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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The Impact That Social Media Has Had on Businesses in Kenya

Introduction

Though it may seem like a new trend, the history of social media goes further than one may imagine. By nature, humans are social beings hence, the ability to effectively communicate with each other has always been a key concern. With the demand for better communication options, there was a constant need for new inventions that would enable communication to be faster, more efficient, and not be hindered by geographical barriers (Hendricks, 2013). One of the earliest forms of communication over long distances required written correspondence; via letters. Due to many people migrating and moving far away to settle for various different reasons, face to face communication became impossible and inconvenient, hence, people turned to letters to improve communication (Hendricks, 2013). The telegraph was invented in the year 1972 and it allowed messaged to be sent over long distances and it was way faster than the letters. The telephone and the radio were discovered in 1890 and 1891respectively. These new forms of communication completely changed how people communicated with each other. For the first time, people were able to successfully communicate over long distances, and better yet, it was instantaneous (Hendricks, 2013). In the 20th century, technological innovations rapidly changed the way people communicated. The first super computers came into existence, and with that, so did the internet. The first social media site – Six Degrees was started in the year 1997 (Hendricks, 2013). Six Degrees enabled users create profiles, upload pictures, and make friends with users from all over. Blogging sites became very proper in 1999 creating the social media sensation that is still a trend today. After the innovation of blogging and social media, more and more social media sites started to pop up in the early 2000, among them, Photobucket, Myspace, and YouTube. In 2006, Facebook and twitter was made available to users from all over the world. Currently, they are the most popular social media sites in existence (Hendricks, 2013).

Looking at the history of social media, it's easy to understand and see how communication has evolved. Social media has changed many aspects of human communication, hence impacting businesses as well. (Edosomwan, Prakasan, Kouame, Watson, & Seymour, 2011).

Literature Review

Social media is quickly growing, and we cannot deny the impact that it has on the society, and businesses in our society. Social media sites; such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc., create such big opportunities for businesses to be able to capture their audience's attention and begin to talk to them directly (Kelly, 2017).

The biggest advantage, of social media is the opportunity to build, maintain, or strengthen the relationship between the business and it's customers or potential customers. This is one of the key goals whenever a business decides to leverage on digital media.  (Nordmeyer, n.d.). The more the business engages with the audience, the stronger the relationship. Relationships take time to build, and they require constant, regular engagements (Nordmeyer, n.d.).

Social media also provides a platform for businesses to leverage on word of mouth and watch it take place. Businesses can keep track on what people are telling other people about them, and they can use that information to; know what changes they need to make, find out what people like about their products, and figure out how best to communicate to their audience (Kelly, 2017).

It has always been said that, “your network is your net worth”, this statement is true even when looking at businesses and social media. Social media gives businesses the opportunity to create networks that in turn help push the brand or business products as influencers (Kelly, 2017).

Social media can help decrease a company's advertising budget drastically. The business she needs to select which social media platform it shall use and then come up with a sustainable advertising budget. Social media adverts are way cheaper than television or newspaper advertisements (Nordmeyer, n.d.).

Causes and Consequences

For a long time in Kenya, modern media consisted of the newspaper, radio and television. Now things have changed and evolved and digital platforms and social media are now a part of the mix (Muva, 2016). In Kenya, 26.2 million people have access to the internet and around 6 million people are monthly active users of both Facebook and Twitter (Itimu, 2015). With such high numbers of Kenyans being able to access the internet and use social media, businesses have been forced to embrace this new form of communication. In order to continue being relevant, businesses have had to adapt to the new trends and the platforms that are linked to those trends (Kimani, 2015). To effectively communicate with their audience, businesses have been forced to change their communication strategies and platforms in order to be where the masses are (Odumbe, 2016).

In her paper Role of Social Media Marketing on Organizational Performance, Kimani (2015) highlights the main reason that businesses in Kenya are now embracing and using social media. She states that, social media enables them to effectively interact with their customers. Competition for customers is stiff, hence businesses have to constantly look for new ways to attract customers and retain customers as well.  

Social media has changed the business environment in Kenya. The biggest change brought about by social media, is the fact that business have changed how they market and advertise their products and services (Odumbe, 2016). It has also changed the way businesses interact with the audience (5 Reasons Kenyan Businesses Should Embrace Social Media, 2016). It has also opened the door for users to get firsthand information from organizations and in real time (Itimu, 2015).

Positive Effects

To many businesses in Kenya, the rise of social media is a huge blessing. On reason this is so, is the fact that social media has enhance marketing and advertising in the Kenyan market. According to Jerry Odumbe (2016), social media has paved way for specific advertising. Before social media, it was difficult to tailor a specific advert for a specific target audience. Businesses had to create one advert that would resonate with majority of the Kenyan public and hope for the best. With websites such as Facebook, businesses now know where to find particular clients and they can deliver suitable adverts to different demographics (Odumbe, 2016).

Another reason social media is a blessing to organizations in Kenya, is the fact that, social media created a platform for real-time customer service. Businesses finally have a place to have conversations with clients and help them deal with whatever issues they may be facing and whatever given time. Before social media, businesses had to use a lot off recourses and energy to be able to quickly communicate with clients and even get feedback about their services or products (Odumbe, 2016).  Communication Companies like Safaricom, and Banks like Chase Bank Kenya, are now easy to reach by simply getting onto any social media website. Social media has improved the way business communicate with their public. Communication is instant and it is cheaper for both the customer and the business.

Social Media is cost effective. Social Media has given Kenyan businesses a cheaper option when it comes to advertising, communication, and marketing. Before social media, companies had to remove a good amount of money to advertise either on radio, television or newspaper (Muva, 2016). Social media has enabled businesses in Kenya to slash their advertising budgets. It has also opened up the market to smaller businesses, who could not even dream of advertising before.

