When television personality Ken Eugene Anangwe started reading news at Contact FM in 2008, he knew that he was making a difference and playing his part in contributing to the collection and dissemination of news. What he didn’t know was how to use the tools available to reach out to a bigger audience.
By the time he left Contact FM in 2013, Anangwe was running a show called #101Rwanda and he had by then discovered the importance of social media and how it can be used to boost ratings. By the time he introduced his Debate411 show in June last year, Anangwe was an ‘expert’ of social media manipulation and today, he not only attributes his success to hard work, but also to the opportunities offered by the online mediums.
“Social media has been instrumental in boosting my career. I knew social media was a trending platform that would increase my visibility when it came to what I was doing.
Actually, the success of all my shows from #101RW to #Debate411 can be attributed to the way I take advantage of the social media from Twitter, Facebook and Youtube,” he says.
In particular, Anangwe says that Youtube has been helpful because those interested in his show can follow it on the channel because it’s uploaded immediately after it airs.
“Most people don’t get time to listen to radio or watch my shows live, so I decided to make things easier for them by always uploading the shows on my Youtube channel,” he says.
Anangwe has reaped so big from these mediums that some people have followed his work on social media and even made attempts to employ him.
“A top South African media house focused on business reporting found me and listed me for an interview for a business reporter position. I did the interview via Skype but I didn’t make it just because I am not a business reporter but it still was a very interesting experience,” he says.
Jimford Alukhaba, commonly known as VJ Nano, works as a video jockey at K-Club and Masters Lounge. He attributes the successful nights in both venues to social media, especially Facebook.
“In terms of my work, promoting nightlife, social media has helped us to directly get in touch with regular clients and it has also helped us get new clientele via shares and likes generated by our existing customers,” he says.
On a personal level, he says that he is hooked to social media because he is a soccer diehard and is always interested in real time updates.
“Beside football and probably communication, you will not find me using social media for anything else,” he says.
Ruth Kaitesi works for a company that sells solar lamps. She says that social media is the sales driver of their business.
“Even before we go to main stream media, we have to first place adverts on our social media pages. I think 70 per cent of our sales are generated from putting the tools offered by social media to good use. Our brand awareness is 100 per cent social media,” she says.
But that is work. Personally, Kaitesi wishes that she could leave anything to do with social media in office but she admits that the temptation is hard to resist.
“Social media has become a part of my everyday life. I wish that I could take time off it or even completely stop using it but I have failed to let go,” she admits.
She says that while she would like to quit social media, she also realises that it offers some incentives.
“If I was to compare the advantages of social media to the disadvantages, I would say it’s 50- 50 because for example, it is very cheap and in some areas, even free to connect with family and friends who are abroad through applications like WhatsApp or Viber,” she says.
Irene Mugwaneza says that social media, like any other thing, can be of great advantage if those using it don’t abuse it.
“I think social media does more good than harm if it’s not misused. Social media today serves as a platform for sharing views and ideas with bigger audiences as well as staying in touch with friends and family from across the world in the quickest way possible. I think that no old age version of communication was as affordable and quick as what we have today,” she says.
Mugwaneza says that through social media, she has learnt so much on a wide range of topics by simply following or using forums like Twitter and Instagram. She also says that social media platforms have opened doors of opportunity for her professionally.
“My career has grown through certain opportunities that I received through social media. As a communication expert, this has also proved to be the best way of reaching and interacting with target audiences. I believe that those who say ‘it’s causing more harm’ forget when to put the gadgets on hold and spare time for work and family. Everything is bad if misused so it’s important that people know when to do what and when,” she says.
Amanda Kayumba agrees and says that used well, social media is a powerful tool that can impact lives positively.
“I think social media is very powerful. Used with the right motives, it can make a huge positive impact but the reverse is also true. The impact largely depends on the motives of the user. As an optimist, I think it does more good than harm,” she says.
Kayumba admits that she falls in the category of people who are literally unhappy when they are not holding their phones.
“I like being up to date with my Whatsapp messages and Facebook posts and messages,” she says.
Kayumba also says that she uses social media to seek second opinions when she is not sure about something.
