BY MARTIN MULI Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Kenya last month undoubtedly cemented Kenya’s position as an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) hub in the region, which for one reason or another, is a timely boost to businesses. In particular, during his maiden trip to Africa, the only other country he visited was Nigeria, which implies that Kenya is very much like a “hotbed” of business travelers. According to media reports, Zuckerberg who visited the Nairobi ICT incubation centre, iHub, was in the country to meet entrepreneurs and developers, and learn more about our mobile money transfer innovation, M-Pesa, which largely remains a global success. Kenya has made many strides in ICT, and social media in particular. It was not out of the blues that the billionaire who made his fortunes from inventing Facebook and subsequent acquisitions of Instagram and Whatsapp picked the country, and made it part of his itinerary. Growing love of social media has not just changed the way we communicate – it is changing the way we do business, the way we are governed, and the way we live in society. And it is evident that this transformation is happening at breakneck speed that those who dare step out of the bandwagon even for a day may in time end up lagging behind forever. Among the most popular social media platforms in Kenya are Facebook with over 5 million active users, Instagram (2 million), Twitter (1.7million), LinkedIn (I.3 million) and Snapchat, which is estimated to have about 500,000 members and still growing. It is against the backdrop of these numbers that Zuckerberg is seeing a big market as he seeks to utilize opportunities available not only in the country but also in Africa with the main aim to expand his business and transform lives. In addition, these statistics highlight the kind of power that social media can have in transforming the online community if all stakeholders continue to champion for a better society through use of the various platforms. Although social media started as a faster means of spreading news, causing disruptions to traditional news channels, it has spread to businesses beyond the news arena. Now with the current advances in technology brought about by innovations in mobile apps, social media platforms will in the near future be embedded into the banking software, giving users efficient and much easier options of opening accounts, paying rents or making investments. Already, social media has become an integral player in governance, healthcare, retail businesses by speeding up delivery of services and accountability to the public. This re-confirms why being online is a trend nowadays. Brands have realized the potential of social media in engaging with their clients. Perhaps they understand very well where the crowd is – and when they are online and active – in a bid to reach as many people as possible with their content. A time when everyone knows that the success of brands in social media engagement will only be measured based on how they have impacted lives in the society, a little creativity goes a long way. This is why the annual OLX Social Media Awards (SoMA) was launched to offer the Online community a platform to recognise and celebrate individuals and organisations who have contributed to positive changes in the society. With this year’s theme; Transforming Lives, the OLX SoMA seeks to build capacity to positively influence the society through personalities and organizations by encouraging good use of the internet to enhance online safety and above all, recognize and award the best of the best in social media. As an industry initiative, SoMA gives nominees recognition as leading players in the ICT industry and specifically in digital marketing. It also validates individuals’ and organisations’ work and influence since it is a process that involves public nomination, shortlisting by judges and voting by the community that you engage. A nominee becomes part of only 5 nominees per category in a country that has more than 6 million active social media users. Invoking the award that is won through a public vote also gives winners influence, respect and opportunity to up their rate card. They say your influence is your currency. That is why when your influence is validated amongst your peers by the community that you engage, then your brand endorsement rates have to resonate.
Writer is the director of the Kenya Social Media Awards (Olx SoMA)