local vs. international social media platforms: a thorough study by Sofrecom

Carlos Jordan de Urries (left) and Chrystele Bazin (below), senior consultants at Sofrecom (a France Telecom Company) have updated us on the status of Social Media in emerging markets last Monday in Cairo. In this presentation, we’ll focus less on international Social media platforms and more on what the motivations are for people to follow – or not follow – brands like Coca Cola for instance.

aim of the study

The aim of this study was not to be comprehensive either. What Sofrecom have wanted to do is to highlight the main trends in social media in emerging countries. Chrystel started with a little sketch (right) defining a “social” network showing how (virtual) networks of people can be intertwined. With user generated content (UGC), content gets published online, and even though you are not a media, there are many chances that some people are going to see your content; your contacts will see it and then your contacts’ contacts etc.

She then replaced Social networks within the slightly larger framework of “social media” (which I had covered before in my presentation). There are different types of tools within Social Media, from blogs to microblogs and wikis and, eventually social networks proper. There are 2 types of social media platforms which make up a first axis: content centric such as youtube of Flickr, and communications centric such as Facebook, Orkut etc. The two are sort of joined at the hip though because they are both about content, but the approach is radically different. Then there are 3 more types on the second axis: collaborative such as wikipedia, community orientated or deal oriented (crowdsourcing, social e-commerce for the latter catregory). Eventually, Chrystel showed us that completed matrix showing how all these tools can be spread out across this two axes (above, click to enlarge).

Twitter is an issue because it can’t really be squeezed into the “social network” box as it is more of a tool than a social network. As to crowdsourcing, there are sites like e-Stockphoto which is reshaping the photo market, as a lot of media are using them now vs. traditional agencies (we could have added fotolia, here’s a link to my page as an example).

Main trends in local services

Different countries have been investigated, it is not meant to be comprehensive though. Commercial Services and Crowdfunding have been zoomed in in the rest of Christelle’s presentation.

  • Watwet (note: the server was down when I tried it, so here is the cached version) is microblogging focused on Arab populations, it’s open, whatever country you are from. Zoopy is like youtube or Flickr. The service was launched in South Africa. Now we can see that some of the videos are coming from other English-speaking countries. They are both open solutions.
  • Facebook is not providing any specific value to local countries in these regions. Veepiz for is just like that. They are using the Facebook platform but provide a local service based on top of Facebook and let users be on their own environment. They do that with Twitter as well so that users have the best of both worlds. It’s coopetition. Veepiz integrates other social networks but provides local value.
    • nov 20, 2010 adendum and clarification by the owners of Veepiz: “Just to clarify, veepiz is not built ontop of facebook platform. its all hand coded and has its own unique platform. for more goto http://www.veepiz.com or our bloghttp://veepiz.wordpress.com
  • FrontlineSMS: many services, blogs etc. in Africa are becoming social. FrontlineSMS is a Yammer-like two-way SMS platform which has developed its activity for NGOs. They have created a community. The platform helps NGO employees communicate amongst themselves. The platform is free for NGOs.
  • Crowdsourcing: this is about making the user at the centre of the service. It’s up to the user to decide whether he wants to collaborate. The idea is not to just let people complain about the service but to let them be part of the improvement of that service. There are 4 domains to which crowdsourcing applies: knowledge sharing, task force, real time information and funding
    • Kiva is well known and is about micro funding. People go to the web and fund a project. You don’t win anything apart from the pride of being part of something.
    • txteagle is a task force example
    • iYammobi and Kerawa are examples of knowledge sharing. Kerawa is about small ads; say if you are looking for a flat in Cameroon. It’s working in most sub-saharian countries and enjoying good success in that region.
    • Ushahidi is a sample real time information example: it was used in Haiti after the quake to map needs for medicine and or in Atlanta to inform people about robberies being committed

For small ads, in emerging countries and namely in Sub Saharian regions, ebay cannot provide the right kind of service whereas Kerawa can.  There are still many opportunities in the Middle East and Africa for services like this to be provided for local people.

Facts and figures

there are sites on which one can find interesting data about Middle East social media usage:

Brand Advocacy and Social Media Media: The Slidecast

If you haven’t been able to attend the Ragan Social Media summit which took place in San Jose or even online, you can still have a feel of what my presentation was. The pitch was about our work at Orange Business Services with regard to Social Media. Here is the slidecast, inclusive of all comments and please note that this is a downloadable presentation, and that there is no copyright, this is a creative commons presentation (details are included on slide 2).

Fusion-io’s Carson: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

On June 2 I was part of a team of journalists for an IT press tour in the Silicon Valley. One of our appointments was with Neil Carson from Fusion-io. Here is an account of what was said at that meeting:

What is there in common between the team which produced clash of the Titans, a stock exchange trading company performing high speed electronic trading and Facebook? The answer is that they are all clients of Fusion-io, a 250 employee company which was created 4 years ago, the chief scientist of which is no one else than Steve Wozniak. “Wosniak saw the technology and it called out to him” Neil Carson said and “we brought him to our board”, he is a “very smart guy and it’s good to have him onboard”, he added.

Fusion-io designs SSD cards for storage to be included in servers in order to improve efficiency, data protection, but also server space and power consumption. On June 1, 2010 I was invited with a selection of French journalists to visit that company and we were welcomed by Neil Carson, CTO for that company who gave us a presentation of his iodrives, a new revolutionary SSD (Solid State Drive) technology for servers and also graphic sessions.

