Leveraging local trends for brand growth

In the brand growth and marketing playbook, digital media has become the largest driver by far. It’s no longer a question of whether your brand should be on social media. It’s now a matter of how up-to-date your marketing team is with the latest ways to share content and the latest trending formats. Instagram recently announced that they will concentrate their focus on newer formats that are showing much higher engagement levels on the platform than static photos, namely, video (reels) and creators. They have also indicated that payouts might come next to outstanding creators. Combine this with the meteoric rise of TikTok and micro-video content, and you get a clear picture of the future of marketing, especially to young people. 

Pulse sits at the nexus of culture and digital media and through the campaigns, we run and our digital community-building efforts, we have gained insights into driving growth for our partners by leveraging trends. Here are some tips to leverage local trends to drive growth:

1. Identify influential trends on social media

Keeping your target audience in mind, identify trends that get them to engage, react and comment actively and in large numbers. Being active and actively listening on social gives you an idea of what is popular and trending with your target. Some trends may be very spontaneous and will require you to be quick to jump onto them, while others can be anticipated and properly planned for, for example, Big Brother Naija, a reality TV show in Nigeria that has now become the biggest show in Africa. Overall, you need to be actively listening on social media to be able to pick up on these trend waves. Here are some tools that will help you identify trends that are generating engagement and are relevant to your target:

Google Trends

This is perhaps the most expansive tool with which to track rising trends across all of the internet. You can pick up on a trend on a single social network, and use that information to predict that trend on another platform. This can help you prepare to ride the trend when it eventually hits other platforms. Simply set up Google Alerts for the keywords you want to keep an eye on.

TweetDeck

This tool is worth mentioning because Twitter is an important platform when we discuss the subject of trends. Twitter and now recently, TikTok is where most social trends originate. It is also where trending topics (which may originate from other networks and channels) get discussed the most. There is always an active conversation on Twitter on the world’s trending topics daily. Monitoring conversations on Twitter is then especially important. TweetDeck helps you monitor chosen hashtags and keep tabs on their popularity. 

TikTok’s Discover

The Discover page on TikTok is an incredibly powerful tool for discovering what’s trending on TikTok. And what’s trending on TikTok spills over to other platforms with an increasing frequency. You can quickly jump on the biggest hashtags or find hashtags that are specific to your niche and create content for this. This way, your content can be shared, reshared, downloaded, and engaged with by the people you’re trying to reach. 

CrowdTangle

CrowdTangle is a public insights tool from Facebook that makes it easy to follow, analyze, and report on what’s happening with public content on social media. Among other powerful features, you can analyze trends across thousands of accounts over time and get insights into trend seasons, timing, etc. This tool can also be used to evaluate your own social media activity and compare it to similar accounts/competitors to give you clues about what is working, or not working.

2. Get a good handle/perspective

Having identified a trend to jump on, it is important to pay close attention to nuance and context and think about your angle carefully, especially in the light of the culture of your audience. All too often, there is the always present possibility of a backlash from the audience, if the perspective, timing, or visuals are not right. The key here is not to attract too much attention to the brand, but to be positioned as an ally of the crowd, either helping them access gated or exclusive content, or sharing packaged content they may have missed. 

3. Amplification

When you’re jumping on a trend, you want to make sure that you get the word out and properly amplify your message. 

For most brands, this may mean paid amplification across channels. At Pulse, however, we have a native digital community in each of our markets that is active and engaged. The benefit of brand partnerships with Pulse to leverage trends is that we provide this amplification to millions of young users across Africa with engaging content, allowing your marketing efforts to be noticed. 

This year, for Big Brother Naija, we’re partnering with Showmax and DKT to provide coverage of the show and updates for many people who are not able to watch it all day. This partnership allows the brand’s involvement in such a mega trend to be seen and noticed by our millions of community members, and also provides a platform for the brand’s messages to reach the millions of people who will be watching the updates, benefiting from the partnership and being gently exposed to a new or recurring relationship with that brand. 

