How To Use Social Media, Trends To Make An Impact In Africa

Written by Makula Dunbar

Thursday February 26, IBOM LLC hosted a panel titled “Using Social and Mobile Technology to Stay Connected in Africa” as part of Social Media Week New York. Taking place at Brooklyn restaurant BUKA, the event focused on publications and how social media can be used to latch onto trends and traffic — which supports a marketable foundation and a news site that can actually stay afloat.

Before the panel discussion, Ogundele Damola, founder of ASIRI Magazine, chimed in from Nigeria via Skype giving tips on how to build up a loyal following.

Touching on topics including ways to identify with consumers and building on brands in order to garner social media influence, panelists — Janell Hazelwood, associate managing editor at Black Enterprise; Kwame Andah, co-founder of Coders4Africa; Farai Gundan, African business writer at Forbes; and Kelechi Anyadiegwu, founder of African fashion marketplace Zuvaa — weighed in from varied and collective perspectives.

Finding an Identifiable Voice and Approach 

“You can’t be local-minded — and by local-minded I mean thinking the United States is the center of the universe,” Hazelwood said about creating articles that will stick with global readers on social media. “If we’re going to cover Africa, what does that mean to audiences, what does that mean for advertisers?”

When Black Enterprise expanded coverage to entrepreneurs in Africa, the publication actually found an audience that wanted to follow their business stories, but also an audience that had to be convinced that more content would cater to them.

Shifting content to match trends, Hazelwood said, is something that affects advertisers and something that teeters the line of journalistic integrity; it’s not always easy taking on entertainment trends as a business publication. This is why connecting to Africa and new audiences via social media has to be done in a way where readers are reminded of what type of brand is being promoted, and how content is still relevant to their interests and social media activity.

“I think all of the success we have had at Zuvaa is because of social media…The first thing I did was set up all of my social media accounts,” Anyadiegwu said.

While most people have accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, panelists agreed that every network may not be fitting for the purpose of growing business and followings.

Anyadiegwu finds it much easier to get the attention of consumers on Instagram because they’re able to see products up front.

“But if that’s not where your customer is, there are probably better ways [and platforms] to engage with them,” she said.

Readers Talking Back — and First

Another way — outside of creating content — that brands, publications, entrepreneurs and everyday people can engage African communities is by starting Twitter chats.

Gundan started conversations/interviews with African business leaders to better identify with the voices of Africans on social media and to level the playing field for hopeful entrepreneurs.

“No one was talking to them in a way that’s on our level,” Gundan said about linking business and wealth leaders with Africa’s social media community. “Forbes really taps into those people who are experts and brings them on board.”

“Twitter has been a big growth area for us,” Hazelwood said, “When you do stories on global leaders, their network will support it.”

Panelists noted that a major perk of having a sizable following on social media is having the ability to gauge what kind of content is received best. While editors do initial planning, it’s now the readers and their reactions that influence what brands and publications promote.

“When you look at our articles, you’ll see that all of them are attached to social media. It’s understanding what kind of content people are looking for,” Gundan added.