We did an interview with an agricultural blog called Kilimo Mamboleo on our farmer platform called Ukulima. Festus did a wonderful job asking me about the work we have been doing with Ukulima, where we currently are and what the future holds for the platform. Please read the entirety of the article at the site. Excerpts are below.
I will begin with the challenges. We decided to build a network to bring in farmers and we looked at what we knew. We knew of the Facebooks, we knew of the Linkedins that don’t work over here. And our experiences using these things is actually on computers. So, we build this thing that is absolutely alien to a farmer, we took it to the farmers and they looked at us and they wondered whether we were giving them crossword puzzles. Basically, there was something they didn’t like. So, we needed to translate it back into farmers’ speak.
For instance, we started looking at guys using kabambe to try and sign up, and that sign-up process was murderously hell because keypads have four to five potential options. Someone would type what they thought is their password, yet they were typing something totally different because the password is also hidden. We’ve had to iterate along those lines, changing how people do sign ups, changing how people use the platform, etc.
We’re working on adding the ability for people with smartphones or those coming through websites to have the more high-end capabilities: using of images, putting in videos, etc. But if you’re coming in from these basic phones it needs to be able to load very quickly, it needs to be able to work for you at its most basic level. Basically, we went back and rewrote it (Ukulima) and stripped it to its barest minimum.Second, we had stayed away from sms but as we’re now working with farmers’ groups, it’s becoming more apparent we have to try, even though it’s not the core of the network, to do something around sms. This is driven by the fact that Google announced two months ago that you can receive Gmail via sms.
What features do the farmers like/dislike about Ukulima?
The features we found farmers are drawn to are: the Q&A and the instant message pages. We will introduce the group feature which we want to make a core part of the platform because if you look out in society, that’s how farmers work together (via farmers’ groups), and we want to replicate that on the platform itself.
Farmers disliked the sign-up process and the fact that they have to pay data charges to access Ukulima.net.
Tandaza, Pamoja Media’s apps unit, has built the Sokoni app to link agricultural produce buyers with farmers in one space. How has it fared so far?
We originally wanted Sokoni so that we could immediately plug it into Ukulima. But, we discovered we’re doing too much ahead of time. It was very hard for us to start looking at plugging Sokoni into Ukulima, yet we still needed to first have a viable Ukulima network on the market. We decided to first solve the Ukulima problem, so Sokoni took a back seat.
Does Tandaza plan to build any more agri-apps, and when?
Yes, we actually are planning that. We feel there are a few killer apps that will always get people coming back to Ukulima, and we want Tandaza to build those killer apps, probably in the next 6-9 months.
What’s the future of agri-related apps in Kenya and in Africa?There’s going to be a future in them, without a doubt. I think we’re slowly-by-slowly having behaviour change where people are using mobile phones to do more. This is especially true in Kenya, not necessarily in the rest of Africa, because Kenya has proven we understand how to integrate mobile into our daily lives. For example, Mpesa.
The challenges are: people in rural Africa are not yet ready to pay for data and many apps developers are not simplifying apps to be used on feature phones that are pervasive across Africa.
As apps developers, we will have to simplify apps so that anyone with a college degree or with a basic education can pick up a mobile phone, get to an app and it’s very easy to use.
What plans does Pamoja Media have for Ukulima for the next 1 year?
We first want to add a considerable number of people on the platform.On monetisation, we are looking at advertising either via sms or directly when a farmer is on the network to allow us fund the network’s growth. Also, we will have an open API for apps developers who want to develop apps for farmers on the platform, and share the revenues 70-30 (for the developers and Pamoja Media respectively).
What advice do you have for African apps developers targeting agriculture, animal husbandry and related areas?
Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Who would have thought that a straightforward issue of reducing the costs mobile phone networks charge each other to terminate calls on their networks, also known as the mobile termination rate (MTR), would turn out to be a such a hassle that has sucked in even President Mwai Kibaki?
Basically, the MTR was set to fall to Ksh1.44 per minute in 2012 from Ksh2.21 in 2011, to Ksh1.15 in 2013 and Ksh0.99 in 2014. But allegedly, Nick Wanjohi, the president’s private secretary, wrote on behalf of the head of state ordering the Ministry of Information to stop the implementation of the drop to Ksh1.44 per minute this year until a study on costs is done and sent to the Office of the President for consideration. Safaricom and Orange have protested against the planned reductions.
As an online agency of advertising, Pamoja Media is concerned not just about the political interference in an industry where the regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya, should be the referee; but also the fact that Kenya’s current 30 million mobile subscribers are still being held hostage to almost-usurious inter-network calling rates despite the widespread adoption of mobile telephony.