If you’re interested in spotlighting your brand and taking advantage of the Big Brother Naija show, please reach out to us here

No matter what industry you are in, dialing into the social conversation and inserting your brand appropriately into these conversations can help you boost brand awareness, bringing you top-of-mind to your target, engagement, and ultimately, revenue. Paying attention to what your audience cares about and helping them connect more with it is a great way to build and/or strengthen relationships with them.

Youth Consumer Behaviour in Africa: Our Learnings

In 2015, there were 226 million youth (people aged between 15 and 24) in Africa, making up 19% of youth globally. By 2030, 42% of young people worldwide will be from Africa [UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs]. This means that Africa will have about 500 million young people by 2030, not accounting for normal global population growth. Currently, 60% of Africa’s population is under 25, making it the youngest continent in the world in relation to its population [Quartz]. 

To ensure marketing campaigns targeting under 30 year olds are impactful, it is crucial to understand who the youth really are, what their thoughts are, and perhaps most importantly, what factors contribute to their buying decisions. 

With our focus on informing, engaging, and impacting the lives of young people both through our media and the marketing campaigns we execute for our clients, we are at the front seat when it comes to understanding and creating impactful content for young people. Here are some key insights we have gathered about their interests and behaviour.  

1. The internet and social media are their primary source of information and content consumption

While internet penetration across the continent is rapidly growing, the internet and specifically social media have become the main source of information and content consumption for young people who access it. A street survey across Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya with over 2,000 respondents of under 30 year olds, showed that social media is the main touchpoint for news and content consumption for a majority of them. This also fits with the social media consumption patterns reported by We Are Social & Hootsuite’s yearly State of Digital report with social media users from Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya spending over 3h daily on social media on average, compared to a global average of 2h25. 

Our findings also show that they want content that is quick to consume and gets straight to the point. Many users drop off watching or reading content as soon as they are less engaged. In terms of format, video is by far the preferred medium for young users. 

Here is what some young Lagosians had to say about social media:

2. A youth with ambition and aspirations

When it comes to saving and spending behaviour of young people, a notable trait is that they are aspiring to secure financial safety in an overall difficult economic context. Many young people dare to dream big and set ambitious financial goals for themselves. 

This means that while being cost-conscious, there is a rapidly growing market for products (and campaigns) that appeal to the aspirations and goals of the youth. Excluding South Africa, a growing middle class in Sub-Saharan Africa is spending over $400 million per day [Google]

But young people are also saving for the future. A survey run by our team in Ghana revealed that 80% of under 30 year olds have a saving goal they are working towards.

We asked Lagosians about their saving goals, here is what they had to say:

3. Marketing that resonates with young people

To capture this growing market, brands that have powerful storytelling and are capable of building communities around their products are in a strong position. Users having grown up with the rise of digital expect to be able to interact and associate with their favourite brands online.

When creating content strategies and campaigns, we craft them around three key storytelling principles that are crucial to engage young users: 

  • they should touch their emotions
  • users should be able identify with the stories told
  • the content created should add value by giving valuable information to users

Here are some marketing campaigns that stood out to the young people we asked in Lagos:

4. Online shopping is gaining traction

Young users are increasingly open to purchasing products online. These purchases are however for the most part limited to small ticket items, as trust is relatively low and users are not willing to risk large amounts on products they cannot test or see in person before buying. 

An area we are seeing strong growth in is social media shopping. The number of products being sold on platforms such as Instagram and the number of sellers on these platforms is rapidly increasing. We have identified the following three reasons for this emergence:

  • Setting up a social media page and starting to sell is incredibly easy: platforms are making it easy to set up an account, run very targeted ads for low amounts of money, and services such as Flutterwave store and Paystack storefront enable businesses to create an online shop with payment integration in minutes
  • Social media’s community aspect ensures that good products get trusted recommendations and reviews that other buyers can rely on. Every person recommending a product becomes a micro-influencer for the brand it supports.  
  • Social media platforms make it incredibly easy and cheap to create visually appealing and relatable content that gives a good idea about the products and sellers – from videos showing product use cases to pictures of the business and team behind the product.

