Q&A with Theresa Vitale GM of IAB SA

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Theresa Vitale GM of IAB SA (been working for IAB since it started back in May 2003 as the OPA, when my interview was conducted via video conference I knew this job would be different and it has been amazing to see the growth not only of the IAB but the industry as a whole.

Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
A: The people I work with in the industry and I especially love reading/hearing about startups in the industry!

Q: What guided you in this direction? Was it a moment, a series of events?
A: I have always been involved in media, more on the broadcast side but it was a sort of natural progression towards digital, though at the time of starting at IAB SA (then known as OPA) I really wanted a half day work to focus on my biggest projects in life – my children

Q: What online/offline publications do you read to keep up with developments and trends in your industry?
A: I love business focused magazines (Forbes, Bloomberg & Business Week) I do love the printed editions and being able to page through them (yip I know old school ). Online, my favourites are Techcentral, Ventureburn and Bizcommunity.

Q: What’s the next big thing in your industry?
 A: Augmented Reality

Q: How has the internet impacted your industry/job?
 A: It is amazing an infinite source of any info you require, you can reach anyone (almost) anywhere. Though I must admit I do take time to disconnect and also live in the real world.

Q: How are you using social media or other digital tools to connect with your consumers and readers?
A: Email is the key tool – my direct access to members, IAB steerco and board and everybody who needs any information.

Q: Do you think digital marketers understand social media or other online tools? What about publishers?
 A: I think some do and others just have a social media presence to be there.

Q: What mistakes do companies commonly make when trying to communicate to you using the online space?
A: SMS via email can come across as rude and using twitter to ask questions or complain when one should first try the direct route irks me. It is important to keep in mind the different platforms available if the direct route – email or phone call to someone does not deliver results then by all means go social.

Q: Do you think Digital Marketing is important?
A: Yes, all marketing is important and I think the key is to avoid one dimensional marketing whether it is digital or real world and to rather focus on building relationships.

Q: What advice can you offer businesses or individuals when using digital marketing tools?
A: Stay polite, remember there is a person on the other end, don’t forget to also connect in the real world and be yourself – keep it real.

Q&A with Bontle Moeng founder of BizNis Africa

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Bontle Moeng is the Founder and Managing Director for BizNis Africa. BizNis Africa is an independent online trade and investment news website that focuses on Africa’s 3 major business economic sectors – ICT, Mining and Energy.

Moeng has over 12 years working experience in the online media industry, where she was responsible for successfully managing content and social media platforms for leading global brands. She has a strong passion for creating content that engages and grows online users.

Throughout her media career, she has worked as an Online Journalist, Online Marketing Manager, Social Media Community Manager and Online Content Manager for various companies – Media 24, Big Media, eNitiate, Global Interface Consulting and agencies including: City of Joburg,
SAInfo, ITWeb, Starfish Mobile,
ITNewsAfrica, SME South
Africa, AVATAR, Eskom IDM and Eskom 49M.

Moeng holds a BA Journalism Degree from the Midrand Graduate Institute and a Digital Marketing Diploma from the AAA School of Advertising.

Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
A: Writing and Researching relevant content to publish on the website. In addition, I enjoy interviewing corporate executives from various African countries. I gain a lot of insight from their experience. The African population has a wealth of knowledge and is filled with very smart professionals.

Q: Did you always want to be an online business magazine publisher?
A: Absolutely. That’s the main reason I studied Journalism in the first place. My plan was not to become a Journalist but to understand the industry and launch my own publication. I’m currently fulfilling my passion and purpose.

Q: When did you realise you wanted to be doing this?
A: In 2010 I attended an MBA on Entrepreneurship workshop at GIBS. As soon as I arrived home I drafted my business idea. BizNis Africa was established that evening.

Q: What online/offline publications do you read to keep up with developments and trends in your industry?
A: I tend to read Ventures Africa, CNBCAfrica, Forbes Africa, ITNewsAfrica, TechCentral, Memeburn, MyBroadband, Mining Weekly, Destiny Connect, Business Day and ITWebAfrica on a daily basis.

Q: What’s the next big thing in your industry?
 A: I think Online Content Strategy Techniques will play a vital role across the industry. It can assist business leaders to make informed decisions regarding the value of their websites to their clients and users.

Q: How has the internet impacted your industry/job?
 A: The Internet has changed the global news reporting process. The manner at which journalists gather relevant news and disseminate it to an audience is quicker than in previous years. The Internet has played a vital role in growing the entire online industry. As a result, there are more online business ventures and social entrepreneurs in the world.

