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#IsTheBillboardDead?

Brands are becoming more ubiquitous through social media. FORBES AFRICA compiled the top 20 brands dominating social media in Africa.

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Before that first cup of coffee and the morning newspaper; you’ve probably checked your smartphone, taken your tablet from the bedside table and logged on. More and more brands are using social media as an inexpensive marketing tool. So, which brands are leading the pack in Africa?

Our methodology considered African brands and international brands operating in Africa. They had to be present on: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Initial data from socialbakers.com—a social media and digital analytics company—was compared with howwemadeitinafrica.com and africantoptwitterusers.com. The list was compiled on November 8.

The following indicators were considered, according to a percentage ratio: Facebook likes; the number of people ‘talking about’ the brand, which was also considered as a percentage of Facebook likes; Twitter followers and tweets and the number of YouTube views and subscribers.

Facebook likes are accumulated on an ongoing basis, whereas ‘talking about’ illustrates user-engagement, over a month, without any long-term following. In short, the ‘talking about’ as a percentage of Facebook likes category resolved the temporal discrepancy.

In 2011, Portland Communications and Tweetminster analyzed more than 11.5 million geo-located tweets, unearthing that Africa’s wealthiest countries dominate social media. South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco make up the top five in order of Twitter activity.

FORBES AFRICA found that although South Africa dominates Twitter activity; Northern Africa is the continental leader, in terms of brands with the greatest social media footprint. Seven of the top 20 brands are located in Egypt; four are located in South Africa and Morocco; three in West Africa and one in both Algeria and Kenya.

Social media was used extensively during the Arab Spring uprising, which erupted in December 2010. The fact that social media usage remains high in Egypt and Morocco and could be the lasting legacy of this historic moment in world and online history.

The telecommunications sector—be they manufacturers or service providers—has latched onto the internet capabilities of most mobile devices; 57% of tweets from Africa, are sent from a mobile phone, according to Portland Communications.

“…Telecommunications are intricately connected to the daily life experience of today’s consumer. Almost everything we do is supplemented by our mobile phones in some way… For this reason, consumers are always looking to get the best value from their telecommunications providers and they’re interested in what these companies have to say,” says Catherine Scott, social media manager at Quirk.

Twelve of the brands on the list were from the telecommunications sector; two from media and finance; one from retail and the food and beverage sector. Surprisingly, the fourth leading brand is a non-governmental organization—One Campaign, which works towards eliminating poverty in Africa.

The question remains: is customer engagement with these brands based on compelling content; mass-media marketing or the opportunity to voice discontent?

The brand with the highest number of Facebook likes and user-engagement by means of the ‘talking about’ category was Vodafone Egypt with 2,071,890 and 153,115 respectively. It also has the highest ‘talking about as a percentage of Facebook likes’ ranking, at 49%. Al-masry Al-youm, an Egyptian media channel, has the highest number of Twitter followers—979,455; yet Safaricom of Kenya had the greatest number of tweets—148,208. Tahrir Channel, of Egypt, has the greatest number of YouTube subscribers (97,782) and views (25,527,629).

Many a dinner table may speculate if social media can kill the mainstream media advertising star; the list indicates such a possibility.

Is the success of social media due to the vision of early adopters; its capability to mobilize social causes or the work of smart agencies, be they advertising or strategic? Could social media mean the death of the billboard? Take a look at the numbers.

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