A big positive of social media is brand awareness (Kimani, 2015). Brand awareness has always been the primary goal when it comes to advertising. With cheaper options for advertising; like Facebook and Google ads, companies that were unable to advertise due to lack of budget, finally have a platform to advertise, at an affordable rate (Kimani, 2015). Being successful at Brand awareness means that people know your brand well (Kimani, 2015). If a brand is easily recognized by their audience (due to exposure of may ads), then the business automatically has an advantage over it's competition. The whole point of brand awareness, is to keep customers thinking about your business or your brand. The customer will almost always go use a product from a brand they see over and over again (Kimani, 2015).

In his article, 9 Small Business Social Media Success Stories, Mershon (2012) highlights how social media has enabled small businesses to thrive. Social media has finally given a space for small businesses to thrive. With a keyboard and good internet connection, individuals can now run a business from the comfort of their homes. Social media has enabled small online business to be successful (Phil, 2012).

Since small business are able to thrive due to social media, there is some very serious competition in the Kenyan business market. Gone are the days when one big company used to do it all and get all the business simply because they had the budgets to advertise and mass produce. Social Media has created a healthy competition in the Kenyan market. This ensures that businesses give their customers the best because, if a business falls short, the customer can easily get products from a rival business. Competition, keeps businesses on their toes. It makes businesses work hard to ensure that they keep giving the best quality and at an affordable rate (Kimani, 2015). Competitions also means that the customers have options, so business must ensure that their option is the most favorable. (Kimani, 2015).

Negative Effects – The Fall of Chase Bank Kenya

In as much as social media is a blessing to many businesses in Kenya, there is one, big, ugly side to it. One major problem with social media is the fact that businesses have a hard time containing any negative information about them. Information on social media spreads like wild fire and it has the ability to bring down an institution (Muva, 2016).

In April 2016, a message went viral on social media warning Kenyans that Chase Bank Kenya was going to collapse. A good number of Kenyans believed this rumor and they began to plan an exit strategy (Kulundu, 2016). Even though Chase Bank (via their social media pages) tried to assure Kenyans that all was well, Kenyans continued to panic (Macharia, 2016). Suddenly Chase Bank's page was buzzing with may Kenyans trying to find information about what was going on. Chase Bank issued a statement where they tried to assure Kenyans that all was well, and it was just a rumor. However, Kenyan's were having none of it. Kenyan's, through different avenues, began to remove their money from Chase Bank in a bid to ensure that if the bank goes down, they will be okay. What Kenyan's did not realize is that by going to remove their money (a mass withdrawal), they were actually bringing Chase Bank to it's knees. A bank needs a certain amount of money to function and without that amount, then they cannot continue with business as usual (Macharia, 2016). Even as Chase Bank continued trying to contain the whole mess, other Kenyans continued to fuel the fire. Many Kenyans were on social media claiming that they were unable to access their accounts. Other people claimed that Chase Bank had capped how much money they could remove. With more people commenting and sharing experiences on social media, more and more Kenyans tried to find a way out (Macharia, 2016). With hundreds of thousands of Kenyans removing their money from a bank in the span of a few hours, the bank finally collapsed and Central Bank of Kenya placed it in receivership. In a span of a few hours, social media had successfully brought down a bank (Kulundu, 2016).

Future Trends and Advises

Social media has a big influence on businesses and it shall continue to do so in the future. This is the time for business to leverage on digital media and engage with their audience or target market. One of the future trends that businesses shall have to leverage on, is the ability to not just tell their audience about something, but they shall have to show their audience. With technological advances like, live video, and 360 degree images and videos, businesses will have to begin to show the experience instead of telling the audience about the experience. Audiences what more out of social media (DeMers, 2016).

Another trend that is starting to occur is the standardization of different social media platforms. Whereas Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc., all used to be very different, we are now starteing to see the platforms merge into each other. Snapchat was created for short stories or status updates that disappeared after 24 hours. In 2016, Instagram also added short stories to their application (Read, 2016). In 2017, WhatsApp added the same feature. The social media applications are started to all look and act the same. Businesses should notice these changes so that they are not left behind and also so that they can create the appropriate content for the various platforms.

Another trend in social media is the fact that audiences are changing how they are using the different platforms. Google has always been the preferred way to search for information. Currently, Facebook gets 2 billion searches a day while google get 3.5 million searches a day. As businesses continue to figure out how to been seen on google via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), they may soon have to figure out how to ensure that can be found on Facebook as people continue to use the search feature (Read, 2016).

Businesses should come up with strategic plans on how they shall communicate with their publics. These strategies should be comprehensive and sustainable (Kelly, 2017). Businesses also need to learn to be consistent. “Consistency is the key to a successful social media campaign” (Kelly, 2017). Businesses should also try create strong networks. They can do so by building and maintaining good relationships with various individuals that are affiliated with the brand. This is because those individuals in turn can end up pushing the business to other people – they become influencers (Kelly, 2017).

Businesses need to begin to custom-make their communication for different target audiences. Gone are the days when one message would fit all. With social media, businesses have no room to be lazy. They need to work hard and ensure that they reach all possible target audiences. Businesses would get more value for their money if they broke down their communication according to their different demographics on different platforms (Kane, 2013).

Businesses need to learn how to properly handle crisis. Social media is always a great thing until a crisis occurs. Chase Bank Kenya couldn't have handled their crisis better. Had they had the skill to do so, they may have avoided all the panic and everything that happened as a result of the panic. It would be in the best interest of the business to ensure that their employees are properly trained on the best way to handle crisis (Read, 2016).

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