Growth of Social Media in Kenya | Opportunities and Threats

By Editor
  Published 09 Oct 2012
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By Muthuri Kinyamu
In 2012 social media has gone beyond being Facebook friends and sharing funny videos to a platform with the ability to change the world. In Kenya, the Twitter community , known as #KOT (KenyansOnTwitter)is particularly active, using this social media platform for online activism (#PeremendeMovement), praising corporate brands or calling them out (#TwitterBigStick and #TwitterThumbsUp) and even rallying others to help in cases of famine (#Kenyans4Kenya and #FeedKe) or #KOTAgainstMPBonusprotest campaignled by blogger@RobertAlai,  that called for Kenyans to meet at Bata Hilton and march to parliament. A  platform such as this can be used for the good of the society – or conversely. Social media is playing an increasing role in public awareness of issues and information that was known to only a few well connected people in the past.writes Social Media professional, Muthuri Kinyamu. Social Media
Zero Costs of Bringing People Together
For the first time in history, the transaction costs of bringing people together to discuss, facilitate and implement new policy, agenda or cause are approaching zero. Previously, it would have been too costly and time-consuming to involve most citizens in a debate and decision on a public policy issue. This tremendous growth of social media in business and communication in Kenya is an opportunity for brands as well as a serious threat to the nation. Online Armies: General Elections and Social Media As we approach the March 2013 General Elections, social media will play a big role in the campaigns, elections and the transition. Politicians see votes online and not potential customers and prospects as businesses do. This means that possibly politicians or people with selfish interests to incite Kenyans and spread propaganda might misuse it. Politicians have realized that it’s no longer about just having numbers in their rallies on the ground but they too need an army online to push forward their agenda to the Kenyans online. How will they achieve this? Get bloggers and other influential people on social media and have them on their payroll. Their work could be to ‘eradicate’ other politicians or ‘promote’ them which shall be done through content creation that meets the objectives of the mheshimiwa (MP). Social Media Kenyans on the other side can be gullible at times, without much comparison we’ll read posts online full of half truths and rumours and happily share that with our friends who pass it on to their communities big or small on social media. Think about a scenario in March 2013 where everyone becomes a reporter, tabloid and a snitch! We witnessed Twitter handles that called for killing of Christians in the recent riots in Mombasa; the riots were fanned by images of the body of Aboud Rogo and other victims of the violence being shared online. In March everyone with a camera phone can capture moments happening anywhere in the country and share them with everyone online. Everyone on social media can always post content in text as it happens anywhere in the country and reach out, communicate and inform people on what’s happening where, when and how! We need to worry about this because in 2007 smses played a big role in fuelling the violence, in 2013 the danger is more potent with social media. Think of a scenario where members of community X belonging to party Y attack those of the other alliance, this will be shared online as it happens meaning members of the other group can move in to defend their people almost in real time! This is what could bring the country back to 07/08 PEV. God forbid, this should never happen again to Kenya, I am not a pessimist but we need to be prepared as a country.
Social Pro Clubs
So the above scenario inspired the SPC organizing committee to conceptualize and spearhead a sensitization campaign dubbed  “AM A SOCIALPRO” that educates people on the ethical and professional ways of engaging online as well as promote responsible use of social media for societal good. Social Pro Rather than the government threatening a few content creators with shutting down their blogs and arresting them, it should handle the people that fund them, educate and sensitize Kenyans on social media etiquette and the professional approach to social media. Social Pro educates people on the dangers of passing on content that is inflammatory, talking about the legal risks involved should one be involved in a conduct that is likely to cause, incite or spark violence and well as teaching people how to engage on social media like a SOCIALPRO!
The core objective of these clubs is to teach, educate, create awareness and impart knowledge & skills of various disciplines of social media and platforms to the university students to unlock the massive potential on social media. The faculty will also benefit from these clubs as they’ll learn how to create and share digital content in various formats with the students across various platforms as well as help them embrace new media and integrate it to teaching.
I feel that there is a need to reach out to the innovative young people especially outside Nairobi, and get them to participate in events such as (online discussions{chats}, Tweetups, networking sessions, hackathons, workshops and boot camps) and connect them both virtually and offline to key resources (people and various entities ) that’s what SocialPro clubs will do by harnessing the potential of social media. Muthuri Kinyamuis a marketer, blogger and Social-pro entrepreneur. His firm, Social Edge Africa , has thus embarked on a mission to start social media clubs dubbed the ‘SocialPro Clubs’.
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