Q: How are you using social media or other digital tools to connect with your consumers and readers?
A: BizNis Africa uses social media to share the latest content, spread breaking news and to engage users on topical ideas.
Do you think digital marketers understand social media? What about publishers?
Digital Marketers have a fair amount of understanding the impact of social media for their business. There are more key trends that they need to consider as the industry is constantly evolving. There is no business that can claim to know everything and be able to provide all the answers.

The industry as a whole thrives on sharing ideas and constantly acquiring new skills.
Online publishers need to get more in-depth understanding of social media. Most online publishers have not embraced or used social media effectively. I am confident that digital marketers and online publisher’s attitude towards social media can change to offer a real return on investment.

Q: What mistakes do companies commonly make when trying to communicate to you via social media?
 A: Most companies assume I will respond immediately. At times I’m caught up with editorial deadlines and tend to get back to them at a later time. Perhaps I need a social media community manager that can look after that aspect of the business.

Q: Apple or Samsung?
 A: Samsung has always been my preferred choice. I just love their product design and apps.

Q&A with Akua Koranteng

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Akua Koranteng holds an honours degree in Economics from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and a masters degree in International Finance from the Amsterdam Business School (Holland). Her practical experience has been obtained from working in the Corporate Finance division of the Merrill Lynch office in Johannesburg and working in the Structured Finance-Property Finance division of Rand Merchant Bank office in Johannesburg.

Her current knowledge and understating of the commercial property space and financial industry is indispensable. Akua holds the position of non-executive director on the board of Jones Lange LaSalle (Pty) Ltd and director of Zinza Investments (Pty) Ltd, a Commercial Real Estate advisory and investments company.

Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
A: My passion for advising and investing within the Commercial Real Estate industry and being my own boss.

Q: What guided you in this direction? Was it a moment, a series of events?
A: A need for personal growth and defining myself outside of the corporate space.

Q: What online/offline publications do you read to keep up with developments and trends in your industry?
A: Real Estate related content, Financial related content, Africa related content sourced from various providers such as Eprop, SAPOA, Financial Mail, SA Real Estate

Q: What’s the next big thing in your industry?
 A: Capitalising on opportunities outside of South Africa but within the African continent. South Africa is a lot more mature relative to the rest of the continent and as such skills can be used for the benefit of the rest of the continent’s Real Estate aspirations

Q: How has the internet impacted your industry/job?
 A: Facilitated ease of showcasing Zinza Investments service offering within the Real Estate space not only in South Africa but also within parts of West and East Africa. Ease of access to and communication with a broader client base

Q: How are you using social media or other digital tools to connect with your consumers and readers?
A: Regular company related updates via the likes of facebook, twitter and mail-chimp. Traditional email still allows for a more personalised form of communication and individual responses to such.

Q: Do you think digital marketers understand social media or other online tools? What about publishers?
 A: Yes. Yes as both hard and soft copy content are easily available.

Q: What mistakes do companies commonly make when trying to communicate to you using the online space?
A: Communication of info that is at times irrelevant to me. Too much info at times detracting from reviewing entire communication content.

Q: Do you think Digital Marketing is important?
A: Yes it is as its often a quicker and easier way of reaching a wider audience and it also allows for proper categorisation of who to send what to due to follow up interaction (eg tracking who reads what, who clicks on what who responds to what etc)

Q: What advice can you offer businesses or individuals when using digital marketing tools?
A: Keep it short and simple and to the point. Target the right audience with selected content and vice versa. Where more content is required allow for target to request this or be able to access such via an alternate link (link to a full pdf doc for eg).

Maverick Mind undergoes a major makeover, appoints new Operations Director

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Johannesburg-based digital marketing agency Maverick Mind has undergone a major brand makeover in its bid to reposition itself in a highly competitive digital industry, the Agency announced.

“We are repositioning our agency in a bid to strengthen our product business by having a stronger focus on our Cloud Based eMarketing Software business, Maverick Mail. “ Says Philani Mdingi, Maverick Mind’s Digital Strategy Director. “If you are an agency that constantly aims to exceed client’s expectation, it is no longer sufficient to only focus on services, you need to have a solid software product portfolio that compliments your services and derives optimal value for your clients”. Maverick Mind is a strategy-led digital marketing agency with a single, noble pursuit: growing brands and businesses.

In addition to the brand makeover, Maverick Mind has appointed Megan Fourie as its Operations Director. Fourie initially joined Maverick Mind as a Business Growth Strategist and will now take over the reigns as the Operations Director. “Maverick Mind recognizes the increasing interconnectedness of doing businesses in Africa as a whole and has long-term ambitions to grow its operations in East Africa. They have entrusted me with this responsibility and I was happy to oblige.” says Fourie.

