Social Media: Facebook, Blogs, and Twitter
Social Media in Africa | The Great Potential of Facebook | Blog Buzz for Africa Investigates | Twitter Buzz for Africa Investigates | Social Media Strategies for Africa Investigates | Caveats

Social Media in Africa
Africa's New Generation Using Social Media to Push for Change

The power of social media in Africa should not be underestimated. Indeed, even though internet penetration remains low, internet use is centered around social media. Recent studies suggest that when Africans go online (predominantly with their mobile phones) they spend much of their time on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on). The research firm Consumer Insight, surveyed youth aged between 7 and 24 years old in peri-urban and urban areas in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and found that:
  • 35% of the target group had access to internet (Kenya leading the pack at 49% with internet access, Tanzania at 30% and Uganda at 26%).
  • Of those that had internet access, 68% of the total was online on a social network (74% in Kenya, 59% in Uganda and 34% in Tanzania)[1] .

Rhoda Gachũi, Kenyan journalist and documentary flimmaker remarked in an interview with the research team that:
"Our media are also on you tube, and from here they broadcast the repeat of the news for those who didn't manage to catch it the first time. Our media is also on facebook and twitter, where they interact with their audiences. Google Nation TV, KTN, Citizen, Daily Nation, Capital FM Kenya. These are some of our media that are online. They have websites and are also very active on youtube, facebook and twitter."

The Great Potential of Facebook


Facebook remains the most frequently visited website in Africa, with Twitter and YouTube also ranking in the most visited websites across most African countries. The number of African Facebook users now stands at an impressive 17 million[2] . In South Africa, 85.12% of internet users are on Facebook, with the total number of South Africans on Facebook reaching over 4 million and growing by nearly 800, 000 in the past months alone. Finally, it is useful to note that the 18-25 age bracket represents the lion’s share of Africa’s Facebook population[3] .
Facebook is a very powerful platform from which to reach the young, educated, urbanized youth of Africa, which is precisely one of the target groups Africa Investigates hopes to reach. The limits of Facebook in Africa are directly linked to the limits of the internet in Africa, for which penetration is still low. However, mobile phones may be changing this, as mobile web surfing is becoming the number one way Africans access the internet.

Blog Buzz for Africa Investigates

A simple Google search for Africa Investigates reveals that the blogosphere is very supportive of the documentaries. One such example is a very enthusiastic article included in a blog entitled "Africa on the blog: the voice of Africa from all over the world", a collaborative blog written by several authors of African heritage. One of the researchers on this project commented on the blogpost and exchanged with the author about how she came to hear about the series and what her motivations were in blogging about it. See the exchange below:


The fact that the blogger heard about Africa Investigates through her sister who works in the film industry shows that Africa Investigates still needs to broaden its "buzz creation" strategy. It is very interesting to note that the blogger watched the series on Youtube, suggesting Youtube, not AL-Jazeera, may be the best way to reach viewers. Finally, it is crucial to note that the blogger is based outside of Africa, which signifies the power of the diaspora in creating buzz about the series.

Twitter Buzz for Africa Investigates

At the time of writing, Africa investigates has released several episodes of the series. Al Jazeera's English Twitter account (@AjEnglish) tweets the release of each new episode. According to the Twitter analytics site Tweetreach, 50 out of 184 Tweets have created 19,818 impressions, or in other words, a total of almost 20,000 saw tweets about Africa Investigates. Most of the tweets stemmed from Al Jazeera's original posting about the series.
The accounts on the bottom right hand part of the screen are Twitter users who contributed the most to generating new impressions. The numbers to the right of the twitter handles represent the number of followers each account has.A heartening development is that tweets about Africa Investigates are reaching thought leaders and influencers in the realm of African studies, development and journalism. For example, former New York Times Bureau Chief for Africa, Howard W. French retweeted one of the Africa Investigates tweets from @AJEnglish:


Twitter is also a great place to receive feedback on programs.

However, the @AF_Investigates account could do more to engage with more users. According to the below analysis from @AF_Investigates mainly interacts with the @AJLive and @AJEnglish accounts of AlJazeera:

Mentionmapp Visual of the accounts that @AF_Investigates Interacts with

Social Media Strategies for Africa Investigates

Whilst Insight News TV actually already possesses a Facebook group page and a Twitter account, neither of these seems to be actively in use. The "news" posted on the Insight Africa Facebook page dates back from 2008, and the last "tweet" from its Twitter account was in 2009. These tools need to be revamped in order to serve as "buzz creation" instruments and need to be tailored specifically to Africa Investigates. The Twitter Account for Africa Investigates @AF_Investigates is a good start, but with only 36 followers and and 18 tweets at the time of writing, the Africa Investigates team could do more to improve its Twitter presence. With the launch of the new Africa Investigates website, there will be increased opportunities for engagement with viewers outside of the Al Jazeera and Youtube platforms. Therefore, the team makes the following recommendations:

Facebook Recommendations

  • Creating an Africa Investigates page that people can "like" and through which it can advertise the documentaries by posting links to trailers.
  • From the Africa Investigates page it should post on various relevant Facebook groups' walls, such as but not limited to: African Diaspora US African Immigrant Network, Ghana etc.
  • Africa Investigates should plan to update its page with the premiere of each new episode with links to the new episode. Links to the new episode should encourage feedback and discussion around central issues and themes that arise in each episode.
  • Through a Facebook Page, Africa Investigates can use Facebook Insightsto track key demographics of Facebook users who like their page. One can track the relative age, gender, country, and language distribution etc of the users who like the page.
  • Adding pictures of stills from episodes, pictures from journalists, etc, is a good way to keep the page colorful and engaging.
  • Integrate other social networks such as Youtube, Twitter, Flickr, and other sites to keep users engaged.
  • Uploading videos of interviews of the individual journalists could be a great way to get users to get to know Africa Investigates programs.

Twitter Recommendations

Whilst Twitter is much less used by the African public, it is still useful for Africa Investigates to have a Twitter account, and encourage the Twitter buzz that has already started.
  • Start following more accounts. A good list to start from are the journalists, thought leaders, and influencers who have already started to share Africa Investigates content on Twitter. A good list to start from can also be the list of people in the diaspora.
  • Ask Al Jazeera accounts to use the #AfricaInvestigates hashtag when tweeting about Africa Investigates
  • When possible, ask Al Jazeera to retweet content from the @AF_Investigates account.
  • Always use hashtags related to the content that the video touches on. For example, when tweeting about the gold mining industry in Ghana, use tags like #ghana, #Africa, #corruption.


Despite the incredible potential of using these social media tools to reach the African public, one must still keep in mind the following caveats:
  • Internet penetration in Africa remains low
  • Widespread illiteracy in Africa also prohibits the use of social media for a significant segment of the population. For this reason, using other media, such as radio, remains attractive.
  • Although using social media is free, maintaining an active social media presence requires quite a bit of time and patience. If possible, have an intern or a volunteer dedicate their time to distributing content.
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  1. ^
  2. ^
    André-Michel Essoungou, for Africa Renewal: "A Social Media Boom Begins in Africa"
  3. ^ Mutua, Will: "Africa Facebook Phenomenon Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa"