Tim Shier, MD of Online Reputation Management specialists BrandsEye, says companies stand to gain tremendous advantage if they’re able to anticipate market changes by identifying online trends.
It’s easy for brand managers to feel swamped by the plethora of new online platforms, tools and trends that emerge almost daily from the ether but that suddenly demands the attention of the internet audience, and by extension, the brands themselves.
If it isn’t the new internet phenomenon Pinterest that’s on everyone’s timeline, it’s the release of 60 new Facebook apps, or Google’s integration of social media into its search results. Where does it end, when can brand managers sit back and say: OK, I’m on top of it all, I can sit back now. Probably never.
The good news is that these shifting goal posts are moving at the same speed for anyone involved in online brand management. However, the extent to which they move and degree to which brands need to realign to stay on target can be minimised.
Online reputation management
This is achieved primarily through Online Reputation Management (ORM) tools that help organisations actively monitor and manage their online brand, and also get a sense of market sentiment and trends. The open nature of social networking provides real time access to any number of search terms, conversations and individuals from which a wealth of information can be drawn.
Savvy online brands do this type of monitoring and measurement on an ongoing basis to help direct campaigns or activities, and do so successfully. Truly forward-thinking organisations, however, have harnessed the power of ORM tools to gather insight beyond only their brand or industry to identify trends that might allow those goal posts to shift just that little bit less.
By monitoring competitors, allied industries or related fields, it’s possible to identify emerging trends that a brand could turn to its advantage. For example, a financial institution may not be able to shift a general negative sentiment towards the industry, but it may be able to address a specific gripe – such as reducing queues with a little better planning, or even staff training.
Here are some pointers on how to identify trends and learn from others:
- Start broad, then narrow it down
Identify the market segments or industries you wish to monitor for conversations or sentiment in order to gauge prevailing attitudes or areas of interest. By tracking these, it’s possible to get a grip on what is happening and identify influential audiences or individuals. Your search and tracking can then be targeted to the exact audience that meets your immediate needs.
- Improve your response time
The most effective way to use the data gathered is to look for trends that either support of refute your marketing or business assumptions. Quick and effective business strategy decisions can then be taken based on the potential demand resulting from the identified trend.
- When is a trend a trend?
Market sentiment, in itself, is not a trend. The indicator to look out for is a shift in that trend. This could be manifested in changes such as more influential people talking about an issue or brand, or conversations shifting to another geography. These insights provide valuable information that brands can use to preemptively adjust their strategy to take advantage of these changes. An important caveat to adapting to these ‘trends’ is that the business must refrain from a knee-jerk reaction and consider any changes based on all business data, not only online insights.
- Learn from your competitors
One of the advantages of being able to monitor open forums such as social media is that a brand can learn from competitors’ campaigns and activities about what works and what doesn’t work. This could significantly reduce the brand’s investment in market or even product research, while enabling it to adapt its strategy based on real market data.
The fundamental lesson for business leaders and marketers is that they no longer operate in isolation from the marketplace and that the Web 2.0 revolution presents more of an opportunity than a threat. Progressive organisations that have embraced this reality are reaping the benefits from this by using that to help them keep those shifting goalposts firmly in their sights.
Africa’s Top 10 Tech Start-Ups Selected For #Africa4Future Accelerator Programme
Airbus and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) have announced the top 10 African tech start-ups that will take part in the latest Airbus Bizlab #Africa4Future accelerator programme. They were selected after an open public pitch event in front of experts, potential investors, the media and other stakeholders in Kenya’s capital city.
#Africa4Future is a joint business accelerator initiative of Airbus and GIZ’s Make-IT in Africa initiative together with the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), a non-profit seed fund and pan-African organisation that brings together startups, entrepreneurs and the tech community, and Innocircle, the South African-based innovation consultancy.
The top 10 start-ups were selected from 314 entries representing 19 African countries that were received when the challenge was opened last October. These were assessed by a panel of Airbus and other independent experts.
The programme aims to encourage and support entrepreneurship in Africa. The continent’s young and increasingly techno-savvy population is likely to be the driving force behind Africa’s socio-economic development. The competition identifies Africa’s own pool of talented entrepreneurs using innovative aerospace based solutions to tackle the continent’s most pressing challenges such as transportation, agriculture and healthcare.
As a global aerospace accelerator, Airbus BizLab is ideally suited to help African startups transform innovative ideas into viable and valuable businesses. In doing so, it increases the aerospace industry’s engagement with hardware and software innovators and entrepreneurs in Africa while helping to nurture the establishment of competitive entrepreneurial ecosystems on the continent.
