affordability and awareness are barriers to internet adoption in many countries in Africa. Facebook is also looking at partnerships that will provide its service for free in developing markets.

Facebook, through partnerships with a number of mobile network operators in Africa, has launched the internet.org app, which will give subscribers free access to more than a dozen websites, including Wikipedia and Facebook. According to Facebook, more than 85% of the world's population live in areas with cellular coverage, yet only about 30% of the total population access the internet.

Mr Jafari said Twitter was working on new products that would attract new customers who were not Twitter subscribers but were accessing it using other platforms. For example, they use search engines to access specific content or read about trending topics on Twitter.

Twitter is also enhancing its advertising platform features for companies to promote their products on the social media network and also interact with their customers. Gordon Geldenhuys, head of social media and insights at digital agency 25AM, said a growing number of consumers were turning to social media as their first point of contact when they have a question or complaint for a brand with which they do business.

Yet too few companies have yet started to think about social media as a customer service tool — and the result is that they are missing out on some golden opportunities to build better relationships with their customers.

Source: BD Live  20 February 2015