Yes, starting a blog is daunting …

Many people who are new to blogging find it a rather daunting concept.
Stop thinking about blogging like you do about other writing.  Blogging is different.  You don’t need to develop a thesis.  You don’t even have to write an article. Blog posts are supposed to be short and to the point.  If you treat your blog posts like a rambling monologue then you will have less, rather than more readers.
In a world where people are overloaded with information, if you don’t get them in the first 8 seconds with a hook that keeps them there, then you’ve lost them for good. That’s why first impressions count so very much. In my industry, people are used to writing long reports for donors, full of incomprehensible jargon. Getting them to think about writing so that somebody actually reads it is a difficult sell.
In fact, lots of people don’t really like writing at all.
That’s ok.  Use video or audio instead.  Try <a href=”www.ipadio.com/phlogs/Idasa/”><b>ipadio</b></a>.
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Why you need to have a mobile strategy

Africa has seen phenomenal growth in mobile browsing in the last year, according to the stats coming out of Opera (mobile web browser). Coming off a low base, Sudan tops the charts with a whopping 4645% growth (page views). Ghana also has an admirable 916% growth (page views). Kenya leads viewer growth – each user browsing an average of 639 pages every month. That’s a lot of viewing!

Facebook and Google are the top ranked sites in the top twelve countries in Africa – South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, Sudan, Libya, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Mozambique and Mauritius.

In the last year the number of unique users of the mobile OS Opera increased by 124%. That means we are seeing phenomenal growth of mobile users browsing the web. That means if you are operating in Africa, you have to have a mobile strategy. Don’t have one yet?  Don’t panic, talk to us…

See more details about the top three:  South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya
Latest about Opera’s research here.

Facebook 500 million users

Apparently facebook now has 500 million users.  The geographical disparity of users makes for interesting reading, especially when looking at who is topping the growth charts in the last few months.  Africa is riding the wave … the top 6 countries in terms of facebook growth in the last 12 weeks are Angola, DRC, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Tanzania.

This means that brands targeting Africans need to sit up and take notice of the take up of facebook in African communities – mobile users are more active than desktop users.  See the full figures below.

Facebook growth in last 12 weeks

That elusive thing called time … and social media

At a recent inhouse workshop, part of the ‘homework’ over a 6 week period was to build a personal blog.  At the end of 6 weeks, very few of the participants had created anything worthwhile.  Admittedly, it was an internal course and it wasn’t a matter of pass or fail. In discussion, it became clear that the problem wasn’t a lack of technical skills, but rather the intangible aspects of learning a new technology i.e. having the TIME to spend learning something new.
The problem was the assignment was not part of their daily work – it was an additional extra. No-one had time for additional extras.
We need tools to help us work faster and better; not something that adds more work. When you’re introducing social media to your strategy, remember that the trick is to make technology work for you – ease your communication, extend your brand, broaden your message, reach more people.  To avoid feeling overwhelmed by more things to do, only take on board social media strategies that work for you.
So before you introduce new tactics or social media to a project, ask yourself: how can this new tool help us to achieve our goals more quickly and easily?

Tips for starting out on social media

1) Make sure your social media message is consistent with your brand. This requires some seniority and experience of your brand in order to manage social media properly.  Do not outsource it to an intern or junior member of staff.
2) Social media should support your broader aims and campaigns; it is not a stand alone item. Integrate it into your core functions and programme areas.
3) Educate yourself and senior management about the value of social media for feedback, donor relationships, and citizen outreach (despite nonprofits not being big on marketing).

Understanding the social media release

When twitter just isn’t enough

Sometimes 160 characters just isn’t enough.  When an SMS won’t do it, where do you turn?  Especially when the people you’re talking to don’t have smart phones and can’t access the mobile web. Enter the freedom fone. Recently, Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe introduced Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to Zimbabwe. Called freedom fone, the system integrates a content management system (CMS) with information services via SMS and voice. It is based on a model commonly used in private companies and adapted for development purposes – a telephone tree where users call in and dial specific numbers to find the information they need.

Charities and development organisations who work with people in low-income areas are always asking the question – how do we communicate with those who need it the most? It’s pretty easy to reach your newspaper-readers in cities, TV-watchers in areas with electricity, and even radio-listeners in urban hubs.  But what about the millions of people beyond those networks?

Kubatana has created freedom fone with the express purpose of reaching marginalized groups of people.  In Zimbabwe, where 30 years of independent political rule started out as a magical time but has descended to “political stalemate and economic stagnancy”, Kubatana has had to use alternative media to voice their opinion.

“The people who need information the most live on the margins of society without access to the internet, email, pod casting and all the other sexy new innovations in ICT. But technologists, media and development practitioners keep ignoring the fact that the majority of poor people don’t have access to computers and fancy gizmos, and continue to innovate in ICT without the communication needs of marginalized communities in mind”

Globally, more people now have access to a mobile phone than a toilet. The rise and ubiquitous use of the mobile phone has given the world a platform to reach the previously unreachable. However, technological advancements most often follow the money.  And finally, it seems, there is commercial value in providing information to the poor. Amy Saunderson-Meyer, media and information officer at Kubatana – spoke to Kiwanja:

“Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) strategies are viewed in many contemporary business circles as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. BoP refers to the 2.6 billion people who live below the $2 a day breadline and many business strategists argue that if targeted correctly, these consumers can offer businesses a main line into one of the fastest growing markets. Even if the price of products and services has to be reduced, profits can be made up and surpassed in volumes sold.
A more neutral view of BoP strategies is that they are not simply a means to make millions, but a pragmatic appreciation that through commercial profit making activities, sustainable solutions can be developed that help alleviate poverty. With thought, the poor can be incorporated into the system in a mutually beneficial manner – not only as consumers but also as producers, partners, entrepreneurs and innovators.”

Kubatana advocates that the system is easy to use, and can be applied in a variety of circumstances.  They give examples of how freedom phone could be used, to:

• Enhance civic engagement in electoral and voter registration campaigns
• Broaden access to HIV/Aids information
• Provide health information during an epidemic
• Offer information on demand
• Record community feedback to a radio station
• File audio reports from citizen journalists in the field

The system was piloted in Zimbabwe for 3 months in late 2009, and launched in April 2010. Freedom fone doesn’t have language limitations, and also doesn’t require an internet connection to operate. This is invaluable in rural Africa where full connectivity is constrained by cost or availability.

When twitter and SMS just isn’t enough, then freedom fone may provide us with the opportunity to interact and communicate with large numbers of mobile phone users who are otherwise difficult to reach. Try the demo or listen to an example of how it works here.