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Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Part 1: Four Fundamental Digital Strategies to Help Grow Your Business.

Jandre de Beer



Digital Marketing In South Africa

Digital Marketing In South Africa

Digital marketing, a.k.a. online marketing is growing at such a rapid pace that majority of business owners and marketing managers are left in the dust and end up misunderstanding or confusing its capabilities.

In my experience as a marketer, I’ve realised that most companies, especially small businesses, all have one specific problem in common.

Most of them think that their offering, service, or product is unique from their competitors. The sad thing is, they are all mistaken.

Whether you are a CEO, director or solo entrepreneur, the sooner you realise that you are in the marketing business (no matter what your product or service), the better.

Okay, so let’s say there is the odd chance of your offering being unique. How are you planning on telling the world about it?

The first thing you will have to do is come up with a marketing plan, just like any other business.

Digital marketing in South Africa

Digital marketing in South Africa

The marketing industry is currently one of the fastest growing industries thanks to technology giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many others.

All these companies might be situated thousands of kilometers away, but there is no doubt that they are disrupting every single business here in South Africa (whether we like it or not).

Related: 5 Smart Cost-Effective Marketing Moves That Will Build Your Business In A Tight Economy

The scary part is that majority of South Africans are still unsure of the infinite potential of digital marketing.

The internet is hands down an essential channel for reaching customers today.

Did you know that 50% of the world’s population has access to the internet? That’s roughly 3.7 billion people, or in our case, customers.

You can literally reach half the world’s population with the push of a button.

You might say that your customer base is mainly located in South Africa. With that in mind, did you know that 26.8 million South Africans spend over 3 hours a day on social media?

That’s half the South African population. Crazy, right?

Now, imagine you can put your brand, product, and service right in front of their eyes.

The mall of online


If you are a B2C business, where would you want to set up shop?

Probably somewhere we the number of feet past your store would be the highest, right?

If you are living in Gauteng, you would probably aim to open a store in Sandton City one day, maybe even the Mall of Africa?

These spots are well known for the amount of traffic they generate and let’s be honest if you want sales, you need feet through your door.

The downsides of these malls are that they require an enormous amount of capital to run and maintain. We’re talking about higher than average accommodation rates, not to mention staff salaries, etc.

With that in mind, what if I told you there is a mall that drives 10x the amount of traffic on a daily basis that costs a fraction of what one of these stores would cost.

A mall that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

That sounds like the kind of mall you want to set up shop, right? Well, that is the Mall of Online.

Related: 5 Steps That Helped Innovative Marketing Take The Leap

What if my services can’t be offered online?


I understand that there is a ton of services that can’t be offered online. Maybe you own a hair dressing studio or a panel beating service, or maybe you are a dry-cleaning company.

Well, that doesn’t mean that you can’t tap into the online realm.

Did you know that according to Moz, 67% of shoppers are influenced by online ads and reviews?

And according to Forbes insights majority of customers prefer to do research online and then make their purchases in stores.

That means that, even if you can’t afford to sell products or services online, you can still benefit tremendously from having an online presence.

My product or service is online, now what?


Most individuals think that the hard work is over when their e-commerce website or blog is built.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the hard work is just beginning.

Now that you are in the Mall of Online, you can’t just expect people to visit your site in numbers. It doesn’t work like that, and I will tell you why.

There are roughly 1.2 billion websites in the world, and approx. 2 sites get launched every second.

With that said, like any business, you will need to market your site so people can find it, learn more about it and eventually buy your services and products.

And that is where digital marketing comes in!

Related: Why Data-Driven Marketing Drives More Sales

What is digital marketing?


Today, digital marketing is a lot more than setting up a Facebook page or creating a website.

Digital marketing can be very complex, and that is why most people in South Africa probably still don’t know what digital marketers are and what they do.

However, in a nutshell, digital marketing is any form of marketing that involves electronic devices. Think about this for a second.

