2016 will be an interesting year for businesses in Nigeria. So far, businesses are faced with seismic pressures to stay relevant – in the most natural way they can be – to consumers, and this has shifted the conversation from “Should we be on social media?” to “Where should we be on social media?”
Let me take you back.
In 2013, social media to businesses was an adventure. Although brands like Konga, Jumia and Jobberman being online companies used it as a primary communication tool, banks launched on social media to capture the youth market; most other businesses shied away from something they didn’t and weren’t ready to understand.
In 2014, more businesses – with the help of self-acclaimed digital marketing professionals who saw an opportunity to cash in on people’s ignorance – caught on the social media bubble but with a spray and hope approach. Brands that picked interest wanted to be everywhere and so they opened business pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube. And had blogs. 2014 was more about presence than engagement as these brands were primarily about leaving footprints online and doing so by numbers of social media pages and fan-base.
In 2015, Marketing departments and digital agencies had ambitious goals to “grow the numbers” because the youths became front and center for the sustenance of any business. The ratio of interested brands significantly increased and the existence of a brand without at least a Facebook page seemed threatened. Remarkably, engagement started to matter, brands became more conscious about how they were perceived online and so embarked on a mission to be youthful, to be trendy, to be “cool”. From weekly giveaways to selfie contests to hashtag trending campaigns and influencer endorsements, the excitement got intense.
Social media plays a crucial role in the Nigerian digital ecosystem as it has evolved into a convergence point to catch up on what’s important and – for a generation with a waning reading culture – serves as a filter for selective reading. From personal issues to politics, users now have a platform to share their two cents on anything.
How will this shape Nigerian businesses in 2016?
You don’t need a crystal ball to see that digital spend will increase this year or that there will be an increasing demand for mobile optimised content, but it’s important to understand the changing consumer behaviour on social media and how you can tap into that to build a well rounded relationship with your audience.
These are my thoughts:
Social Video Explosion
Video on social media saw exponential growth in 2015 as internet savvy Nigerians who wanted momentary escape from real-world problems exhausted mobile data streaming videos on Facebook, Instagram and now Snapchat, not minding how long it took to buffer or upload.
Live-streaming also took self-expression to a whole new level in 2015 and platforms will launch features to enable users post more as-it-happens videos this year. Snapchat is increasingly gaining momentum in Nigeria and adopters are exploring other apps like Periscope by Twitter and Boomerang by Instagram.
As with everything online, timing is key on social media. Consumers want to live in the now and social video helps them do just that snippet after snippet. Telecom operators and Internet Service Providers will offer special packages to allow subscribers consume more videos (hello Netflix), the length of video ads will shorten and brands will churn out video content in data friendly portions to capture the interest of consumers. In short, we will be fully immersed in a video sharing economy this year.
A Good Year For Influencers
Celebrity endorsements remain an easy route to creating brand buzz and as the competition for consumer attention hits an all-time high, Nigerian celebrities with social clout will become less selective and more expensive to sign on. The more exclusivity you demand, the more you’ll spend.
As an alternative to celebrity endorsements, brands will transform customers who are loyalists to ambassadors. This trend will be prevalent among FMCG, Fitness and Fashion brands.
Some years ago, you had to dial a customer service line and wait your turn for a rep to help out with a problem. Today, all it takes to expedite that process is a Twitter or Facebook mention. Depending on how frustrated you are, you can choose to call out a brand on one or more social media platforms.
And we know this, active social media users are not nice, not in Nigeria, not anywhere else. One bad comment is enough to drag you through the mud. It’s a brand nightmare and this fear prompts the near real-time responses we receive when we express displeasure about a brand online.
Social media call-outs will no longer be an if-all-else-fails option as more customers will realise their potential ability to dent a brand’s image and wield that power to get what they want. This will compel brands to dedicate customer service personnel who would treat social media enquiries through direct messaging. Which brings me to next point.
Social Media Engagement Social PR
The fine lines of PR and social media engagement are blurring. Social media is ultimately about building meaningful relationships which involves managing crisis, guiding conversations around your brand, as well as collating and acting upon valuable feedback from your audience to improve your products or services. If you maintain the elements but switch channels and activities, it’s PR. The objectives are largely the same. As the internet penetration increases in Nigeria and more people are able to get things done online, brands will become more particular about enhancing their image through social media. We would see more sponsored stories published on news sites, more microsites will be launched to cater to specific audience sect and proactive measures will be taken to mitigate against crisis on social media.
Employee Engagement will become a vital PR strategy on social media. Insurance, Pensions and Media companies championed this in 2015 but workforce engagement will likely spring up in other industries this year as brands will transform their employees to ambassadors combining offline and social media activities to create a good perception and attract the right talent.
How do you tap into these trends?
Explore video content ideas but cautiously tread this path. Your video content should achieve two things; draw relevant attention and form an impression. Content types like Humour and Vox-pop are quick wins. Although overused, making people laugh and letting them take centre stage never gets old.
Whether you choose to work with celebrities or customers, tie a key metric to your influencer campaigns. If you want to boost sales, endorsements can come with discount offers for a specified duration and each influencer’s effectiveness can be measured with unique discount codes.
DMs are the new inboxes. Reduce the processes and assign a dedicated team of customer service personnel to your social media pages.
Integrate endorsements with your content marketing effort this year and – where possible – do without one-offs this year. For example, as a manufacturer of kitchen appliances, a more effective form of endorsement would be to sign on a chef to prepare Nigerian staple foods experimenting with your products or compile food recipes from customers who use them. Might be expensive but will increase your conversion rate.
This is not an exhaustive list but it will put you on the right track to significantly transforming your business with social media in 2016.