Meetups are defined as a networking or meeting of people in a local community with shared interests. Launched by Mashable Social Media Day in 2010 as a way to recognize and celebrate social media’s impact on global communication, the 3rd edition of the Kampala community comprising of users, content creators and “brand pushers”, met on 24th June 2016. Organized along the theme of “the rise of the Influencer.,” the panel comprised of notable bloggers and digital marketing practitioners.
Being my first Social Media Day meetup, I enthusiastically looked forward to attending the event and gauging the minds, ideas and drive of the “social media junkies” community as it was termed. I made some observations about my experiences, which I can only best illustrate in a bulleted format.
According to advertisement, the event was to begin at 5pm. It only begun at approximately 6:20. Let’s leave it at that.
The moderator was humorous, eloquent and quite knowledgeable of the event and the discussion topic. However, his humor exceeded the boundaries of engaging the audience and “killed” the seriousness of the event. In spite of his good moderation of the event, he did not provide the audience adequate opportunity to ask questions. Instead, he relied on personal friends as sources of questions. This could maybe have been corrected had the event started according to the stipulated time.
The social media community in Kampala is a network and not a community than it should be. This means the growth of the event is restricted to inner circle “word of mouth” awareness that limits a broader pool of knowledge and legitimacy as other social media day communities boast of. The negative impact of such a structure means that meetups become more of a social event to meet colleagues and “Twitter friends” rather than an atmosphere of concept engagement, thought provoking and idea nurturing.
The invited panel this year either didn’t do their homework or overestimated their online presence and impact. As mentioned earlier, the greater part of the main speakers were bloggers and digital marketing practitioners lest be called experts. They spoke from a pedestal of being a trend setter or market changer which is not the case. All their views and responses were textbook, which were not wrong. The failure was to baptize themselves as social media influencers in Uganda. To begin with, these panelists are most active on Twitter which means they are not influencers as they may think.
This is why.
Social media platform usage statistics place Facebook as the most used at 94.63% with Twitter at 3.98%. So if they are influencers, why are they not very active on Facebook which boasts of the largest social media community ?
Infograph representing largest social media audiences in Uganda
Follow link to access statistics
Yet again, according to social media usage statistics, the biggest influencers are the main brand names in Uganda which include media houses such as The Daily Monitor and telecommunication firms such as MTN. The most “followed” social media non-coporate individual is local and international comedian Ann Kansiime with an over 1 million member audience. This means if there is any influencer likely to cause a shift even if minor in Uganda’s social media community it is this young lady.Maybe not, but the figures speak volumes.
Graphical illustration representing most followed social media Facebook pages in Uganda
Follow link to access statistics
Moving on to Twitter, the story is almost the same, big corporate names and political leaders dominate the largest audience with the likes of media houses. Some social media users such as Andrew Mwenda and Allan Allan Kasujja who maybe unknowingly share their views on this platform, have shaped the political mindsets of many Ugandans to a point that they stand out as reliable political pundits in current affairs and “foreseers” of the political outlook of the country. Are these not the influencers. One may argue that Uganda being one of the youngest countries is “driven” by the youth. However, this is not the case. Because of lack of authentic, creative and relevant user generated content, social media which is meant to be free from the corporate entities has been hijacked in Uganda by the very organizations that influence trends as seen in the figures below.
Graphical illustration representing most followed Twitter accounts in Uganda
Figures aside, the social media “landscape” in Uganda is still young to be nurturing influencers. Rather, as is the case in of greater Africa, these platforms have largely been helpful as a efficient awareness tools whether through being use to call attention to a social, political , domestic or lifestyle campaign.
So maybe influencing for now should be redefined as awareness. Until we can develop the likes of Zimbabwean Strive Masiyawa through his “A taste of the Strive brand” , South African Garrett Cliff, Angelique Kidjo impacting through Everyday Africa, Tony Elumelu’s Africapitalism, Paul Kagame’s most engaging president on Twitter,Jason Njoku of iROKO.tv .
Then we need to redefined what we are influencing.
Getting money off your knowledge is not bad, many Ugandans sing of how they did not “study for nothing”. However, if you seek to be a real influencer, it is more about the name you build through sharing knowledge with your follower base and seeing how it changes their lives.