A Sit Down With Noah Miller, Managing Director of Sochin Limited, on the State of Social Media Landscape in Kenya
Who is Noah Miller?
My friends used to call me a global nomad and indeed I have lived in North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and now Africa. My family and I have grown roots in Nairobi and we feel at home here. Beyond that, I’m a curious person who likes to live and learn.
What does Sochin Limited stand for?
Sochin Limited is a strategic communications consulting firm founded in 2015. The inspiration for the name comes from fifteen stroke Chinese characters that signify a small wheel that never stops spinning. In Western culture, the wheel signifies intellectual powers and human advancement. These attributes symbolize how we like to think and work at Sochin. The red dot in our logo signifies the wheel and we are constantly thinking about how we can create impact for our clients.
What is your take on the social media landscape in Kenya?
Kenya has made leaps with its Information & Communication Technology and rightly has a leading place in Africa. The learning curve must have been steep and today Kenya has many accomplishments to be proud of. What’s missing, however, is baseline research around social media consumption habits across the country, how various industries currently use or plan to use digital technology, and I think social media campaigns could generally be more creative. Some companies are doing amazing work in the digital space. But overall I think organizations need a clearer view of how to pursue their business objectives using social media and how to incorporate insights into their communication activities.
Who is an influencer and do Kenyans understand the meaning of that word?
I was really confused when a Kenyan friend kept using the term bloggers when he was talking about Twitter influencers. You can be an influencer on different channels though one of the challenges is how to leverage the unique attributes of each platform. Frankly, I find it much more interesting to follow an influencer on Instagram who can tell an exciting story compared to someone who has a huge Twitter audience but has boring posts. A real influencer is someone who can keep his or her followers engaged and can authentically advocate for a brand, cause, or position.
Do Kenyan companies understand the role of social media in their businesses?
Many Kenya companies do not fully grasp the power of social media, how it fits into their business and the impact it can make. I also find that companies often do not realize the resources it takes to have a successful social media presence. This starts with not doing enough research, not having a strategy, not producing persuasive content, and not spending money on monitoring & evaluation. The end result is frequently a campaign that was average and did not deliver a return on investment.
What do you think is ailing Kenyan companies concerning social media?
People still have this misperception that social media do not require much financial or human capital. Time horizons are also short since much of the social media work is project focused. This means that many social media campaigns are focused solely on achieving awareness and fall short on generating longer-term impact. Finally, I think staff working in communication departments and the C-Suite requires more training. Knowledge gaps are often revealed when I conduct trainings on social media. Everybody is addicted to smartphones and social media apps, but we have some way to go in terms of applying this technology to meet business objectives.
How is Sochin Limited planning to contribute in (6) above?
The Global Communications Report 2016 (published by the Holmes Report and the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism) identified three areas that will drive growth in the communication sector: a) content generation, b) social media, and c) brand reputation. These activities are very complementary and we want to help clients to unlock value in all of these areas. I would add one more critical area, which is business intelligence. I believe research and analytics are vital for benchmarking, strategy formulation, and creating a comparative advantage. More companies need to have the same realization.
Kenya just concluded her general elections. What was the role of social media in those elections?
This is an area I want to investigate further with the help of our media intelligence platform. At a recent roundtable discussion at the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications I was asked if Kenya was witnessing a Twitter election, akin to what happened in the U.S. last year. My resolute answer was: No. Social media didn’t determine the outcome of the Kenyan election. Part of the reason is that the rural population is not on social media, yet they represent a huge proportion of the electorate. However, for the urban population on WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram or Twitter, I do think fake news and political advertising may have shaped opinions. I don’t know to what extent these people voted differently because of what they saw on social media, but I believe existing opinions were definitely reinforced.