Saturday, May 15, 2021

Twitter’s investment in Africa

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by Ejiro Obodo

When Twitter announced that it is assembling a team and will soon launch a physical office in Ghana two weeks ago, there was joy and awe in Nigeria.

Joy, because the most boisterous social media platform on earth is finally berthing in Africa. Awe, because many expected Twitter to site its office in Nigeria, a country that considers itself the most vibrant market for the platform on the continent.

In spite of the mixed reaction, Twitter’s venture on the Continent is a big win for Nigeria. And for those who still do not understand what the platform stands for, it is worth noting that Twitter has been described as the “Usain Bolt” of social media.

A microblogging site, Twitter is one of the most sophisticated integrated marketing communications tools ever created. It is versatile, has extensive reach and is famed for disseminating information with record speed.
As far back as 2012, there were circa 400 million tweets per day, and the lifespan of the average tweet was just 22 seconds. Today, the pace and assortment of Twitter users has greatly morphed.

Presently, the platform is used by millions of big and small businesses, government officials and other citizens for customer support engagement, reputation management, polling, product assessment, research, awareness creation, news dissemination, among other things globally.

Africa’s numbers

In Africa, Egypt seems to have more active Twitter users than any other nation. Some sources estimate that with a population of 100.4million people, 3.7million are active Twitter users in Egypt (1 in every 27 Egyptians). But that is a far cry from the U.S. and Japan which host some of the largest concentration of Twitter users globally.
With a population of 328.2million, the U.S. has 69.3million Twitter users (1 in every 4 Americans). Japan with a population of 126.3million has 50.9 million active users (1 in every 2 Japanese).

Nigeria does not have such impressive figures. With a population of 201million, there are less than 3million active Twitter users in the country (1 in every 67 Nigerians), a situation which Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey described as “Not enough,” during a visit to the country in 2019.

If the ration of Nigerians on Twitter were to increase to 1 in every 3 Nigerians, there would be at least 55million Nigerians on the platform!

Behind the numbers

There are discernable reasons for low Twitter uptake on the continent. For many years, Twitter was perceived as an elitist platform even in Nigeria. It was viewed as a platform used by politicians and high caliber celebrities to engage their sophisticated audiences for many years.

Our research at Caritas Communications which covered Ghana and Nigeria suggests that there is paucity in understanding of the full value that Twitter brings. This may not be unconnected with the low participation in both countries.

In a survey of 2,500 individuals (60percent Nigerians, 40percent Ghanaians), 75percent of respondents were unable to identify any specific twitter product or service by name even though 70percent of them reported owning and operating Twitter accounts for over five years each!

Interestingly, 85percent of respondents are interested in knowing more about the products and services, while 75percent are open to subscribing for them in order to improve their user experience.

This finding, among others emanated from the survey, which was conducted between April 1 and 20, 2021 and it perhaps cuts out the work for Twitter as it forages into Africa.

Success on the continent will be as a result of how creatively the organisation communicates its services and products with a view of engendering greater uptake and revenue.

Twitter’s marketing and communications team has the task of demystifying the brand, not just to the elite but to millions of Africans who have handled the platform without a clear strategy and purpose.

Also, based on the survey, a number of issues need to addressed. First is the issue of videos and images. A considerable number of users indicate that they look forward to the day when Twitter will become the platform of choice for short videos.

For countries like Nigeria and Ghana, which are very transactional, a video or graphic may be the bridge to another sale for a small business looking for promotion.

One respondent specifically indicated: “we need more video clip time.” The thinking is that Twitter will match Instagram if this need is met. But of course it must be added that Twitter is not Instagram.

Other respondents indicated that the system should be optimized to accommodate more African languages (and letters). While this is up to the developers and policy makers at Twitter, I am of the view that a change in this regard could unlock Twitter to millions of Africans who may not be attuned to communicating in English.

One interesting aspect of our survey addresses the willingness of respondents to recommend Twitter to friends, associates and acquaintances. Respondents were asked: “How likely are you to recommend Twitter to your friends?” Interestingly, 80percent said “Very likely.” Only 10percent of respondents said they were unlikely to do so. This is a greenlight as it indicates the possibility for further expansion for Twitter.

There is no doubt that the landing of Twitter in Ghana is a plus for Nigeria. Not only because Ghana and Nigeria are sister countries but because of the common heritage both countries share in terms of language, neighborliness and history.

It is worthy of note that as Twitter berths in Africa, the biggest winners are the millions of African youth, businesses and governments that will be lifted by this new presence. Twitter policy is likely to better accommodate this pool of potential users.

Indeed, the evidence suggests that there is Twitter fever in Nigeria and Ghana already. Recent happenings, especially in Nigeria have proved it. But there are veils which have to be systematically ripped off to enable more Africans embrace the platform. That is job which the company’s communications team has to handle in the following weeks.

An award winning editor, Ejiro is a senior communications manager at Caritas Communications

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