The growing popularity of social media sites such as MySpace and Facebook among South African Web users is creating a wealth of new marketing opportunities for online advertisers. That's according to Diane Charton, general manager of Acceleration Media.
She says that social networking sites such as MySpace, YouTube, Friendster, LiveJournal, LinkedIn, Flickr and FaceBook are all attracting thousands of unique users and millions of page impressions from South African users.
Online video portal, YouTube, serves up six million page impressions a month to South African users and has 100,000 unique users from the country.
MySpace generates 12 million monthly page impressions from South Africa and has 160,000 unique South African users.
A range of South African social networking sites have also launched to compete against the international giants. They include MyVideo, ITWeb's My Digital Life and 5FM's BlogJockey blogging platform.
"We're seeing strong uptake of social media in South Africa that reflects the trends in the international market," says Charton.
Social network marketing is one of the fastest growing areas in the global advertising market. According to independent market research firm, eMarketer, US advertisers will spend $900 million on social networks in 2007, up from $350 million in 2006.
MySpace and Facebook are expected to take the lion's share of this spending. Social networking sites and technologies empower users to share opinions, insights, experiences, contacts and content with each other online. Examples of social networking tools include blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, and vlogs.
"Social networking essentially uses technology to facilitate the natural human instinct to forge relationships and share information, ideas, emotions, interests, and content," says Charton. "People use social networking sites to entertain themselves, meet new people, enrich existing relationships with friends and families, and to learn more about products and brands that they like."
“A common misconception is that social networking sites are the exclusive domain of teens and students at leisure. But recent studies show that older people and professionals are also using social networks to forge closer personal and business relationships,” says Charton.
Nearly two-thirds of professionals in the US use social networking Web sites to stay in touch with personal and business contacts, according to a survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity and HR.com.
Another study in the US by ITtoolbox and PJA Advertising + Marketing found that IT professionals cite social media as the most trustworthy online source of information when making purchasing decisions.
International brands such as Adidas and Electronic Arts have generated massive return on investment from campaigns run on MySpace. Much of the return comes from the so-called “momentum effect”, which comes from “word of mouse” as consumers pass messages on to each other.
“Social networking sites offer advertisers a range of benefits, including the ability to target ads at users according to their interests, demographics and online behaviour,” says Charton. South African brands can target local users on international social networking portals through geo-targeting.
Apart from traditional banner adverts, most social networking portals also allow advertisers to target registered users that fall within a specific demographic such as age group. Companies can sponsor content categories that are aligned with their brands and likely to attract people within their target markets.
Concludes Charton: "Many of Acceleration Media's clients are already experimenting with social media, with great success. For the right brand, devoting some of the online budget to social networking sites can provide great returns."