South Africa’s first home-grown social networking site went live this month. TheMediaOnline interviewed its founder, Frans Roelofse.
It is called ‘Toeter’, and one would be forgiven for mistaking it for an Afrikaans version of Twitter. At first glance, www.toeter.com looks like a yellow – and Afrikaans – version of the global micro blogging site Twitter. But Frans Roelofse, founder of Toeter (the Afrikaans word for a car hooter), says it is not that simple. This site was developed for a specific target market and offers new and innovative ways of advertising and unique coding.
“It’s like cars. Take a BMW or Mercedes for example. They all have brakes and wheels but they are very different. Of course there are many functionalities that social media platforms share. But Toeter is a registered name and we had to buy the domain www.toeter.com from the United States.
“We started doing research into the project about three years ago and finally launched on May 2 with some of the latest technology. We had a South African company, Techsys, develop our own coding for the website which is very different from Twitter.“
He started thinking about the idea of a social networking site in the vernacular after noticing how many children listened to Afrikaans music.
“That’s when I thought, we really need a social network in Afrikaans. It”s just a lekker way to communicate and to celebrate your own language.“
“There is a worldwide trend called digital tribalism, which means users join their own ‘tribes’ on social networks, so we see a kind of splintering on social networks. That is why I believe there is a market for smaller, local social media platforms.”
The new site went live on 2 May and although Roelofse does not yet want to divulge their user numbers, it is already standing at “tens of thousands”. Their goal is to have half a million users by next year.
The site is very quick to register on and has some nifty features, such as its breaking news feature – provided by Maroela Media – called, bliksem,and has different ‘magnets’ which users can choose to follow.
Advertisers will have five or six different ways of advertising their services on the website.
Toeter.com is an independent company with Roelofse as the main shareholder and although it has a content sharing agreement with Maroela Media, it is not aligned to any specific media group.
He is at pains to make it clear this is not a platform for rightwing Afrikaners. Racism will not be tolerated. The site has a function which monitors comments and any racist comments will be removed immediately.
“This is for the new open-minded generation. The site is definitely not there to promote some or other cause. It is for people to communicate in the language of their heart,” says Roelofse.
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