To Be a Social Media Manager in Kenya: Interview with Naomi Mutua

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IMG Credit: Arigi Obiero

The rise of social networking sites has brought about a new industry where official accounts of brands need to cater to their customers, promote their products and maintain their integrity online. This is where social media managers come in. We had the pleasure of interviewing Naomi Mutua (@AkenyanGirl), who works for Oglivy Public Relations as a Social Media Manager.

Q: Tell us, who is Naomi Mutua

It really depends on the Diem and what I’m doing. By day I’m a social media manager of Ogilvy Public Relations. So mainly we work with online PR, monitoring brands and understanding how it affects their reputation.

How did you end up being a social media manager?

It was by chance really. I got into social media mainly to connect to my friends mainly on Facebook when Facebook started to talk to my friends outside the country and on Twitter to kinda give a day by day account of what I was doing when I was not living in Nairobi and it was easier to connect with people there than on Facebook actually. Soon enough, growing a presence, having managed to use social media for good, then SCANAD approached me for a job and accepted it because it was something I loved doing

I was curious about how a typical work day of a social media manager is

On my end when it comes to PR, the day starts with a review of what people have being saying, coz in PR, it is very important to listen what they say about your brand.

My day stats with analyzing my reports and sending out reports to clients and we usually do that by 7:30 am, so our days tend to start at 6:00 am. Then after that, you have your day to day operations, what have you been planning with clients, what has been implemented, what needs rejigging, what needs analyzing and what are you planning next. Having probably a lot of clients on my plate, a lot of meetings come into play, so every day I have like 2-3 meetings so I have to plan my day carefully so that my meeting time is not wasted doing other things.

Ummm…My day ends looking at the outcome of what I’ve put out on social: Are we ending the day on a good note or tomorrow do I need to put up new plans? So it is a very fluid day because sometimes you need to plug in events either during the day or late in the evening as the nature of PR events or very early in the morning when you need breakfast briefings, crisis moments…some days you can have three crisis situations at hand and somehow you have to figure it out what to fix and at what time

You also had a blog, right?

I still have a blog, I’m not a very good writer nowadays because I don’t keep up at akenyangirl.com

Do you have any role models?

Ah *lets out a long sigh* that’s tough to answer. I do have, locally yes. There are two that I look up to and work with closely. Umm.. Philip Ogola: He is very good at using social for good and just making sure that brands understand how they need to work with communities and using that to drive change. On the other hand, Stephen Musyoka AKA syoks is a good friends and uses social for influencing consumer perceptions mainly with brands and has done a good job on that and bringing social to the forefront with brands.

How do you view Kenyans on Twitter, including corporates?

The collective Kenyans on Twitter, the audience, they are very powerful and they’re a good strong voice. I love that they have found an identity and they can drive change using their voice. In as much as its less than 1% of the population, it is still an influential population and what I find out is that just like with influence in regular society without using social media, someone’s concerns will be passed onto someone else who has a platform that they can use to voice that concern. So that is how I view Kenyans on Twitter. They are simply making demands that affect them but also affect other people.

However, we can be bullies, we are known to be bullies and cyberbullying is not funny especially if you’re on the receiving end. We bully individuals and brands. Yes, you can give negative feedback but at some point, do you have to harass the other person into accepting your point of view. You can put your view politely without calling names, without insulting the other person and without making inferences to their gender, sexuality or any other person or thing. So if Kenyans could learn to basically stick to the topic without dragging someone or a brand through the mud, I think it might make us better at it, but yet again, we are a society. Society behaves by the collective thought and it is not Kenya really, other countries too have bullies on Twitter

About corporates, how do they view Kenyans on Twitter?

A lot of corporates are scared of social media and are afraid of the bullying perception. But those who understand that, once you get on Twitter, you have to go through a phase where everything that comes to your way is about customer care. It is a new channel that your customers have found to address you to and it probably has a faster response. So as a customer, I’ll ideally go to Twitter to get a faster response

So they mostly view it from a customer care perspective?

