How African entrepreneurs are using the Internet to reach a global audience

With more and more African companies taking their business online, the race is now on to conquer new markets - but as only 6% of individual Africans are online, the market within the continent itself is limited. Reaching out to connect with customers globally is the smart strategy for businesses looking to expand and really fulfill their potential. Globally, customers are also willing to pay more and are more willing to make quick decisions. So what do you need to know to reach them?

Understanding global markets

Before you can expect to start selling in a foreign market, you’ll need to understand it first. This means not only studying economic data but also getting a feel for a country culturally. Social media is a great tool for doing this, allowing you to observe the way potential customers in your sector talk to each other regarding purchases. You can also use it to acquire business contacts in the areas where you hope to expand, so that you'll have somebody to go to with your questions. Remember that every national market is different, so take your time in selecting those that are the best fit for your business.

Mobile marketing

One big difference between different international markets is the number of people using mobile devices. As this is a growing trend, it’s really essential to have a mobile-friendly website. This also increases the importance of search engine optimization (SEO), because if you’re not ranked high on
SERP in any given search, mobile users are not going to visit your site.

Social media

Effective use of social media is not only important for reaching a mass audience, it’s also important because of the way it lets you engage directly with prospective customers. This means you can talk to them in the personal, friendly manner of a traditional shopkeeper, not like an aloof and inhuman corporation. Much like the strategy that proved so successful for the Jubilee Alliance in last year’s Kenyan election, this builds loyalty and helps to generate good word of mouth publicity. Social networks like Facebook are the best way to reach customers in most countries, but Twitter too has a good degree of international penetration.

Getting involved

One of the most effective ways to help your business grow internationally is by getting involved in community and social initiatives that raise your personal profile, as well as by engaging with others who will speak well of you and your business as their own careers take off. If you look at the bio of Tunde Folawiyo, for instance, you will see how his work to help build the next generation of young African leaders has helped him to increase his visibility and make an impression on major international players.

Breaking into global markets can be tough if you don’t have the right connections, so make an effort to use social networking personally wherever you can, both internationally and within Africa. As the likes of Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu and Farai Gundan have shown, getting to know the right people can give you the leverage you need to get your business noticed worldwide.
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