If Social Media Is So BIG, Why Don’t We Have More Of Our Own? Open letter to digital creatives.

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 Open letter to digital creatives:

Social networking has grown in leaps and bounds and everyone is building them except us South Africans.

Okay let me not exaggerate – we do have a couple,  but not enough to justify worldwide competition. We have the brains , so where are the balls?

Did you know that Indonesia’s version of Facebook is bigger than actual Facebook in Indonesia? Why is this?

Because someone has realised that different cultures require different communication methods. China has mastered the art of becoming a social media copy cat. Their strategy? Copy first, innovate later. Although they have banned everything in the past (most recently LinkedIn, but they are back online now apparently) they have kept their booming bootleg social networks. Basically, what you’ll find in the U.S you’ll find in China. This includes Tumblr, Instagram and Foursquare. The sites are extremely successful too. For example, Renren (Facebook) and Sina Weibo  have 160- and 50-million users, respectively.

The Groupon story is quite hectic. Some guys in China actually registered the name Groupon and created an identical website. When the real Groupon entered the Chinese market, it had to register under a new name, Gaopeng. Although this is dodgy, it’s still very ambitious. These guys are seeing an opportunity and profiting hugely. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying by duplicating a website – now that would be lame and you’ll be sued like Baidu was by the Chinese version of Wikipedia. What I’m saying is that we need to have our own networks.

Their networks are in their languages and are relevant. This is truly a potential advertiser’s wet dream. Big networks are good, but they are also noisy and full of clutter. Rising above this is insanely difficult. Beneficial, but difficult.

In all fairness, there are social networks on our shores, namely Squeezeback.co.za and Heitsa.com. Squeezeback.co.za is actually quite exciting. It’s a combination of LinkedIn, a press office and a bookmarking platform. I love the fact that the people involved are all in the media industry. I connect with people who I can actually meet in real life. I believe in networking, but I prefer networking that will bear fruit. The only problem with Squeezeback is that it has been in beta testing for so long my clothes are getting out of fashion.  There are so many things that need to be tweaked, it gets annoying. Haitsa.co.za has awesome features but it only has about 5 followers so it’s not worth writing about yet. But I do see a bright future for them.

What else is there?

I’m not sure that I’ve actually heard of anything else. (I don’t count the outoilet trash site as a social network ): So, this is a challenge for all of our developers, web designers, and social media specialists to build something relevant. How cool would it be to have a Zulu version of Facebook, or an Afrikaans bookmarking platform? Imagine how this would help advertisers to zone in to their target market.

This is a challenge to all budding creatives out there to create a local social network. Or do you think I’m being overly-ambitious?

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