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SafariCom: From Mobile to Global

by on July 26, 2010

While doing my initial research on Kenya, I kept thinking back to an old friend of mine from my undergraduate days in University of Maryland Baltimore County. He co-owned a very successful Kenyan construction business with his father, and came to the states to get his degree in Economics. That was in 2002, before social media really entered the world stage. I became curious to see how things have changed since then.

I stumbled upon the following quote in one of Marvin Tumbo’s posts on Socialight Media Kenya – which effectively sums up the state of social media in Kenya today:

“The rush to use social networks in Kenya today is appearing more like a bandwagon effect and not a solid business strategy.” –Marvin Tumbo

Upon reading Tumbo’s posts, I was immediately intrigued by the amount of useful and relevant information he provided on social media. I immediately thought of Ory Okolloh’s TED video on becoming an activist – and Marvin fit this mold perfectly. One of his posts in particular advocates the need for Kenyans (and Africans in general) to make their voices heard through active blogging, and the many opportunities that can come out of this. Another post talks about the benefits of Twitter. There are many available resources on implementing social media governance and can help businesses get started pronto.All in all, businesses really have no excuse to NOT blog or stay connected in some other way online.

Kenya Mobile Phones Network Coverage

While much of this information may seem obvious to others in the world who are more advanced in these technologies, we have to keep in mind that Kenya is beginning to explore social media and needs to use this preliminary guidance tobecome successful.

SafariCom Limited, a telecommunications company based out of Nairobi, is a perfect example of what not to do – both in Kenya and worldwide.

When I heard about them, I automatically assume that because they’re a telecommunications company, they were well connected in the social media world. I later realized that they lacked in three major areas:

  • Online Presence: SafariCom’s website has absolutely no link to their Twitter site. It’s as if they started a Twitter handle just to say that they have one. They have under 900 followers on Twitter, and they do not have a Facebook page or a blog.
    My advice:  Shorten your Twitter handle so it’s more memorable. And include links to your website if and only if you’re going to engage more with Twitter. Start an active blog.
  • Customer Service: SafariCom’s Twitter site seems to be generally focused on providing customer service. Yet their average response times seems to stretch over the span of 3 days. I can only imagine the level of frustration that this generates from their users.
    My advice: Quicken response times to avoid frustration and negative chatter. Give your Twitter page a more human voice, and even a face.
  • Conversation Engagement: I found SafariCom’s name through reading Tumbo’s blog postings. And in both instances, they were shed in a negative light.
    My advice: Be responsive to negative chatter. A perfect opportunity to turn negative into positive.

While there’s still work to be done for SafariCom in the social media spectrum, they have been doing a great job in connecting their users in more dynamic ways. Of the 20 million Kenyans with a mobile phone subscription, SafariCom has recently registered 11.5 million – over half of the country’s total. Their partnership with ForgetMeNot in distributing a new Handset Initiation (HI) technology, launched earlier this year, helps SafariCom connect their users to the rest of the world. I found this ironic since they’re already struggling as a corporation to connect with their own users. However, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

From → Kenya

  1. I enjoyed this post and in particular the beginning of it and how you set up the situation in Kenya and set your landscape for why companies may want to use social media to connect with their customers. Your points about Safaricom make sense in terms of the missed opportunity that they have and your arguments for how they could correct this also made perfect sense. At the end of your post, though, you shared a very counterintuitive point that undermined your argument from the rest of the post a bit. If Safaricom is growing well and seems to be doing all the right things in terms of business success, then how important is the social media element to their business after all? By raising their recent successes, you set your reader up to wonder if all this social media stuff actually matters as much as you had indicated it did earlier in your post. If you think that their lack of social media use opens them up to be attacked by competitors and lose the market share they have recently gained, then you need to say that. Or if you think that social media may not, in fact, be all that important – then you can share that too. By leaving this point out there at the end of your post without quite letting us know what to think about it, the post ended up feeling incomplete. (4 – 1 for late posting = 3)

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