Facebook has announced the opening of its first African office as it seeks to continue growing the social network’s footprint on the continent and take advantage of the advertising and commercial opportunities presented by the ever-increasing number of Africans who are using the network.
The office is located in Johannesburg but will focus on the entire sub-Saharan African region, which a special emphasis on the key markets of Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Facebook says it is enlisting the help of governments, telecom operators, agencies and other stakeholders to help drive the effort.
Given that there are already 120-million African-based users and the numbers are likely to continue climbing as more people become connected, the potential for advertising is huge. However, marketers wishing to take advantage of this will need to optimise their advertising strategies for mobile devices as this remains the main method of connecting to the Internet for most Africans. Feature-rich, video-heavy marketing messages may remain problematic in the short term, as data costs on the continent remain high and connectivity can be unreliable outside the major urban centres.
However, this situation is expected to improve over time and the company says it expects the cost of data services to decrease. It also anticipates that increasing numbers of people will upgrade from basic feature phones to smartphones that are capable of running Facebook’s full mobile app.
“We are committed to creating solutions tailored to people [and] businesses specifically for African markets,” said Ari Kesisoglu, Regional Director for Facebook in the Middle East and Africa, in a media statement.
“Our priority for the next few months is to continue the work we are already doing with some clients in this region. We will work more closely with businesses and agencies to understand the challenges, so that we can build solutions that help grow their business.”
The new African sales team will be led by Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke, a prominent figure on the South African and African advertising scene. She was previously chairperson of Ogilvy South Africa and the only African representative of the board of Ogilvy Worldwide.
Although the aim of the new office is the increase Facebook’s advertising opportunities in Africa, there is already a notable advertising base on which to build. “Facebook now has over 1,5-million active advertisers from around the world, and a growing number of them come from Africa,” Aidan Baigrie, Facebook’s Client Partner for sub-Saharan Africa, said in an interview with Strategic Marketing Africa’, the publication of the African Marketing Confederation, earlier this year. “In the larger African countries we have attracted a number of big financial services, media and retail brands as customers. But we are also seeing many small- and medium-sized businesses use Facebook as a key channel to build their businesses.”
In tandem with its efforts to attract more advertisers based on the continent, the social media platform is also working to continue building the number of individual users it has in Africa. One of its major initiatives is ‘Internet.org’, which provides basic, free Internet access via a mobile app. The app is now available in Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, with plans to extend its reach to other local markets.
As companies rush to ramp up their online strategies and increase content marketing, they need to be cautious about creating excessive online ‘clutter’ and irrelevant content, a senior marketer has warned.
Speaking at an international digital conference in November, European Online Director at Coca-Cola, David Martin, said brands should treat their virtual world as they would their physical stores: clean and without clutter. “I think sometimes we need to reflect on the fact that just because it’s a virtual world, doesn’t mean we need to fill it with rubbish,” he is quoted as saying by ‘Marketing Week’ magazine. “By all means find ways of [publishing] relevant content as and when customers are looking for it. What they want is easy and simple solutions.”