Tawanda Mashava

All things, without fear, and informational

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Social Media Technologies and Activism in Zimbabwe: A Success (and a Failure) Story


A few days ago, I was watching an episode of Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa’s new self-entitled show, ‘Ruvheneko’ where she was interviewing political activists like Maureen Kademaunga of #SheVotes2018 and Promise Mkwananzi of #Tajamuka and two other leaders of largely unknown political parties, and they were later joined by two comedians; Carl Joshua Ncube, arguably Zimbabwe’s favorite and most known comedian, and Madam Boss, another Zimbabwean comedian.

Towards the end of the show, the discussion centered on Social Media and its role and effectiveness in advocacy and activism. There is an ongoing debate in Zimbabwe on whether Social Media technologies are effective means of activism, and articles have been written with some totally against the idea of using Social Media whilst others, like Promise, Carl and Maureen, believe the use of Social Media is key to any advocacy or activism issue.

I have worked with several local and international non-profit and civil society organizations in their digital strategies, and I have seen that using Social Media tactfully is more effective than many other popular traditional ways of advocacy and activism; the keyword there being ‘tactfully’. In this piece, I will give one example of how Social Media was used effectively in Zimbabwe, and one in which there was no strategy behind the use of social media, despite attracting hundreds of thousands of followers/likes in the campaign. (Attracting followers should never be the ultimate goal)


The idea is: there should be a strategy behind the use of Social Media, I have seen and even worked with a lot of organizations whose presence on Social Media is just that: presence, with absolutely no strategy! There is an election coming up next year, and the fact remains, Social Media will be key in influencing the outcome of the election, and I agree with what Carl Joshua Ncube said in that discussion with Ruvheneko:
“Social Media is gonna be the biggest player in the next election, and any political party that hasn’t harnessed that is going to have the biggest headache to deal with”.
Yes, the biggest, BIGGEST headache next election will be on how to deal with Social Media, during the campaign period or after the election, do not forget to call Mr. C.J Ncube and tell him he is a prophet, Mwana waPapa. Yes, the revolution will be tweeted!

Efforts that use social media in isolation are not likely to be successful; however, social media can augment organizers’ existing strategies for communicating about public issues, building relationships and collaborations with supporters, and encouraging greater involvement among supporters
Overall, offline and online approaches should be used in combination to enhance the effectiveness of a social change effort.

When used to augment advocacy efforts, social media can bolster outreach efforts by spreading information about a cause, reinforcing relationships among supporters, promoting participatory dialogue between group leaders and supporters, and strengthening collective action through increased speed of collaborative communication.

1 Roles of Social Media in Campaigns

I believe Social Media plays three key roles during any campaign, be it a campaign for the use of condoms, provision of free sanitary pads to school girls or an election campaign. One can break down these roles to come up with 5 or six roles, but these are the 3 basic, primary roles of Social Media during campaigns:
  1. Raise Awareness - The first step toward inspiring action is awareness
  2. Coordinate communities - Social Media can help advocacy groups coordinate within their membership, or even help individual advocates find a community with similar experiences.
  3. Mobilization - Advocates no longer have to be at Africa Unity Square to make a difference. Social media allows for networks to campaign around a common cause from the comfort of their own homes.

2 Ladder of Engagement and Pastor Evan Mawarire

Pastor Evan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag Fame
Having worked on a lot of non-profit websites and digital strategies, some of the most common challenges I tackle include helping organizations increase their following (email lists, Facebook likes and Tweeter followers) and then make this following take action on behalf of the organization, like volunteering or donating. It is not easy to convince people to take action; whilst they may like your organization, it is a whole new level of commitment and passion required for someone to act for you.

One of the tools I have founded very effective in asking supporters to take action is the ‘Ladder of Engagement’, which Pastor Evan Mawarire, whether knowingly or otherwise, used effectively. The Ladder of Engagement depicts that engagement occurs incrementally and is a continuum ranging in type and intensity. Low level engagement (or the lower rungs on the ladder) includes liking, commenting or watching videos whilst moderate behaviors would include downloading such videos and sharing with others. High level engagement extends beyond the digital platforms.

