The list of things you can now do over a web or mobile platform is vast and continues to grow. For many, the days when a phone was for – you know – phoning people are a bygone age, a quaint and fading memory that our grandchildren will scarce believe. If you want to contact people now, you can text them, send them a photo on Snapchat, WhatsApp them, contact them about a job on Linkedin, buy their second-hand bicycle on Gumtree or – if you’re still a lover of the good ol’ voice – record a message to them and upload it to Soundcloud, Youtube, AudioBoo or any other of a thousand platforms. But as platforms multiply and different demographics pick up and then leave a particular platform, how do you know you are still reaching your target audience? It’s like following a shoal of fish – you might know where they are now, but look away for five minutes and you may have lost them.
This is a problem that many of our grantees face and it can be a real challenge. You may invest a lot of money in building and honing a particular tool to work on a specific platform, only for that platform to then close down, lose market share and become obsolete. One of our South African grantees, FunDza, is currently grappling with this issue right now. 70% of its users currently access their stories through the Mxit app and 50% of readers do so via a feature phone. The proportion of users accessing it through Android phones, however, now stands at 27% and looks set to grow. WhatsApp, meanwhile, is gaining ground with FunDza now having over 1,000 WhatsApp contacts. And finally, Soundcloud is now being used to share teaser podcasts with readers. Twelve months from now, it’s hard to know where FunDza’s readers will be – maybe they will have left WhatsApp and moved on to another platform or maybe WhatsApp will crowd out all the others. Who knows? The key for any organisation is to be vigilant and to monitor what platforms their audience is using – in this space, a little bit of time and research can be invaluable and may help organisations save money by only building for the most relevant platforms. Few organisations can hope to have a presence on every single platform, app or social media site and so prioritisation is a real skill. One of the first questions any organisation should ask itself is ‘who is my audience and where do they hang out’? Know that and your project stands a chance – get it wrong and you’ll be speaking into a digital wilderness.