It used to be a job for the “cool kids” in the office. Now, as technology evolves, and more people sign on, companies are committing greater resources to social media. With a multitude of platforms available, it is no longer about which to use but also which are most effective to drive customer engagement – and translate into sales.
With more than 25-million consumers utilising social media in South Africa, it is a golden opportunity for marketers and companies as they seek to reach customers, build reputations and increase sales.
The latest South African Social Media Landscape Report 2021, issued against the backdrop of a 3-million surge in usage since the pandemic, privacy concerns highlighted by the WhatsApp controversy and the commencement of the Protection of Personal Information Act, provides valuable insights on social media demographics and what brands are planning to do on various platforms over the coming year.
The report, released by Ornico in collaboration with World Wide Worx on 30 June 2021, engaged with 111 participants from marketing, advertising, public relations and media about topics such as usage importance, spending behaviour and social media trends. It also asked 24,000 urban and rural consumers about their behaviour and usage.
Ornico is one of SA’s most established media monitoring agencies and Brand Intelligence research firm that helps brands and companies gain a competitive edge by making smart decisions, using artificial intelligence and human verification systems, to deliver measurable results and valuable insights.
The latest SA Social Media Landscape Report 2021 reveals that established platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube are more popular than ever as social media users most active on them.
Two-thirds of brands believe Facebook to be an effective marketing tool, with 40% viewing the platform as “very effective”. Facebook has a user base of about 27 million and every quarter a million more people can be reached via advertising.
Instagram has surged ahead, growing its user base to over 10 million, with a highly active user base now at 7,1 million (an increase from 4,7 million in 2020) – and brands are driving that high user engagement.
Twitter is deemed half as effective: As the platform evolves, so does the audience, which forces brands to shift strategy. Only four in ten believe it to be effective.
New contender, Clubhouse has a low score as 38% of respondents say it is not effective and 5% say it has little effect. It still has a small audience and brands have not yet figured out how to use it.
Snapchat and TikTok are also a challenge for brands, with about 2% deeming it to be effective.
More than 60% of companies now rely on agency, PR and marketing teams to manage their social media accounts, rather than individuals. Brands are becoming also more engaged, by allocating more resources to it.
And yet only 12% of companies have the optimal skill sets to leverage and manage social media effectively in 2021, while 1/10 are ill-equipped. To improve those skills, 2/3 plan to invest in training staff while 20% plan to use specialist agencies.
Livestreaming is a competitive differentiator for 36% of brands (a big jump from last year’s 28%), but 63% of brands have not yet caught up with the tech. This number is expected to rise as the platforms make streaming functionality an integral part of their platform and brand experience. Those that did increase spending on livestreaming allocated it towards Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter.
There has been a massive increase in brands using paid influencers: In 2021, 39.6% used influencers, compared with 29.4% last year. Most (64%) do so for brand awareness, then sales (an increase from 13% in 2020 to 35% in 2021) and customer insights. If done right, this has a direct impact on the bottom line.
Of the most used platforms, WhatsApp has seen the biggest growth, followed by YouTube. The cross-platform instant messaging application, which dominated the conversation earlier this year over concerns around data sharing with parent company Facebook, has matured into a tool for companies and brands to reach customers.
While many threatened to stop using the app and others migrated to alternative services such as Telegram and Signal, Ornico’s reputation analysis compared the social and online chatter against reality and found that the damage to be temporary: WhatsApp was downloaded 45 million times in January 2021, and 128 million between February and April 2021.
Ornico says most proposals on monitoring and measurement require volume of coverage or conversations, sentiment measurement, provision of an advertising value equivalent, and so forth, in the scope of services. But it is often unclear what brands or companies hope to achieve through their communication or social media strategies.
The problem is not the data collection. The problem lies within measurement and evaluation, and also with proper goal and objective setting. How can a campaign be measured and evaluated if there is no understanding of what success is supposed to look like? There are a couple of companies that can provide certain data (and sometimes invalid ones) but there are no companies like Ornico, at least in Africa, that are uniquely providing brand intelligence and measurement that help brands reach the objective that marketing decision-makers have set.
It is no longer simply about the numbers or creating a “buzz” around a brand: It is about how the brands are engaging with people on those platforms, shaping the user experience and receiving a return on investment. DM
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