Retrospective: Social Media Awards 2013

Every year I take on a challenge that stretches me. One in which I am familiar with a topic but I am forced to learn a new thing about what I consider to be part of who I am.

In 2012 , my new challenge was the Amakula Film Festival in Kampala. I was selected to be one of the judges of that Ugandan film festival and I was forced to bring my A-game where the whole film thing is concerned. I sat down and watched dozens of movies and wrote myriad notes about them to decide which is the best feature film, best short film et al. The Kenya winners for those awards were David Tosh Gitonga’s Nairobi Half Life for best Feature Film and Andrew Kaggia’s Wageuzi for best Short Film.

The experience allowed me to meet some really cool people and the sad part is that this year the festival will not be running. I would have loved to head out to Kampala at the end of the year to try it out again but is not to be.

This year my big event was the Social Media Awards 2013. The awards were being hosted in Kenya for the first time and I was in a group of excellent people who understand Social Media presently and how it evolved and who is doing what in Kenya called “judges.”

The awards were hosted at the Laico Recency in Nairobi on 9th August and many folks went home with trophies some which include nice fat cheques. The event was really nice and with rave reviews from attendants (including sponsors and media) you can be sure that this is one award ceremony that we shall be seeing again.

The striking part for me wasn’t the “awards.” After all, we are getting award loaded in this town. PR guys awards. Insurance guys awards. Marketers awards. Lawyer awards. Journos awards. You want awards we have them all. What interested me was that the awards cut across so many industries. It showed how people in so many parts of our society are using their Facebooks and Twitters (In Kenya for some reason only these two are considered social media; you try and mention to a guy about using Pinterest (here’s mine) for instance and prepare for blank looks) for their communication needs.

Once upon a time, social media was a bother to HR departments because people were too busy was “wasting time” on Facebook and IT people were asked to block the offending websites. Now people are encouraged to talk about the companies they work and promotethe products to their friends. Talk about a complete turnaround.

For me however it was a true eye opener to how the communications in Kenya has changed and grown. Once upon a time many folks in offices were known to merrily work on their few computers delivering on their deadlines. Today however, when the big Internet providers Safaricom and Access Kenya go down for an hour you will hear an almighty scream on the interwebs from frustrated workers. They will off course have stopped using their office computers but will now be using the internet on the phone to show their displeasure.

Even more is how important social media is a job that people are considering to do as a career choice. Five years ago if your child/nephew/niece mentioned that they want to do social media, you would have first scrunched your face up as you try and figure what on earth they were talking about before banning them. It was clearly a phase you thought. Now major colleges in Kenya, Daystar quickly comes to mind, are offering it as courses for those who want to specialise in it.

The social media is growing first. Is it about to peak any time soon? I doubt it. Its set to grow until it becomes the standard. I will be happy in a decade or so to have been counted as one of the many pioneers. This was what this judging experience gave me this year.

Away from the awards I met some really cool people who are at the top of their game that challenge me to be better not just at my social media but at life. Do better. I accept the challenge.