Monday, 16 December 2013

‘Things’ I Hope to See in Kenya: 14 Social Media Predictions for 2014

  1. Let 2014 to be the year we focus on how to be social not how to do social    not about the management, reporting and analytic tools and all that makes us sound smart?
  2. I know guys who want to know more about social but not from trends published abroad, not from gurus blogging from the west, Europe or India, not from sponsored reports, not from shady stats that make beautiful info graphics but from people locally who understand a thing or two about social media. Let’s have more of meetups, talks and mini conferences to share knowledge and insights.
  3. I hope to see reports published here with local stats, insights and recent data in 2014. I am not a big fan of these popular international reports and social media trends that don’t seem to make much sense here.
  4. Am also optimistic there could be a social media major in one local University    maybe a few units on new media in some MBA course. There’s need to address the talent shortage & get some form of credentials to this industry.
  5. In 2014 can we also form a professional body for social media people to add on to that Facebook group, maybe offer certified training to its members, have events? Anyone?
  6. Can the leading digital agencies blog more often? Share their lessons? Tricks & big hacks? What ideas worked and for who and why? What failed and the lessons? Are we ready for that kind of transparency? Are we there yet? Let’s just not brag about awards we’ve won for our work and showcase the agency culture!
  7. 2014 will be the year when we see more integrated marketing programs & well executed campaigns in Kenya combining social, mobile, traditional media and experiential.
  8. The coming year we’ll witness brands out of social media puberty hit their social maturity; they’ll be more specific about where they allocate budgets within social media     use fewer channels, do less but bigger campaigns and more targeted social media efforts.
  9. How about an end to the #SomeoneTellXYZ bullshit?
  10. I foresee multinationals setting up regional hybrid social media command centers, recruit more in-house social media guys.
  11. To pause and reflect on where this social media thing is heading      the impact & threats and what else we can add to it.
  12. Let this coming year be the year we tweet things we’d like to read, to publish blogs we’d love to read and share with friends, to share stuff we’d find helpful     It’s that simple.
  13. Can brands post less to listen more and respond timely?    Taking a break from social media over the weekend or holiday is unacceptable in 2014. Brands also need to start ‘talking with’ consumers not ‘talking at’.
  14. Can the president also start engaging netizens? A bit of replies on your tweets, comments on our questions?Make the presidency a lil bit more social?

Social Media in Kenya and why you don’t have to do social in 2014

If you are reading this probably you’re on MKZ—by default Facebook allows you to add good looking people you may know so you’ve probably hit the 5K limit     well done. Depending on the friends you have your newsfeed could be full of baby photos or some scary stuff    or the good. I assume you’ve also been to YouTube in 2013, seen videos buffer due to your slow connection and your education, life and professional credentials are well laid out on LinkedIn. Maybe you’ve heard about Pinterest but you still don’t get the pin –what- you’re- interested in on boards-- you create thing. Being the social ninja you are am sure you’ve clicked on a link that redirected you to something called SlideShare, Tumblr, this blog, wordpress, Flickr, Vimeo and Google always wants you to +1 pals to your circles on an island called Google + among other places you’ve ended up on the internet.

You’ve been to a few events      mingled, seen bigwigs live tweet using #tags—conference brag     post the nice food you ate     the vintage clothes they wore     upload selfies with the beautiful, good looking & at times famous people on Instagram. And by the way if you check into some place often you can become a mayor on something called Foursquare    it’s very popular with people who visit, pass by or think about nice places. I don’t use it      I love the indoors.

And there’s Whatsapp. My friends say it’s addictive, very popular with boys because girls are on it        its top of my New Year wish list J

And it’s not going to get any better in 2014 because we’ve become slaves to our gadgets. We walk down the streets heads down, wired     earphones on    humming, staring into glowing screens while the world passes by doing the same. And yet we’re convinced that we are more connected to each other than ever before.

Thanks to all that some of us must carry chargers almost everywhere to stay plugged in      never to miss out on anything     WTH.

In 2013 Samsung introduced some range of devices designed for humans       your life’s companion      WTF! Mmh does that make owners of older Samsung models aliens?

Social media is addictive, a lot more like sex; actually harder to resist than sex; sadly brands on the other end are still behaving like horny teenagers. 2013 was the year Kenya’s social media hit puberty    there’s was lot to try out, see how it works, explore and watch as it grows     mistakes were made, hearts were broken, expectations weren’t met    guys were unhappy but vowed to try again! Above all people still talk about social networking, everyone wants to get it right    some are surprised that after all it wasn’t their silver bullet.

