Between the marketers’ world and the world of Facebook

Facebook is a sell-out, no doubt (the metaphor intended). Yeah! The founders of Facebook have created a second world, which share demographics with the real world, that makes it next in population to the earth, the world we all live in. The difference is the physicality of the earthly world, and the virtuality of the Facebook world.

The physical world and the Facebook world share certain common features.

 Interactions: The physical world engenders interactions across boundaries, among the various countries, regions, and peoples. Facebook also creates platform for interactions among peoples.

Habitat: The physical world is a habitat for close to 7 billion people of different colors, races, languages, and religions. Facebook is also a habitat for over 800 million people of different colors, races, languages, and religions.

 Transactions: We transact businesses in the physical world, just like we transact business in the virtual world of Facebook.

 Socialization: The physical world provides us various platforms for socialization, just like the Facebook.

 Globalization: Like the physical world has shrunk into what is now known as the global village, the world of Facebook, for the same reason, has also broken down the barriers of boundaries and distance. We are all now as far away as a click.

These features are the reasons we continue to exist in the physical world. We are able to interact, cohabit, transact business, socialize, and engage ourselves across territories. Particularly for marketers, the opportunity for transaction in a territory of over 7 billion people who are easily reachable across boundaries due to globalization, is one they cannot afford to play with.

The same reasons make Facebook compelling for anyone who seeks to interact, socialize, transact business, and engage with people. A population of 800 million people, with the above characteristics, comes next to the population of world. If the world offers over 7 billion possible consumers, Facebook also offers over 800 million possible consumers. If marketers wont play with the market the physical world provides, he should not take the world of Facebook for a joke.

Lanre Issa-Onilu

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Sooner than Later, public sector will dance to social media beats

The power of the internet and social media is no longer in contention. What is being debated now are the best ways to take full advantage of the numerous benefits of blog, viral marketing, word of mouth, crowdsourcing, email marketing, banner ad, etc.  This is not to say that social media has been adopted by all those who should use it. Like every new thing, social media is steadily taking ground. But the question is whether it is spreading fast enough. For instance, how much of it is being used by government agencies?

Most government agencies are set up to provide certain basic social services to the people. Mobilizing the people, who are diverse in needs, and are of varying perceptions, require some kind of engagement. Considering the benefits of social media, and the relative low cost of deployment, it is a surprise that the public sector appear to be moving a bit too slow.

If government agencies in most part of the world are slow in integrating social media into their communication strategies, it is even worst in Nigeria. It is true that a couple of organizations appear to be adopting some form of social media, but the efforts so far fall below expectation.

There are 5 important reasons why these agencies may not be engaging with their stakeholders through the social media..

  • Assumption. Agencies have the tendency to assume that the stakeholders are on the same page with them. They do not bother to know the stakeholders’ current perceptions of their activities. They can’t believe the perceptions are not the same as they assume.
  • Knowledge: Many heads of agencies do not have an idea of what the social media can do in their desire to have a good relationship with the various stakeholders.  Lack of knowledge can constitute a hindrance.
  • Adoption: Agencies headed by people who are slow in responding to new “things”, may also lag behind. These people are late adopters and social media may not appeal to them early enough. To them, the traditional media they have been used to remain the only option. The fact that they are not in the social media, it is difficult for them to relate with what they cannot see. They are familiar with the print and electronic media, but not with the social media.
  • Corporate Goals: The corporate goals of an organization at times may also determine how quickly an organization responds to the usage of social media.  Organizations whose activities have direct impact on vast majority of people may see the need to adopt social media faster than organizations whose activities are not so affective.

Agencies are going to face more stringent scrutiny from the public as social media penetration increases in Nigeria. About four million people in Nigeria are on Facebook and many of this number are active. The pattern of engagement on Facebook shows that a lot of these people are active. Government agencies are soon to feel the heat as social media becomes a platform where Nigerians turn the searchlight on them.

Facebook: Should you or should you not?

Why should anyone open a facebook page? Of course, for an individual what do you stand to lose if you do not have a Facebook page? Apparently, nothing, if you are not looking for ways to stay in touch with friends and you have nothing to sell or promote. Facebook doesn’t look desirable ordinarily. There are many reasons to illustrate the undesirability of facebook.

Distraction: Facebook can be a distraction to the users because of its addictive nature. The time you should spend doing more valuable things are wasted posting and reading other people’s posts. You could unknowingly spend hours on Facebook, only to realize your have not had a quality time.

