Africa is now officially the world’s fastest growing continent. With the Internet just arriving at almost 1 billion people on the continent, technology, and especially mobile technology has huge potential to help solve social problems, amplify the voice of marginalised communities and lower the barriers to public participation in the region.

One such innovation is South African technology start-up, 2go. A social network that gives people a cheap, easy way to chat and socialise using their mobile phones, 2go enriches the lives of millions every day through affordable, entertaining communications.

2go launched in Nigeria in 2009 and has since grown organically to become the largest mobile social network in the country – even bigger than Facebook.

Its service is built on Java, which solves Africa’s need for lightweight, nimble apps that can often run on feature phones. Finding that Nigerians wanted free messages to get past the mobile operator network billings, 2go started targeting the biggest universities, setting up special chatrooms that appealed to students. Today, Nigeria accounts for 90% of 2go’s 10 million active users – followed by South Africa and Kenya.

But, 2go has never shared the story of its origins, growth, or technology and service edge with the market – much less with Nigerians.

In 2012, we rolled out a PR plan to tell local media how South African technology is helping solve Africa’s connectivity challenges. At the same time, we took the story of 2go’s origins and growth to Nigerian media and bloggers.

To reach Nigerians, we conducted extensive research into the prominent African technology media – African publications edited in the UK, Pan-African business media and foreign correspondents, and media based in Nigeria and West Africa.

In the process we learned some interesting things:

  • There are a number of English language newspapers and business magazines, but reaching the average consumer will require translation.
  • Contacting traditional and broadcast media is quite difficult without phoning, as byline and email details are not readily available online.
  • Coverage in traditional media is almost impossible to track unless you’re working with a newswire service.
  • Social media is very prominent and many newspapers have more contact details on their Facebook profiles than on their official websites.
  • Nigeria has a vibrant blogger community that is pretty open to the news that’s of relevance to them on a national or Pan-African scale.

We also investigated newswire services to amplify 2go’s reach with a traditional press. At 650 Euro per article of 400 words, per country, it’s just too expensive for most companies – and if you go for a cheaper service, their reach isn’t that great. Another drawback is that this is a repeating cost, as you’re not able to build up a database of media contacts because the details are never shared.

Focusing on publications with an online presence and bloggers, the positive results of 2go’s first Nigerian PR marked exciting forays into a substantial new territory for brand awareness and commercial returns.

The 2go launch release secured 26 clippings in a good mix of local, African and international coverage. Given how well-known and loved the 2go brand is in Nigeria, 20% of our new journalists and blogger contacts proactively approached us for interviews, extra information and photos.

As long as you have a good, locally relevant story (preferably from a company with on the ground representation in Nigeria), there’s an opportunity for you here.

We will continue to invest in building relationships with Nigerian journalists and bloggers for our clients’ benefit (at a fraction of the cost of newswire services). Developing personal relationships over time is what will deliver the results.

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