Key Insights From the Social Media Snapshot held On Social Media Day Kenya

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Today is Social Media Day, the 6th iteration of its kind started by the popular website Mashable that seeks to celebrate the continuous evolution of social media all over the world. Kenya is one of the countries that loyally follows this tradition where a number of events will be happening in Nairobi and one of the sessions that was held today was at The Foundry for the Social Media Snapshot.

Key speakers included Mark Kaigwa (From Nendo), Brian Mungei (from Safaricom), Xtiandela (a Twitter user in Kenya) and Jeff Koinange (TV personality) who conducted the taped event. The Twitter hashtag for the event was #SMDayKE

The first discussion featured Mark Kaigwa, where they discussed with Jeff about the history of Social media use in Kenya. Mark talked about the earliest usage of social media by Kenyans and specifically highlighted the first Kenyan on Twitter (@kamuiri) registered his account on 2007. He also talked about how 2010 was a definite year for Kenyans on Twitter where we trended #Makmende, a superhero character which was resurrected thanks to a video by a local band (@justaband). It was the first local trend that trended worldwide at the time. Kenyans on Twitter also transitioned to “combating” other countries, notably Nigeria & South Africa and also media giants like CNN with the (#SomeoneTellCNN) hashtag where the media company misreported events that were happening in the country.

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There was a break and later on and Brian Mungei from Safaricom joined Jeff and Mark into the discussion. Jeff asked about the social media responsibility of Safaricom where Mungei responded by saying that social media is bigger than the company and they own up to their mistakes because the internet never forgets. He further on iterated that they started serving their customers online from February 2011 and have employed over 1000 people in customer care and a sizable number of these people form the social care (those that attend to customer queries on Facebook and Twitter). Mark also pointed how Safaricom also plays a role in informing the public to join certain social networks, like currently they tweet to their followers to join Instagram.

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The third session included Xtiandela, a Twitter user and Ahmed Salim, a digital strategist and proprietor at Qube Limited. Ahmed pointed out that as early as 2012, it was hard to convince corporates to use social media for marketing purposes. Xtiandela was asked by Jeff if he makes a living and he attested to that. He was quick to point out that the number of followers does not entirely equate to influence and since he is synonymous with creating hashtags, he said the “art” of coming up with hashtags is not as easy as it looks. Ahmed later on article shown that initially people thought social media was a cheaper alternative in marketing, which is wrong because you actually need a team and a strategy in place to carry the initiative successfully. He also pointed out that social media can help a company develop future strategies by analyzing the data received from the engagement between them and social media users.

Jeff asked a question about how there is a trend where politicians are using social media. Ahmed responded by saying how adoption of social media in the country is increasing and this is why politicians have seen the need to be online so as to engage the growing number of voters online.

Finally, Jeff asked if there will be any change in the Kenyan social media scene. Xtiandela responded to that question by saying that new things like new social networks will come up and to remain relevant in his case, you have to adapt and use them.  He also pointed out that in the next 10 years, Africa will have a significant number of social media users. The issue of the focus on Africa in the social media landscape made Ahmed comment about the recent development of Facebook opening an office in South Africa and Google already has offices in Nairobi and in Johannesburg.

In summary, the key insights that were generated from the talk were:

  1. The history of social media use in the country.
  2. The increased use of social media use by corporates and politicians for serving customers and connecting with potential voters
  3. Some people are making a living from social media, case in point Xtiandela
  4. Social media has a bright future in Africa due to the rapid uptake and popular social networks like Facebook are opening offices in the continent
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