I spent my Friday at the 2016 New Media Conference looking for interesting stories and ideas. From the keynote address by Lola Masha, country manager of OLX Nigeria, to the panel sessions, there are three important things I learned from the conference.
The three important lessons I learned at the New Media Conference 2016
Before OLX came to Nigeria in 2013, it was already established in many European and Asian countries. At the beginning, it tried to replicate the strategies that worked in foreign markets in Nigeria. That didn’t turn out great. But, as Lola Masha said, it was a good learning experience for the company – she joined a year after it started the business here. That early assumption that what worked in Rome would work in Babylon gave OLX Nigeria the opportunity to ‘fail fast’ and learn from its mistake.
Nigerians are only just beginning to warm up to the idea of online transactions, but even at that, many people still don’t buy the idea. OLX Nigeria saw this as a problem and decided to review its strategy and adapt it to fit the Nigerian market. It adopted the do-it-for-me model. OLX Nigeria hired young Nigerians, trained them in sales, brand communication, marketing, etc. The trainees, whom the company refers to as ‘OLX champs’, were to serve as the face of the company. They literally connect buyers and sellers.
The lesson to learn from this is that you shouldn’t be afraid or proud to question your failure in a new market and move with speed to get it out of the way. If you gleaned your business idea or model from a foreign country, that’s fine, but you must consider the possibility that you need to tweak it to fit the new market you’re going into. That requires you to first understand the market and make decisions based on your understanding of it.
How to win on social media
One of the panelists said, “The people who will win at social media are those who are genuinely listening and not just trying to put out an image.”
Listening on social media is one of the steps to acquiring new customers through social media so brands need to learn how to do it right. Most of the time, companies’ social media strategies are built on what they think their audience wants to hear, not what their audience is looking for. What they don’t understand is, when you build your social media strategy around what people already want, you are more likely to succeed than when you build a strategy based on what you think people want. And listening on social media is the way to find out what people want.
The Nigerian government and the new media space
Thankfully, the Senate didn’t pass social media bill because that thing gave us quite a scare. One thing we can learn from this episode is that the Nigerian government does not understand the way new media work. In fact, they don’t understand how tech innovation works. So, we should take up the responsibility of helping them understand.
One of the panelists talked about the creation of lobby groups in Nigeria and employing the help of influential Nigerians to protect the interests of the people. In more advanced countries, lobby groups are created and hired by private organisations to influence government policies. This, like any other thing, has its good and bad sides.
If we look at the good side, we will see that it is possible for us to get together, form lobby groups that can help influence government policies for the good of the people. Of course, this is easier said than done. It’s not impossible for this lobby group to turn its back on the people it ought to represent. Still, I think it is an idea we should consider. Because it’s that or we continue to sit on our arses as our government tries to regulate drones through difficult measures.
Were you at the New Media Conference on Friday? What are some of the things you learned? Share them with me.
Jan. 18: Bonus Built in Africa episode: Town Hall meeting with Peter Salovey, President of Yale University
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