As the Internet becomes a key societal fabric, tech-savvy entrepreneurs are using Facebook and Instagram to market products and expand the consumer base
With smartphones in their hands, a growing number of innovative women entrepreneurs in the East African country of Tanzania are using their strong social media presence to streamline their businesses, market their products and reap profits.
As the internet now becomes the key societal fabric, at least in urban areas, tech-savvy entrepreneurs are using Facebook and Instagram to market their products and expand their consumer base.
On a typical wet Saturday morning, Kariakoo – a traditional shopping destination in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam – is a hive of activity.
However, some digitally-savvy female entrepreneurs have realized that they don’t need to be there to make a living.
A smartphone and a social media account to post pictures of the products they want to sell are all they need.
According to these entrepreneurs, all the customer has to do is open the catalog, select an item and send a message to the seller.
For Lilian Shayo, a tech-savvy entrepreneur in Mwenge, the click of a camera shutter is a good start.
She photographs shoes and clothes she bought in other countries with a professional camera and posts them on Facebook and Instagram for her customers to browse.
“It’s much easier to search on Instagram than to go from store to store looking for a product, which takes a lot of time,” she told Anadolu Agency.
Shayo has been running her storeless retail business for two years. She keeps her inventory at home and delivers it directly to consumers.
“For me, social media works well because owning a store is too expensive,” she explained.
Its customers can shop online without having to register on a website or use a credit card, which is a rare luxury for most Tanzanians.
The adoption of social media platforms has revolutionized the way women entrepreneurs run their businesses.
According to a 2021 survey by the Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship Development, almost half of consumers in Dar es Salaam are likely to spend more in the future due to a brand’s presence on social media.
“Women entrepreneurs are quickly seeing the value of social media for branding and marketing their products,” said Donatus Olomi, CEO of the Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship Development.
According to him, the use of social media as a marketing tool has created a business-friendly environment and has been a boon for female entrepreneurs who have struggled to promote their businesses.
“Women haven’t always had the easiest path to entering the field of entrepreneurship and gaining financial independence,” Olomi explained. “However, with the help of online tools, they see a ray of hope.”
In the bustling metropolis of Dar es Salaam, women who were traditionally discouraged from starting their own businesses are now creating micro-enterprises that rely on online tools.
With a population of 60 million, Tanzania has 15.15 million internet users by 2021, of which about 5.4 million are using various social media platforms.
Social media is a key tool for female entrepreneurs who take advantage of its affordability to reach their target audiences.
Entrepreneurs also use social media as a promotional tool, regularly posting and sharing photos of their products.
“They are incredibly creative. They know how to build trust and retain customers without the need for expensive advertising campaigns,” she added.
Lydia Charles, who runs local charity HerInitiative, which helps women become financially independent, believes the digital space is essential for aspiring women entrepreneurs to succeed in business.
“If you want to conquer the market as an entrepreneur, you need to have a strong social media presence,” she said.
According to her, one of the most powerful aspects of social media is the potential for relatability and personal loyalty that customers can develop for a brand.
“Your online presence starts with connecting with your friends and friends of friends in such a way that your products can start getting noticed,” she said.
Flora Magabe, well-known gospel singer and founder of Flora Bridal, saw the thousands of likes she receives every day on her Instagram page as a rare business opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
She regularly posts photos of her boutique on Instagram, leveraging her fame and large number of followers.
The use of Instagram has expanded its reach regionally. His page now has 1,500 followers.
“A lot of my customers see the products we sell on my Instagram page,” she said.
Magabe’s business was relatively small when she started three years ago, but when she started sharing pictures of the outfits she sells on her Instagram page, she attracted a lot of customers.