2.1    First Rung: Get Their Attention

Obviously, to get followers, you first need their attention! One needs to get people to like your Facebook page, follow on Twitter, subscribe to your emailing list. People will only do that if they feel there is value in following you, so when people liked Pastor Evan’s page on Facebook, they got value from his Christianity/ pastoring messages, and when he posted his first video in which he almost lamented being a Zimbabwean, people immediately associated and identified with the feelings espoused in that video.

The trick is to remain with some contact details so that you will be able to notify them of your next post, be it on Facebook, Twitter or your website. Pastor Evan managed to get people to like his Facebook page and follow on twitter, and the icing on the cake is if you give them value, either through entertaining, informing or invoking emotions, you will get even more followers, without having to ask for them.

Baba Jukwa, as an example, used information as a way of gaining likes, he would publish information that was not available in the public domain, and both Baba Jukwa (Information) Pastor Evan (emotions) Facebook likes rose exponentially, without them having to advertise their pages or berg people to like. So the key take away on the first rung is to get their attention through offering value.


2.2 Second Rung: Stay in Touch, Become Top of Mind

So you got them to follow you or subscribe to your mailing list, now what? This is where many organizations fail and then blame Social Media as ineffective. You need to keep them engaged to stay top of mind, by producing quality content. Many not-for-profits just post on social media for the sake of posting, without a strategy, and they post stuff that even they themselves would not be interested in, why would anyone else like that?

Pastor Evan was always in touch, posting a new video almost on a daily basis. These were not just some video made because he wanted to post, but they were well thought-out, in depth pleas to the country’s leadership to change the status quo, something that everyone could identify with. Baba Jukwa also did well in this regard, always posting something new, something juicy, something unknown. Almost everyone reading this post was at some point waiting for the next Pastor Evan video or post, or for Baba Jukwa’s posts in 2013, the reason? Value! If you are going to make a video telling people that unemployment is an issue in Zimbabwe, everyone knows that, so please do it in a different way, for example, pastor Evan took the issues personally, and would describe how it’s affecting him personally, and he also took advantage of his profession to appeal to people’s emotions, whilst Baba Jukwa published information that was new every day, and kept people coming back for more.

2.3    Third Rung: Get Them to go Public with Their Support

Any time you give people a way to take action or use your resources, make sure you encourage them to follow up that action by telling their friends or going public with their support. If someone has managed to get past the first two steps, chances are highly likely that they will want to share your information with their friends, since they find it valuable.

Baba Jukwa and Pastor Evan both asked us to share their posts, and Pastor Evan’s videos were downloaded from Youtube and Facebook and extensively shared via other platforms like WhatsApp. Unfortunately, unlike Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others, you can’t accurately measure how extensive something has been shared and viewed on WhatsApp, but all of us know WhatsApp groups were awash with the clergyman’s videos. Let’s remember, if one does not find value, information or entertainment in your content, they are unlikely to share it, so value is the key.

2.4 Fourth Rung: Small offline Actions

Once someone has joined your list and taken online action, getting them to act offline is probably your biggest benchmark of success. The relationship and trust has been built, but we cannot ask for the big action yet.



This is where baba Jukwa failed, compared to Pastor Mawarire, Baba Jukwa just reveled in providing information, and rarely asked people to take offline action whilst Pastor Evan went further and asked his followers to show solidarity with his campaign by ‘donning’ the country’s flag, hence the name of the campaign #ThisFlag. People even went further and started sharing their own photos and videos wrapped in our beautiful stripped flag, to an extent that the government considered banning the public from carrying the flag.

Baba Jukwa, on the other hand, had hundreds of followers, but failed to strategically and tactfully coerce them into taking simple offline action.

