Simon Kabu, a renowned tours and travel operator in Kenya, admits that had it not been for social media, he is not quite sure if his business would have grown to the level it has.
“From early on in business we made a very conscious decision to take advantage of social media to make known destinations that we were offering to those looking to travel,” says Mr Kabu.
And this, according to the entrepreneur, has paid off for his Bonfire Adventures, which started off with Mr Kabu and his wife Sarah merely posting information about destinations they were offering on their timelines on Facebook and Twitter. After the trip they would also post pictures of the excursionists having a good time as a way of charming potential customers.
“When you do an organic (unpaid for) post on Facebook then you just post on your timeline and hope for as many people as possible to see it. But eventually we got to learn about ‘Boost’ which is paying Facebook to ensure your adverts are seen more and by your target audiences,” he says.
“The boosted posts are placed at a strategic place on your target audience’s newsfeed, sometimes including that of their friends.”
This he notes, “essentially turns Facebook traffic into sales”.
Bonfire has it all figured out.
“Because most of the social media platforms categorise their populations according to their geographical and demographic structures, this allows us target users by location, age and gender. My target audience is 21 to 55 year old. This is the group that is most likely to go on holiday,” he says.
“Also women because they are commonly the ones who decide on whether a couple or family goes on holiday or not.”
He says his business spends an average of $1,600 (Sh160,000) in a week to boost posts on Facebook. He also uses Instagram and Twitter as well as Youtube to post videos of excursions.
But Jane Ominde, owner of Jakizz, a catering outfit in Nairobi, admits she didn’t realise the value of investing in digital advertising until months ago.
“You can start small and then increase your budget as you go. Personally, I’ve been able to reach new people who are likely to be interested in my services, but weren't following the business page which I’d always maintained with Facebook,” she says.
“What I love the most about the paid-for ads is the fact that I can queue my posts so that Facebook does the posting automatically at a later specified date and time,” Ms Ominde says adding that she spends between Sh2,500 and Sh3,000 monthly to boost her business.
“Every boosted ad is automatically interlinked to my Instagram and Whatsapp platforms,” she notes.
Facebook Kenya recently launched the ‘Boost with Facebook’ programme, an initiative to train 3,000 SMEs entrepreneurs in Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Mombasa to be able to know how to navigate the digital space to increase awareness of their businesses and connect with new customers online.
Businesses that use Facebook, are able to cross-advertise across Facebook's family of apps and services. These are Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp.
Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, East Africa, Mercy Ndegwa said the platform has about 4.7 million customers in Kenya “that use our apps daily, 62 percent of whom are engaging with businesses online operating in Kenya”.
“This is a huge number of people that you should be reflecting on when you think of growing your business. Globally, we have more than 1.6 billion people connected to small or medium sized businesses on Facebook,” he says.
To boost a Facebook ad, Ms Ndegwa says that all an entrepreneur needs to do is to look for the blue ‘Boost Post’ button in the lower-right corner of the post or content one wants to boost.
The button then takes one to an interface that allows the entrepreneur to create, select an audience and push it to the targeted group of people. This could be people who like the business page and their friends or the general public.
One can also edit the post later according to their preference and even view results of the boosted post.
Facebook gives one the option to set their own ad budget. Advertisers can choose whether to spread the budget out over a few days with the maximum being seven days. And they can always track how the ads are working and make changes along the way.
Enterprises can also use a booking app with Appointments on Facebook, a tool that is free for businesses to use. Through Appointments, clients can visit the business Page and choose the Book Now button, or use Messenger to select the "Can I book an appointment?" option.
Facebook’s policy programme manager, Sub-Saharan Africa, Phil Odour, however cautions entrepreneurs to however keep in mind the objective for which they want to advertise to avoid wastage of money.
“It should be clear to them what action they want from their targeted audiences. Do they want likes, to create awareness or conversions?... then the objectives will guide the spending,” he says.
For now, advertisers have to have a debit or credit card to be able to make payments done in US dollars for digital advertising on these platforms.
But both Google and Facebook have promised that they are looking at integrating other forms of payment that are localised to Kenyan market to simplify payments.