The E-tourism East Africa Conference came to an end last Friday and in a very dramatic fashion if I may add. Kenya Tourism Board was the reason behind these heightened emotions at the conference.
To the naked eye, KTB had a very good presentation. They hit all the high notes. They talked about the work they were doing on the social media end – given this conference had very heavy social media overtones – and mentioned all the major social networks they were using to get their message across. I even saw a couple of tweets praising @magicalkenya for the impeccable work they were doing. As the presentation progressed, I decided to jot down very heavy question marks I had to most of what was said. Little did I know that quite a number of the delegates there were not buying the shiny presentation being made? They were all taking issue with something that tied them to KTB. For me, it was social media…
When the KTB guys mentioned their work on a social media end, I checked out their social media footprint as they spoke. I searched for their Magical Kenya Facebook fanpage and found it (3702+ Fans), then Mikul of Eat Out Kenya who was seated next to me decided to check this page out too and on searching it, landed on a different Magical Kenya – Kenya Tourism Board (official page – 245 Fans). When I searched again to try and get to the page that Mikul had found, I landed on a third MagicalKenya page (4,317+ Fans). Though I had many other questions lined up with regard to their social media strategies, this one took the top spot as I kicked off the Q&A.
I asked the two gentlemen whether they were aware that there were three different magical Kenya Facebook Fanpages – actually there are more. I told them how this served to split fans across different pages not knowing which was which. And if they were aware of this, I asked them what they were doing to consolidate their fans? @muriux answered my question and his answer proved how badly they need social media expertise in their digital engagements. He said that they are not aware that this was happening and then went ahead to say that people have the right to create fanpages and they cannot stop them… He then dug a bigger hole for KTB by saying that they are happy whenever people create these pages because they are talking about magical Kenya and that magical Kenya can push content to them – or something of the sort.
Then another lady asked why their Fanpage has nothing in the form of updates from them, just fans writing what they please on their wall. She then contrasted this to what Kenya Wildlife Service is doing – writing frequent updates and running campaigns that are actually geared at getting more people to visit the parks. Again, the answer was murmured and then finished off with that familiar line we have come to expect from government institution – yes, we will look into that too.
This was when a smart and vocal gentleman told them that the biggest problem he has with them is that they do not respond to emails. I know that. Mikul knew that very well. And apparently, so did most people in the room because they applauded when this was mentioned. It is really damn difficult to get communication from KTB guys. When the KTB guys said that they actually do answer emails, there was a collective “no” response. To send the point home, Damian Cook, the man behind this hugely successful conference said that he had sent them an email about participating in this conference 3 months ago and they only replied to it a week to the conference. And it was not yet over. I took the mic for the second time and gave them an example of Coca-Cola and what it did with its Facebook Fanpage when faced with the same dilemma that is facing KTB (magical Kenya). Still, I was not getting through because the answers showed that they had missed my point by a mile.
This was when a clearly frustrated James Murua (@jamesmurua) of Nairobi Living kicked off a storm by asking how long the KTB speakers had worked there because they clearly knew nothing. He then recanted the statement by saying “maybe I was just being mean.” But his point had been made and to most of us, it was the harsh reality of what was transpiring and someone had to say it. Mikul then asked them what their budget was. Though we got no answer, this question was aimed at giving us an idea of how much they were spending and how ineffective the results were given the complaints ringing across the room on that day.
With every question asked, it was as if we were giving KTB enough rope to hang themselves because none of the answers assuaged our fears and concerns. Instead, they actually made things worse. I will delve into their social media engagements here.
What is KTB’s social media strategy? Is it even there? Who at KTB is responsible for their digital end of things? In the South African Tourism Board, there is a head of digital – who could not speak here because we are a competitor as a Tourism Destination and speaking here would be tantamount to revealing trade secrets. The reason I am asking this is that from their overall social media presence, it appears that what they lack is a strategy to tie it all up nicely in a more productive way that will result in ROI. As it is, it looks like one of those things I constantly advise companies to refrain from doing, to go in without a plan. It’s like someone thought that they should have a social media presence and social media profiles were created.
While a passing eye would be impressed that KTB had a presence in many social networks – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WAYN etc, a social media eye would even without in-depth analysis spot the vacuum. It was as if once the profiles were created, they asked themselves, now what? Without a plan, that is where you end – letting people run your account and wall it like they see fit. There is so much that KTB (Magical Kenya) can use social media to say that it pains me just how much they don’t get it. It was interesting how the KTB guys kept mentioning how they will push content to people so that we can help it go viral and whatnot – how it is good for people to create multiple Facebook fanpages because KTB can push content to them… First, social media is not a push but rather a pull media. If you are doing it right, people will come to you. Second, you (KTB) need help?
Let me just say this for the record – When I asked the KTB guys which Facebook account was theirs, they replied that the one with the Magical Kenya logo. When I checked, they all had magical Kenya logos. When I asked how they plan to consolidate their fans, he said that it was ok to have these multiple accounts because they cannot stop people from creating them and because they can push content to them, clearly oblivious of the risk that this may subject KTB to.
KTB, you need to get your house in order on the social media end. Understand how social media works, get trained, and learn how you can use it to meet your objectives. Put more thought into it because a mediocre presence will earn you the wrath of the blogosphere and it is the group of Kenyans you really need to impress if you want your message to go viral. Learn how social media ties together because social media is not one platform or network but various social networks working in sync to build the KTB brand and to sell Kenya as a magical destination.
And respond to emails.
From what we saw, you have a long way to go. The beating you got at ETourismEA was deserved and hopefully it will get you thinking.