2.5 Fifth Rung: The Final (offline) Action

If a segment of your followers has taken the smaller offline action, they've already proven their dedication, so be sure to avoid under-asking! Yes, ask them to shut down Zimbabwe! Why not? Pastor Evan climbed up the ladder, and knew he had the support, and he asked the people of Zimbabwe to #ShutDown Zimbabwe on the 6th of July 2016, and we all know how successful the event was. Baba Jukwa was left stuck on the third rung, when he had every opportunity to get to the fifth rung, if only his was a planned campaign, with an ultimate goal in mind.
#ThisFlag managed to shut down Zimbabwe, by using only Social Media

There are many examples of people who also tried jumping straight to the 5 th step, without going through the first steps, how many WhatsApp messages circulated after the 6 July shut down asking people to further shutdown the country, and were not heeded by anyone. This is because they did not take their time to build relationships and trust with intended audience, something the Pastor did.

Evan’s campaign was so successful that I feel like adding a 6th rung: people decided to act even without a call to action by the pastor. When Evan Mawarire was arrested in the same month, thousands of people, without having to be called by the #ThisFlag leader, came to his trial in solidarity with the man of God, this included other prominent clergymen, business people and influencers in different spheres of life, just highlighting how his social media campaign had impacted the nation.

3 Conclusion

While social media technologies have the potential to increase communication with, effective social change efforts require considerable engagement and action among supporter. As we saw from #ThisFlag movement, engagement occurs incrementally, and social media offer a “foot in the door” by recruiting new supporters and providing opportunities to build relationships over time to gradually increase supporters’ engagement. Supporters become aware of a public issue via social media, but organizers must strive to convert this awareness into actions that support the cause. Social movement organizers must build relationships with supporters over time to increasingly foster individuals’ contributions.

It is important to note that participation in an online advocacy network can expand and contract, and individuals vary in the degree to which they participate. The most passionate members carry a heavy burden of operational tasks, the Fadzai Mahere’s, whereas less engaged members are critical for sharing information widely (That would be me) with their own social connections. The degree to which organizers are able to incrementally move supporters from awareness to action may be affected by a number of factors, which I will talk about in a later post.
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Thursday, 7 January 2016

How Zimbabweans can Choose Which Social Networks to Showcase their Products and Services

This post is inspired by a lot of discussions I have seen on a number of social media platforms, the latest being my (Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) friend Nico Abote's post on his Facebook profile. He was celebrating the kind of connections he is making on LinkedIn compared to, presumably, Facebook. Nico, by the way, is a renowned videographer.

After Nico’s post, many of his Facebook friends came in with their own thoughts, he is one of the Zimbabweans with a high engagement rate on Facebook, I must admit, and this post was no different. Some of the comments led me to write this post and try to demystify the concept of which social network is better than the other.

There are too many Social Media platforms to consider, and I would advise anyone not to try too many, an average of 2 to 3 networks and doing them very well should be enough for most businesses and freelancers. The question that then comes is: How do I chose which 2 or 3 to focus on. And it is this issue that I will try to address here. In social media, it’s about quality, not just quantity. Doing two or three channels really well with consistent, highly engaging content that is reaching and interacting with your target audience is what will lead to conversion and customers.

I used to talk of ‘The Big 5’ in Social Media, that is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+, but from now I will talk of ‘The Serious 6’, because Instagram has given reason to believe it must always be considered. Many people also want to talk of Pinterest, but personally I have never been a big fan of the network, and I’ve also realised that not many Zimbabweans use Pinterest. So for now I will leave it in my argument.

Who is Where?

Source: slideshare.net
Before you chose which 2 or 3 of these 6 you need concentrate on, you first need to know who your customer is, after answering this question, determine where this targeted buyer is found, and since there is no data specific to Zimbabwe on the demographics and usage of these social networks, we will use the international statistics, and accordingto a Pew survey in 2015:
  • ·         Facebook has wide, global usage, and surprisingly to me, fewer young people are staying active.
  • ·         Instagram is a favourite among teens and young adults.
  • ·         Twitter is home to many information junkies and tech savvy people (In Zimbabwe, it has become a discussion platform, especially from those who hate what the inept government is doing to our beloved Zimbabwe)
  • ·         LinkedIn is the playground for high income, educated professionals
  • ·         Google+ is a network with a predominantly older male user base (in Zimbabwe, we would just say male user, not OLDER male user)
  • ·         YouTube has an equal number of men and women, but men are more active users with wider preferences
  • ·         And though I didn’t want to list it, Pinterest has a user base which is 80% female dominated, most of whom are from a higher income background

Assuming these stats hold true for Zimbabwe as an individual demography sample, you now know where you are likely to get the most returns on your social media marketing efforts by targeting your personas.