In 2013 businesses are still struggling to get your attention the proper way, reach, engage and interact with you in a conversation. Most of them want to achieve that through ads, give aways, offers, promos, great content in context & cool sticky ideas or through a customer service team that keyboard ninjas can harass when there’s nothing else to do.

This was also the year popular platforms explored better ways of unlocking ads on mobile by making them engaging    less annoying, more targeted….but how exactly is Facebook’s plan on their video ads by the way? Would you play one? Isn’t serving ads on Twitter a bit like airing an ad in the middle of a phone conversation?  Seen those YT ads? Those few seconds before “Skip the Ad”    seem like eternity    somehow these platforms weren’t built to display ads.

If you work in marketing, PR, Comms, as the influencer in residence at that agency or freelance as a social media strategist    whatever those people do    you’ve probably done presentations in 2013 with stats and case studies on why social media is the biggest shift after the agrarian and industrial revolution. You’ve also shared great social ideas with your boss; got a go ahead but the finance guys screwed you on the budget    and the accountant asked for a receipt for the Facebook ads J.  Stay focused 2014 will be your big year.

Thanks to you [the social media guy] your boss now believes in social and understands what it is & how it works. The agencies now have to pitch in with hard figures, tight workable ideas with some + ROI & original concepts because you’ve been to all corners of the internet to tell what they copied or stolen. Your understanding of all put an end to the colourful but confusing reports full of buzzwords and vanity metrics from agencies, you’ve also ensured they do real work and get paid reasonable fees          for that excellent job you now sit at the table of men when anything digital, social, mobile e.t.c. is on the agenda.

The Facebook guy/Intern became a full time social media officer in 2013, some graduate bloggers now work as social media managers in-house, and influential guys on social media are cooling their heels as community managers somewhere     it was indeed a great year.

Finally in 2013 more traditional ad, PR and experiential agencies added social to their offerings just so they don’t miss out on this cake. And some agencies integrated & there were acquisitions too. Are they making money? Yes!  2014 will be more competitive.

The lost---unfriendly—not so social brands have led to the rapid growth of digital and social media agencies in 2013. For that reason social media skills are highly in demand and the talented social media guy is now a respected well paid professional.

In August we had SOMA Awards that recognized & awarded the brands, individuals and campaigns that hacked social well in 2012-13….did you learn anything about what sets the winners apart? I don’t know---so you tell me!

Now back to you the brand manager, the business owner, the guy paying for these services.

Did social make any business sense to you in 2013? How much did you directly spend on social media efforts? Are you getting it right? Do you even understand a bit of this thing yet? If no let 2013 be the year you quit counting your Twitter followers weekly, Facebook fans you’ve added after those giveaways, hits on your website and views on your YouTube videos. Leave that to interns to worry about J

Still unhappy? PAUSE- Lets thinks about a social or no--social 2014 together

There are businesses out there making many millions a year in profits that still don’t care about Twitter, blogs or facebook. Are they all wrong? Would you buy from them if they started tweeting? Would their revenues double? Will their unhappy customers return? Will they grow rapidly, outwit the competition? Spend less on marketing & sales?

I don’t have all the answers to these questions but I find myself thinking about them more in between the trending topics, blog posts, viral videos and facebook updates.

However one sure thing is people do business with people and that happens through tight personal relationships, by delivering great customer service, offering excellent products competitively and it works for them. They’re more successful than most of those businesses on social media looking out for latest tech wave to ride on. And yet they’re doing great business. Not tweeting about their awesomeness    doing what really matters.

If you’re still not getting this right you don’t have to be on social media in 2014. It’s not for everyone.  It doesn’t work for all of us. Or you could use it to spy on competition, gather some market intelligence, track conversations, monitor your brands    you don’t need that page. Use that social media time to meet that angry customer who tweets @you daily, call the guy who thinks you’re a con because he never got the airtime he won on your page   send him a gift. How about you stop asking for email addresses & instead schedule appointments with fans interested in your service? Stop hiding behind that page & Twitter handle J

As the year ends I’m continually amazed by the number of people and the growth of brands on social media in Kenya. I’m also worried by how we are spending our time     I know collectively we [Kenyans] are the second most tweeting nation after South Africa     yeah we’re that social. We had our noisy and proud moments on social media, the social politicians who spent more hours on Twitter campaigns got lesser votes than their Twitter followers     whatever happened there I can’t blame anyone    Kura ziko kwa ground    so are your customers. In as much as social media places the resources of the world at our fingertips, some Kenyans on Twitter especially have real trouble seeing past the ends of their noses to spot the limitless possibilities     there’s more to the hating, memes & nudes!

