Can Pinterest tap into the Africa's booming social media market?
Written by Ella Copeland
The visual site that emulates a pin board, Pinterest, has been steadily gaining traffic since its beta opening in March 2010. Now the third largest Social Media network in the US, African Business Review looks into the rise of this visual social media, and if it is likely to hit it off on the continent.
Signs of success
While Pinterest’s unique users are declining in the US, they are steadily rising in South Africa, where it is now the 20thmost visited website. Hailed by some as the future for businesses and marketing, hear are the advantages to Pinterest.
Predominantly image based, the low text input required for each pin allows Pinterest to transcend language and cultural differences more effectively than other social media formats. If the success of other more text heavy formats, such a Twitter and Facebook are anything to go by, Pinterest should enjoy rapid and widespread uptake due to its scope for universal appeal.
The ability to integrate Pinterest with other pre-existing social media platforms like Facebook takes advantage of a captive audience. A social media revolution has been underway for some time, and Pinterest is able to capitalise on this. Muti-platform media will allow for deeper market penetration, connecting the continent like never before.
Potential stumbling blocks
Some social media experts aren’t so sure that Pinterest will hit it off across the whole continent, citing a number of potential drawbacks that will limit the success of this pictorial social media.
As a social network which is mainly image-based, Pinterest requires more bandwidth than Facebook and Twitter to operate. Large images take some time to load on slow connections, so areas with less bandwidth for 3G or Wi-Fi will not be able to load the site.
Pinterest is not a particularly mobile-friendly site. Part of the appeal of Pinterest is viewing on a large monitor, and mobiles only allow you to view a single photo at a time. Mobile communication makes up a huge percentage of social media activity worldwide, least not in Africa. With connectivity on the move so fundamental to social media, mobile compatibility is vital. In addition to this, Pinterest’s iPhone app doesn’t allow you to pin your own content, simply re-pin others’, slightly defeating the object of self expression.
While the limited use of text may create an all inclusive environment on Pinterest, there are in turn limited benefits with regards to information sharing. With a lower character limit than Twitter, it is difficult to share information when pictures alone will not suffice. Limiting THE ‘usefulness’ of Pinterest as an outlet for news and communication.
This all boils down to a question on the very nature of social media. Is it, as the name suggests, a device for social interaction, where individuals develop online identities and interact on a social level? Or is it a space for the dissemination of important information, a frontline news service stretching to the far flung reaches of earth and society. Well, the answer is both, in varying measures depending on who you ask, and that is its beauty. For this reason, Pinterest will see meteoric success, not in isolation, but as another string to the social media bow.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”