The Nairobi event kicks off an intensive 6-month business incubation and accelerator programme involving technical, commercial and mentorship activities in France, Germany and South Africa. This includes workshops and coaching sessions with Airbus experts, GIZ’s Make-IT in Africa, MEST and Innocircle coaches.
The programme will culminate with Demo Day events at the biennial Paris International Airshow and a special event in Germany from 19-26 June, when finalists will launch their products, define their collaboration with Airbus and announce their investment commitments in front of representatives from across the aerospace industry.
1. Astral Aerial (Kenya) – using drones for humanitarian cargo transport, surveillance and emergency response.
2. Cote d’Ivoire drone (Ivory Coast) – locally-manufactured drones for various applications.
3. Elemental Numerics (South Africa) – applies computational fluid dynamics techniques to the design of machines and components, ranging from aircraft to heart valves.
4. Lentera Limited (Kenya) – applying remote sensors to monitor and transmit environmental data to enable more efficient and smarter farming.
5. Maisha ICT Tech PLC (Ethiopia) – deploying locally built drones for delivering medicines, blood and healthcare items to remote and rural areas.
6. MamaBird (Malawi) – provides a platform to help Governments, NGOs and other organisations deliver vital life-saving supplies to remote communities.
7. Map Action (Mali) – a solution offering real-time online urban mapping to identify problems affecting water supplies, hygiene and sanitation.
8. MobiTech Water Solutions (Kenya) – an online real-time water monitoring solution that allows businesses, homes and water-service providers to manage their available water using an app-based dashboard and instant messaging.
9. Track Your Build (Nigeria) – a novel infrastructure management tool for construction and operations.
10.WiPo Wireless Power (South Africa) – offers reliable and convenient wireless power chargers for businesses, conference centres, airports, restaurants and other venues for the charging of mobile devices, laptops and drones.
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Top Sectors For SMEs In 2019
“As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
While the South African economy has been underperforming for a number of years, the first positive signs of turnaround started to become visible by the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of the third quarter, data supplied by Statistics South Africa showed that the economy had indeed grown by 2.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. This uptick is expected to have a positive effect on business confidence in 2019.
This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that certain business sectors have already seen an increase in opportunities for small businesses and start-ups.
“While these sectors will not be without challenges, the following four industries are likely to offer the best opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to grow their enterprises in the coming year.”
The World Travel and Tourism report 2018, revealed that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to South Africa’s GDP has been projected to rise from R136bn in 2016 to R197.9bn by 2028 – set to make up a total of 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, says Lang.
“Although this sector experienced some setbacks in 2018, such as the drought in the Western Cape and stricter visa regulations for children entering the country, both the water restrictions and visa regulations have been relaxed and the sector is once again poised for growth,” he says.
Statistics South Africa has credited this industry with being the biggest driver of growth in the country’s GDP, having expanded by 7.5 percent in September 2018, says Lang. “To bolster this, Government has made a concerted effort to stimulate small business growth in this area with initiatives such as the Black Industrialist Programme and the SA Automotive Masterplan.”
He adds that businesses in the manufacturing sphere could therefore likely see significant opportunities in the form of outsourcing contracts and new partnerships with large corporates.
“The debate around land expropriation has occupied most of the discussions surrounding the agricultural sector in 2018, with some questioning growth prospects of this sector. However, this industry has a lot of growth ahead of it, as demonstrated by its 6.5 percent growth over the last three months of 2018,” explains Lang.
“Further to this, the industry is also already taking significant advantage of seven climatic regions in South Africa, with the export of a wide variety of high quality fruit and vegetables increasing substantially,” he points out. The recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has resulted in the suspension of the country’s FMD-free status will however significantly impact meat exporters.
In terms of opportunities for SMEs, he says that these may most likely be found in the rural and underdeveloped regions, where the need for resources like efficient transport, state-of-the-art cold storage, better irrigation and private power generation will be key to making agriculture projects more productive and competitive in the export market.
Data and information technology
Connectivity and information technology infrastructure are both crucial to business and employment growth in South Africa, says Lang.
“With many municipalities and the Western Cape government committing to providing all of its residents with free data as part of a plan to expand public Wi-Fi network access, it is clear that this is also becoming a high priority on a state level.”
It has also been reported that South Africa is awaiting the arrival of three international data centres, and large players in the communications sphere, including Vodacom, Telkom and Vumatel, are making huge strides in drastically growing the country’s fibre optic backbone, he adds. “As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
In conclusion, Lang says that as South Africa’s economic growth has started to turn around, business owners should keep their ears to the ground as 2019 is highly likely to be a year of opportunity.
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