Finally I am happy we’re getting out of “social media puberty”---with tough lessons off course so let’s make 2014 count.  Merry Christmas and a happy social 2014.  

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Friends, Family and Fools: Their Role and Impact on Innovation

I'd like to write about the role and impact of family, friends and fools on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

This is derived out of my experiences and other blogs and essays I read on startups, life, creativity and innovation.

Holstee Manifesto

So here's my take.
These are generally people you know and guys who also know a great deal about who you are, what you do and what you’re up to.
They are the people you grew up, went to school together, church, your current and former colleagues, mentors and your peers in general.
When you’re thinking of starting or expanding chances are you’ll speak to someone here regarding your big plans. Paul Graham’s fantastic 2006 article, How to Do What You Love says What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.”
Your friends set the benchmark for you, provide some form of social validation since they are your close network of people, at times they’ll be your first users, customers, trusted advisors, ambassadors, first employees or business partners or co-founders. They’ll also invest in you, or loan you some money when you’re flat broke. They’ll give you shelter when you can’t pay your rent….if you have a few good ones they’ll always be there J
Robert Krulwich, co-producer of WNYC’s fantastic Radiolab, articulates a kind of social connectedness far more meaningful and genuine than those notions of prestige and peer validation.
“This is the era of Friends in Low Places. The ones you meet now, who will notice you, challenge you, work with you, and watch your back. Maybe they will be your strength”
If you can… fall in love, with the work, with people you work with, with your dreams and their dreams. Whatever it was that got you to this school, don’t let it go. Whatever kept you here, don’t let that go. Believe in your friends. Believe that what you and your friends have to say… that the way you’re saying it — is something new in the world.
The impact: Your friends offer you psychological support, material support and a network that generates leads, opportunities and business etc. The values and morals you share with these friends determine your beliefs and ethics you’ll uphold. Their appetite for risk determines how far they can support you materially and still find you sane & ambitious. Their definition of success and good life may shape your dreams and ambitions. Their “Need for Change” affects what they define as “Innovative or Realistic or what can sell”….what is a good business idea. In short these guys have some sort of validation to make in what you’ll do or think of doing. They can fuel, spark, nurture, drive or kill your innovativeness 
Above all as Austin Kleon wisely put it, “you are a mashup of what you let into your life. This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. On doing what you love, Kleon urges:
Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use — do the work you want to see done.


This is where you were born, bred or raised. Some of us are lucky to have a close knit family while others do not. Our families share different beliefs or values that were inculcated in us as we grew up. Depending on the environment you grew up in, neighbourhood, social class you belong to or the profession of your folks and close relatives and their economic class then that determines your chances of success or failure.
In most cases it has always been a case of Go to School, Get good grades, go to university, get a job, work hard-[get a promotion] buy a car---get an MBA—proceed on the ladder, a house, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. However the crazy ones in the family will not follow this route and chart their own paths to the –happily ever after.
A significant number of would-be startup founders are probably dissuaded from doing it by their parents. I'm not going to say you shouldn't listen to them. Families are entitled to their own traditions, beliefs and values.
Parents tend to protect their kids from risk without realizing it, also protecting them from rewards.

If your parents want you to be an engineer this could be because it's a prestigious and lucrative career     sometimes because their rich friends are engineers. [
4] But not so lucrative or prestigious as it was when their opinions were formed.

The parents who want you to be a doctor may simply not realize how much things have changed. Would they be that unhappy if you were Steve Jobs instead? According to Paul Graham of Y Combinator the way to deal with your parents' opinions about what you should do is to treat them like feature requests. Even if your only goal is to please them, the way to do that is not simply to give them what they ask for. Instead think about why they're asking for something, and see if there's a better way to give them what they need.

