The rush to use social networks in Kenya today is appearing more like a bandwagon effect and not a solid business strategy. From my interactions with well placed people in the various industries, I have come to see that some of the companies that are now on the various social networks have either not sanctioned the use of social networks meaning that it is the work of “rogue” employees or have assigned the responsibility of monitoring the social network to interns as a side project. Some of these companies with social networks are victims of brand-jacking meaning that these accounts are not official company accounts but which are used as such to the detriment of these brands. However, there are some businesses whereby it is the owner who initiates their social media participation and those do pretty well for instance Brew Bistro’s Facebook Fanpage.
The big boys in Kenyan businesses have for the large part dissed social media citing control, time wastage, and liability issues. But this is a mistake and a big one at that. The approach toward using social media should not be any less important than the marketing plan or growth strategy of any business because in the coming months, social media will define the growth strategies of many of these companies. As things stand, a majority of organizations in Kenya save for a few still consider social networks a waste of time. Of the few that don’t, quite a number look at social media as a pet project reserved for interns to do at their own time. So the struggle is not just for social media to be adopted but also to be treated seriously once adopted.
Looking at how the Directors and Executives of big business in Kenya look down on social media, I wonder whether they know of other top executives who consider it as a worthy business investment. I wonder whether they understand that bigger global brands not only utilize social media but have gone to the extent of creating managerial positions for Social Media. Ford, General Motors, Zappos, Nokia, Amazon, Yahoo, Google, Southwest Airlines, Dell, Intel Corporation, IBM Corporation, Cisco Systems, SAP, HP, Sony Electronics, Boeing, Wells Fargo, Wal-mart Stores, Best Buy, Kodak, Microsoft, Google, Forrester Research, American Express, Progressive Insurance, PepsiCo, Salesforce, Sears Holdings, BBC, CNN, Hitachi Data Systems, and Ottawa University are just a few of the companies with a huge social media presence and social media execs handling their strategies and implementation.
These companies are not engaging in social media and paying their social media execs sick amounts of money because it is a hobby. Social Media is serious business and Kenyan companies will need to treat it with the seriousness it deserves lest they get left behind. I am seeing more and more companies in Kenya getting onto social networks in the coming months but what I hope to see is these companies getting in not with a “me too” mentality but rather with a purpose of meeting various set objectives each with its own measurement metrics as part of the bigger company strategy. I don’t have to write another “benefits of social media” post because they are too many and too diverse. Just Google it!
For the big Kenyan businesses that are currently shying away from social media because of its rumoured dangers, let me allay their fears by saying that bigger companies with more to lose are doing it. And this is not an arrogant in-your-face statement, it is a fact. There are genuine fears that companies have but most have come to pass. Without even looking hard enough, you will find a company in the same industry as you out there that is participating in social media despite of these fears and succeeding immensely. By examining how these companies are operating especially towards mitigating potential loopholes, Kenyan businesses can borrow from their best practices and delve into social media. Like any successful person or organization out there, fear has never been an obstacle for progress.
As you plan to initiate the entrance of your company into social media, have a reason for doing so. Otherwise, you will end up with followers and nothing worthwhile to offer them. So have an agenda and use social media to push for those ends.