Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One Hundred and Forty

One Hundred and Forty

“Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future.”

One Hundred and Forty

“Kenya has become a country of ten millionaires and ten million beggars.”

 One Hundred and Forty

“It’s the little things that citizens do. That’s what will make a difference. My little thing is planting trees.”

One Hundred and Forty

These words spoken respectively by Jomo Kenyatta, JM Kariuki, and Wangari Maathai are similar in that they influenced millions. They also have something else in common. One Hundred and Forty. As in each of the statements is less than One hundred and Forty characters.

140 is the maximum number of characters that you can write on the social media website twitter. Kenyans are second only to South Africa in using twitter in Africa, sending nearly a million tweets a month. And 70% of these Kenyans on twitter are using it to monitor news. This is according to a study called How Africa Tweets conducted in 2011. For someone trying to get their message through, this represents a large and captive audience.

Next year in Kenya, we are going to have campaigns for the most intensely fought election with politicians targeting the highest number of elective seats and fighting over the biggest electorate ever. It is a year of superlative firsts.

Today, I’d like to know – for the first time, are we also likely to see the emergence of twitter as a medium of influence dissemination in Kenyan politics?

The prima facie test of the influence of a twitter account would be the number of followers it has – or how many people subscribe to receive messages from that specific account. Followers are twitter’s currency and users of twitter obsess on the number of their followers.

How does someone get more followers?

According to twitteranalysis.com my twitter account @startupkenya has been analysed as a perfect twitter user; which means I have just the right mix of interesting conversation, shared content, and engagement with other users. I’m sure you’ve all heard of @startupkenya, right?

The crickets confirm my suspicion. Despite my “perfect user” score and three years of tweeting I only have about 500 followers, barely enough to get on a ballot paper according to the Election Act. So how does one increase followers?

Back in 2011, an Indonesian filmmaker Joko Amwar with about 1800 followers tweeted that if he got his 3000th follower by a particular day, he’d walk naked on a public street. In a few hours he already had 10,000 followers and had to honour his promise. Let’s hope this does not encourage our honorable Minister Esther Murugi to take her unthreading threats to twitter in order to amass followers?

But does it mean that only voyeuristic tweets can earn one followers? And does having more followers really equate to more influence?

If that were the case, we would probably expect Martha Karua to be the next president in Kenya. As at December 2012, she is the Kenyan politician with the most followers – over 110,000 that’s 25 percent more than the next. However according to the latest opinion poll from Ipsos Synovate she is only popular with 2% of likely voters or put another way, statistically of all of you here, no one would vote for her.

But the number of followers is only half the story, what about the quality of followers and of the message? During last week’s Matutu crisis, Simon Oriko with less than 2,000 followers started a trend on twitter to help stranded Nairobians get free rides home. The trend dubbed CarPoolKE was a truly altruistic response to a commonly shared challenge. Not surprisingly the tweet was picked up by the Kenya Red Cross twitter account and shared among its 45,000 followers. It became a top trend that day and resulted in helping hundreds of people get home safely.

As far as elections go, a study published in September 2012’s issue of Nature magazine found that individuals were more likely to vote if they had seen a message indicating that their friends or friends had already voted. In countries with heavy media regulation, twitter has even more clout in shaping public opinion. The Arab Social Media Report by the Dubai School of Government gave empirical heft to the conventional wisdom that Twitter abetted if not enabled the historic Arab Spring.

So in conclusion we can see that for a message to have real influence, it does not need to be started by the most popular kid on the block, but it needs to have a message that resonates with the audience. The audience will then act as the conduit through which the message is shared with thousands or even millions of others.

So the question to ask yourself today is: How can I influence the elections in less than 140 characters?

This was the speech I delivered as part of my Competent Communicators project in toastmasters on December 10, 2012. Nairobi Toastmasters helps develop one's communication and leadership skills.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Entrepreneurs Chat with Kalonzo Musyoka

Back in 1995 there were precious few internet connections in Kenya, and these few were courtesy of Dr. Shem Ochuodho's pioneering ISP. In Nakuru county there were even fewer, 3 to be exact, and one of those happened to be in our house.

We used it mainly for email, my dad getting to communicate with mom who was out of the country. We only dialed up every other day as the costs were dear. Being part of such a small community though had its advantages with one of those being that Dr. Ochuodho would send daily emails with a summary of the news of that day as it appeared in the press.

This was back in 95 when KBC was the only TV and radio station available in Nakuru and thus the only source of electronic information. Dr. Ochudho's "news"letters were therefore a gem and helped me appreciate just how effective internet communication was in relaying information.

Fast forward to 2012 and we have a plethora of ways to instantly communicate. However when it comes to relaying diverse, up-to-date, and interesting content twitter takes the cake. I was an "early" entrant to twitter (at least as a KOT) circa march 2009 but it took me a whole year to really figure it out and make it useful to me. Number one thing I can tell someone who wants to get into twitter is to follow people who tweet things of interest to you and not to just blindly follow your friends (though the two are not mutually exclusive); as you might in Facebook.

So it was on Monday this week while following an interesting tweet that I came upon the hashtag #EntreCafe. A few clicks and I found out, @maishamapya were giving out invites to a forum where entrepreneurs could engage with the vice president Kalonzo Musyoka on matters affecting them. Wary of politician's ability to engage on policy matters but in need of a legislative solution to a problem I was facing, I quickly signed up and a couple of emails later I was on the invites list.

