Kenya's Top Social-Networking Site Sets Up Marketing Team

Kenya Social Network, the country's top social-networking site, has set up a marketing team after receiving impressive inquiries from top companies wishing to advertise on the site.

"The site was started by a team of volunteers and has grown to 4 million hits a month, which has attracted the corporate advertisers," said founder James Ayugi. "Being volunteers, we were receiving a big number of interests, which motivated us to set up a marketing team."

Kenya Social Network already has a free classified section and a market application section, where people can share experiences about various products and services. The marketing team is now planning to offer company banners at a cost of 200,000 Kenyan shillings (US$2,780) per month and other structured adverts to attract small and medium-size enterprises.

The site, targeting Kenyans between the ages of 21 and 35, was inspired by the success of international sites like Yahoo Mail and Facebook, and the desire to provide a product to cater to the unique needs of Kenyans, Ayugi noted.

"Many Kenyans love to discuss politics; Kenya Social Network is a place for them to shape policy and be heard," he said. "Our desire is to make the site a place where policy makers visit and gauge the people's opinion."

Plans are also in the works to provide more market applications, such as a job-search tool and auctions for cars and household goods, Ayugi revealed.

While the Web site claims to promote local content, it has purchased all major domains except .ke, and the site is hosted abroad.

Ayugi reserved the .com and .net domains but failed to reserve .ke, he said, because the local domain is more expensive, costing 2,000 shillings compared to 600 shillings charged abroad for domains.

"Hosting abroad is easier, because one can get support even at midnight, and you can be assured there will be no power blackout that could cause the site to go down," he explained. "I will only host sites in Kenya once I am assured of technical support and that the site will not be affected by blackouts."

Low bandwidth and spammers also serve as challenges for the site's administration, Ayugi said.

"We monitor all comments by non-Kenyans, just in case they are spammers," he said. "The users also have an opportunity to report to the administrator in case there are any spam messages."

Many Kenyans are unable to visit the site due to bandwidth restrictions, but Ayugi argued that the arrival of the submarine fiber-optic cable will soon allow users to spend more time networking online.

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