For a long while, the basis on which someone was tagged an authority in a given field was largely dictated by the mainstream media. This to a large extent is still true given my own euphoria over being largely quoted in the Business Daily. “(S)he even appeared in the paper/TV” has been a line repeated far too often in trying to validate someone as genuine and an authority figure. The reason we treated people with a little more respect once we saw them on any of the mainstream media was because these were our primary sources of information for a long time and whoever was the go-to guy for media people, (s)he surely must be someone of a special ilk. Again, this is largely unchanged. But there is a change coming through.
The authority figures who are presented on mainstream media have for the most part been industry veterans, people whose careers are established and who are even cronies of the media personalities or of their employers. For the young and upcoming, it has been difficult to compete for airtime with these veterans who even have the battle scars to prove it. The widely held opinion has been that your opinion simply cannot beat that of 50 year old who has seen it all. That could be true but then again, how can we know for sure if young and upcoming Kenyans are only consulted on special occasions like during youth forums and on Str8t Up! An entrant in the industry with a fresh pair of eyes can chart the future of the industry better than a nostalgic oldie with a “during our days” mentality. But this perspective is rarely heard with a special tag like “youth perspective”, “grassroots angle” or “common mwananchi” while veterans are credited “Expert” status.
Brian Solis and select social media experts came up with the following working definition of social media:
“Social Media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism, one-to-many, to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers.”
The key term here is democracy. With push media, our roles were relegated to that of content consumers and common mwananchi. However, social media has provided us with “highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques” which has made us content producers and not merely consumers. With these platforms, we are saying what we would under normal circumstances never be given the opportunity to say. It is a democratization of this space.
In whichever field you are in, there were gate keepers who more or less decided your fate. Media personalities deemed one too young to be an opinion leader, editors decided what will be published and edited your story and you had no say etc. But with freedom to publish our stories via social media therefore bypassing the middlemen, we are now able to take our cases directly to our readers and they assign us the authority status as befits as our content. Young people who would never have had a chance are now at their tender ages positioning themselves as leaders in their respective industries. This they are doing by consistently publishing content in their respective industries, adding value to their readers, providing insight and the works. In the end, the only people that matter will seek you out and give you the opportunities because you have made your case via your content.
I have a friend who is very active in Theatre in Kenya. I keep on telling him to start a blog on Theatre in Kenya because he is a very well placed industry insider. If you have something to say, there are many social platforms you can use to make your case and if it is good enough, you will find yourself emerging as the go-to guy as your content proves you as an authority in the subject at hand.
And if you are still in doubt, ask yourself why more and more people from mainstream media, PR Firms, and businesses in general are turning to bloggers for insight, coverage, to speak, or for content.
Let’s hear your say?