Social networks in emerging markets, like Russia's Runet and Mxit in South Africa, provide unique applications that give them massive regional advantage over standardised global platforms such as Facebook. This was the conclusion drawn by communication experts from Europe, the Middle East and Africa at the annual Worldcom EMEA conference in Moscow.
There are currently 70 million daily users of Runet in Russia, making it the largest online community in Europe. The country's leading social network odnoklssnik.ru (an online meeting place for classmates and old friends), currently has more than 35 million users compared to only 3 million Russians who use Facebook.
Ruth Golembo, Managing Director of Lange 360, the only elected Worldcom member in Southern Africa, addressed the conference on Innovation in Africa, highlighting the success story of Mxit as a major driver of the mobile revolution on the continent.
The conference heard from partner groups in France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Finland and Sweden, Israel, the Middle East, Czech Republic, Russia, Poland, Serbia and Turkey on the increasing role played today by the PR community who are trendsetting and shifting public opinion.
"Particularly interesting to South Africa was the insights we were able to glean from Russia, which has a massive consumer base and is a BRICS partner to SA, on how communications have been reshaped to engage its emerging consumer audiences through both traditional and online media.
"The combination of traditional and online media has given PR practitioners new power as always-on, real-time information disseminators. It was interesting to see case studies from the front lines of the PR revolution, showing online advocacy campaigns in which customers provide the content and effectively become the media.
"Interesting too were ways of mining social chatter for business intelligence, the crafting of compelling multi-media executions to drive executive thought leadership and examples of active management of digital communities.
"Public relations today looks a lot different to what it did in years gone by. The skill sets are changing, the staffing patterns are changing and so are the timelines and the scoreboards," says Golembo.
"It's wonderful to bring home emerging tactics and trends gleaned from other markets. It provides valuable perspectives for our client base and allows us to tap into the collective savvy of some of the world's best PR agencies in business-to-business, consumer, crisis management, health care, public affairs and travel tourism and share our ideas with them'.
Lange 360 is one of the most influential communications consultancies in South Africa. It provides full-service communications for corporate, financial and consumer brands as well as investor relations, brand building, crisis communications, media liaison and a broad range of marketing services.
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