Management Magazine

Online markets: secret lies in catchy content


Relaying information which will initiate a conversation works to catch the attention of the viewer, while keeping the brand and company image in mind. 

Being a new territory, the online marketplace has not been fully explored. However, this space has become a hunting ground for almost everyone with access to internet. It does not involve much capital expenditure or specialised knowledge. Many business owners find themselves being managers of both physical and ‘digital’ workspace or shop. Everything they do on the ground is translated into internet lingo and made available online to attract new customers and retain existing ones. 

Exposure, technological prowess

The people tasked with this role in many organisations fall under the age-group of Millennials. These are the children of the ‘Baby-Boomers’ and born between 1981 and 2000. They are now entering young adult life and pursuing careers that were previously non-existent. According to the Journal of Social Media in Society (JSMS), they are the most educated generation in history, and are “considered to be a generation with high buying power.” 

Millennials are more likely to interact with small businesses online rather than large organisations and having grown up in a technologically saturated world, they know their way around social media. Studies, however, show that this exposure and technological prowess does not directly translate into an increase in communication with organisations on social media platforms; unless there are incentives for them to do so. 

Examples of these include giveaways, discounts, coupons and free samples which answer the question “What can you do for me?”. They work to entice potential clients, urging them to keep track of the company’s activity, and eventually become more likely to purchase products or services.  This is a clear competitive advantage for smaller businesses which target such individuals, and by appealing to their tastes and catering to their specific needs, they can become market leaders via social media.

The African context

Africa has seen an unprecedented boom of online market places that offer everything from home appliances and tech gadgets to fresh groceries and numerous services. Amid stiff competition from giant online retailers such as Jumia, SMEs are still looking for a foothold with the use of social media rather than utilising specifically designed applications. 

The 2013 McKinsey report showed that youth between the ages of 18 and 35 researched from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa make up over 65 per cent of the continent’s consumer spending which shows the vast capabilities Millennials have to shape the trends in terms of buyer activity.  The use of mobile payments is also increasing in popularity, being considered as cash and used for 71 per cent of daily purchases. 

Online market places are considered a shared space with many locally based businesses whose market place is purely online, often transacting and providing goods and services without the buyer ever meeting the seller. This market is however, extremely under-utilised and going with estimations by the McKinsey 2013 report, Africa’s GDP could rise by a minimum of USD300 billion by 2025 based solely on the effect of social media on consumer spending habits.

Quest for relevance and dominance

With so many organisations delving deeper into the unchartered waters of social media marketing, how do business owners keep themselves relevant to the market? How do they remain visible when overshadowed by larger and more established businesses? The strategic approach to online marketing which they decide to utilise will require them to review the traditional formulas of the ‘Mad Men’ style of marketing and to find a unique way to create a competitive advantage. 

Unlike traditional marketing, constant bombardment and display of the product to clients does not result in increased chances of purchase, but results in the buyer becoming irritated and eventually discontinuing any communication from the seller. Companies must make use of references and customer interactions to gain traction on social media.

Social media success relies heavily on the aspect of engagement, contrary to the traditional ‘push’ approach. This requires dissemination of relevant content which is not strictly advertising of products, but rather relaying information which will initiate a conversation and even if it is seemingly unrelated to the organisations core business, it works to catch the attention of the viewer, while keeping the brand and company image in mind. 

Developing content based on the digital channel, exchanging information through conversations and feedback mechanisms, creating tailor-made messages that result in ongoing conversations, maintenance and measurement of campaigns and using the most appropriate language and format to reach differentiated market segments are effective ways of conducting successful social media marketing campaigns.

Value addition

To create an effective strategy online, value addition is necessary – creating dialogue, interaction and market specific content. This is termed as a progressive marketing strategy and essentially works to create a “crowd” or “network” effect and translates into viral awareness. 

Wanjiku Kimani is a Digital Marketer & Writer based in Nairobi. Email:

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