For a long time, mainstream media viewed social media with skepticism as journalists took shots at bloggers for all manner of reasons. But increasingly, social media and especially blogging has already claimed its place and now Twitter (over 20 billion tweets so far) and Facebook (over 500 million users) are flexing their muscles. In Kenya, mainstream media has just recently publicly acknowledged social media. By acknowledge, I mean not treating it as a side project for interns but rather integrating it into their daily schedules. This acknowledgement can be seen with their coverage of bloggers in the papers, their now active and vocal community building as they call on people to become fans on Facebook or to follow them on Twitter, their reading of commentary to their status updates and tweets and also with individual personalities and programs building their presence in these social networks.
Months ago here in Kenya, it was only international media houses like CNN and Aljazeera that openly called for their viewers to connect with them on their Facebook Pages, on their twitter accounts and in the comments section of their blogs. This mash-up of mainstream and new media was proving very successful and popular as it allowed for insight from all over the world and interaction on a whole new level. It was specific programs that actually ran away with it like The Listening Post on Aljazeera, Back Story on CNN, the hilarious The Daily Show and soon even dinosaurs the likes of Larry King and Wolf Blitzer were in on it too. On both CNN and Aljazeera, journalists have their own blogs where they express their thoughts on stories that are running. In recent weeks, Kenya’s mainstream media started making inroads in social media and this became quite evident during the referendum vote casting yesterday.
Just recently, you would see only a few mainstream journalists in their capacities as journalists on Twitter. Only @Larrymadowo and by extension @ktnkenya had a strong presence on Twitter, @jbonyo too. But today, there has been quite the influx by both mainstream media and their respective journalists on Twitter. As of yesterday, you could see @ntvkenya @citizentvkenya
(IMPORTANT TO NOTE: I have mentioned brandjacking before and the reason people and brands sh0uld claim their usernames across social networks even if they do not plan to use them at the moment. @citizentv has been jacked and someone is asking for ransom from royal media)
and @ktnkenya all on Twitter and Facebook trying to match their updates on these social platforms with updates they had on TV. It was interesting watching @johnallannamu with his tech un-savvy-ness try to balance his on screen appearance and reading feedback from both Facebook and Twitter without appearing awkward. It was not flawless but we credit him for trying. Larry Madowo who you can say is the unofficial KTN PR guy in social networks was faultless in his marrying of both News and social media updates. He has after all been doing that for quite a while. It is always interesting to see people correcting mispronunciations or faulty statements by KTN anchors on Twitter and always tagging Larry.
The emerging reality is that most Kenyans primarily with advent of mobile internet are now constantly online and specifically on these social networks. And given this reality coupled with how cheap it is, feedback is readily offered on status updates on these popular mainstream media fanpages whether they like it or not. But now that these media houses are actively asking their followers and fans to response with their views, what you can now see is a two way conversations that social media is all about. Earlier, mainstream media were push media who just pushed content to us without a care on what we thought. But having recognized that engagement is key they are now calling for feedback and reading this feedback on air. This does two things. First, the person whose feedback or question is read is usually so excited that they spread the message to all their friends – which contributes to greater reach of the content. Second, it shows you value people’s insight and that is a sure way to win over fans.
More than just delivering content, mainstream media is now increasingly digging into social networks for content. It was interesting to note that quite a number of the information shown on TV emanated from Twitter. Additionally, the people at Ushahidi had done a great job of organizing this referendum information with their designated referendum Hashtag #kenyadecides. They were crowd sourcing and mapping this information on www.uchaguzi.co.ke. I remember a tweet by @WSJAfrica asking Kenyan tweeps for more info on the referendum to which we guided them to the designated Hashtag. There were tweet saying that yesterday was big day for citizen journalism given the flurry of information that was flowing on twitter around the referendum.
Whatever the case, we should expect a meaningful marriage between traditional and new media in Kenya because the future of the former will over time depend on how adept they get in the latter.