Social Networks To Play New Roles
A few years ago to agitate for social and political change, people aggregated themselves into pressure groups and political parties. These organizations were gelled together by a strong desire for given change and directed by the values and structures of some of the same organisations they sought to replace. They were led by political heavies who assumed leadership positions in these organizations. Their followers were a mish mash of political opinion ranging from revolutionaries, moralists, democrats to anarchists united by a cause.
In the last several months social change and political agitation has taken a new twist. Social networks are evolving as powerful aggregaters of opinion, and for good reason too. From Egypt to Russia social networks have become the new political party, gathering followers and mobilizing them towards causes.
Firstly, few media channels mirror the real values of democracy than social channels. The freedom to join these virtual groups and the simultaneous ability to say and be heard by all provides legs to the true tenets of people power. The barriers of entry are additionally low. A student of Kenyan politics may recall the struggles that many have endured registering political parties that would then be the legitimate vehicle to advocate change. The process was controlled tightly and often by those you sought to replace. Expecting fair treatment in the circumstances was improbable and dumb. Today, social groups are free to start.
To understand how these evolve and snowball to mega political bodies, it may be important to understand several things. Firstly social groups belong to the group unlike parties that often belong to sponsors. To create a credible group several factors must be present and well understood. The first being people.
The second being a context on which they would be united and aggregated. In many instances brands and other commercial users of social networks seek to unite people on their commercial need rather than on the group’s social need. So the Vehicle seller will create a group named after their car brand and then provide updates on new improvements in their cars.
In many instances most people would not care. People managing groups must therefore think of the group first and the “sponsor” second. To be able to connect to the group it is important that there is a clear understanding of the reason for the group`s existence and this reason must align very clearly with the values and messages of anyone relating to the group.
Causes make great reasons for existence; they have defined objectives and well defined timelines to achieve them. More importantly they have big bad enemies to defeat and this naturally fires up the group to call for help from their friends. As they say nothing unites people more than a common enemy. Understanding these social groups may become mandatory political education this year. Have a fabulous Year.
Frank Maina is Lead Consultant at FMC and CEO at Mobile agency Sponge East Africa