What’s the first thing you pick up when you wake up in the morning?  What’s the last thing you put down before you go to bed?

What do you listen to on your way to work? What do you watch when you get home? What do you work on when you are at work?

I can go on all day, but do you see my point? Do you see what a big percentage of our lives are driven by digital?

Now that I’ve opened up your mind, you can understand why eMarketer projected that by the end of 2017, 38.3% of all paid media would be digital.

That’s massive, and mobile advertising is expected to be 63.3% of that.

Exciting, isn’t it? Okay, so as an entrepreneur, CEO, or marketing enthusiast reading this guide, you’re probably wondering how you can start to tap into the infinite potential of the digital realm?

Well, rest assured that in this Beginner’s Guide Series I will be breaking down all you need to know on how to start, plan and execute your first (or next) digital marketing strategy.

Remember; “Good marketers think about campaigns, while great marketers think about growth structures.”

The 4 pillars of digital marketing


Keep in mind that there are definitely more than four ways to promote your business online. However, I firmly believe in these four pillars as they will form the foundation of your digital marketing strategy.

There are a ton of more advanced techniques, and we will get to that, but these four marketing pillars is a must have for any online or offline business.

1Search Engine Marketing and Optimisation

In a nutshell, search engine marketing, and optimisation is defined as “the process of affecting the visibility of your e-commerce store, website or blog.”

When we talk about search engines, we are talking about platforms like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, etc.

What’s the first thing you do when you are looking for an answer to a specific question? The chances are, you Google it.

According to Search Engine Journal, 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine.

With that in mind, did you know that roughly 85% of consumers use search engines to find local businesses?

Chances are, there is a huge number of potential customers out there looking for your business.

And the reality of the matter is, that if they cannot find you online, they will probably be influenced to visit your competitors.

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to ensure that your business has some form of an online presence in today’s age.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

The difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO is all about increasing the visibility of your website in a manner that is free.

SEM, on the other hand, is about increasing your visibility through paid advertising which I will address a little later on.

To have potential customers find your business, you need to make it easy enough for Google or any other search engines to find your website so it can display it on the results page.

Roughly two-thirds of all organic search go to the top 5 positions in Google! That means, 33% is left if your website rank position number 6 and down.

Keep in mind; Google only allows ten spots on the first page. And a study by Search Engine Watch showed that 91.5% of all search traffic comes from the first page.

Related: Search Engines, Social Media And The ‘Right To Be Forgotten’

That means that if you are on the second or third page of Google, the chances are you are not getting much attention, and you will have to start planning on how to improve your rankings.

There are numerous ways to do this improve your rankings in search engines. However, I will be addressing them in part 2 of our Beginners Guide.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

If you are not on the first page of Google, and if you are still interested in driving traffic to your website or local business, then you will happy be glad to know that you can easily advertise your business on the first page of search engines.

This is called Search Engine Marketing or SEM, and you can do this through creating search ads or display ads.


Search Ads

Have you ever searched for a product or service online?

Have you noticed that the first three or for listings usually have the tag “AD” at the beginning of the link?

That means that someone has paid for that ad to be there.

When running a search ad campaign, you can choose which keywords you want your ads to target.

For example, if you are a local hairdresser, you can target and show your ad to people typing in the word “hairdresser” in the search bar.

Search advertising is an easy way to drive traffic to your website. However, how high your ad is displayed in the search network listings and the overall ROI will be determined by how well you optimise your ad and website.

Display advertising

Display advertising is entirely different to search ads.

Have you ever browsed a website and saw a banner on the right or left-hand side of the site?

Or another popular position is the leaderboard position (a.k.a. top of the website) or even in the content itself.

Display ads serve a different purpose to search ads. They are also not necessarily shown at the same time as search ads when it comes to the customer’s buying process.

Search ads are mainly shown when the customers have an actual intent to buy or learn more about a product or service, where display ads are shown either before or after that.

