Talk Africa: DRC’s social media climate
by Remon Geyser (@remongeyser) As the third largest country in Africa, and a GDP growth rate triple that of South Africa’s, brands are eager to get a better understanding of the day in the life of a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) citizen. In an attempt to provide a snapshot of the country, we’ve used our Springleap network of creative professionals there to comment on some of the social media chatter happening.
As with many other post-conflict countries in Africa and around the world, the DRC is actively forging a modern identity comprised of historic cultural traditions, fragile social progress and future aspirations. As thousands of refugees also return home after fleeing the devastating conflict between 1994 and 2003, they will be part of this process of redefining what modern-day DRC is known for, what its people stand for and what role they will play in Africa’s ascent.
The state of digital
The DRC is by no means an online highway of digital conversation. Taking into account the nation’s 77.4m citizens, in 2014 only 2.2 % had a means of internet connectivity — that’s only 1.7m people. Ultimately, the whole country accounts for only 0.6% of Africa’s entire online consumer basin.
Interestingly, of the 1.7m people fortunate enough to be connected to the web, 53% have Facebook profiles. That’s just under 1m consumers for brands to target social media campaigns to.
The urban hubs
The DRC is a beautiful country, known for its vast reach of the Congo River’s delta and surrounding masses of equatorial rainforest; however, there has been a large migration to urban centres. Kinshasa, the nation’s capital, which lies by the Congo, is the world’s second-largest francophone (French-speaking) urban hub in the world, after Paris. With just over 10m inhabitants, Kinshasa is the third-largest African city by population. Lubumbashi, the DRC’s second-largest city, is home to just over 1.5m citizens.
What’s trending online in the DRC?
In many African countries, music stars, athletes, famous and controversial politicians, and other homegrown heroes tend to be, by far, the most-followed individuals on Twitter. In the DRC, this trend continues. Bismavk Biyombo is a Congolese-born basketball player for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, and must be an icon to his homebound fans as he has been graced with over 53 000 followers.
- #HumanRights: What with ethnic violence still occurring in various parts of the country, tragic events are still widely spread and discussed on social media. Because the country is still very much in the international spotlight, foreign media brands are often involved in disseminating politics.
- #Politics: A recent move by the current president to evaluate the possibility of running for a third term (illegal under the current constitution) has citizens, political activists and competing parties actively making their arguments online.
- #Regional: As trade expands within and outside of the DRC borders, the country’s leaders are actively involved in building relationships with neighboring African countries. Lately, the country has been in talks with Rwanda on what products to remove import duties from, and citizens from both countries have been joining the conversation on Twitter.
Brands and agencies shouldn’t ignore the online chatter, followings and influences that may be seen in the DRC’s social media sphere. With mobile and internet connectivity slowly on the rise, there will be increasing competition to reach consumers online.
Having 53% of the online DRC consumers on Facebook means that there is an open door for brands to engage with socially (online) active target markets.
Even though these numbers reflect a few highly engaging brands, many other companies from the DRC have yet to enter the online marketing world. As a result, few brands are on Twitter, and the ones that have handles can’t yet boast a wide reach. As Twitter is primarily driven by popular icons and human-centric topics, brands may accommodate this by linking up with these trends and communicating messages that will link to this buzzing conversation, online and offline.
Vodacom is a big player in the DRC’s branding sphere, as it serves as a sponsor for the country’s largest soccer stadium: the Stade des Martyrs, which boasts a capacity of 80 000 fans (the fifth largest in Africa). With 230 200 likes, they are the second-most-popular branded page on the DRC’s Facebook landscape — that’s 11 % of the nation’s online consumer market. Not surprisingly, Vodacom has tangibly acquired 11m network subscribers in the country.
The most-popular brand on Facebook, Tigo RDC, a local network and ISP provider, has reached over 915 344 likes. The brand is owned by a company called Millicom, which “[d]evelops and operates cellular telephone networks in emerging markets”. Tigo DRC’s accumulation of likes reflects 45% of the entire country’s Facebook users.
It is refreshing to see a local brand such as Tigo gain so much popularity online, and it opens up the idea that local business might begin to thrive online in the developing countries of Africa. So, the challenge now is to convert social media popularity into an increase in sales, and a greater impact upon the lives of consumers. As more people “like” company pages on Facebook, there will be room for digital activations and online campaigns. While internet penetration in DRC is still quite low, however, the focus should be spreading awareness on the platform to as many online communities as possible.
However, there is one organisation that has gained massive traction, reach and awareness on DRC’s Twitter; MONUSCO (United Nations Organiation Stabilization Mission in the DRC) at over 57 500 followers. There’s no surprise that this handle ranks so well locally, as the organisation is the driving force behind uplifting and managing the internal refugee crises, which is spoken about a lot on the platform by citizens across Africa — searching for #DRC will bring up numerous pictures from the latest happenings related to this topic, as it seems to be a trend.
Brands with an empathetic nature and value could impact the community by uplifting the lives of thousands and, at the same time, boosting the their local corporate social initiatives.
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This information was provided by Springleap’s Trend Spotting platform.
Every month, Springleap provides an oversight of local trends in the South African market,
sourced from among its 22 000 African creatives, with new country specific reports planned
for a number of key African and Middle Eastern markets.
Remon Geyser (@remongeyser) is a burger fanatic, wine connoisseur and eSports enthusiast (yes, a fancy term for playing computer games). He is also the research lead for Springleap, heading up a new global creative research division while obscurely attempting a PhD. Springleap provides instant creative expert feedback to rock marketing ROI. Remon contributes the new weekly “Talk Africa” column, covering Pan-African trends, on MarkLives.com.
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