Fine, mobile operators have introduced bundles that allow you to surf the internet on your mobile phone without eating into your airtime, a boost to companies that are advertising on the internet because potential consumers will stay on their mobisites longer. But, it’s inevitable you will have to call a company with inquiries before you confirm your order because mobisites usually don’t carry all information about a company’s products or services thanks to the small size of your phone’s screen. Most likely you will either have to call a Safaricom or Airtel line, and it’s highly unlikely companies have Yu and Orange lines too. If you subscribe to the smaller networks and your surfing the internet costs are billed in cents per mb, picture your inter-network calling rates skyrocketing to shillings per minute because some operators aren’t willing to pass down the the benefits of economies of scale to you in the form of a similarly low MTR.
We believe that high MTR rates not just in Kenya but in East Africa are an unacceptable barrier not just to communication, but also to the growth and success of companies advertising in the internet in Africa via mobisites. That’s the main reason we request the CCK, which is a constitutional body, to assert its independence from the Executive by reducing the long-overdue MTR for the sake of both Kenya’s 30 million subscribers and businesses already advertising in the internet or planning to.
If your brand needs a partner to solve your mobile advertising problems, please send us a note or call +254 717 514 477.
Advertising on the internet, at least in the past one week in Kenya, has been dominated by the debate about the audacity of the Facebook page: ‘Campus Divas For Rich Men.’
Typical of debates about women and their bodies, people have taken extreme positions ranging from condemnation (they are prostitutes) to praise (finally, the secret is out). The page’s anonymous ‘administrator’ has even appeared on Kiss100 radio station several times (including today, 4/9/12) to both defend the page’s right-to-exist and the divas’ right to ‘connect’ with rich men who can flood them with the good life in return for ‘fringe’ benefits. Despite the controversy generated since the page spread like teargas, by the time of writing this post (4/9/12, 3.30pm) it had attracted 48,864 likes.
Nevertheless, this page contains some potent lessons for SMEs in Africa contemplating advertising on the internet, especially via Facebook.
- When it comes to social media engagement, Facebook is the default platform. With approximately 1.6 million Kenyans on Facebook, you’re guaranteed exposure at minimum cost.
- Emotion: Can your brand connect emotionally with your customers? One way to lure your target’s heartstrings is by using a catchy name that promises an emotional benefit to your customers, a promise that will result in people sharing your emotive message with their friends.
- Flexibility: Initially, the divas’ slogan was: ‘money can buy us!’ Unfortunately, it created the perception that the page was an online version of Koinange Street. To avoid alienating the rich men the page targets, the anonymous ‘administrator’ deleted it and the page’s now labeled as a “…dating page…” Contrast with other advertising platforms like newspapers where the damage would already have been done and the process of changing the slogan expensive.
- Offline extension: Even if your brand goes viral on Facebook, it’s never a bad thing to capitalise on its popularity on traditional media. So, if a radio show host requests you to speak about your brand grab it, it’s free advertising. It’s obvious the divas’ page has attracted more visitors and likes as a result of the ‘administrator’ appearing several times on Kiss 100. Too bad his anonymity prevents us from requesting him to supply us with post-interview page views’ statistics.
- Visuals: The number one allure of the divas’ page has been the salacious visuals accompanied by descriptions. Ensure your SME page has plenty of clear visuals and descriptions. Even if you sell a service you can be creative with visuals by for example, posting photographs of awards won.
Visit the divas’ page and get extra tips, but don’t stay too long though otherwise you might be permanently distracted from planning and executing your SME plans of advertising on the internet.
Please contact Pamoja Media on +254 717 514 477 or firstname.lastname@example.org for your social media marketing needs. We will be pleased to partner with you to achieve your social media goals.
As usual, when faced with Bills that force them to be more accountable to the constituents whose interests they claim to represent, Kenyan parliamentarians either reject or amend them as they did two Thursdays ago when they amended and passed a diluted Leadership and Integrity Bill (aka Chapter 6) that excluded provisions that will have required any aspirant to a public office first seek clearance from agencies such as the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB).
Unfortunately, online marketers don’t have such a luxury after Google recently made copyright and Panda updates that now require you, more than ever, to employ organic ranking tactics that are obese with ‘integrity.’ Your website will lose rankings in the organic stakes if you post copyrighted content or use techniques such as keyword stuffing and unethical link building tactics.