You can also retarget a customer through display advertising.

This means that if a customer clicked on your search ad, and then visited your site, you can follow him around the web and show him a beautiful banner ad displaying other products or services you might offer.

More on display advertising and remarketing in part 2 of our Beginner’s Guide.

2Social Media Marketing


This is another form of digital advertising today, and it’s probably not necessary for me to explain to you how popular social media sites are.

But I thought I would share some stats with you anyway.

As mentioned before in the guide, 26.8 million internet users spend approx. Three hours a day on social media websites.

I’m sure you can start to understand why there is such a buzz around social media marketing at the moment.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves, first, let’s start by defining social media marketing.

Wikipedia defines social media marketing as “the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media platforms.”

Think about it like this, everytime you update your status or post a photo on Facebook, you might have a couple of friends interacting with your update.

Related: 7 Social Media Marketing Secrets No Marketer Wants To Admit

Now the same can be done for your business. A social media platform is the perfect place to interact and engage with customers.

There are over 200 different social media networks on the web today. Not all of them are equally popular, and the majority of them are unique in their way.

Facebook is currently hands down the favorite social media network sitting with over 1.7 billion monthly users worldwide.

Facebook owned Instagram, is in second with over 700 million users a month.

With this in mind, if you are a B2C business, there is a high probability that majority of your customers are on these platforms making it the perfect place to be for your business.

Some platforms are ideal for B2B businesses, while others are great for B2C.

You need to make sure that you choose the correct one from the bat. Otherwise, you run a risk of wasting a lot of time and money.

Because there are so many different networks, it might be overwhelming for you to decide which platforms are best for your business.

Twitter and LinkedIn might be a good place to start if your business is operating in the B2B space.

If you are a B2C company focussing on service and selling to customers, I would suggest starting with the two most popular platforms; Facebook and Instagram.

Okay, so now that you know that you more about the stats and the different networks, how are you going to leverage social media marketing to increase your sales?

In this guide, I will give you an overview of each platform while showing you how to construct a successful social media marketing strategy.

However, all of this will be in part 3 of our Beginners Guide to Growing Your Business Through Digital Marketing.

3Email Marketing

Email Marketing

I probably don’t have to explain to you what an email is.

Email marketing, on the other hand, is simply sending an email with the intent to educate or promote a product or service to a customer.

Why email marketing?

Here are a couple of interesting stats on email marketing which should give you enough reason to implement it into your digital marketing strategy.

  1. According to Campaign Monitor, you are 6x more likely to get a click-through on an email than a tweet on Twitter.
  2. According to DMA, conversion rates on email are higher when compared to social media.
  3. 72% Of customers prefer to receive promotional content through email according to MarketingSherpa.
  4. According to Radicati, a marketing message is 5x more likely to be seen in an email then a Facebook post.
  5. When it comes to ROI, email marketing can help you boost your ROI up to 3800% according to DMA.

I won’t take all these figures to heart, but keep in mind that it’s all very positive. It shows that email marketing is still an easy and profitable way of marketing to customers today.

Many marketers believe that this type of marketing is dying. I, however, tend to believe otherwise.

Related: From Bane To Boon: How To Turn Email Marketing To Your Advantage

See, it’s not that email marketing is insufficient, it’s more a matter of customers getting bombarded with spam and becoming immune to overly advertised emails.

This means that the open rates of emails drop and that they eventually become less effective. But there is still a huge ROI to be made, as a business you will just have to change your angle and focus on the following three concepts:

  1. Content
  2. Relevancy
  3. Value.

Customers don’t mind getting emails from brands as long as they are relevant, add value and contain compelling content.

In Part 4 of this Beginner’s Guide, I will walk you through some of the ins and outs when it comes to email marketing.

4SMS Marketing

SMS Marketing

According to We Are Social, worldwide there are nine new mobile phone users added every second.