Their Impact: The levels of education, upbringing, wealth, social status and common values & beliefs have some impact on your level of success. The lessons they frequently shared with us, their mantra and how they brought us up greatly influences our chances of success.
In some cases your family will join you in your entrepreneurial ride as partners [You’re your brother is one of your suppliers], investors [The rich uncle who gave you seed capital], advisors [mum is a teacher and you’re doing an Edtech startup], professional services [E.g. if your dad is a lawyer he handles your legal] e.t.c.
The family being the basic unit of our society greatly impacts our growing up, our success and even the definition of it. Whatever it is if you have an opportunity to go to school, pursue education. People say the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That line has a great deal of truth in it. The family network of friends, business associates, contacts and acquaintances can open doors that are valuable when it comes to getting things done and landing new contracts. Am not tryna say if you come from a poor or an average family you won’t make it but you might have to work twice as hard and if you want to be a success at everything here are 10 things you need to stop doing.
But what if you have a family to support? This one is real. I wouldn't push anyone with a family to quit a job to start a startup      not that it's a bad idea.
What you can do, if you have a family and want to start a startup, is start a consulting or do a side project on the job you’re in and you can then gradually turn that into a business. Empirically the chances of pulling that off in a huge way seem very small. But at least you'll never be without an income. Just have a plan in place, you got to pay the bills, provide shelter for family, food and all that the society demands of a parent. Do not gamble with family, don’t neglect them nor for go your responsibilities       the real lesson here is to start startups when you're young.

The Fools:
These are the guys who believe in you and find you totally awesome    in the early days. They are the true believers….your early converts….the people you talk to if you need some help when friends and family cannot assist. They are people who look up to you and will support you in kind and materially     don’t take their support for granted. They will work for you on little or no salary, lend their skills in developing your prototype, help you try out different things, lend you a soft loan occasionally, help you clinch a deal at the place they work. Be scrupulously honest and overt in your dealings with them, and do not use your position to gain unfair advantage. It’s good to realize that these fools are rooting for you to succeed, and so be grateful while accepting their help when offered. You should also understand the power of favors, and offer and grant them whenever you can.
Most of all, remember that the journey is the reward so the worst you can do is take advantage of them, shortchange or lie to them deeply that it hurts. You should treat these people well on the way up to ensure they make it nicer for you on the way back down.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

What If: The current Tech-startup scene in Kenya

Complete the following sentence: 

What if Mark Zuckerberg was a Kenyan …………
Who would have invested in him in Kenya?
Would the Facebook we know today exist?
Who would be the local Peter Thiel, Sean Parker??
Who would have been patient enough for 5 years after making the early investment?
Will there be a Sequoia kinda VC fund with local partners?

Now as you think about that in relation to the current Tech-startup scene in Kenya here are a few sobering things you need to put into perspective.
We have Konza City coming up, its many things to different people…popularly called the silicon savannah but with all honesty we cannot replicate the success of Silicon valley easily. Why? Silicon Valley has no geographical boundary. It’s an ecosystem made up people, companies and systems. It’s a way of life, an approach to fixing problems and making serious money out of it. The valley comprises of universities that supply the great talent & knowledge, the entrepreneurs who do it all to work on their ideas, the angel investors who identify and invest in these daring teams at early stage, the incubators that nurture the talented teams and brood over their ideas, the mentors that shine the light, the successful entrepreneurs that share their experiences, lessons, knowledge and tricks, the media/blogs that expose these people and push their products out to users who adopt and pay for the products these startups create. When these products become sound businesses it is the VCs that put in the big money to scale their operations. That’s what Silicon Valley is to me.
Of-course we have the big brands that acquire these products or acquihire talented teams. Or screw them up altogether. It’s competitive. You win or your startup dies.
Now back to Konza; this noble concept will not save boot-strappers in KE hubs and incubators any time soon. Well not soon! I have heard someone mention a KE tech bubble, but I forgot to ask who of the local guys in tech making serious money or well funded. Not Jumia, not Olx, not Cheki…not apps that win prize money at hackathons, not poorly developed clones, not fancy sites built from free themes.
Tell me about people building serious proprietary software, founders who aren’t running a social enterprise to monetize on grants and donor funding, the Kenyans who built something techie-ish and made serious money without funding.
Tell me about the guys who developed something you use today from their dorm room in campus. Talk to me about the local entrepreneur, investor, billionaire, celebrity or corporate honcho turned angel investor in KE tech. As you think of that remind me of the few locally owned startups with young founders who got adequate funding for their ideas at early stage.
This is #Kenyaat50, so after you read and share all the nice features on VB, Mashable or TC always remember where you’re from. Until fear is gone to talk about our tech ecosystem, our failures, struggles and lessons we’ll always make minimal strides in entrenching a successful startup culture in the country.
We have miles to cover here to get where this needs to be to look sexy as it is elsewhere, and this requires the persistence and resilience so let’s not rush this or benchmark ourselves with Silicon Valley. Let us do this our way, make our mistakes, develop our own case studies and work on our success stories.
To do that we have to make the decision to be courageous to get the authentic story out there.
Above all Blame no one! Expect nothing! Play your part! Do something!