What Content Do You Share?

For your content to go viral and have meaningful engagement, you need to post on the right platforms, written content performs differently with visual content on different platforms.

Written content has proven to be more effective on platforms that ensure readership. Whether it’s short or long, articles and blog posts get a lot of visibility and shares through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

On the other hand, if your business has a lot of focus on physical products, going visual can open up endless possibilities for you. Facebook (yes, Facebook again), Instagram (and Pinterest and Tumblr and  . . .) are great for visually oriented social media accounts which are usually dominated by girls.

If you create or can create a lot of videos about your products or services, then you have to seriously consider YouTube. Whilst other video sharing sites like Vimeo and Vine have proved very popular globally, I am yet to ascertain their popularity and effectiveness with the locals, but you can still try them. Consider creating ‘How To’ videos, as they can attract the right type of people to your channel.

Your Industry

There is a general trend on the type of industry that performs better on certain platforms, and you need to choose wisely if you are to get the desired engagement and eventually conversion of fans into customers.
Here are some of the industry based trends across social networks:
  • ·         Instagram — art, food, retail, lifestyle and leisure
  • ·         Twitter — news, tech updates
  • ·         LinkedIn — B2B, recruitment agencies
  • ·         Facebook — Almost everyone, but few Business 2 Business companies
  • ·         YouTube — Luxury products, DIY, Home improvement (How to videos)
  • ·         Google+ — SEO, IT

Which would you take?

So whats the best network?

Whilst Facebook is the largest social Network, it can never guarantee you the kind of exposure you might need as a business, especially if your clients are other businesses (B2B guys). Its Newsfeed algorithm will mean you post can easily get lost in a myriad of other status updates and 'weekend at the bar' photos. However, it is the best for customer engagement and building long term relationships.

For products based companies and creatives like photographers and videographers, visual is the way to go, with YouTube, Instagram leading the way (you can put in Pinterest there). They will work well in your product promotion strategy.
Keep you LinkedIn profile professional, and do all the funny stuff on Facebook, just do not jeopardize you chances at anything
Twitter (My personal favorite) is interesting; it works well for most of these businesses. It is an interesting hybrid with active usage by everyone from teenagers to famous athletes and actors to professionals, and companies using it to reach both consumers and businesses. Twitter is also the best if your business is up for constant interaction. It has also become a great platform to run a support center without any hassle. Econet used to use Twitter very well to solve their customers’ problems, although this side of their business has since dropped down dramatically.

What other factors are important in choosing the right social media network? Respond in the comments box below.
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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Facebook's Free Basics: The Other Side

So, according to TechZim, Facebook will be launching its Free Basics service in Zimbabwe in January 2016. Oh, good thing, I mean, what else would be better than having the Internet, the World Wide Web (WWW) of information, available even to the poorest areas of Zimbabwe and poor Zimbabweans, for FREE, yeah, you heard me right, for FREE, not some bundles or other such marketing gimmicks as we have been used to being provided by our Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Econet and Telecel. After all, this service has already been launched in some African countries.

According to Facebook, a number of SELECTED basic services will be offered to the Zimbabwean community for free, and these basic services include websites or apps that deal in health, education and so on. This should be a welcome development, as important information about such things as health will be available to the masses for free, a situation better than the current situation where only those with the money to buy data can access such information. The overall aim is to make anyone and everyone, especially the poor, access such basic information, thereby bettering their lives.