Here is what our respondents in Lagos had to say about buying products on Instagram:

To conclude, we believe that the consumption preferences and interests young people display across Africa are not only an indicator of what is to come but are also key insights to already take into account when planning campaigns that should speak to a large audience. With our channels, we have a direct touchpoint with millions of young people every day across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Sénégal. We use this to draw insights and recommendations that inform the marketing campaigns we run for our partners. If you are looking for a partner to support your next marketing campaign, reach out to us here.

What we learned from using TikTok for brand campaigns in Africa

TikTok, the video streaming social network, was already gaining traction around the world before the Covid pandemic. The aftermath of the global lockdown, for this platform, was quite literally an explosion in adoption around the world, including Africa. 

In January 2018, TikTok had about 54 million monthly active users. By January 2021, there were about 689 million TikTok users [Source]. Also, TikTok users spend an average of 850+ minutes per month on the app [Source]. 

When one of our leading clients in Ghana was looking to connect with the Gen-Z demographic, we had been thinking about TikTok for a while already, but now we were sure. 

One major rule of inbound marketing is distribution, and for a Gen Z-focused brand, being where the audience was, meant making a move to TikTok. 

And oh, what a move it was. 

TikTok is new grounds – new in the sense that there was no way of predicting how the response would be, how to hyper-target as we would on Facebook and the likes, or even generally, how to go about it.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube will use words like ‘connect’, ‘community’, ‘communicate’, ‘listen’, ‘share’ which is an idealistic vision for most social media platforms. But with TikTok, their mission statement is clear – to exploit an unadulterated and shameless goal to entertain.

So, what did we learn?

1. No amount of research will prepare you for it

You can read all the articles that tout “how to do TikTok” for brands, but you can’t be ready for how to do TikTok for brands in the West African context. You have to take a deep dive and apply everything you know.

And as I would put it, it’s “either you drink deep or you taste not” on TikTok – a half-baked approach will surely mean wasted efforts and investments.

2. Use the “Creators”, not the supposed “Influencers”

The massive Gen Z demographic on TikTok, grew up being exposed to hundreds of ads a day (and influencer marketing) and therefore are almost immune to them. This is a generation that will engage with content that aligns with their personal interests, and their personal interests alone. The new generation cannot be wooed by fancy videos or sales-y displays. They have a strong radar for almost immediately knowing when they’re being sold to. And if they think they are, they’ll leave.

We learned this the hard way. Our initial foray in the space saw us using “verified” influencers, but the impact was not as strong as it was when we decided to use a “loved creator” to tell our brand story.

3. Be entertaining and let your be brand subtle

On TikTok, users are going to do things differently with your brand. Things you didn’t know could be done with your brand. If you’re a condom brand, your content using the condom as balloons might be your best-performing, if you’re a rice brand, putting a phone in rice might be the break to go viral.

We’ve found that brand-sponsored content typically performs worse, even on popular creators’ profiles, because this particular audience is more aware and unfazed by ads. The aim here would be to create content that is very relatable to your target audience, and somehow find a way to communicate in the story the usefulness of your brand, while entertaining the audience. If you create a TikTok video, collaborating with a creator, and slap your logo at the end, you will get some views. Just don’t expect massive engagement and/or conversion.

4. Focus on your (or a) niche community

Find your little pockets of highly engaged people on TikTok. This is the way to go on a platform that doesn’t promote the mass-communication that you’d see on other popular platforms. 

Normally, one would expect this to mean less reach but a higher engagement rate, but the reach and impression statistics of niche content are phenomenal on TikTok compared to any other platform.

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TikTok is the place where Gen Z goes to play (right now), so if you have a brand or product focused on this group, that’s a hot tip for you. But remember it’s not easy to keep the attention of the group of people with the shortest attention spans (the average Gen-Z attention span is eight seconds, four seconds less than Millennials. – Sparks & Honey). They are interested in multicultural and diverse subject areas more than any other generation. You have to dig deep. But they are also the most important target group for most brands to engage today. Gen Z is always changing their consumer habits. They soak up the latest and greatest apps, trends, and social platforms making it a consistent race for brands to keep up and innovate first.

