VENTURES AFRICA – Amazing things can happen, when a small group of people leverages the power of social media and the internet. They can literally change the course of history. As the saying goes – “A tree cannot make a forest, but it can make an oasis.” In this digital age you don’t need a million dollar printing press or a large newspaper publication to reach millions of readers. In fact, some the most popular indigenous Nigerian web sites get hundreds of thousands of visits per month. And six out of the top ten are news or entertainment sites. Being well informed and entertained is good, however the interactive aspect of the web is not leveraged this way. This is where goal-oriented social media can play a vital role; by empowering a large number of people while improving their socio-economic status. Some of the most successful examples in Nigeria include:
– Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE)- a youth led movement using the web and mobile apps to enhance good governance.
– LightUpNigeria – a socio-political movement started on Twitter, with the mission to improve electric power supply in Nigeria.
Another notable mention is the #SMWLagos which kicks off on Monday, 18th February.
There is much more to social media than publishing the latest breaking news or celebrity gossip. How about creating a web based business rating and review platform? A synthesis between a discussion forum and a business directory.
Why is a business review and rating platform important?
Most busy professionals can relate to this hypothetical scenario – on your half-hour lunch break, you rush down to a nearby quick-service restaurant. After waiting in line for 10 minutes (feels like 30 minutes), the cashier shortchanges you by NGN 500 and starts an argument. At this point you are in no mood for an argument, so you let it go. When you finally get to eat, the food tastes stale and cold. What do you do now? Most people would tell their friends or complain to the management and probably never patronize that restaurant again.
What if there was platform where thousands of customers can openly review goods and services? Wouldn’t you rather share your experience in a way that would have more impact? And if the management in that restaurant knew about this, would they not take your complaints more seriously?
In a country like Nigeria, with ¼ of the population and the 2nd largest economy in Africa, there are countless commercial opportunities for all stakeholders. When you have over 100 million mobile phone subscribers, many with internet access, information travels very fast. No profit minded business could afford to have negative publicity in this type of environment.
Customer reviews also allow companies to differentiate their products from that of the competition. In more industrialized countries, where quality control is tightly regulated, people still need customer reviews to help them make smarter choices. More so, in the Nigerian context, where standards are not always strictly enforced; it is even more critical to have alternative means of consumer advocacy. Through goal-oriented social media, people have the power of crowdsourcing, and can apply financial pressure on service providers. Since no company wants to lose market share, there is a strong incentive for business owners and their employees to provide the best quality at a competitive price.
How do you create goal-oriented social media?
The Egyptian social-media-inspired revolution is often attributed to the “Google guy” Wael Ghonim. Most people don’t know about the other individuals who were really behind the massive mobilization of the Egyptian populace. In her new book, Get Bold, Sandy Carter (IBM VP, Social Media Evangelism) describes how researchers at DeepMile Networks were able to identify the eight most influential tippers. Using very advanced filtering algorithms they were able to sift through millions of tweets and messages and pin point the few people who were behind the movement. These relatively unknown people were able to create viral tweets and messages that reached millions of people around the world.
“Among the influential eight were citizens of Tehran, Sudan, The Arab Emirates, France and United States; in fact only three of the eight were Egyptians… They had no official position, but when they spoke people listened and reacted.”
According to Dr. Monday Gala, member of the Association of Nigerians Abroad (the group that vigorously opposed the Nigerian military government in the early 90s) – only 3 individuals were responsible for coordinating the group’s activities. They were able to broadcast “Radio Kudirat” and also pressure the Canadian government to initiate the expulsion of Nigeria from the Commonwealth.
It only takes a few committed and influential individuals to create an effective goal-oriented social network. The traditional business directory can be transformed into an interactive mass communication tool, making it much more useful, engaging and even fun.
A call to action
Social media is democratic in nature; anyone with internet access can become an influential participant. By getting involved, not only can you help to improve the business environment, but you also exercise your civic and social responsibilities.
Making a difference in your community is just a click away. Go beyond just complaining and criticizing. Don’t curse the darkness, light your own little candle and see the difference you can make.