For the Poor, but not for the Poor

Sarcastically.....Yes, access to internet is going to better the lives of people who have no access to sanitised toilets, toothbrush, basic healthcare, education, have no source of income, no chances of mobility. This can be considered a dangerous proposition, giving people with no access to basic rights information on what could be, without allowing them the remotest chance to be a part of that which they will desire.
The poor need the basics, Sanitized toilets, and not the internet
Raising poor people's aspiration, by providing them with internet access, must be met with opportunities to pursue the aspirations, otherwise its plain cruuelty. If we are going to be honest with each other, these poor communities rarely use the internet for productivity, but for chatting, music and videos, whilst we might not necessarily want to dictate what anyone uses the internet for, this free access will create an even greater demand for such services as Facebook, thereby distracting the productivity of these communities, whilst increasing the marketing value of Facebook, via the aptly named Free Basics (FB as well)

Net Neutrality

The issue of Net Neutrality has been discussed and exhausted, but I will highlight it again here. A lot of us Zimbabweans might not understand what Net Neutrality is, so I'll take the definition from Wikipedia:
Net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. (Wikipedia, 31 Dec 2015)
Let me further explain what this means, Anyone should have access to any website or web resource, at the same price.

This probably still doesn't make sense to some, so let me give an example of clear violation of the principle of Net Neutrality: Econet offers Facebook and Whatsapp Bundles, at a cheaper price than accessing other sites per Megabyte. This means people on Econet platform are more likely to visit their Facebook than many other platforms and websites on the Internet. (Facebook is not the Internet, and the Internet is not Facebook)

So what is the problem with you being granted access to information or apps that you use everyday at a cheaper rate than others that are not so useful websites or apps? Everything. For starters, it makes the playing ground uneven, consider a small Zimbabwean startup that has developed an app to compete with Whatsapp, who will use that app if accessing it is more expensive compared to accessing the established brand? The internet should be open, and access should be fair so we can all compete at the same level.

The worst thing, in reference to Net Neutrality and the Free Basics service, is that Facebook and the ISPs decide what is basic. We do not need Internet Gatekeepers. This hand-picking of services to be included will obviously lead to discrimination against other services not on the list, especially those of rivals, take the case of Econet's Ownai a classifieds platform that is zero rated from an Econet line, it makes it unfair on other such services as www.classifieds.co.zw, and eventually will kick out smaller rivals out of business, leading to monopolising certain sections of the Internet.
Yes, they will decide what we can, and what we cannot access!

Privacy Issues 

 Facebook basically is in the business of selling data, your data, to those who want to market their products and services, they are not in the business of connecting you with your loved ones, they only use that as bait. Now allowing all services that are accessible via Free Basics's data to pass through Facebook's servers simply means we are giving them more data than they can collect via their Social Networking platform, Facebook itself, and they will make money using your data, without your consent.

A better explanation of the dangers of this is given by the Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institute of Science in their statement criticizing Free Basics:
This flaw is not visible to the lay person as it’s a technical detail, but it has deep and disturbing implications.  Since Facebook can access un-encrypted contents of users’ ‘basic’ services, either we get to consider health apps to be not basic, or risk revealing health records of all Indians to Facebook.  Either we get to consider our banking apps to be not ‘basic’, or risk exposing the financial information of all Indians to Facebook.

Finally

Whilst Free Basics seems a very noble idea, and will obviously come with some immense benefits to the Zimbabwean population, we need to be worried, lest allowing them to run such services will eventually give them access to almost all data on all Zimbabweans. Whilst this might seem far-fetched, Facebook can eventually become stronger than the Government:





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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Deal with Candy Crush Requests once and for all!

If you are on Facebook, like all (Yes, I said that) normal Zimbabweans are, then you have that one crazy friend, no, its not one actually, those crazy friends who visit Facebook for the sake of playing that irritating game, Candy Crush Saga (Lets block it now). You can check out the image on the left, it just shows how much people hate those invites, and by the way, I loved that Movie, Liam Neeson at his Best

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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Whatsapp Double Blue Tick - What it means


OK, so yesterday I was chatting to this girl, who I must admit, am kinda fond of, but I ain't gonna take any action towards that, and its not the subject of this article. What suprised me is after sending her a message as usual, I got the single tick, then the usual double tick, and after a few seconds, both ticks turned BLUE! I could not get angry, for starters, Blue is my favourite color, and green my worst color, so having a bit of Blue on the predominantly Green whatsapp is a welcome development for me.

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