No, most of it will do it from a customer care perspective or they will have to start there so as to let the elephant out of the room. Let’s get the issues addressed and then we can move on to other campaigns. You will find the trend that the trend with corporates, that’s how they go through it.  Get introduced to social media, everybody comes there with their issues. That fact you get their issues sorted gives you back the brand love from the customer because you sorted out their issue and now they can listen to you when you talk to them about other things.

So, corporates should not be afraid of social media, it is where your customer is, whether you like it or not. In 20 years, probably people will stop discussing things on phone. It’s the youth and they are highly digital, so you might as well get in tune with where they are.

I’ve seem a trend where corporates jack a trend, is that a positive trend or should it be encouraged?

It is a positive thing to do, but having worked on digital PR for a long time, you have to be very careful of the perception when you news jack. IT just works like in traditional media. If Kenyans decide we are going to be walking to work, how do you as a car manufacturer adopt to that? Do you bash them for walking to work? Or do you find a solution to their problem. And is it appropriate for you to be in that space?

Let’s say you’re a shoe provider and people are walking to work, you’re in the right space and you will probably give them a solution to suit their needs. But if you’re an airline, why would you be discussing walking to work?

You have to find the relevance and to weigh the risk to your reputation. For instance the most popular hashtag jacking was Pole Kwa Mwirigi. Some brands merged into it very well, for example KFC. However, some didn’t get the context of the hashtag, they didn’t do their backend research to understand what was happening and were offering Bobby and Sharon a holiday, doesn’t make sense at all. So research on it first, understand why people are making that topic trend, find relevance to your brand, weigh the risk to it and then decide whether to put your content there or not. We don’t always have to do everything 

Have we reached a peak? Are there any new developments in social media marketing?

I don’t think we have reached any peak yet, umm given that maybe only about 20% of corporates are on social and given only 1% of the population is on Twitter for example. I might say only 10% are online, not necessarily on social media but online, so what happens to the other 90% of the population. Until everyone is online or every brand is online, we haven’t reached a peak.

As for new things that are happening, I think with each year, there is a new social network and once there is a new network, there is younger people joining into it so every brand has to decide: Is that the right place for them to be in? Can you apply the same strategies but give a twist on how you can place on those networks and do you really need to be there.

I think just the fact that the entire world’s population is not online, means things will still keep changing and we will probably drop some networks. Who knows how Facebook will be in 10 years, either Facebook will remain as strong or would have moved on to something else.

Do you apply the same strategies to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Yes, you can apply a similar strategy, but you have to understand how the network works, how users plug into it, you have to put out the right content and at the right time and with the right frequency and try to see how well your brand fits there. You can’t just copy paste. Like what goes on Twitter is that we have a high volume of conversation and it is always on, you know on Twitter, everyone is always talking. On Facebook, people tend to log in and out, on Instagram the same. Brands have a higher frequency of conversation and customer care requests on Twitter than any other networks.

Kenya is in a unique time, next year its elections. How will social media affect the outcomes

Yes! We will see politicians on Twitter and Facebook and they will try to sway in our loyalties. We will see a lot of supporters speaking out for their politicians, so yeah there will be a lot of noise, bullying, name calling, that is inevitable.

I’d advise politicians to be very careful what they say or put out. They need to be responsible, because what I keep saying is that if you can’t say it to their face, don’t come and say it on social media. If you can say it on the street, you can say it on social media. People need to be responsible of what they say or what they say it to and given the mood of the country at that time, things will be very volatile so we need to be very careful.

How have you seen the government use social media?

A few government agencies are excelling, I’ll pick out the department of immigration. They are very frequent, vocal and address issues. Also KRA not because they are our client but because they have embraced social media and they are actually turning to be very good at customer care.

In terms of official government positions, there is a lot of duplication of social media roles: What is PCSU? What is the Office of The President? What is Uhuru Kenyatta? What is State House? If they look at something like the American layout, Barack Obama has his official pages that is Barack Obama as a politician. There is POTUS and that is his official capacity, there is the White House and that is communication that comes from the office.

Here, it seems to be propaganda and politics on all those forums so the team at State House needs to get there, they need to get their things in order. It really frustrates me knowing that they can do better and they have the resources to do better. The distinction should be very clear. Something that comes out of those pages, it is clear this is official communication from the president. Stop solving our nation problems using hashtags.

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