As a business in Africa getting into the world of TikTok, understand that it’s not business as usual. On TikTok, you’re not a C-suite marketing executive. You’re a niche creator, deeply passionate about using media to change the world. TikTok says of its platform: 

“Our user-generated content environment creates an atmosphere of authentic discovery. The constantly refreshed For your feed is algorithmically tailored to personal preference, allowing users to spontaneously discover new products – so a new favourite brand or a beloved purchase is only a swipe away.” You can find more insights into how to navigate TikTok as a business in this newly released business guide by TikTok.

Want to find out how TikTok could work for your brand? Let’s get talking here.

The Future of Marketing in Africa: Digital trends in 2021 and beyond

In this article, our expert team at Pulse is sharing six key trends shaping online user behaviour across Africa going forward – and ways your digital marketing strategy can leverage the changing environment.

1. Covid-19 has accelerated and shifted consumer behaviours permanently.

(Image credit – Unsplash)

The pandemic has prompted many users to try new ways of consuming content and shopping. We expect these consumption shifts to outlast the pandemic, as they are an acceleration of behaviours that started emerging pre-pandemic.

To illustrate this, McKinsey’s survey of Nigerian consumers during the pandemic shows that 46% of respondents tried a new digital shopping method since the start of the pandemic, leading to a growth in consumers shopping online of 30% to 65% depending on the category of items purchased. 

The discovery of these new shopping options is led by three main channels:

  • Online ads (33%)
  • Recommendation from family and friends (23%)
  • Seeing someone talk about it on social media (18%)

With these discovery channels, a strong digital ad strategy as well as generating discussions on social media by engaging users and working with influencers is more important than ever. These channels are equally accessible to small businesses and larger brands, giving the opportunity to new products to grow fast online. 

In terms of content consumption, social media remains by far the main touchpoint for online users in our region. According to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Yearly Digital Report, Nigerians, Ghanaians, and Kenyans spend on average three and a half hours on social media per day, compared to two and a half hours on average globally. In Nigeria alone, 6 million people joined social media networks for the first time in 2020.  

2. Snackable video content is no longer an option, but a must.

(Image credit – iStock Photo)

With the rising time spent on social media, video has become a must to successfully engage users. New video formats have taken the lead with the emergence of platforms like TikTok and the adoption of competing products such as reels on Instagram. 

These short, snackable video formats can be leveraged by brands that are not afraid to be authentic and willing to develop new ways of communicating with their audiences. You can check out Pulse Nigeria’s TikTok channel to see how we have found new ways of telling the news on the channel. 

In order to get started with these formats, we recommend collaborating with creators that have mastered the language of TikTok. These formats are also the perfect medium for user-generated content competitions thanks to their ease of use in creating videos with specific sounds, filters, and effects.

3. Social media influencers connect with your future consumers organically.

(Image credit – Unsplash)

With the emergence of more social media platforms & the growth of the existing ones, we are seeing the rise of a new type of testimonial: the social media influencer / creator.

Whereas the general popularity of a celebrity has an impact on its influence on social media, we are seeing an increasing shift towards a new generation of influencers that have become popular thanks to their exceptional content creation skills, authenticity and virality.

They have often mastered the art of storytelling on social media and can become strong partners to co-create content with brands.  

A subset of these influencers is known as micro-influencers: This new generation of smaller, but keenly followed creators has become more and more popular among fans and marketers: their loyal subscribers are more willing to actively engage with their – and as a partner, your – content. As the smaller influencers tend to occupy more specific market segments, they have an easier time to attract audiences who are genuinely interested in your product or service as long as it fits their niche. This increases conversion and ROI.

Choosing a strong content, management and analytics partner for such campaigns can help reduce administrative burden and keep your own focus on the message you want to deliver.

4. Build direct channels to your consumers, get first-party data and do more with it!

(Image credit – Bakers)

With a general shift towards privacy online, relying on data from Facebook, Google, and other large platforms will not be enough. Users are willing to share their data with brands they love and trust – when they understand the value they can get out of it. 

By building a strong first-party data strategy, brands can build a direct communication channel with their users, learn about their needs, and delight them by improving their products and services through this direct relationship.

A first step to do so can be newsletters and SMS campaigns with offers – using existing client databases. Asking for feedback helps you learn what users appreciate most.