And 46% of smartphone owners claim they won’t be able to live without their mobile devices according to Pew Research Center.

Earlier I mentioned that 92% of the population have mobile devices. With that said, you can try and get your brand or product in front of their eyes by sending them an SMS.

Keep in mind, similar to email, SMS marketing can come across as spammy. However, done right, it can lead to a ton of traffic and a huge ROI.

Mobile purchases are up 22% over the last two years, that’s massive. Not to mention that most marketing directors agree that SMS marketing has a higher open rate to email marketing.

This means, there is a greater chance of customers being influenced to buy your product or service.

If you are an online business owner reading these stats, you will have to ask yourself why you don’t have an active SMS marketing strategy yet.

In our Part 5 of our Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing I will breakdown a couple of tips and tricks for your SMS marketing campaigns.

Keep in mind the four pillars mentioned above is not the only digital marketing channels around. However, I feel they form the base of a digital marketing strategy.

Each of these channels serves a different purpose in your marketing strategy.

Example, advertising in Google is a great way to show case your product or service to a customer that already has the intent of making a purchase.

Social media is great at creating awareness around your product and service while assisting in creating interest.

Email and SMS marketing can be seen as reconnecting with a customer or keeping them up to date on new releases, upgrades, specials and so forth.

There is no doubt that digital marketing is evolving every, day and that it’s is the future of advertising.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying traditional marketing strategies are not worth the effort.  I’m saying, as a business owner will need to stay ahead of the curb while finding new ways to generate traffic, sales, and ROI, and digital marketing can help you do just that!

This concludes Part 1 of our Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing in South Africa. In Part 2 I will break down Search Engine Marketing and how it can help you grow your business.

Having started his first business at the age of 22, and selling it at the age of 25, Jandre fell in love with marketing! Jandre is a sales and digital marketing consultant with an appetite for entrepreneurship, and is the Founder and Managing Director of V8 MEDIA: V8 MEDIA.

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Online Marketing

Putting The Brakes On Insta-Fakes

A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.

Daniella Shapiro




Is it possible to buy friends? In the realm of influencer marketing, some brands seem to think it is. Let’s call a spade a spade: paid-for likes and shares create what is essentially a fraudulent illusion of high product endorsement.

“Sponsored” tags embedded deep within posts’ comments sections are inevitable. And because higher following means more attention, everybody feels the pressure to keep up. However, once an influencer is exposed as excessively using bots to generate traffic, they are black-listed. So it’s a catch 22 for brands who lack true grit. Most importantly, consumers value brand authenticity. A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.

Keeping it real is the new deal

Brands may find themselves treading a fine line, because influencer marketing has gone mainstream and is highly lucrative, bringing in almost $2 billion revenue in 2016, often delivering an 11x higher ROI. Of course, paid endorsements are almost old school now; they are common practice, and marketers have come to depend on this tactic.

32% of marketers say they cannot live without them. Nevertheless, there needs to be a balance between showcasing high-end popularity, but also communicating brand experience from everyday people. Relatable feedback builds connections between consumers and brands. Trust in a brand is invaluable in the long term.

Related: How To Become A Marketing Influencer Before You Turn 30

Living the dream?

With great power comes great responsibility. If you could buy likes and followers at a vending machine, would you? Well now you can, in Moscow, via credit card none the less.  This seems a far cry from the good old days of word of mouth brand recommendation. What happened to an endorser epitomising what the brand stands for, having actual connections to and experience of the brand? Consumers want true stories, relatability, and can tell the difference between what’s hot and what’s “bot”.

Cautionary tales

New measures are being taken in an attempt to weed out fake media frenzies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent “reminder letters” to some major influencers due to inadequate disclosure of bought advertising. The FTC now requires that more restrictive guidelines be followed, including disclosure in the first three lines of text of a post. Sanctions of up to 20 years have been imposed for inadequate disclosure.

