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  • June

The past week in Social Media




More and more I've been meeting new people and making fantastic connections. I went out on Sunday for the first time, and it was actually really really nice!


I just thought of it yesterday and realized for some, different things mean different things. For instance, I'm just across the river, at the Business school, the law school is Harvard speak, not universal speak. The T, Commons, the trail is Boston speak. Phrases like Sipangwingwi, utajua hujui or even low-hanging fruit is Kenyanese banter. I'm finding that just like these, so are the social media platforms that we use. Different platforms for different uses.


In my mind, platforms are like markets. A place that brings together both buyers and sellers, and most times, that platform gets to benefit off the mutual interest of those two groups of people. And that’s the sweet spot for the for-profit business.


There are two ways for any business to grow; more so in the social media space - Increase revenue points through more ads or subscriptions or in the alternative, increase its user base, therefore expanding beyond its current user base typically in North Ameica, Europe or China as is the case with bit.ly now commonly known as Tiktok. These markets are typically called Emerging markets = Africa, Middle East and North Africa + (Turkey) + (Israel), Latin America.


So here’s some platforms I use on a regular and some personal thoughts on them.


Instagram

I've been on Instagram for a while and I remember in my circles, it was initially for the cool kids who'd share pictures of food and travel. I've since used the platform as a personal space to share thoughts freely with restricted access. I am constantly being intentional with who has access to it because of all public spaces, Instagram is where I fully am.


I took some time off the platform, deactivated my account, and noted a few things. First, did you know you can only deactivate your account on iOS or on the web app and not on the Android App at all? Secondly, you have to give a reason to IG on why you’re deactivating your account, there is no option for not giving a reason. Lastly, if you reactivate it (by logging back in), you can’t deactivate it again for at least 8 days thereafter.


While on my break, I found Instagram great for building community and a sense of connectedness. It’s not as intimate for close first-hand connections, but for second-level and further away people you know. I found most medium and small businesses are on Instagram and use the platform for advertising, so good luck placing an order for a service with a search not commenced on the platform. Lastly, I also found it hard to find relatable influencer content elsewhere; the lives and reels, for instance, seem to be incredibly popular and I think the platform needs to look further into it as a revenue source.


HotTake: Instagram continues to be a force to reckon with. Both short and long-term audio-visual content will continue to be king as data costs reduce and mobile devices improve. A vital add-on that can be software-enabled needs to ease the collation of photos or images into reels/videos easily for most non-content creators. These will be a hit, with most regular users - the content consumers.


I’d also like to see what the platform does with the insights and analytics of music uptake. What songs are most used on the platform and are they able to develop a rev-share model of some sort with the music publishers. A revenue stream I think worth looking into.


TikTok



TikTok is and will continue to be a force to reckon with in the social media sphere. Simply because of the superior investment in algorithm development and the growing user base of younger users.


I said this during my interview rounds before and will keep saying it, I love the platform for what it represents. The fact that it has opened up and democratized the content creation space that was a reserve of the more elite content creator on other platforms. TikTok has changed that and will continue to.


Some of my favorite creators on the platform are regular folk with something to say, an internet-enabled phone and access to the platform. I love those! Content is not airbrushed, it’s not in HD, it’s not aspirational - it’s real.


HotTake: This past week two TikTokers in Nigeria’s Kano State were arrested for satirical comedy content they put up making fun of the State’s Governor. I’d like to see the platform’s local policy and comms team come up and speak against misuse of the law as a tool to silence dissent as such action sets a negative precedent for the rest of the Continent. Satirical content to critique governance has been used as a creative tool since time immemorial. With social media platforms, this is how the current generation will express themselves. It’s low cost to join, easy to maintain with wide reach - especially on TikTok where you don’t know your audience and they don’t know of you from other platforms. The app’s reach will continue to grow across Sub-Saharan Africa and I think it’s a perfect opportunity for its talented team to step up and take a stand.


Facebook


As long as the need for social connection remains, Facebook will continue to remain relevant for community building and connections. In my opinion, the social groups function is part of the reason why Facebook will still remain relevant for a long time. To connect with people similar to you or weak ties as referred to in the book, ‘Barking up the Wrong Tree’. People you know, names you recognize but don’t speak to on a regular basis. Apartment hunting in new cities, shopping for items, book recommendations or even sharing makeup and beauty tips, hi pls Glam Life :)


HotTake: I was not surprised by the recent layoffs at Meta. The company was simply bloated, with too many extremely talented people, very highly remunerated but without clear scopes of work, most times duplicated and overlapping roles. I do suspect that in the coming months there may still be another round of layoffs. The metaverse pivot will continue to cost the company precious time, talent and resources that should be spent on building better products for its current user base and finding value adds to attract a new user base.




From several conversations I’ve had, I’ve realized Whatsapp’s greatest asset isn’t in the global North, but in the rest of the world. In the majority world. People I’ve spoken to in Brazil, India, and Ukraine, all speak of the place of Whatsapp in day-to-day life. Most North Americans on iOS/MacOS cannot relate. In Kenya, there’s a Whatsapp group for everything, from a Kindergarten group, estate group, bridal shower group, and funeral fundraising group. We pull together as a society and Whatsapp has made this possible. That will continue to happen. It’s a suitable and viable marketplace


HotTake: Whatsapp will be the moneymaker for Meta. The company simply needs to identify a suitable way to monetize it. I’d suggest low negligible fees or find a way for advertisers to pay for access to the users. There is need for creative monetization but the fact that there is a platform, easily accessible across generations with a ready user base is this platform’s superpower. I hope that the builders look beyond what they know from a localized POV but looks to the rest of the world to let them know what functionalities and features they seek on the App.


Twitter


For years I have found Twitter a perfect platform for news, staying in the know and engaging with content from people I ordinarily wouldn’t have access to. I have gotten several jobs and work opportunities via DMs on Twitter so I have a different connotation for ‘in your DMs’ than most. The 140-character limit leveraged on our reduced attention span limit and has made it easier for to-the-point communication. I have personally used the platform as a diary and journal of sorts. I actually use it for annual end-of-year reviews and to take note of meaningful quotes, posts, and notes.


HotTake: With recent layoffs, one of the conversations that has come to the fore is the fact that the Africa team was let go off without similar severance packages as in the US and Europe. As a platform governance researcher, I am not surprised. I saw posts that alluded to Ghanaian lawyers saying that it would be illegal under Ghanaian employment law and Twitter may be held liable. I’d beg to disagree. More likely than not, the company did not have local entity registered in Ghana and the employment contracting was through a third-party proxy based out of either Dublin or London. It is time for our African policymakers to speak up for its people, as the relationships between users and platforms are mutual, not one-sided. This is happening, but gradually.


I think Linkedin continues to be a platform to watch out for, but I need to gather my thoughts around it and firm them up. I do use Telgram and Signal occasionally, Pinterest every once in a while, barely open Clubhouse, love Goodreads for book reviews and recommendations, recently reactivated my Snapchat account to connect to Bitmoji for my Fitbit and don’t have a Reddit account yet. Again, the people you seek to be connected to draw the use to a platform or it needs to offer a peculiar product offering that is lacking and a plus for users. Plain and simple.


While I work for a team that seeks to reimagine what social media is and should be in the public interest, it’s pertinent to unequivocally state that these are my own thoughts and do not reflect those of my past or current employers or partners I’ve worked with.


Kenyan Dictionary

They define themselves as an entertainment website and, ‘We define Kenyan phrases and tell the ever entertaining stories told through our phones.’

The posts and quotes are funny, witty, and relatable. Here’s one of my all-time faves



The call of home is stronger than the lure of the road behind Bikozulu

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