It’s not only Kenyan MPs who diet on integrity. Take piracy, for instance. The Communications Commission of Kenya estimates that currently, there are approximately 3 million fake phones in Kenya. The CCK has threatened to switch them off at the end of September 2012, but trust Kenyans to oppose such a beneficial action: “Many Kenyans are poor and can’t afford genuine phones. Does that mean they shouldn’t communicate with their loved ones?” Microsoft hasn’t said how much software piracy costs the firm in Kenya, but it estimates that 79% of computers contained fake software in 2010. The multinational is now taking drastic intellectual property protection measures such as raiding premises countrywide. I won’t even mention the hundreds of thousands of fake movie DVDs that go for as little as Kshs50 in stalls all over Kenya.
As many Kenyan brands progressively realise and appreciate the benefits of advertising on the internet, I fear our addiction to piracy and reluctance to pay for quality web design and content services will tempt most online business owners to resort to short cuts such as copyright infringement (for example, by using registered trademarks of famous brands, yet they are not authorised resellers) and reworking copyrighted content and then posting it as original in order to rank highly on organic search rankings.
How to avoid Google’s poisonous fangs
The non-negotiable virtue that you, as Web brand owner, should now demand from your web designers and writers, after Google’s latest decrees, whether they are your employees or contracted from an IT marketing agency or agency of advertising, is integrity. Actually, you should dare them to show you a recent certificate of good conduct. Second, you should contact their referees and enquire whether these creatives can be trusted not to engage in ‘copy and paste’ tactics. Third, you should put a clause in their contracts that states that they will only be paid after you are satisfied that the work they have done is original, and should you find they have violated/plagiarised copyrighted content, they will forego their pay (and the sack for in-house offenders).
Marketing in Africa, particularly advertising on the internet, costs more time and more money: from building and hosting your website, to paying designers and writers to design your pages and write content respectively. Why should you risk Google relegating your website to division three, yet you desire to play in the online marketing premiership league because of copyright violations and fake content?
Please contact Pamoja Media for your web design and content needs. We will be glad to solve your challenges.
The London 2012 Olympics is a nightmare most Kenyans can’t wait to wake up from thanks to Team Kenya’s record shattering, below-the-belt performance: 2 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze medals. Compare this drought with the appetising harvest at the Beijing 2008 Olympics: 6 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze.
Besides Kenya’s tearful outing, the London 2012 Olympics bagged a gold medal in social media advertising on the internet for being the first olympics ever to stream both live events and replays on Youtube: www.youtube.com/olympics. The results vindicate that decision. As of 13/8/12, one day after the games ended, the YouTube channel had enticed over 330,000 subscribers and recorded over 35 million video views. The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) other social media channels’ performances were also spectacular: 3.7 million Facebook likes, over 950,000 Google+ recommendations and over 1.5 million Twitter followers.
TV stations should be scared, very scared
Back in the day TV stations in Africa, particularly state owned (and mostly monopolies), salivated when events such as the Olympics and the football world cup arrived. This is because even though they had to buy rights to screen games, they recouped their costs by increasing their ad space rates. The annual Super Bowl is the poster pig of the latter in action. In 2012, the average cost of a 30-second TV ad cost was $3.5 million (approximately Ksh298 million).
TV stations still – and will continue to – salivate at the commercial opportunities served every four years. But YouTube may force them to go on a forced diet and here’s why.
● Precise targeting. The London 2012 Olympics YouTube channel offered viewers the option of watching various games from archery to wrestling. This benefit allowed advertisers to precisely target potential customers watching specific matches/niche sports. Contrast that benefit with the current set up in which TV stations focus on guaranteed eyeball attracting sports such as athletics and football. If you sell helmets and you wish to promote them to audiences watching an Olympics canoe slalom race, sorry, TV stations don’t screen live contests of such niche games.
● Exclusivity. The YouTube channel was a 24-hour, games dedicated channel. This meant that your ad would get guaranteed exposure. Compare that benefit with the current set up where you have to work within TV stations’ programming schedules if you want to market your brand because they also have to interrupt the games to screen other programmes that pay their bills such as news and soap operas.
● Third. YouTube gives advertisers two payment options depending on their campaign objectives: bidding via Adwords or reserving ad space. Compare this benefit with the current set up where advertisers pay according to TV stations’ rate cards, not according to the former’s campaign goals. And I won’t beleabour the point that over 4 billion videos are viewed daily on YouTube.
● Fourth, remember the statistics in the beginning of this post showing that over 30 million videos were viewed on the London 2012 Olympics YouTube channel? Those, ladies and gentlemen, are results. Additionally, you can measure other metrics such as average cost of each click or a thousand impressions and the number of viewers who converted after they watched your video ad/s. Try asking the TV station/s where your ad/s showed for a breakdown of how many audiences viewed your ad.