Positive reinforcement

One suggestion is to shift the focus to incentives for disclosing paid-for sponsorship; for example, boosting posts that make disclosure. Instagram is moving towards a standardised disclosure process. Posts may soon include a tag disclosing paid partnership which also allows partners to view data relating to engagement.

Problem children

Bot spotting is easy for the savvy consumer. Extreme peaks and lows in comments and engagement disproportionate to the number of followers per user generally indicate misleading marketing ploys.

Instagram has unfortunately created the perfect environment for “pod problem”. Some influencers use Instagram’s algorithm to increase their visibility in Instagram’s Explore tab. This is done by joining with other influencers in a mutually beneficial relationship to make daily comments on each other’s posts. This increases engagement numbers and visibility. False brand competition and, ultimately, a disconnect between brand and target market are the undesirable results.

Related: The Launch Of Instagram TV


The most vital element in the brand-consumer relationship is authenticity.  This is not a new concept, but it is refreshing to step back and recognise what matters. Brands with foresight see further than likes and shares. People want integrity and ethics from brands that are relatable to real lifestyles and needs. Quality brands will generate engagement because of what they stand for, without the need for grandstanding.

All we can hope is that with any new trend, the kinks get ironed out and these #ad posts get less #annoying and more #authentic.

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Online Marketing

Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail

The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises.

Jordan Rittenberry




The always-evolving communications environment has intricately linked reputation management with the digital world, and executives must now realise that brand perception functions more like a real-time trading desk with 24/7 news, social media and online conversations shaping brand perception without the participation of organisations.

Put simply, managing your reputation must be an active, ongoing strategic investment that starts well before any risk or crisis begins. Plans and procedures will prove useless if introduced as a crisis erupts. Preparedness planning needs to start at executive level with reputation management practices being built into the fibre of every business at every level.

The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises, which cannot be overstated as social media gaffes are occurring faster than we can write case studies to learn from them.

Establishing a preparedness programme

Handling a reputational challenge or crisis effectively starts with recognising the warning signs early. With an established programme, guidelines and procedures in place, your organisation can keep its finger on the pulse of conversations. This allows you to begin what’s known as the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act), quickly and nimbly during a crisis.

Recent data shows that 28% of crises spread globally within one hour. The very action of participating in a crisis exercise helps build “muscle memory” and organisations that effectively navigate a crisis are ones with detailed crisis management plans that they are familiar with.

Establishing protocols and systems ahead of a crisis, and then testing and training on them provides discipline and structure.

If the first time you’re reading through a crisis plan is during an operational or reputational crisis, you’re going to be behind the curve and with the pace of today’s digital age, it will be hard to recover.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Building a digital foundation

In times of crisis, reaching out to those who count the most to your organisation is critically important. This goes beyond determining who has the most followers on social media as people often confuse influence with reach. The former can be defined as the degree to which someone can inspire others to do something.

To prepare, first identify core groups ahead of time: loyal fans, industry influencers, key opinion makers such as journalists and bloggers, and those who aren’t fans. Knowing potentially negative influencers such as those who might be sceptics or critics is equally important as knowing positive influencers.

Consider online monitoring to be your first line of defence to gauge messages about your organisation. When set up in advance, this monitoring provides an understanding of your overall perception and it allows you to adjust quickly to conversational trends.

There is no “one size fits all” content strategy for a crisis. The sooner you can identify and engage with those who matter, the sooner you can begin tackling the situation directly.

Taking control

When you’re at the centre of an unfolding risk, you must demonstrate a strong voice to counteract the forces of social and traditional media that will quickly shape the narrative. Press releases and news conferences are insufficient to meet expectations for content that exists online.

Leveraging strategic content within the context of a crisis forces you to question how you are engaging your key stakeholders and audience beyond a simple text response.

Your owned media properties, particularly your website and social channels, serve as critical tools to provide information that frames the issue from your perspective, addresses misinformation and, if necessary, apologises for a situation with a clear action plan.