The Agency recently designed and built the IAB SA’s Digital Summit and Bookmarks website. The IAB SA prepares to host The Bookmarks 2015 Awards ceremony in Johannesburg next year, an event which will be preceded by the IAB’s inaugural Digital Summit. Maverick Mind has partnered with the IAB SA in laying the digital foundation for the upcoming inaugural Digital Summit.

Crowdsourcing Political Ideology And The Impact Of Technology In African Politics

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Crowdsourcing is not a new concept in Digital marketing circles, it is however getting a new lease on life in the world of politics, especially in Africa.

The Kenyan based crowdsourcing platform, Ushahidi did a great job of informing the ordinary Kenyan citizen on violent hotspots after the 2007 Kenyan elections. The platform has since extended its functionality and has been used for other purposes like disaster area monitoring and information dissemination. Ushahidi originally sent notifications via SMS, but now also includes email notifications.

That’s a smart move considering that most mobile users have access to email. Kenyan politicians are also fervently using the social media mill to chart out their agenda, more so than in previous elections in 2007. You only have to search for the hash tag #kedebate2013 to see how they have employed twitter to clarify their ideology.

We have seen many instances where technology has been used to monitor elections and solicit feedback from citizens in countries like Ghana and Kenya, and few can deny the Twitter influence of the sometimes trigger happy South African and Western Cape premier, Helen Zille. African politicians have embraced Twitter in earnest, but what else are they doing?

Most interestingly there is a new breed of politicians who are not only content with being a commentator on social media platforms, but also want to use technology to influence politics and social reform. Obama did it well, email and social media played critical roles in the process of moving his political agenda throughout the 2008 campaign. Not only did he tweet up a storm, he built relationships with his constituency, donors and voters by sending email campaigns that had one underlying message, “Yes we can!”.

Obama used email to engage the younger generation of Americans. No other presidential candidate in history raised as much funds as he did, and all this was underpinned by a unified digital communications strategy. It’s political participation 2.0 style.

Now back to Africa, a very interesting case study is unravelling in South African politics. Enter Agang – and no, it’s not “a gang” – it means “to build” in Pedi, an indigenous South African language. Agang has been described by its founder and political activist Mamphela Ramphele as a political plaftform with a view to create a political party. The function of Agang at this stage is to crowdsource ideas from ordinary citizens on how to better manage the country, government and its resources.

Agang has taken to the internet to raise resources for the soon to be established political party. Ordinary citizens can donate their time or money on the Agang website.

What is of real interest in this case is not that the political platform has a site, but how they are using their website, Facebook page and Twitter to enable citizens to determine the kind of government that they want.

How effective this form of crowdsourcing will be, only time to tell. One thing has become very clear though; technology is influencing all spheres of our lives in Africa and will continue to do so in ways we can’t even imagine yet.

The Kenyan mobile revolution: Monetise or die

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Kenya has come to be known as Africa’s mobile technology innovation powerhouse. The country attained this enviable title on the back of a string of successful and widely adopted mobile innovations. M-Pesa, the mobile money transfer was the innovation that set the scene for the Kenya Mobile revolution and was the first to operate on a large scale.
Since then a lot has happened in the mobile tech space in Kenya, including the launch of m-lab. The facility was launched with the aim of encouraging mobile technology innovation in the East African country and was supported by Nokia and the Kenyan Government. Since then, we have seen the likes of M-Farm, a mobile service that enables farmers to get information about the current retail price of their products.

What is of interest to me is not just the technology and skills behind the developers in Kenya, but how they maximise the available resources to innovate and deliver localised solutions that improve people’s lives on the ground as opposed to just developing a cool iPhone app that will suffer a slow death in the maze that is the iStore. That for me, is the key difference in approach between how for instance, South African developers focus on the global picture but miss the mark in their locality.

Yet with all this international acclaim and success, Kenyan developers and tech entrepreneurs have one nagging problem they need to solve, monetisation. With all the interest and investment pouring in from companies like Nokia, Samsung , Google and other stakeholders, the need to monetise and turn development houses to viable business will only increase.

Monetisation is not a uniquely Kenyan problem nor is it just an African problem. It is a universal challenge that a lot of tech start-ups all over the world are grappling with, including the likes of Twitter. Facebook is also struggling to figure out how to generate an income stream through mobile as the world shifts towards mobile web browsing.

Building apps and feature phone technology not only takes time and resources, you need to attract skills to grow the industry and that requires capital. It is my prediction that as mobile phone manufacturers like Huawei deliver on the promise of a cheaper smart phone, we will see more developers in Kenya focusing their energy on building mobile apps that will fulfill the Kenyan imperative, technology for the people. But unless the delicate balance between ICT for development and mass monetisation of the Kenyan mobile industry is achieved, we will have to wait a while longer for the next Apple or Microsoft to emerge from East Africa and indeed the whole of Africa.