The next sports extravaganza will be in 2014 when Brazil hosts the football World Cup. Hopefully by then, internet bandwidth in Africa will be more widespread and cheaper than they are now.What will African TV stations do if their current heavy spending clients marketing in Africa decide to fatten YouTube’s waistline instead? Is any media planner in an African agency of advertising seeing the graffiti on the ‘Tube?’
For marketers seeking to advertise on Youtube or other online marketing platforms, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
The Communications Commission of Kenya plans to switch off all counterfeit mobile phone handsets on September 30, 2012. This time the regulator, which estimates that Kenya currently hosts 3 million fake phones, may finally walk the disconnection talk after several aborted attempts in 2011.The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), says piracy costs legitimate Kenyan manufacturers losses of over KSh 30 billion and the government KSh 6 billion in foregone taxes annually.
The commission’s press release contained this interesting part: ‘‘…in consultation with representatives from the four mobile operators, mobile phone manufacturers and relevant government ministries and agencies, we will continue to execute this mandate…’’ So, where are the advertising on the internet agencies hiding as other stakeholders, particularly the mobile phone service providers, lobby to mitigate the damage the mass disconnections will have on their profit and loss sections of their balance sheets? And it’s not only on this subject that Kenyan digital marketing agencies’ voices are missing in action.
From the planned Konza City to the TV signals’ analogue-to-digital migration to the 2013 elections, no agency of advertising has exhibited the guts to publicly articulate the digital opportunities and threats these events will present. No, it doesn’t require them to diminish their bank accounts by sponsoring the Kenyan team to the 2012 London Olympics. Engagement can be cost effective. Why, for example, can’t one organise a quiz night where guests can test their knowledge about marketing in Africa or advertising on the internet? Then this occasion can be recorded and uploaded on the firm’s website and social media channels such YouTube. How about one agency or a collection of them visit Kenyan universities and persuade students to consider a career in digital marketing? One result of this proactive action will be to delete the myth from their minds that their future is in making apps. How about lobbying the government to channel a certain percentage of its communications budget to digital marketing?
Mobile advertising in Kenya, one cog in the digital marketing wheel, grew 12% quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of 2012. If Kenya’s advertising on the internet companies don’t act swiftly to claim this territory, then Indian and Chinese agencies will swoop in and eat our nyam chom and leave local agencies to fight over the madondo leftovers, just like they have feasted on the juiciest parts of Kenya’s ICT sector.
Kenya has committed itself to beating the deadline to migrate its TV broadcasting signals from analogue to digital by three years: by the end of 2012, instead of the universally agreed upon deadline of 2015, according to the Communications Commission of Kenya.
According to the CCK, some advantages that Kenyans will enjoy because of switching to digital broadcasting include: “improved reception quality, a variety of enhanced broadcasting applications, multimedia data and entertainment services…” Even the TV ad urging those Kenyans who own analogue TVs to buy set-top boxes to enable them receive digital signals has earned itself a high recall value according to Spot On.
The CCK deserves praise for realising and rooting for digital’s adoption. But, what about brands, especially FMCG ones in Kenya? (and by extension, in the East African Community?). How come no CEO has announced that advertising on the internet will get a healthy slice of their marketing budgets by say, for lack of a better year, 2030? How come no marketing communications tender bid documents spell out that advertising on the internet will be part of the message platforms and that a potential agency of advertising should possess verifiable success in this area?
No, advertising on the internet doesn’t mean building a website, slapping products on it and a contact email beginning with ‘info@…’ It doesn’t mean opening Facebook and Twitter pages and then converting them to be your brand’s ‘special offers’ matatus. It doesn’t mean opening a YouTube channel and turning it into an archive for your TV ads.
Marketing in Africa nowadays, especially advertising in the internet, is about engagement and none is executing it better regionally and currently than Nokia, with its ‘Don’t break the beat’ campaign. Nokia would have decided to exclusively use traditional media to publicise this rapping contest, but it probably read CCK’s early July press release that said that Kenya now has 29.2 million mobile phone subscriptions. And probably its agency of advertising advised Nokia to engage with its target audience via mobile phone by requiring aspiring rappers to register on the campaign’s mobisite.