“I use Baby Center for parenting tips and I can tell you that the advice that they give is invaluable. I have heard some doctors refer to it as a source of credible information,” she says.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga is a social media consultant. He says that social media has become something so big that in some countries, including neighbouring Uganda, some people are quitting their jobs to earn from just tweeting and promoting goods and services.
“I have received several offers to do social media work or invites to appear on television to comment on issues I tweet about,” he says.
Ssenyonga, who has about twelve thousand followers on Twitter, says that he prefers using Twitter because it optimises language.
“For a communicator like me, it is a joy to use a platform that pushes you to pack so much in only 140 characters. Facebook also remains important because it’s like one huge address book,” he says.
He says that he can hardly do without social media because a day without it makes him feel like an addict without access to his drug.
“I have had such days when my phone gets a problem or when I am in a game park. Sometimes it’s necessary not to have it and it’s a good opportunity to enjoy basics like reading a book or meditating,” he says.
What you should know about social media
Last week, a group of over 4000 people on Facebook woke up to a picture of a new mum who felt it right to share her post baby body for others to see. That wouldn’t be so bad, if the picture wasn’t of her naked stomach and connected ‘lady business’ in black underwear.
She got as much applause as she did scorn. Truth is, for a woman who had had a baby just less than three weeks before, she looked great. But the visible lady parts in underwear is what made people wonder, “why are you showing this?’
“What some people do not understand is that once you share something on social media, it’s done. There’s no turning back. And there’s a good chance that it will come back to haunt you because when it comes to social media, what you say or do, can and will be used against you,” says a 31-year-old architect who chose anonymity.
“For that new mother he wanted applause for looking great within just three weeks of giving birth, that is not a picture she’ll want to see a couple of years from now, still circulating the internet. No employer in their right mind can hire you after such. And even your actual workplace wouldn’t tolerate it. People need to think before they post,” he adds.
Most people blame social media for creating and popularising negative influences, like socialites who are admired by the youth for their celebrity life, achieved mostly through rowdy lifestyles or nudity and not because of the work that they do.
The likes of Vera Sidika and Huddah Monroe from Kenya come to mind. And whereas these girls may not have children and therefore think they can do whatever they do without a care in the world, what about in the future?
When their kids are picked on for having a mother who was always naked on the Internet, who will they blame?
The architect wonders.
But not all is lost. Social media has helped so many businesses to grow and so many people have reaped big from taking advantage of what a big following can do via promoting one’s work.
Restaurants, night clubs and other businesses are relying on ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ to promote what they do.
‘Hello Food’ does not run an office but instead, relies on social media to advertise their food delivery business.
‘SafeMotos’ runs a social media account where they sell their idea of using a taxi moto that is guided by rules and regulations and has an added advantage of having an address.
Social media has been used by people to do amazing things and make a positive difference in the world.
However, with so many good deeds going on across Facebook, Twitter and the internet as a whole, like all tools, sometimes social media isn’t always used for the right purposes. There are some people who use it to offend, insult or demean others.
How you use social media determines what you get out of it. If you use it positively and not allow it to consume you and alienate you from family and friends, then you will reap big from it. The reverse is also true. The choice is yours.
YOUR VOICE: Has social media done more harm than good?
Of course it is creating more harm than good. People these days find it hard to relate physically with relatives and friends because phones and computers have taken over.
Jackson Rugambwa, economist
Social media is not a human need. I just use it because everyone else is using it. My Whatsapp is always on and I find myself checking for messages every five minutes. That should make you wonder. I have a brother in Canada and he has been there for five years and we are always chatting, I don’t miss him at all. Do you think that that is life?
Jane Uwimana, journalist
It harms who uses it without knowing what they really want. It’s like all the means of communication, it harms when people don’t analyse the information. It’s very helpful to people like journalists and artistes to communicate easily with their fans. It is also useful to friends and family who don’t live in the same place. You have to look out for crooks and you have to make sure that you use it at the right time.
Bob Allan Karemera, social worker
Social media does more harm than good. It reduces productivity in a way that more people spend time on Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter instead of doing more productive stuff. It also has reduced creativity in a way that people want to use shortcuts instead of thinking. You can find anything on social media meaning that you don’t need to think. Do I need to mention the issue of fake friendships? Imagine someone with 5000 followers and yet the real friends are 20. What is the point?
Compiled by Nasra Bishumba