Exposure: It has been argued that Facebook exposes individual’s character. What one posts on Facebook and ones general conducts are reflections of ones personality. Unfortunately, Facebook is such an open forum that is difficult to control. When you post, hundreds or even thousands of people can easily form an impression of whom you are. It requires the skills of an image manager to constantly survive the traps of negative impressions.

Watch video on disadvantages of facebook

But are these enough reasons to stay out? Not really. Especially, if you are someone who deals one way or the other with the public, Facebook is an essential tool. Everyone has his own audience. Facebook provides an excellent platform for you to connect with your audience and deliver your message. If you have any skill on image management, you can easily mould your audience’s opinions towards your goal. It is a very good platform to market a cause.

With the massive number of people on Facebook (over 800 million), everyone has a sizeable audience to engage and connect with. And considering that it costs next to nothing, the time spent may actually be for good reason.

Leave open your website doors

Lanre Issa-Onilu

09/03/2012

Website is a fashionable thing to do for businesses, whether small, mid-size or large corporation. As fashionable as it is, the necessity for it goes beyond mere fashion statement. It is an important business tool. It is almost unheard of for a company to operate in today’s competitive business world without a corporate website.

Websites vary, depending on the business objectives of a company. But there are basic features that any modern website should have. They are the look and feel, functionality, and accessibility.

Look and Feel: A website must be very attractive, without being excessively flamboyant. When a website is too flashy, it may be a turn off for many visitors to the site. Keep it simple! But do not be bare. You must maintain a balance between beauty and simplicity.

Samples Attractive Website:

30 beautiful business websites

40 most beautiful and inspirational website designs 2008

Functionality: A website should focus on its offerings. In other words, the objectives of the company should be borne in mind when designing the site. Aesthetic should not supplant the reasons for the site. The site should focus on the need to transact business with the visitors, first and foremost. Getting the visitor to “fall in love” with the website should be a supporting consideration.

Samples Functional Websites:

Functional website design

9 highly functional websites

Accessibility: The website of a company should mark out its doors to the various support service units and departments very clearly. The navigation doors should be kept opened, giving visitors the easiest of access into the company. When visitors spend time finding their way into the company, they may end up finding their ways out of the site.

Samples Accessible websites:

Accessible websites

Website Toolkits

A website is an office. It is a virtual branch office of the company. It should be easy to have dealings with the company almost as if one is present physically at the corporate office of the company. When management begins to see a website as a branch office, next in rank to the corporate head office, then it is possible to have the full benefits a website should give the company.

Your Facebook “Friend” is Your Customer

Your friend is more than a friend; he is your target. That is if you know. Perhaps, if you are not intending to pass a message or market a product, an idea, or a cause, then your friend is just a friend. Then, I take it that you are not involved in this social media “thing”.

Take a good look at your Facebook “friends”, Twitter “followers”, and LinkedIn “connections”, you would discover the similarities they share as well as the differences that set them apart. Yes, everyone is a brand.

People subscribe to Facebook for different reasons. But no matter what these reasons are, the need to communicate is one reason that cut across. Everyone communicates. Social networkers communicate. Marketers of goods and services communicate. Promoters of causes communicate. Reputation managers communicate. Even the cyber-bystanders, those who get involved in the social media just for ego and “move” with the rest of the society just because everyone is in it, also communicate by not saying anything, or by saying little.

Circular Interaction

We are in a world I call circular interaction. Or better still, we are in a world of see-saw communication. In other words, the distinction between the messengers and the recipients has disappeared. Everyone has got a certain kind of message to deliver; and, everyone is equally a recipient of certain kind of message. We are in a world of give and take. The world where some are givers, while some are takers is fading into memory. No thanks to the internet and the social media.

As the information exchanges continue to grow and strengthen, it has become important for everyone that is playing in the world of social media, irrespective of reasons, to begin to take him or herself more seriously. The “friends” or “followers or “connections” are like the guys next door in the physical life. You would not want to sell yourself short in the physical world because you are concerned about and value your image. If that is correct, then you need to begin to be mindful of selling yourself short in the virtual world of social media. You are as good as your last post. If you are not selling any products or offering any service and you are not promoting a cause or an idea, then you are the social networkers who is unknowingly promoting or ruining his own image.

