Over the past two weeks, the tech world has been a-buzz with: announcements from Facebook’s integration with Skype for video calls, LinkedIn surpassing MySpace as the number two social network, Amazon announcing the launch of a tablet, you name it, but nothing has gripped our attention over the past few weeks like Google+.
For the late adopters, Google+ is a social network operated by Google and is still under field-testing. Google+’s new feature of ‘friend circles’ means you have the power to choose who sees your posts or photos not to mention the 10-person video chat (‘Hangouts’) that is superior to Facebook’s. Google+ strikes a nerve with an audience in social media overload who view this as an opportunity to start a fresh social network; having gone through a slew of social networks-hi5, MySpace, LinkedIn, Tumblr,Facebook, Twitter-I feel like I am fast approaching the end of my social media half life but for the itch in my side…how can Rwandans exploit social media to our advantage?
Last year, a Rwandan social site called igasabo was launched but has hardly taken off; also, a group of Rwandan students attempted in vain to translate Facebook into Kinyarwanda among other things and yet we seem to be eons away from a customised Rwandan social media experience.This is unfortunate because with all the evils that come with social networking (less productivity at work/school, child predators, etcetera), there are means to swing this tool to our advantage. Rwandans are not immune to this social media bug and frankly speaking, it is not about to go away (even if Google+ requires users to be 18 and over) so how about we make the most of it.
Take one-Building business brand image. Social media is invaluable for brand awareness and as a lead generation tool to intercept potential prospects as companies drive traffic to their sites whilst hosting discussions on how to improve products and/or services. This is especially valuable as a growing consumer economy.
Take two-Science and technology communities can exploit social networking to allow groups to expand their knowledge base and share ideas. I can bet my monthly stipend that over half of the student populations at KIST, UNR and other tertiary levels of learning are active members of Facebook. How about using this online presence to foster dialogue on various subjects of academic interest? Or use it as a communication tool whereby professors create chat forums and post assignments as well as offer out-of-class assistance to students, leaving students with no excuse for not completing assignments; from a career perspective, professional networking (job opportunities and vacancy announcements) should be driven by institutions and companies reaching out to students and potential candidates using social media.
Lastly, grassroots organisation-as was the case with the recent SolidAfrica fundraising-has been made much more effective due to social networks and many more organisations in Rwanda should proactively adopt this-there is indeed a reason why ‘Facebook’ is now enlisted as a verb, let us use it in an active tense and make the most of it.
Author is interested in emerging technologies and their impact on business and society. She is a postgraduate student in Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania (USA).