Branding Company news South Africa

Unlocking the potential of communities in Africa

With consumers expecting more and more from brands in the changing world we live in, many companies are struggling to keep up with the rising expectations and changing needs of their audiences. It’s clear that we’re in an era of transformation, where agility and connectivity is essential for brand success. To stay relevant and thrive in this environment, brands need to keep a finger on the pulse of what people think, feel and do.
Unlocking the potential of communities in Africa

This is where online communities shine as a gateway to connection and collaboration. They allow you to get close to the people that matter to your brand and allow you to fuel human understanding and human intuition across your business.

Of course, to unlock this potential, there are three crucial ingredients that really drive the impact of your community:

  1. Embracing a people-led approach,
  2. Making sure that we get to different perspectives, and
  3. Activating the insights through partnership.


At the heart of every successful community is its people. To achieve a community’s goal, it’s crucial to engage with the right people at the right time. In Africa we must be aware of three elements here beyond simply recruiting interested and interesting participants.

Firstly, while English is an official language or at least a lingua franca in many sub-Saharan countries in Africa, engaging with participants in their local vernacular or their version of English is crucial to reach a larger audience and to make them feel more comfortable to express themselves. Local moderators can help to ensure nuances are captured and participants have a fair and equal chance to express themselves in a comfortable environment.

Secondly, communities and activities should be mobile-first. Due to the widespread availability and affordability of mobile devices compared to desktop or laptop devices in Africa, we should ensure our communities are designed with that mobile user in mind.

Lastly, incentive strategies per country differ vastly. There are many innovative ways that we can reward community members for their participation in Africa. Mobile money is one such way to bridge the gap between respondents with bank accounts and those without, and localised shopping vouchers also work well in Africa. We’ve also found that topping up incentives with additional data rewards for participants to continue accessing the online community also work well in keeping them engaged and active.


A second success factor of communities is the potential to combine different perspectives. An online community offers a creative toolkit that enables you to look at a topic from different angles and by doing so you can achieve 360-degree understanding.

In Africa, we can all agree that diverse views are needed to form a complete picture but it’s incredibly important to be mindful of certain topics. For example, funeral cover is a common topic to discuss in South Africa, but it is actually considered sensitive to discuss in countries in West Africa due to cultural beliefs, religious practices and social norms surrounding death and funerals. In some cultures, talking about death and funeral arrangements is considered taboo, associated with bad luck and even deemed to invite death.

We also need to recognise the unique challenges faced by rural communities in Africa where resources and access to services are limited. While internet penetration is increasing significantly in Africa, your online community might only represent an urban segment. An offline or hybrid component might be necessary depending on our audience. Requesting responses with multimedia should be more limited than usual. More time might also be required for people to participate in activities in case their connection is limited.

Lastly, people from Africa love telling their stories and having their voices heard. Storytelling can be interactive, emotive and extremely inspiring which means there is ample opportunity to use projective techniques in communities as it enables more engagement and flexibility in giving considered and thoughtful answers. However, don’t forget the cultural context, don’t use historically taboo topics to ground your projective technique in because it might have the opposite effect. This comes down to doing you own research before conducting the research.


Getting to great insights is not the end goal of a community as there is no value in insights if you do not activate them. To fuel that human intuition throughout the organisation you need to put stakeholders front and centre. Online communities serve as the ideal platform to bridge the gap between stakeholders and consumers.

Regardless of country or even continent, we need to touch their hearts through, for example, consumer connect programs where we match stakeholders with community members for live chats, to allow stakeholders to get to know the people behind the data and foster a deeper sense of empathy. Its also about changing their minds and going beyond project specific deliverables.

Think about turning your community – through the power of AI - into a knowledge vault that helps you to extract meta learnings but also allows you to use it as a source if information every time you need inspiration.

By now it’s clear that communities in Africa offer a lot of versatility and can be tailored to your specific needs by focusing on the three elements of people, perspectives and partnership. In doing so, communities can help brands to become more human-centric, fuelling strategic thinking and tactical decision making.

Ready to explore communities further? Download Human8’s community casebook
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