Related: Why Your Business’ Social Media Marketing Strategy Is Probably Wrong

Our goal, as a leading communications marketing agency, isn’t to teach an organisation how to simply tweet through a crisis. Rather, we expect our clients to walk away with first-hand experience of working under rapid-fire crisis conditions that mimic an accurate scenario.

There’s a great deal of nuance around effective crisis and reputation management, including what corporate responses are suitable for different crises. Don’t go it alone. Invest in a partner, which has a deep understanding of the complex variables that have a long-term impact on the public perception of your organisation.

Five variables to address ahead of a crisis

  1. Who have we maintained consistent relationships with? You must make friends before you need them. Develop a list of important online and traditional stakeholders and maintain steady communications with this group during the quiet times.
  2. What is your threshold for who is influential? Be aware of the fact that there are people who reside outside your list of key stakeholders who are nevertheless influential and could have an impact on your business.
  3. How quickly does a conversation need to build up steam to warrant a response? The internet and social media now reflect thousands of smaller voices who can find each other and amplify a message. Recognising how conversations gain critical velocity is imperative to gauge when to respond and a crisis partner can help in this scenario.
  4. What is the timing of your response? You don’t always have all the answers and that’s okay. Often, a community just wants to know that you’re listening to them.
  5. Where will you publish a response and notify stakeholders? Sometimes, a response on Twitter, or Facebook proves sufficient, although other platforms such as a website or a blog helps to frame issues more comprehensively. A crisis partner will help determine the best way forward.

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Online Marketing

Why You Should Sort Your Social Media Policy (Like NOW!)

Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.





With 2 billion active users on Facebook alone, sharing our toils, tribulations and triumphs online is becoming second nature. There are, however, downsides to the rise of social media. Habits online have the potential to affect your work and your business if not monitored appropriately.

Recent research combining a survey of 2,000 UK respondents and analysis of work-related Twitter posts has highlighted the behaviours of employees online that could lead to damage for the businesses who employ them. Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

The Risks of Social Media

Lost Working Hours

The average person now spends 25 hours a week online, with almost two hours a day (116 minutes) being used to browse social media platforms.

With so much time being spent online it’s almost inevitable that people will habitually reach for their phone to check Facebook during the working day. The survey research suggests the average person spends 52 minutes procrastinating every day, with most of this time being spent on social media.

Across the working year this amounts to 225 hours lost per employee, a total of 7 billion lost hours from the UK working population of 32,344,000. Failing to set clear boundaries of when employees can use social media in the workplace may cost you a lot in the long term.

Employee Posts

15% of employees say that they have previously shared something negative about their work online, and a further 5% said they would do so in the future. This means that one in five workers think it is acceptable to take to social media to air their grievances with their company.

The volume of tweets found in Twitter analysis that contain negative work-related phrases illustrates how widespread the problem of employees complaining online is. In 2017, 8,186 tweets containing phrases such as #ihatemyjob, #worksucks and #hatework were sent, a 43% rise on the volume of similar posts in 2015.

Related: Make Sense Of Social Media In 60 Minutes

It is not only negative posts from employees that pose a risk to your business – they might also be inadvertently sharing confidential information. Off-hand comments on social media about what they have done with their day may lead your employees to unintentionally reveal information about a client, future plans or other information that you would not want in the public forum.

This could result in lost business if a client feels their security has been compromised or may give your competitors important insight into your working practices, which they can use to their advantage. A clear policy on what is acceptable to post in relation to work will help prevent these risks.


How Can a Social Media Policy Help?

Social media policies should be issued and explained to all employees. Their purpose is to ensure proper usage of social media, in a way which will not negatively impact on your business.

A social media policy can set out when usage of the platforms is appropriate and what employees can share with regards to your company. The policy may not guarantee adherence, but it does allow you to set out proper practice to all your workers in a clear, accessible format, which can be regularly consulted.

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