Making sense of social media in Zimbabwe: 7 tips on how to get it right

By Kundai T Mangwende

I’m going to begin this article by asking you a very simple question. “What does success on social media look like to you?” I’ll give you 2 minutes to think about it.

My love for social media has allowed me to work with many brands in Zimbabwe. From small retail shops to big brands loved by Zimbabweans throughout the years. However, selling social media to Zimbabwean businesses is no easy task. Reasons range from no clear understanding of the inner workings of social media to outright suspicion. However, the most frequently asked question is how does social media add to the bottom line. If you reading this you’ve probably asked the same question. You’ve read somewhere that businesses are making millions out of social media and you wondering how you too can achieve the same success. Or probably you are a seasoned social media advocate who is trying to convince your boss why the business needs to be on social media but just doesn’t know much beyond the likes and followers. I’ve come up with 7 tips that should help you get social media right.

Social media is not for all businesses

With over 3.6 million Zimbabweans on Facebook, you would think social media is for everyone. But in reality, social media is not for all businesses. I’ve seen many businesses that are on Facebook just for the sake of it and as a result, do not achieve real success. And at times it can be frustrating. So you might be asking, how do I know if my business should be on social media in the first place? Ask yourself who your key target audience is. Are they likely to be on social media? Would social media be the best platform to communicate with your target audience? Are you a B2B or B2C business? If so would social media be the best platform to reach your target audience? I’ve had one client that I insisted instead of social media they try out mobile marketing through SMS alerts which proved successful and resulted in an increase of walk-in customers something they would probably not have achieved had they chose social media. The beauty of digital marketing is that there are many other channels that you can explore. You might choose to use direct emailers, or a website or like, in this case, SMS marketing.

Know Your Audience

Linked to my first point that social media is not for all businesses, you ought to know your audience. Alright, you’ve done assessment and research and you’ve agreed that you should be on social media. Now what? The next step is knowing who you want to reach, who are your customers? If you are selling Tupperware you’d probably want to target women and if you have a hardware store it would be men and so on. So why is this important? When you know your target audience you can then formulate a clear content strategy that resonates with your business target audience. I’ve seen many Zimbabwean pages post anything from bible verses to H-Metro stories. Not to say there is anything wrong with such. Given they might drive engagement as everyone loves a juicy story, but that is what you would be associated with, juicy stories and not a business.

Have A Clear Content Strategy

Have a clear content strategy. What are you going to be posting? How frequently? And how are you going to engage with your audience? I’ve always maintained that whatever it is that you are going to post should not only be engaging but most importantly it should be relevant. Also, your content should provide value and help solve a problem with or without your brand. So you design and host websites, what are the challenges that your audience face and how can you help solve those problems. You would probably share tips on search engine optimization. Besides, you ought to vary your content from brand-related content to non-brand related content. That way, you provide real value and when someone who likes your pages needs web hosting or knows someone who might be looking for web hosting they will think of you first and that creates a lead which then can lead to a conversion and ultimately revenue. Lastly content comes in different formats from videos, images, infographics, podcasts etc. Try to have a little of everything and when you know which format generates the most engagement, you do more of that.

Experiment With Other Platforms

Facebook might be the most common social media platform with over a billion users worldwide, but it is not the only platform there is. There is Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and many others. Each serves a different purpose. As such, experiment with as many as you can always consider your target audience. My advice is to start with one which is usually Facebook and as you grow you can add other platforms. And just like understanding your target audience, know where they are. If you are a B2B you’d probably think of having a LinkedIn account or a YouTube channel. One word of advice, don’t spread yourself thinly on multiple platforms especially if you do not have the resources and time to be on all platforms. The last thing you’d want is opening a Twitter account and not having the time to tweet at all.

Be Prepared to Spend: Online Ads and Boosting

Now, this is where the money is. Just as in offline business you need some advertising so that customers are aware of your business. Likewise, on social media, you are going to need to advertise and that is where online advertising comes into play. You probably have heard or not, that organic reach is ever decreasing on Facebook. Gone are the days when you could post something on something on Facebook and everyone who has liked your page will see whatever it is that you would have posted. If you want to be seen now you will have to pay. Boosted Posts allow you to reach wider audiences with greater accuracy. And let’s be honest, companies and brands now need to pay to play. The good news is that you set the budget and Facebook will tell you instantly how many people your post will reach. Plus, with the targeted advertising built right into posts-you can make sure your messages get in front of the right audience. The service can be activated for a minimum of $5.00 per boost as long as your business page has 50 or more likes. It’s important to limit the number of posts you boost. Depending on how much content you have to promote, I recommend that you boost a post at least once a week. Also, you can even track your spend to the amount of new business generated as a result of online ads.

Carefully Plan Your Promotions and Competitions

Everyone loves a competition here and there, and social media competitions are a great way to increase awareness, engagement and ultimately business. But you have to do it right. Many a time I’ve seen many business pages churn out pointless competitions that add no real value unless you consider page likes as value. Competitions where participants are asked to send in their selfies or share a post to win a new iPad or as I saw recently a new BMW X5. Pointless I have to say again. How about you run a competition that creates real value. So you are a comedian, you give out tickets to your next show provided winners come with a paying friend. Or you are a retail shop, give out discount vouchers or gift cards. You might be into web hosting so, why not win out one-month free web hosting, or design a new website for them provided they agree to pay for yearly hosting. You see the drift. Competitions that induce trial and encourage spending often create the best value. And if they don’t redeem the discount vouchers, you don’t lose anything. Lastly, always reward a purchase. Managing social media pages over the years I’ve seen a group of people emerge that simply like pages for the competitions. They enter to do what you ask, win and that’s the end of it. We call them lurkers. Beware of lurkers and one way to do so is rethinking your competitions. Best of all, you can track the success of your offers by seeing how many people redeem them. Makes sense right?

Analytics and Insights Are Your Best Friend

Lastly, we have analytics and insights. When I talk of analytics, I’m talking beyond how may new likes you got over the past month. I’m talking going deeper to get a clear understanding of who your audience is, and of those who are more engaged? What are their interests, at what time are they usually online, how much time do they spend on Facebook? Besides analytics tell you more about your content posts. Which posts performed better, what was the click-through rate? The conversion rates? etc. The good thing about it is you do not have to be a statistician to understand all these. Facebook has a nice and handy feature on all pages. It’s called insights. Familiarize yourself with it. It’s quite simple really but it will surely help plan and understand your audience and your content.

In conclusion, success on social media is never a one-night success. It takes lots of effort, time and clear thought process. Everyday things are changing and we all learning. The beauty of it, if you follow these few easy steps you will be on your way to success and hopefully start making money out it. I’d love to hear from you. How have you been using social media as a business tool? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced especially with our Zimbabwean economic dynamics? Going back to my initial question, what does social media success look like to you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Kundai Mangwende is passionate about how Social Media is at the core of all our interpersonal relationships and how these relationships unfold. He is an avid blogger and reader. He writes about digital marketing on You can also connect with him here: LinkedIn

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