Monday, 11 November 2013

Diary Of An Under 30 CEO: Exploiting Social Media To Advance Africa’s Cause

Farai GundanVENTURES AFRICA – Most of Africa is still struggling with the reality that Africa’s billionaire list has grown astronomically since the last time, as no one has ever comprehensively compiled an Africa rich list. Unfortunately, the youngest billionaires, age-wise, don’t fall within the age-limit and scope of this column.
Even if we wanted to plead exception, however, eight years is such a big number to round off downwards, and the possibility of our ship being able to sit through the turbulences brought about by claims of nepotism, is on the downside of minimum.
Therefore, we will persist with writing about the future, as it is our ambition to inspire young entrepreneurs to aspire to create ventures that can lead them to billion dollar ventures.
Farai Gundan guest writes for a famous wealth reporting media company, and prides herself on being a writer who chronicles African women, entrepreneurs and Africa’s rising stars. She displays a genuine passion for everything she writes about. That passion for Africa by the Zimbabwean-born, media personality and Internet entrepreneur is also directed at the operations of Farai Media LLC, an Africa-focused online mobile and advertising platform, which she founded. She is also a co-Founder of AfricaTripDeals, a global distribution system for travel to Africa.

One technology start-up led on to the next, before the first was a full-fledged enterprise. A great example is her delight and willingness to juggle so many endeavours, underpinned by a strong desire to be successful.
She takes an honest approach to her career history; discussing in detail through each twist and switch. It had been a series of frustrations as she tried to monetize her African entertainment blog, which was not just a peculiar problem to her, but a number of other African-focused publishers also face this stumbling block. And this is what gave birth to Farai Media LLC.
“With the growth of African publishers, we wanted to offer an online and mobile advertising platform that specifically targeted African audiences, both in the Diaspora and on the Continent. With Farai Media LLC, we also wanted to be specialists of the African consumer audience so that we could connect top brands with influential publishers to reach and engage African consumers,” she is quoted as having said
“There are numerous dynamics that factor in with the differences between online advertising here in the US-or the West-versus on the continent. Online and mobile advertising in Africa is still in its infancy. There are several inputs along the value chain that are needed to grow this ecosystem, such as internet ubiquity and low internet costs for consumers,” she further stated.
Describing the potential of mobile advertising on the continent, she says: “Africa is second to Asia in mobile subscriptions. The advantage of this is that, if you use mobile/online advertising , your consumers can potentially carry your marketing message with them on a device- as opposed to on television, radio or on a laptop where they literally have to go home or to the office to log on to see your marketing message. I see how effective it is here in the US and that it could have a bigger impact on the continent.”
Farai has a clear ambition for a career as a new media entrepreneur, and for a person who caught onto the wildfire of social media late, she is enjoying a hectic working-life roller-coaster. Any internet business has a prerogative to exploit the wonders of social media in advancing its brand, and interestingly Farai didn’t realize the wonders Twitter could do to her brand from quite early on.
“Gosh, it seems like forever but I never really got MySpace, but Facebook was a natural transition into social media. I loved connecting with family and with friends, and suddenly the whole world opened up in a fresh, new and exciting way. I came onto Twitter later on and it was through the prodding of my good friend, Nigerian American technology start-up founder, Amaete of Pontaba. And with Twitter, I was connecting, real-time, with folks all round the world,” says Farai.
But while Farai has taken her blog FaraiToday- a platform that showcases the best of Africa by tracking and celebrating the success stories of Africans worldwide- to one level, as a sustainable, high-performing blog, social media is taking it to another level.
“Social media is so critical to FaraiToday because that is how we are able to share our stories with our readers. Gone are the days when people went to newsstands, bookstores, and even websites now, but as a publisher of content, you have to go where folks naturally ‘congregate”, and share with them your stories. So, because most folks are gathered around on Facebook and on Twitter, and are comfortable in those spaces, we use those platforms to broadcast our work. It is also always for real-time connections and real-time responses to the stories that are shaping the everyday lives of our readers,” Farai admitted.
As she discussed the joys that social media has brought onto her business, Farai lays out her views on the significance of social media in expanding the reach of her website. “I use social media for engaging with our readers, connecting with them in meaningful ways and for sharing with them the exciting stories coming out of Africa. I am most thrilled when folks share links ofFaraiToday stories or retweet them to their networks. It is so intoxicating to know that our stories, somehow, somewhere are impacting lives.”
“The reach, breath and depth of that reach through social media have been amazing to the FaraiToday brand. I have connected with bloggers from Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the UK, Canada, and across the USA via social media. FaraiToday readers span the globe and for that, I am deeply grateful.”
She was once quoted as having said, “Certainly social media has amplified our voices and broadened the reach of our voices. The “Stop Kony 2012” campaign is an example of Africans stepping into conversation and taking ownership of that particular narrative. I was proud to see Africans take on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and various blogs and platforms to voice their concern over “We are here to shape the narrative and contribute to a global conversation.”
Advertising money is at the heart of any web-based business. Every business that is internet-based has some sort of cost or commercial implication,”It’s a complex challenge to overcome.” While the start-up costs are minimal, the competition to be relevant and to be cost-effective is daunting; Farai Media LLC has managed to survive and is creating a brand name for itself.
Farai is always looking forward to the challenge of competing in a crowded information dissemination market, with lots of websites and blogs competing for a share of the advertising wallet. But Farai Media LLC has sustained a strong performance. She may be sticking her hands in a lot, but I wouldn’t bet against her taking it all in her stride.

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