Monday, May 16, 2011

Social Media as a Tool for Social Change Brought Me Here

Yes indeed, what am I doing so far away from home? It came out of the blue, really, I was parachuted into a seminar about socmed and social change in Nairobi at the eleventh hour. It was a meet organized by the MEDIaE research project. Also: Kenya. Like I said, I wanted to take a peek at what's cooking in the region's communications power center, maybe make some friends.

Based on what I learned, I think that the occasional pilgrimage to Nairobi as well as a regional tour whenever money and time allows is probably de rigueur for the serious EA socmedian. The seminar was very interesting- there is no way that I can capture the breadth of information that was presented. Here are some things that stood out, in no particular order:

- February 28th was a watershed moment. The "my country first" attitude is the default position in Tanzania so I didn't pay much attention at the time. Hearing about it from a Kenyan opened my eyes... I got my first hint of an idea that's going to show up in the next post.

- I can now confirm my suspicion that Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are on different planets when it comes to social media. Content, reach, quality, approach, politics, preferred forms of media- you name it, we are each walking our own paths. What unites us most is the mobile phone, I guess. We've got a lot to teach each other, but make no mistake: two very dissimilar markets.

- Speaking of mobile phones and marketing... the Nokia presentation was very interesting. Let me put it this way: if you live in EA and have a limited budget for a handset, they might just be the friend you're looking for. And no, I am not getting paid to say that, I just like EA-centric merchandize.

- Check out these numbers. Statistics are always good, and yes they can be used by people other than marketers who are trying to embed their product in your cerebral cortex. Arm yourself with knowledge.

- There was a lot of concern about policing social media content for "quality." This made me worry, actually. It's one thing to hear from your government that they support the idea of censorship, but to hear if from socmedians? Unexpected.

- Erm. I spotted a generational difference in approaches to/thinking about socmed and media in general. But age ain't nothing but a number, as one of the participants- I'll call him Mzee Poa- reminded me. It's in the attitude.

- Content producers were thin on the ground. It was interesting to hear from organizations that use social media with clear transformative agendas, but it did make me wonder. What, if any, is the value attached to free-range social media content producers? The bloggers especially, who are working in a longer form and not necessarily trying to sell you on mosquito nets, or local government meetings, or anything in particular really. Is there space for... dare I say it... simply expressing? That's a real question by the way, if you have an opinion I would love to know in the comments section.

Post-meeting networking and here I am today enjoying the iHub's fast internet connection thanks to my new buddy Daudi Were. Who has promised to send me a list of Kenyan blogs I should be reading, si ndiyo? It is a comfortable space in the way that only Web-obsessed people can create: couches, coffee, a million power outlets, suits and ties are probably banned. I am out of my depth- there's techies around doing that stuff that they do so that tech-challenged people like me can sort-of use the web. But I'm getting a bit of a notion that Bongo could use something like this...

Nairobi: it's been tight. Keep fresh, I'll be back soon I hope. Peace. TMR out.


  1. yeah, I've heard mutterings of quality control on social media here in Tz too - which is alarming. I share your concerns. People seem to be confusing the hurly burly of social media - discussion boards, twitter with serious journalism. And I can think of one platform that does so also, without making the distinctions clear. Early days.

  2. Hey Peter- thanks for that. early days indeed. the hurly burly as you call it has created opportunity of course, it's not like those of us in the business aren't aware of what we can get away with...


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