The event was being held at Serena and we were asked to be 30 minutes early at 4:30pm; which I dutifully was but it was nearly 7:00pm when the VP finally showed up. In the intervening period I got to interact with some KOT offline, including the ever ambitious @sokoanalyst who was a main organizer of the event, @akenyangirl who can befriend anyone under a minute, @geishafire who runs Networking in Heels and has some great ideas on incubation, and @UrbaneKenyan the economist who even the veep lauded for his vast knowledge of parastatal and government processes.

After waiting for nearly 3 hours though I was pretty anxious that the event kick off and almost missed a great opening speech by Dr. Masafa. Dr. Masafa is the executive chairman of West FM (the media station sponsoring the event) and kicked things off with a great story of how his father in the 50s would hire a human Public Address system every time he slaughtered a cow for sale. The human PA would climb on top the tallest eucalyptus tree and use his gift of gab to woo villagers to come buy the meat. He then analogised that West FM was offering a similar marketing platform leveraging 21st century technology, particularly with their digital news network which was being launched and also video streaming the event live. Much respect to the Daktari who has done a lot in the short time West FM has been operational.

The Veep then took the lectern and started by apologizing, claiming that as leader of government business he was held up overseeing an important vote in parliament. If that's so, then I let it slide however some of his minders had earlier used "traffic" as an excuse causing a KOT to comment that they'd want a president who is not late.

Mr. Kalonzo nevertheless gave what at first appeared to be a brilliant contemporaneous speech. It's only when late comer reporters appeared with DVRs and he started rehashing his speech to give sound bites and I realized that what I thought to be a great speech was really rehearsed talking points. Still I gave him 9/10 for delivery.

The Q&A session followed and I was the second to ask a question on regulation of company registration. By sheer coincidence the question before me elicited a comment from the veep that company registration now took 3 days and that the Company Bill 2010 had been enacted. Understandably I had to pick my jaw from the floor as neither of the above is true. Company registration takes 30-40 days and the company and the Company Bill has not yet been enacted.

I made sure I pointed out the above when I asked my question which was whether the veep would commit to changing Section 34(1)(b) and Schedule II Paragraph x of the Advocates Remuneration Order (2009) which restrict registration of companies in Kenya to advocates and who can only charge a minimum of Sh. 50,000. He vaguely agreed that the law needed reform but instead of going the whole hog and standardizing the forms of registration to remove the need for specialized drafting knowledge, he substituted advocates with CPAs and "other professionals". I pointed out to him that Rwanda offered free online company registration and that should be our goal.

There were other great questions, comments and engagements with the veep. Some of the cherry picks were @geishafire's suggestion that the many free floors at Telposta could easily be used to incubate entrepreneurs on a rotational basis; and @samgichuru of @thenailab suggestion that we should stop our fixation on Konza, and instead work with what we have - like setting up 10 nailabs instead of waiting for 1 Konza city. There were also a surprisingly high number of entrepreneurs in agribusiness as well as civil society and members of the press.

The forum was in one word engaging, and the moderator Veronic from IEA did a fantastic job in keeping the flow and tying it all up together. Definitely looking forward to the next edition and a chance to bring more awareness and legislative action to the very noncompetitive company registration regime that is currently in Kenya.

Bonus: See photos of the event here

Friday, February 17, 2012

5 Cost-Effective Techniques you Can Use to Avoid Your Car Getting Stolen or Carjacked!

Cars are great. They get us from point A to point B and they carry our goods or personnel to the customer when we are in business. Of course they are also an important asset that any owner would make sure to protect against theft. This article tells you 5 cost-effective ways you can use to do exactly that...

Read more about the 5 Cost-Effective Techniques you Can Use to Avoid Your Car Getting Stolen or Carjacked!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

5 Common Drugs You Need to Know About

It’s that time of the year again, a nasty flu virus has been going around and everybody is walking around with a handkerchief. We all hate getting sick, but what’s even worse is getting sick and being given illegible prescriptions for medication you have no idea about. This article tries to demystify some of those common but illegible drugs we are usually asked to swallow to ease our illnesses

Read about those 5 Common Drugs you need to know about

Thursday, February 09, 2012

How do you find clients online?

Where do I start?
The spread of the internet into every sphere of our lives and the mega stardom of internet wiz kids like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin has fired our imagination. It’s now possible to believe that with a good idea and internet connection one can have a viable business.  We’re living in the internet age and It’s a great time to own a business but the question is, can you really use the internet to grow your business? People ask me where does one start, how do you find clients on the internet, and can this be outsourced?

What is Prospecting?
The thing to remember is that the internet is a fantastic tool, it can do several wonderful things but a tool is only as good as its’ user. To really benefit from the internet you have to know how to use it. Just like in a traditional business, the first thing and most important to use the internet for in your business is to get prospective clients. Some simply call this marketing but we like to refer to its more specific term, which is prospecting.

Prospectors in Kakamega dig the ground to look for gold; we also dig the internet to get “gold”. In our case though, the gold is: people who fall within our target market, are interested in or products and have given us permission to contact them.

Read more here about getting clients for your business and how the Genius Prospect List can assist you with that.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

If a picture is 1000 words a video is a million!

Here at Genius Executives, we've been very busy the last couple of months. We've re-branded our company  and put together a strong team to make sure we remain the top outsourcing and consultancy company for small businesses in Kenya,

One our the biggest challenges we've been facing however is how to tell someone about our revamped EVA products that now come in black-boxed packages called Genius Boxes. Working through hundreds of different speech ideas and text we came to realize that a video can say best what EVA and Genius Boxes are all about. Won't want to take the fun out of the viewing so you can go ahead and see it for yourself here.