Louis Otieno, the general manager for Microsoft in Eastern and Southern Africa struck a very interesting chord in the first Chief Information Officers (CIOs) Breakfast meeting last week.
While making his presentation on “the technology trends to watch in 2010” he said Facebook, the social networking tool is the latest continent, albeit virtual.
Why does he say that?
He said Facebook has over 400 million users, 70 per cent of these are outside the US.
This number is larger than the US population standing at about 309 million.
Interestingly this new continent has a very high population growth rate that sees nearly 20 million people becoming fans of pages each month.
Mr Otieno’s message to the CIOs was that they needed to leverage on the customers that this new continent brings; they need to develop systems that can harness the potential of the inhabitants of this new continent who play with a different set of rules.
I thought this was a really interesting and thought provoking angle on the whole social networking arena.
There are a lot of people on Facebook and other social networking sites in Kenya today.
Numbers are hard to come by but I get multiple invites of friends in Facebook, Twitter, and Linked every single day.
Not many of the local social networking users have built business ideas around them, but I can see efforts to do so especially from the marketing and media companies.
At least all the big advertising companies in Nairobi have a social networking arm.
Business owners around the world are beginning to see this new marketplace.
They are pulling in new clients, servicing current clients, and making money through the use of Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
This attention to new technology greatly increases the image of the brand, provides faster and more effective service, and allows for a high-level of targeted marketing.
Businesses are using Facebook to pull their fan base, customers, and potential customers together.
Facebook provides tools that allow users to play videos and allow businesses to send marketing messages directly to targeted audiences.
One of the greatest benefits of utilising Facebook for business is its viral effect.
If any person becomes a “fan” of your page, a message is sent to all of that person’s friends telling them about it, providing a great channel to get your message out to many people over a short period of time.
Additionally, Facebook has added an analytics tool called Insight so that a business and even an individual can better understand the demographic of fans.
If your business currently does not have a Facebook fan page, now is the time to jump on the opportunity for maximum early exposure.
And your CIO should be able to build a business case for this.
If your business is not actively pursuing a social networking strategy, you are likely missing out on a huge opportunity to find the clients you want and to service the clients you already have.
Even if you do not have a target-sized marketing budget, there are many tactics you can use to help you increase business.
The new continent might turn out to be the only continent left on earth. Give it a shot.
Hare is a Director at African eDevelopment Resource Centre, a training and consulting firm based in Nairobi. Follow him on [email protected]