Social media trends
Written by Vanessa Clark
While I believe that many fundamentals remain the same, there is no denying that in the fast-paced social media marketing world, you need to keep your wits about you to stay on top of the game.
Here are my top five social media trends from the past couple of months:
1. Social is mobile
For some time Facebook has been saying that it is fast becoming a mobile company. And the latest stats show that more than half of its 900 million odd users access the network with a mobile device. In South Africa, according to Social Bakers, 80.5 percent of 4.6 million SA Facebookers are mobile, while in Nigeria slightly more, 81.5 percent of 4.3 million users, are mobile. This is hardly surprising, seeing as we are such a mobile-only continent.
Indeed, according to the latest stats from research house World Wide Worx, 7.9 million of South Africa's 8.5 million internet users go online using their cellphones. 2.48 Million only ever use a cellphone. Smartphone users are forecast to rise to 11 million + in 2012, from 8.5 million today.
What is surprising though, is that according to its IPO documents, Facebook has not earned any revenue from mobile. To be sure, the mobile Facebook user experience is not the best, and has no advertising or application integration. But it is likely, especially after a raft of acquisitions in the mobile space – notably Instagram earlier this year – that Facebook will be upping the ante when it comes to mobile and making money from mobile.
2. Business links up
Businesses have discovered LinkedIn – especially the financial services, recruitment and property sectors, based on the requests I have received to link up. But they could do better. While pretty much all connections on LinkedIn have some sort of professional networking element to them, I usually have met the person or it is very clear why they are wanting to connect: we're in the same industry, for instance. More recently, there seems to be a very passive trend emerging, where the estate agent, finance advisor or recruitment agent doesn't bother to explain why they are wanting to connect and never engages again, which seems like a bit of a waste of time. I'd suggest these online networkers would do better to browse the Q&A section of LinkedIn, where they can actively engage with a potential customer by answering a question or providing information and so building a relationship. Another good resource is Quora, a dedicated question and answer site, is starting to be used more often in South Africa.
3. Brands get pinning
Thanks to its integration into Facebook, Pinterest has grown by leaps and bounds this year. And where there is a gathering of consumers sharing their likes and preferences – as they are doing on this social network organised around shared online pinboards – brands following very soon. Some brands, such as Yuppie Chef in South Africa, are getting this right. But others, based on the communal groans that seem to be coming from the Pinterest fan corner, too many are getting it wrong.
4. Brands are slowly starting to close the loop
Social media campaigns are starting to move beyond generating “likes” and retweets for their own sake, to actually generating sales in the real world. One competition which has just started using the Evly platform on Facebook asks customers to enter by sharing a recipe using a certain type of Spekko rice, along with a photo of the dish and the rice. Unfortunately however, there seems to be little integration across the marketing teams – my local supermarket didn't have the specific rice in stock, and there was no point of sale tie in to the Facebook competition. It will be interesting to see the results of the campaign, but one suspects these could be improved with some real world tie in.
5. QR codes and location services
The trend here is that we continue to see little take up of either of these services, which seem to fit so well with both social and mobile. There was a brief flurry of excitement amongst SA social media commentators in May around a clever QR code campaign launched by Guinness, but it doesn't seem likely this will be launched locally any time soon, if at all. To be fair, QR codes are starting to creep onto the backs of wine labels and other consumables, but really as little more than a clever way to provide more information about the product. I'm hoping there is more to come from both these technologies.
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.”