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SOCIAL NETWORKING: Social Rewards for South African Businesses


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Two in five South African businesses report successful new customer acquisition through social networks

ocial networking has become a mainstream business tool in South Africa with 43% of businesses having successfully used social networks to win new business, reveals a new global survey commissioned by global workspace solutions provider Regus.

Testimony to the faith businesses are now putting in the social networking medium is seen in the revelation that well over a quarter of businesses world-wide (27%) have set aside a proportion of marketing budget – hard cash – specifically devoted to social networking activities.

Up to now, relatively little analysis is available regarding the real use businesses are making of social networking and whether hard business can be generated through this channel. To glean whether businesses globally believe that social networking is ready to take its place among an array of marketing tools, the Regus survey asked business leaders not only whether they had made any customer wins using social networking, but also whether they believed the channel effective enough to be awarded its own portion of marketing budget.

Globally, social networks are still used for their original range of functions. The most popular use of social networks is staying in touch with business contacts, with 58% of respondents globally declaring they use networks in this way. Joining special interest groups is also popular (54%). Although a number of sceptics (34%) believe social networking will never become a significant method of connecting to customers and prospects, a full 51% of firms organise, connect to or manage customer groups via social networks. 54% of firms use social networks to find out useful business information. Surprisingly, however, only 22% of respondents had found new employment through social networking, this in spite of the specific job search functions of networks such as LinkedIn.

In South Africa specifically, over a third (36%) of businesses have set aside a proportion of marketing budget specifically devoted to social networking activities. 7% more respondents in South Africa used social networking for personal social purposes than average (66%) and a full 54% declared that they used social networks to find relevant information. An above average proportion of respondents (66%) declared that they thought the main use of social networks was to connect to, manage and organise customer groups.

Joanne Bushell, Vice President Africa and Middle East for Regus, comments: “Our groundbreaking global survey has revealed that social networking has finally become a mainstream business tool. Although there is a group of hardcore of sceptics globally, who do not believe that social networks will become a significant method of reaching customers and prospects, a significant proportion of firms are devoting real marketing budgets through the medium to acquire new customers and keep existing ones.

“Whilst the most popular function of these networks remains that of keeping in touch with contacts, businesses are also successfully acquiring new customers, supporting their retention efforts and interacting with customer groups. While 74% of South Africans go online specifically to visit social networking platforms, only 16% use social networks to promote their business according to MWEB statistics[1]. This survey indicates that organisations who have not yet ventured into the world of social networking may be missing out on sizeable business opportunities. This is particularly the case in the Netherlands (48%), India (52%), Mexico (50%) and Spain (50%), where the highest level of new customer acquisition via social networking was reported.”

The survey also analysed company size differences and found that overall small companies were a little more likely than average to use social networking. In South Africa 46% of small companies compared to 26% of large firms had found new customers through social networking, although more large firms (42%) actively devote marketing budget to this activity than small companies (36%). Confirming the global trend encountered by the survey, employees of larger firms were more likely to have found employment via social networking (47%) compared to smaller firms (20%).

On a sector basis, 13% more Consultancy companies and 14% more Media and Marketing companies than the global average of 40% had found new customers through social networking. 18% more respondents in the Consultancy sector use social networking to keep in touch with contacts (globally 58%) while 44% of companies in the ICT sector had actively devoted a portion of budget to social networking activity compared to the global average of 27%. Finally, the Consultancy sector recoded a much lower number of sceptics (19%) than the global average (34%).

Internet and mobile technology expert, Arthur Goldstuck, MD, World Wide Worx said: "The study backs up the recommendations we have been making to corporate South Africa over the past year. Our Mobile Internet in South Africa research shows that even those who don't have Internet access are finding ways to embrace social networking via mobile phone applications. Of those who do have Internet access, no less than one out of two South Africans on the Internet are also registered Facebook users. Corporate South Africa can't afford to ignore these trends, and it is gratifying but not surprising to see how many companies are integrating this awareness into marketing or business strategy."


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