Welcome back to our conversation on virtual private networks and Nigerian businesses. Where did we stop? Ah, yes, the perks of using a VPN. You may be asking – where does the Nigerian situation come in? An IP address indicates where a device is located while it is used for online activity. Meanwhile, certain sites and platforms bar users from certain countries from accessing some or all of their content. This is common with streaming services that cater to specific locations.
Internet service providers can do this as well. To ban Twitter, the Nigerian government instructed ISPs to deny access to the app on their servers. When you use a VPN, you can access the internet from a server located in another country. This way, your IP address is changed to make it seem like you are using Twitter from a permissible location. This feature is the most beneficial to today’s Nigerians. VPNs are granting the same Twitter access they would have in other countries. This has been important, especially to brands who conduct their businesses online. The result of the Twitter ban has been a marked decline in engagements and sales.
Small and medium enterprises, especially, leverage social media to market their products and serve their customers. Meanwhile, SMEs are vital to the growth of the economy, providing as much as 60-70% of jobs. Numbering about 117.4 million, SMEs in Nigeria contribute 48% of national GDP, account for 96% of businesses, and 84% of employment.
According to Statista, 28 million Nigeria used social media in 2020 alone. 61.4% of these have active Twitter handles. TechCabal put the number of Nigerian users at 39 million Nigerians. In June we noted Paradigm Initiative’s research which put the cost of suspending Twitter operations in Nigeria at $250,600 per hour. That is money that should be going to real, Nigerian pockets. So what if your brand has to use Twitter? What if you #KeepItOn as a matter of livelihood? Well, consider the perks and dangers we have listed above and decide for yourself. Reader’s discretion is advised. However, you must also consider the interesting effects of using a VPN on your marketing efforts.
In this insightful article on the effect of the Twitter ban, TecCabal interviewed a growth marketer and digital consultant who explained that the ban will affect advertising spend and results across other digital marketing channels because Nigerian Twitter users are using VPNs will also have their locations skewed across every other app. “If your most valuable audience is in another country that you do not know, then how can you reach them?” he said. This encapsulates the present challenge.
Data are the lifeblood of any digital marketing campaign. Without accurate geographic data, it is difficult for companies to determine their brand’s impact on different regions. VPNs affect the ability of brands to personalize content. It skews important data. For instance, a visit to your site that is tracked as international traffic may be coming from a person who is down the road!
When an internet user is logged into Google, most of the ads and search results they receive will be catered to the location set in the account. Now, when they are connected to a VPN, they are delivered results from the location of the VPN to which they are located, not their actual location. A Nigerian, surfing the internet from a VPN in Switzerland, will receive ads directed at the Swiss.
VPNs have always had interesting implications for the brands behind the ads. If your ads are enticing enough, you will still get clicks. The problem is that these engagements could be coming from anywhere in the world, as opposed to the geographically defined regions you set up in your ad campaign. This potentially means more of your budget will be wasted on unqualified clicks.
Today, if your ads are targeted at Nigerians, you may be reaching far fewer “Nigerians” than you have ever reached. This is because a good number of Nigerians are accessing the internet from diverse virtual locations.
Yet, there are also interesting advantages of using a VPN for digital marketing. Asides from the many we listed before (security and anonymity), VPNs can help you reach a target market on social media and boost your SEO. If you wish to target the audience in some other country, you can use a VPN service to simply access a server in that region. You can gather data – the interests and preferences of that geographical audience, and then create your social media marketing strategy accordingly.
Suppose your business is in Nigeria, but you want to target the Canadian market, how would you gain a better understanding of what your potential audience is expecting? If you use a VPN, you can connect to a server situated in Canada and make Google and social media platforms believe that you are actually in Canada. This way, your Google search results would be customized. You may then adjust your marketing strategies to the needs of your potential customers. You can also monitor how your ads are being served in Canada.
Proper use of a VPN can give you a realistic view of your competitors and show you your competitive advantage. It will help you keep track of your competitor’s activities without letting them know. Since your real IP address will be masked, you can visit your competitor’s websites freely. You can skim through their websites, blogs, ads, or keywords without them knowing the origin of the web traffic.
Remember that you may only enjoy these benefits if you are using a paid subscription on a good VPN. Everything else can be counterproductive. A good VPN should hide your IP address. It should prevent you from leaving traces – in form of internet history, search history, and cookies. A strong VPN also ensures two-factor authentication. And when a VPN connection is suddenly interrupted, instead of your secure connection being interrupted, a good VPN can detect this sudden downtime and terminate preselected programs, reducing the likelihood that data is compromised.
In a 2019 article, a Forbes contributor recommended NordVPN, ProtonVPN, and ExpressVPN. Recently, Nigeria’s TechCabal recommended ExpressVPN, NordVPN, ProtonVPN, TunnelBear, WindscribeVPN, IPVanish, CyberGhost, Psiphon, SurfShark, and PrivateVPN.