Read on about the Fusion-io story at: http://blogs.orange-business.com/live for a thorough account of that visit

Trey Pennington About Web Intelligence and Social Media Monitoring

Here is a link to a video of our friend Trey Pennington whom I interviewed a few weeks ago regarding the importance of social media monitoring and web intelligence. Trey also delivers first hand information on the status of the International market for such services, in the US and the UK:

Trey Pennington is not your average Web expert, he is one of the most connected persons in the World (11th most connected person on Facebook) and that certainly made him aware of what Web influence means and how to use it. Trey is – apart from being a renowned social media consultant – working on behalf of Synthesio, a French independent software vendor specialised in sentiment analysis and web intelligence, in order to help them develop their business in the US and the UK.

Read on, on the Orange Business Services LIVE blog

Don’t be prejudiced: b2b is the future of social media!

Time and time again, I have heard people say that b2c is better suited to social media than b2b. As a matter of fact, I am not at all sure about that. The fact that there are fewer b2b brands jumping on the bandwagon is probably more due to the maturity of that sector than the fact that the medium is not adapted to b2b.

Indeed, if one wants social media to have an impact, one needs to foster collaboration and create communities, which is generally done through 3 main things: passion, mutual help and common benefit. These 3 common ingredients of collaboration and social media are in fact very commonplace in the b2b arena; communities are often smaller, more specialised, but also very focused on their abilities to deliver and

illustration & maps by Mongabay.com

always ready to debate on technical points, points of view etc.

Besides, business to business is far less exposed than consumer marketing. In the recent Nestlé example, in which the Swiss firm has not quite been able to appraise the situation and deliver appropriate responses, online fighting with Greenpeace and other activists on social network is an unfair battle for b2c brands. The leeway that brands have in such cases to defend themselves is not very significant – and the case made by Greenpeace is a bit overwhelming too (see maps on the right hand side, courtesy of mongabay.com). Indeed, Nestlé uses Palm oil, which is both an issue from an ecological and dietary point of view, granted; but all mass producers of foodstuffs use palm oil because it’s cheaper and plentiful (now we know why). When activists target a company like this one, the result can be terrible, even though I am not at all certain that Facebook will have the best of Nestlé, the effect on brand equity is still very bad at the very least. At the end of the day, the Swiss manufacturer has yielded to pressure, but instead of turning this into a customer benefit, it’s more a matter of acknowledging their “mistake” and trying to catch up with the criticisms.

As far as b2b is concerned, there is less resentment, clients are more prone to negotiate than complain online, and they also know that when complaints are voiced too crudely online, it’s not always good for your own – and your company’s – reputation either. Besides, in b2b it is also easier for clients to make their points directly to sales and/or marketing. I have heard example in the United States of software vendors (I cannot quote brands) having problems with former employees who avenged themselves by becoming trolls (that is to say online detractors on forums ands social media), but in general the b2b environment is more straight-laced and more likely to trigger responsible discussions.

One may argue that you might get fewer comments on b2b social media and blogs in particular (at Orange Business Services we got 1,500 in 2009 only, so it’s not too bad in fact) but when we get some they are a lot better and more interesting than most of the comments that you get in b2c. Most of the time, they are passionate discussions about in-depth subjects, including complex points of views and explanations. How complex can you get on a consumer product? Usually, it doesn’t get very far or it gets round in circle. In b2b, co-creation and co-innovation is already old-hat, so why not use the Internet to pursue the discussion online?

Such discussions and comments enable one to improve one’s products (it happened to us 4 times in 2009), and it can even help us improve our knowledge when an Internet reader remarks on one of our articles, corrects our mistakes and helps us improve our points of view and visions. A little counter intuitively, I would even venture to say that b2b is the future of social media, because it is b2b brands which can actually most benefit from the use of these tools. We established the proof of this with our @orangebusiness twitter account by placing our brand in the top 10 French brands on Twitter, right behind worldwide renowned brands like Louis Vuitton or Yves Saint Laurent (source:  [Fr]01 informatique, May 2010) and even above Air France. Yet, being popular on the web with a brand like Air France is a lot easier when you think about it, the competition should even be unfair. No, it is unfair; but such is the passion triggered by what we did collectively that we are on the verge of building what is the nirvana of social marketing: a community (Air France already has one, it was created by one of their fans but it’s hard to admit that you have to relinquish the responsibility for your brand even though this is the right thing to do when a community already exists).

http://twitter.com/orangebusiness is the 6th French brand on Twitter (source: 01 informatique May 2010, April numbers)

Lastly, it is difficult for a b2b firm to do traditional advertising and namely TV commercials. Often, budgets are tight and TV commercials require vast amounts of money while delivering sometimes variable results. Into the bargain, most b2b players are reluctant to spread the word about niche products on popular TVs networks. Social media, on the contrary, proves an efficient and economical way to market b2b products: in other words, Nestlé less needs Facebook than we need Twitter (mark my word, I didn’t write does not need Facebook).

B2b is really well suited to social media even though this is not what you will find on the headlines because its subjects are more technical and — if taken at face value — less pertinent for consumers. But at the end of the day, this is also what keeps trolls at bay!

And this is also why a lot of b2b marketing budgets are dormant due to the lack of new ideas whereas so much can be done.

note : the illustrations and pictures are from Microsoft clipart gallery