360News: Social media battling for Africa

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Article By: Trevor Neethling

So you have Facebook and Twitter accounts. What about Google+, Yookos and Pinterest?

With the popularity of social media platforms continuing to grow, South African users should brace themselves for more and more players in the market.

Google last week raised its stakes in the battle for South African social media users with the launch of its Google+ platform in Zulu and Afrikaans.

In the same week, Yookos, an “Africa-specific” social media network, announced its entry into the space, claiming 6-million users across the continent.

Google says Google+ is available to users in 60 languages. This builds on the 44 languages Google+ already supports, and will allow Afrikaans and Zulu speakers to use Google+ in their native tongues.

“For us it’s all about enhancing the user experience of Google,” says Ade Oshineye, head of development for Google+ in the Middle East and Africa.

Google says since the launch of Google+ in June last year, more than 100-million people have joined in a world all about numbers. These figures cannot be verified, as Google declines to provide a breakdown of users. But Mr Oshineye says the uptake in SA and the rest of Africa has been very “positive”.

He also downplays competition from rivals. “For us it’s not competing with existing social networks. For us it’s about the existing Google experience and improving that.”

Yookos CE Tomisin Fashina believes the market is ripe for the new entrant and he plans to challenge Facebook head on. Its aim is to have 20-million active users by the end of this year.

“Africa has 140-million internet users, of which only 38-million are on Facebook. That leaves 100-million to target.

“I can’t compete with Facebook in North America but I can compete with them in Africa. Our early experience suggests there’s a huge need for a quintessentially African social network that helps Africans interact, socialise, share information and access entertainment that is relevant to them, whether they’re in London, New York or a remote village in Africa,” says Mr Fashina, a former banker.

Of Yookos’s 6-million users he says about 20% are based in SA, 50% in Nigeria and the rest across the world. Mr Fashina runs Yookos from its headquarters in Randburg with a staff of 25, mostly developers.

Another 25 people are employed in Nigeria, where Yookos first took off after being developed initially as an online network for members of the Christ Embassy megachurch.

Mr Fashina says such has been the growth that the social network, which largely hinges on the following of Nigerian pastor Chris Oyakhilome, has been operating independently from the church since April last year and has private investors.

The site is similar to Facebook, but is not nearly as sophisticated. While it has struck a chord with charismatic Christians across Africa, Mr Fashina says the site is open to anyone.

Yookos expects to break even within 12 to 15 months, with revenue generated from subscriptions to content such as games, advertising and sponsorships by partner sites

Yookos has smartphone apps for Android and Apple operating systems and will release its BlackBerry app later this month. It is also developing an app for Nokia phones that runs on Symbian and Windows operating systems.

Landi Groenewald, social media specialist at digital marketing agency Digivox, doubts if Google+ or Yookos can make a dent in the current market against Facebook and Twitter.

She says a platform to consider is Pinterest, an online, social pinboard used by more than 300 000 South Africans in January. “The platform lends itself to great ‘virality’ – only 1.4% of all (Twitter) tweets are retweeted, whereas on Pinterest, 80% of all pins are repins! It is also currently the number one external referrer of traffic to websites, especially retailer websites.”

The latest trend is for networks and messaging to become much more niche. “Advertising can be targeted via interests, affiliations and location. Marketing and media can now be tailored specifically to certain interest groups,” says Ms Groenewald.

With Africa’s and SA’s appetite for the internet continuing to surge, the only challenge will be to choose what suits you.

Article from http://business.iafrica.com/news/785279.html

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