If Nokia, despite the challenges it’s been facing for the past few years now, can roll out a digital campaign in East Africa, what’s stopping regional brands with fewer challenges and more data about their consumers from doing the same? If the CCK, a parastatal, is leading the march to encourage Kenyans to hug digital TV signals by the end of 2012 instead of 2015, why aren’t regional brands reassessing their current analogue message platforms and measuring their effectiveness and returns on investment against advertising on the internet?
Over the last decade, the Kenyan government has moved some of its services and procedures online, with the Simba cargo declaration system a memorable initiative. Taking previously-manual tasks online brings many benefits to both the government and citizens: speed, measurement, retrievability, convenience, reduced paper waste, etc.
Therefore, it’s frightening to know that our government’s Web security fence is so porous that Direxer, an Indonesian student, recently hacked over 100 government websites! What’s worse is that not only did he boast about his ‘achievement,’ but the Kenya Police website had been hacked in early January, and no urgent steps were taken to stop a recurrence.
To most of us with regular Internet access, we shrugged off these invasions with, ‘As long as it wasn’t my personal data, it’s cool” reaction (the Immigration Ministry’s site was one of the hacked sites that might contain your personal details).
Unfortunately, Kenyans, local e-commerce sites and Internet marketers should be afraid, very afraid. First, we have now earned a reputation as a top hackers’ dream destination. This means they will outdo each other for bragging rights in attempts to outdo Direxer. Two potential targets are Kenyans’ Facebook and Twitter accounts because statistics show that there are over 1 million Kenyans on the former and we occupy second position in Africa in using the latter.
Second, potential e-commerce customers will hesitate to transact online because of their legit fears that local sites aren’t secure enough to protect not only their credit card information, but other data such as email and physical addresses and cell phone numbers. This fear will lay to waste the whole purpose of promoting e-commerce in Kenya and drive customers to foreign-owned e-commerce sites where they will feel their data is secure, even though the October 2011 hacking of Sony’s Playstation site proves no site is impregnable.
Third, if local e-commerce sites’ owners have to spend more of their time worrying about security (and its costs) instead of optimising their sites to attract, motivate and keep customers, then Internet marketing in Kenya will mutate into Web security products instead of beneficial actions such as Internet marketing.
Fourth, if Direxer stole sensitive data such as names and cell phone numbers, there is a huge possibility that he will auction them to identity theft merchants who will then use this information to increase the cases of mobile phone fraud schemes such as those that inform you that you have ‘won’ money in a contest, for example.
Direxer’s antics have just made Internet marketing in Kenya a 100 times tougher proposition to sell.
I spoke to Comark Maloba, chief technical officer at Pamoja Media and also the brains behind Payuka, about well, the app! Excerpts.
- When did you come up with the Payuka idea?
It was around September 2011. Two things contributed to the idea formation. First, a group of Swedish newspaper journalists came to the office to research about how African newspapers publish their content online. East Africa was their last stop after West and South Africa. Second, I observed that people pay for sports content instead of for example, politics, by SMS subscriptions and going online.
- What made you come up with the idea?
I’m a football fan and I’ve always wanted to interact with the games that are being shown on TV or placed on sites such as BBC and Goal , not just listen to the commentators. Look at it like being in the stadium itself. With those two combined I thought:
“Why not focus on an app that not only enables you to view what the scores are, but also lets you get the mood from similar people.’’
- Where do you see Payuka being mostly used?
When I first thought about the app, I thought about my immediate sphere of influence: my Facebook friends and the people I follow on Twitter. The strategy then changed to how Payuka could work both in Africa and the rest of the world.
- How did you test drive Payuka?
We have had 4 test drive sessions this month. We also test drove Payuka daily before we launched it at the Android marketplace on 13th January.
- How long did it take you from conception to completion?
The Tandaza development team worked on the app from September 2011 to actualisation in January this year.
- What challenges did you and Tandaza experience during the app development?
The first challenge was naming. We initially named it ‘kick-off,’ a name already taken. So, we had to rename the app and took into consideration that the name had to be memorable and easy to roll off the tongue. Second, because the developers lacked prior mobile apps development experience, they had to undergo best practice and standardisation lessons so that users can encounter a good user experience.
- What metrics will you use to measurePayuka’s success?
I usually use Twitter to tweet about football. Most of the 900 people I follow on Twitter are Kenyans and I like to know what they are talking about regarding football. If at least 300-400 of them download Payuka and use it weekly during live games, I will know that they are responding well to the app.
- What other app idea are you working on, or is it confidential?
There are actually 2 ideas at the moment: the first concerns social gaming and the second, data collection. Watch this space.
- When do you plan to avail Payuka to other mobile phone operating systems such as Nokia’s Symbian?
call: +254 717 514 477
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