5. User-generated content attracts your audience authentically.

(Image credit – Unsplash)

As the name suggests, user-generated content (UGC) is created by your customers and users. Therefore, this material has no direct brand intervention, and its format can be completely different: comments on the brand’s own publications, text and video publications on the user’s own social networks, comments on blogs and professional publications, as well as ratings. Consumers often trust the recommendation of other consumers far more than the ads by the company itself. approach

On social media and on platforms such as Tripadvisor, Twitter and Google Maps, it is one of the most authentic forms of digital word-of-mouth marketing, making it a great way to make brands more accessible and recognizable. Old trends, new perspectives: We know that this type of content is not entirely new. Verbal advertising has always existed, but the social distancing rules and restrictions that everyone faces this and last year have led to a massive increase in UGC. Since many consumers cannot meet and test the product in person, they will check the reviews to determine whether the product is the right decision.

Having a strategy around this phenomenon in a digital-first environment is crucial. While the content is user-generated, a well-placed request for ratings on a platform or a promotion requesting for audience submissions are just two ways that companies can accelerate it.

6. Sell on social media.

(Image credit – Marketing Land

Some recent changes in social media globally have allowed many companies to use their social media profiles as direct sales channels:

With the release of sales catalogs on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, large companies are starting to take social commerce seriously. By 2022, social commerce will become one of the biggest digital marketing trends globally. While the sales catalogs are not live yet in Africa (we will keep you updated!), social can already be used for strong lead generation. Many online shoppers go through social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram or Youtube to research your products and ultimately buy.

Therefore, selling your brand, products and services on social media is more important than ever. Adding a simple link to an online shop to your social media or highlighting ways to get the product customers can see make this a simple exercise. When a simplified shopping experience is provided to buyers, they are more likely to buy. These and other social commerce strategies allow brands to optimize their shopping experience across multiple channels and platforms. 

What is your next move?

The digital marketing trends that we have listed here are not exhaustive. Nonetheless, just by devoting more resources to social media and research around the topics, you undoubtedly will have a better starting point for planning strategic possibilities. The shared hot trends can help you attract more website visits, more potential customers and more sales. At the same time, they can ensure that your customer base is kept up to date. These trends are also important to help you better understand expectations for years to come and how they will affect your broader competitive landscape. And of course: you can get in touch with us if you need a sparring partner to determine your next steps!

Content Marketing on LinkedIn for B2B Companies

If you operate a B2B company, LinkedIn offers opportunities to connect to new audiences and organizations that you are likely not fully maximizing. Content Marketing is alive and well on LinkedIn, the world’s largest platform for business networking. While the platform is primarily designed for B2B interaction, both B2B and B2C companies can benefit from engaging and sharing with the LinkedIn timeline. 

Long- and Short-form publishing

LinkedIn lets you publish and promote blogs directly on the platform. This feature allows you to connect more with your LinkedIn audience and also increase the reach of your articles short-form content, however, seems to perform better and receive more engagement than longer blogs. So a great strategy here would be to create short updates with insights from a longer article and link to it. That way, you can maximise the attention on that update and use it to drive more eyeballs to the blog. 

Video

Video content across all social platforms has recorded a much higher engagement rate than written content and images, and the story is no different on LinkedIn. For most people, it is easier to grasp something when they see a video about it, and it does not require a lot of effort. Video content should be a crucial part of your LinkedIn strategy. It can drive more engagement and naturally will garner a greater reach. Also go a step further to design videos that speak to the target directly, to fully maximise the reach you will get from video content. 

Share again

If your company has an active blog, then LinkedIn is a great way to reshare all of that relevant knowledge and get more people to see it. Not only does this establish you as a leader in the niche, it also brings new prospective clients from your LinkedIn community to your company website. If you have a conversion tool at the end of each blog post (like an invitation to subscribe to your company newsletter, or a button to request a quote), this can work very well as a lead generation tool.

As with all content marketing channels, the first thing to keep in mind is your target audience. B2B businesses are always looking to target the decision-makers in prospective client and partner companies. Keep this in mind as you create and distribute content across the different channels available to you. This way, you can be sure that your content marketing efforts are going in the right direction.