Just yesterday, a friend in the United Kingdom asked me where he could buy a nice Kente online. Kente is a traditional hand-made cotton cloth reserved for special occasions and usually worn by dignitaries in Ghana (picture of me in Kente is given in my profile here). Within a blink of an eye, I made a page on Facebook for him. It was so easy because I already had a friend, Kwame, who was into that business. Kwame’s story exemplifies the great impact of social networking sites on business in Ghana and how they can make anybody do business irrespective of her/his background, education or creed.
Kwame has never been to school but already has a 5-bedroom house and a 4x4 vehicle to his name at the age of 21. Kwame had sent me a DM on Facebook asking if I would be interested in purchasing a nice Kente cloth woven by himself. We got chatting and shifted the conversation to WhatsApp where he could easily send several samples of his works.
The chats became personal on WhatsApp because I was interested in knowing how an illiterate person could be doing a booming business online and locate executives to sell his products to. He mostly called on WhatsApp because he found it far cheaper even if we spoke for an hour. Kwame opened up to me and told me the whole truth about his business. He had no formal education; he is not the weaver of the Kente cloth and in fact, doesn’t play any role in the production of the clothes. All he does is to go to the Arts Centre in Accra where most weavers of Kente come to sell their goods to the public, especially to people from the diaspora.
Kwame takes pictures of all the beautiful Kente clothes you can ever get on the market and posts them on the internet for sale. He had gotten his brother to set up Facebook and Instagram pages where he posts every new Kente design on the market as well as postings of his and other friends’ WhatsApp statuses. On a daily basis, Kwame scans through profiles of people on Facebook and when he finds you a potential buyer of his Kente, he contacts you politely in your DM. After you have chosen, paid for the cloth and delivery, he dashes to the Arts Centre to buy, package and send to you. Kwame has been doing this business for the past two years and he is on his way to becoming rich in a business where he hardly plays any part in production. He spends close to nothing on production or even delivery but makes more money than the original producers of the Kente cloth.
Social networks are a set of online-based tools that allow users generate material and share it with others and are built on online technology an ideological underpinning (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010). Research by Thackeray et al. (2008) discovered that SNS are more successful than traditional marketing strategies in influencing users' opinions and behaviour. Chaffey (2018) also found that there are over four billion internet users now, with over 3 billion of them using social media; and those who understand how to leverage social networking sites to drive traffic to their company sites become successful. Several studies show that embracing Social Networking help businesses expand because it is accessible to both skilled and unskilled individuals and simple to use.
I did not find any research data on how businesses in Ghana have been impacted by the use of SNS but I can talk about how SNS has impacted myself and my businesses. I have used Facebook and LinkedIn on many occasions to reach potential job-seekers while advertising on Instagram and WhatsApp statuses. Social Networking sites provide quick and low-cost communication and give information to customers even before they move to the facility for the service needed, thereby reducing uncertainty and building close relationships with customers.
I have bought many things online both from abroad and local online shops. I have bought many things on Amazon for my business including CCTV security systems and a Toyota Fortuner Vehicle on a UAE site. For many years now, I buy almost all my consumables on local online shops because my schedules are too tight to allow me to roam in a supermarket.
At the peak of COVID-19, people reached our businesses mostly through networking sites and the majority of calls that came through asking for directions were from social networking sites like Google Business. The statistics for one of the businesses is as shown in the figure below:
Our businesses increased productivity as a result of using social networking sites as a marketing strategy equipped to access a larger clientele on the Internet. In the long term, this led to a rise in the number of prospective clients and consequently, an increase in Return on Investment (ROI). SNS also expanded the company's knowledge base, eliminated months of delayed and costly production by obtaining real-time data and feedback, and gave the information needed to understand customer dynamics and motives, which can be utilised to enhance and personalise content for the launch of meaningful campaigns.
I have not come across any negative effect of SNS on businesses in Ghana yet and the impact of social networking sites on my business that I as well as many others I have encountered, cannot be enumerated in one write up but I can confidently say without any reservation that it has been a great positive impact!
Kaplan, A.M. and Haenlein, M., 2010. Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business horizons, 53(1), pp.59-68.
Thackeray, R., Neiger, B.L., Hanson, C.L. and McKenzie, J.F., 2008. Enhancing promotional strategies within social marketing programs: use of Web 2.0 social media. Health promotion practice, 9(4), pp.338-343.
Paull, C.K., Talling, P.J., Maier, K.L., Parsons, D., Xu, J., Caress, D.W., Gwiazda, R., Lundsten, E.M., Anderson, K., Barry, J.P. and Chaffey, M., 2018. Powerful turbidity currents driven by dense basal layers. Nature communications, 9(1), pp.1-9.