Be Deliberate

You are a marketer. Your product is you. Your social media friends are your customers. Just take a friend of yours on the Facebook. Spend some time on his page. Read through his Info page, his Wall, and his posts. Take a look at the photos and videos on his page. What do you think? Your thoughts on what you’ve seen would feed into your idea of who your friend is. Whether your conclusion is positive or negative, then you have just profiled your friend and developed a perception of him.  What you see on his page are the marketing elements (marketing mix) your friend has unknowingly put forward as unique propositions.

Therefore, if you are conscious of who you are, or you have an idea of who you want your friends to think you are, then your social media appearance should be important to you. What do you have on your Info and Wall? What sort of Photo of you do you have? What did you say in your last post on Facebook or Twitter? Do all these represent who you are or who you want to be? Will they lead your friends to see you the way you see yourself or the way you want to be seen? Put differently, what are your activities in the social media communicating about you? Do they bridge the gap between your identity and your image or do they present an image that misrepresents your identity. Your identity is who you truly are.  Your image is who people think you are.

You should begin to take your activities on the social media platforms more seriously, because your friend is your customer. He wont buy you, or he may buy you cheaply, if you sell yourself short.

Africa on Facebook Map

Africa is not the continent of plenty. That is, if we meant the prosperity of the majority. But it is a continent of abundance, when untapped or mis-tapped resources are considered. The social metrics are not always very positive, due chiefly to poor state of infrastructure. It therefore would go without saying that the social networking map would leave a black spot where Africa ought to appear. But the spot is not black for Africa; it is actually a bright spot when it comes to the social media.

Across the African countries, many people are embracing the social media, with Facebook expectedly leading the way. Analysis of Facebook penetration by country shows that Tunisia is ranked in the first 100 countries by penetration, with more than a quarter of the population using Facebook (27.91 percent).  However, Egypt has the highest number of users (10,476,120). Egypt is followed by South Africa (4,954,280), Morocco (4,408,340, and Nigeria coming fourth (4, 312, 060).

The continent of Africa supplies 39,964,600 (4.29 percent) of the 833,975,360 Facebook users all over the world. The potential for growth of Facebook and other social media platforms is very high. The internet usage as at December 2011 stood at 139,875,242 (13.5 percent of the population). When we look at the gap between the current internet usage and Facebook usage, there is a huge space for growth. The adoption of social media can only grow more rapidly in the next few years.

 Marketers’ Playing Field

Africa has been a playing field for global marketing, with over a billion population, in a largely consumer continent, with little in term of production. The advent of social media and the encouraging response of many people have provided strategic opportunities for marketers from across the globe.

Social media offers the convenience of targeting consumers online, within the comfort of the marketers’ office from any part of the world. In case anyone is in doubt of the relevance of the social media marketing to the continent of Africa, you only need to look at the world social media map. Africa is a top player, especially on Facebook.

Here We Go!

My name is Lanre Issa-Onilu. Here is a blog for incisive discourse on the virtual but real world of interactivity engendered by emerging media. I will be sharing ideas with you for the next nine weeks on the numerous ways the emerging media are transforming the world’s communication landscape, creating a beyond-imagination virtual space for engagement, relationship, and interaction.

If I am already sounding like some social media buffs, I apologize! I am not. I need to confess that I am not the archetypal poster boy for these new “things”. I am the old school type  who would rather stay out of Facebook, Twitter, and the like to prove a point – I don’t get carried away by fads. I used to be proud of that. Don’t ask me why, because I do not know. It is true that I did not catch up with social media; it caught up with me.

It is almost impossible to live in the modern world without Facebook and its numerous cousins. I later realized. It is like being a hermit. A recluse who is fast asleep as the world passes him by. We may not know the number of words produce daily by mankind before the emergence of social media, but it is safe to say the volume has dropped. There is less physical conversation. Even when friends are physically together, they now drift into chatting no more with their mouths, but with some kind of devices. Telephone conversation too has dropped.  Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn, Blackberry, Yahoo! Messenger, etc now offer cheaper and more convenient alternative.

Social media has caused a paradigm shift in the way we engage ourselves.  It is a virtual assembly for peoples. It is a virtual space for engagement and interaction, a virtual marketplace for products, goods, and services. You want to marry an Eskimo? You may just find a right one waiting in one of the several sites that intersect for social relationship.  

In the next nine weeks, I will be examining the emerging media, its powers, and the consequences of those powers. As much of the world continues the exodus to the virtual world, we will not forget that some are still either in self-exile or denial. We will examine how long they can stay out from a phenomenon that leaves little room for opt out. I welcome you to this “Fantasy  Island” of communication. Please feel free to post a comment.