The significance of mobile strategies

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A few months ago I was in Cape Town attending an email marketing campaign on behalf of Everlytic. Following this successful event, my interests shifted to Cape Town’s night life and like a typical Joburger, I sought to enjoy the assortment of watering holes this city has to offer. Sadly my bar hopping adventure was cut short when my brother and I were skilfully relieved of our cell phones.
One phone mysteriously disappeared at the bar, and the other, snatched from my brother as we left. With our street cred down the drain, I recounted the story to some Cape Town friends. Apparently cell phone theft plagues the Cape of good dope to such an extent that you’re more likely to get your car broken into for the pure intent of nabbing a cell phone, than for actually stealing the car.

Of course, this got me thinking. In terms of technology, mobile phones now compete with high end computers, television sets and leading tech entertainment tools. In essence, mobile phones are productivity and entertainment tools rolled into one – they’re not called smartphones for nothing!

It’s no wonder the gadget is so sought after; almost everyone has one and it ranks up there with other entertainment essentials like a tablet or an Xbox.

Penetration stats speak for themselves

The African mobile penetration stats speak for themselves. More than half the internet connections in Africa are exclusively on mobile; Africa is the second biggest mobile market in the world.

I don’t want to bore you with the numbers but it’s increasingly clear that savvy marketers should have a mobile strategy or at least be working on one. Even Capetonian thugs have caught on to the importance of mobile, though their mobile strategy leaves much to be desired.

The importance of mobile as a channel seems to be obvious, but why then are we not seeing a correlation in marketing-spend by companies? With this increasing importance given to cellular phones, (I’m not referring to the ads that come with SMS banking alerts) it is essential that companies adopt more progressive mobile marketing technologies.

When SMS banking alerts came out, it was an exciting solution that solved real world problems. But there are even more mobile platforms that companies can embrace to be able to reach consumers. Think MXit, rich media ads, email marketing for mobile and location based services for upwardly mobile hipsters in Cape Town, just to name a few.

“Mobile only” internet connected audience

I bet my lunch money that the marketing tactics doing well in mobile are email marketing and rich media ads. Some may argue that there is audience fatigue as far as these tactics are concerned. But I don’t agree, mobile phones are opening up a totally new “mobile only” internet connected audience. And guess what happens when this audience connects to the internet for the first time? They sign up for an email account and engage with adverts that speak their language. These are the millions of people that would otherwise not have been able to connect to the internet; the millions that you are not reaching, because there’s no mobile strategy in place to connect with them.

The next time I’m in the Cape, I’ll not only be keeping an eye on my phone but on good mobile content that can only come from having a well-planned mobile strategy.

Technology should be used for social transformation

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I have always been of the opinion that nothing should be invented just for the sake of its novelty value, except art. In the case of technology I have always been of the assertion that you should be able to monetise whatever technology or platform you invent. It just makes business sense considering how much you can potentially spend on research and development.

I work in the online space, and I love it. As cliché as this may sound it’s true. I may not love it every single day, but I love it enough. That’s because the Internet has the potential to literally determine how competitive a country can be in the global arena, based on how well it embraces the possibilities that it presents.

Of particular interest to me is how start ups and other technology focused companies can make a contribution not only to economic growth, but to socially transform the communities around them.
But before we can truly see our communities transform, our government needs to take the tech industry seriously.

In South Africa we have really high internet costs, and it’s no secret that Telkom’s reluctance to unbundle the local loop is driven by the parastatal’s desire to maximise profits. Because of this reality, the average South African has limited access to the Internet; this then implies that the ability to share information is limited. This has an adverse effect on South Africa’s competitiveness in the global knowledge economy.

A lot has been said about the need to foster a culture of entrepreneurship is this country and the desperate need to create meaningful jobs. This, I am sorry to say, will always be a pie in the sky if the powers that be do not recognise the importance of information sharing , of which the internet is a catalyst. We simply need cheaper internet access if we are to drag the rest of the popuation kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

There are already a few companies that are using their technology to affect social change in South Africa. pMailer is one of those companies. The Rosebank based email communications solutions provider is currently running an Education Project where they give a free pMailer account to schools across South Africa. Each school gets 6000 free email credits per month to communicate with their alumni, parents and other stake holders. Schools get to send out regular communications, completely free of charge.

Broadband prices have started to drop, driven primarily by competition amongst the local mobile operators, but in my opinion these remain relatively out of reach for the vast majority of the population. The day we see these prices drop to affordable rates, is the day we can see technology make a real difference in the communities that surround us, urban and rural.