WhatsApp Forwards, The Rise of TikTok and The Fall of Online Comedy

Happy New Decade!

The team and I have been silent for weeks, and not without good reason. December is one of the busiest times of the year for our clients. That said, I’m glad to report that after the initial feedback and our annual reader survey, the team and I will be exploring a subscription later this year (with more consistent content as part of that).

First, we’ve been excited to welcome new talent to Nendo’s team. Aside from that, I was glad to join ‘The Business Daily’s Top 40 under 40 Men’. I appreciate the recognition and the great company I join in that network. My 32nd birthday is also this Saturday (18th) and I’ve been reflecting on one of my most significant years yet.

Join me at a webinar on Kenyan Culture next Friday (24th)

What is Kenyan culture? How does one preserve cultural heritage in 2020? I’ll be running an online workshop on this very topic. Knowing my background in archiving and outlining different online subcultures and our A to Z of Kenyan Twitter project, I’m glad to share some thoughts and approaches on how to do this.

You can register to join me on Friday 24th January 2020 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM (GMT+3:00). I’ll be hosting a webinar on digitally preserving cultural heritage with our friends and clients The British Council. We’re likely to do the conference call/webinar on Zoom.com and would love for you to sign up, attend and bring your questions after the presentation.

Nendo Presents: Our 2020 Trend Report

When Nendo launched in 2014, we launched with a trend report. In the same spirit, the team put in work last December to reflect on what’s set to take place this year (and this decade). We’ve got five trends and we’re launching the report next week.

As always, you can be first in line to read our draft version early next week before we lay it out and disseminate it to the public. We’re also in talks about a possible launch event and will confirm that ahead of time.

Nendo is also looking to hire a Reputation Analyst and Client Success Manager. The team’s a great bunch and we’re looking for someone to comb through the data we’ve got to connect dots and spot patterns for marketers, researchers and our clients.

We’re also looking for someone who has managed relationships within the brand, marketing and communications agency space to join Nendo. I’d appreciate it if you looked at the JDs and spread the word.

Having said that, let’s move to this month’s tasting menu of links for you.

What to Sip

Image by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

Early last year, WhatsApp updated its features to limit forwarded messages. This was in a bid to maintain the spirit of close groups and to prevent viral misinformation from spreading.

This insightful article by the Nieman Lab’s Laura Owen delves into the aftermath of this experiment and goes on to show extensive data on social media manipulation campaigns around the world. The number of countries with political disinformation campaigns more than doubled to 70 in the last two years.

The article proposes a few interesting ideas to counteract harmful fake news. One of them being that WhatsApp could implement a quarantine approach to limit infected users to spread misinformation, especially during elections.

While the forwards may not necessarily be stopped, you can check the virality of a post by looking at the type of arrow next to it. A post that has been forwarded more than five times displays a double arrow. During the 2017 Kenyan general election, my team and I created a “fake news quiz” - while it hasn’t been updated in a while (some questions/answers are since fixed but everything is accurate as of 2018), you can see how good you are at spotting misinformation with Kenyan examples in there.

What to Nibble

Photo by Michelen Studios on Unsplash

The battle of Tiktok versus Instagram continues. But what is the difference exactly? A leaked conversation between Mark Zuckerberg and his team reveals the Facebook CEO undermining the platform by saying, “It’s almost like the Explore Tab that we have on Instagram.”

However, the biggest and possibly most dangerous selling point is that TikToks are premeditated, unlike the haphazard Stories on Instagram. As Techcrunch’s Josh Constine puts it, “TikTok isn’t about you or what you’re doing - it’s about entertaining your audience.”

I was excited in the last quarter to finally meet the local and Africa team of TikTok and was invited to address an Influencer/Creator gathering they had in Nairobi. I’m a big fan of the platform and love the localisation and their approach to working with creators, especially how they provide support and weekly challenges to them.

One of them, MorgyAdrian, told me that he makes money, besides endorsements and local campaigns, through a virtual currency that users overseas can pay within TikTok’s ecosystem.

In other news, Socialbakers’ recent trend report found that Facebook News Feed ads outperformed all other ad units including Instagram News Feed, Instagram Stories, Facebook in-stream video and Facebook suggested video.

When it came to organic content however, live video far out-performed any other type of content. This is important information as brands set new KPIs and seek to restrategize their social media in the new year.

Image source: Socialbakers.com

For the retail and real estate clients my team works with, we’ve seen parallels to this with some caveats. Live video, unless premeditated and scheduled (to build up anticipation) doesn’t always deliver as it isn’t always clear how many megabytes you’re consuming to watch the video.

If I have one request of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, it is for a little counter/ticker that shows the estimated megabytes consumed. Maybe that serves a negative purpose as it leads to people conserving how much they use when viewing, but my guess is it would give control over to the person streaming.

What to Bite

Does anyone remember Google+? Now that it’s officially gone, Google is brainstorming other ways to incorporate social into its platform. Forbes has made the bold prediction that in 2020, we will see the “social index” start to personalize search engine result pages. This means it’s now more important than ever to have functioning social media pages

I could see them exploring something like this in Africa or Asia. Last year, I paid close attention to their launches in Sub Saharan Africa and among them, was the improvements to Google Go, learning apps, traffic and navigation and other challenges solved from a local lens. Africa is far from a profitable continent in advertising dollars but is where growth is expected for the next decade. Here’s looking out for what this social index could mean for us.

In sadder news, internet stalwart CollegeHumor was hit with a round of layoffs last week which media head Sam lays out in this bitter-sweet tweet. This may sound familiar as Zumi.co.ke, a Kenyan content company, shut down in November. This series of events opens up an interesting discussion on the sustainability of content marketing, especially in the face of changing rules and platforms.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve become cynical about blogging and publishing in the Kenyan ecosystem, at least. Having run a few blogs myself, I can empathise with the difficulty in finding the sustainability of this venture.

In 2020, bloggers make their ends meet by cooperating with public relations companies, occasionally writing puff pieces and creating sponsored content. There are a few notable exceptions but it is a tough business to be in between copy-and-paste press releases and influencer marketing gigs.

Photo by Frederick Tubiermont on Unsplash

Comedy writer and director Matt Klinman says it in a way that every content creator can relate to:

“It's completely out of your hands how your work gets out to people. If you make something ambitious, there’s no guarantee it won't get swallowed up by some algorithmic change that you have no control over.”

Links à la Carte

With a mix of links from far and wide, I’d like to give you a final palate cleanser of links to feast your browser tabs on:

  • June Okal’s 2019 Year in Review for Kenyan ICT Law and Policy is a good read to compare progress with the data protection act, IP law, digital taxes and licensing, all of which took place last year.
  • Building on our work from 2018 in battling misinformation, Africacheck.org’s team share a 2019 year in review where they show how Kenyans fall for job fraudsters, false health information, manipulated photos and more
  • A 5-issue newsletter by The Subtext’s Osarumen Osamuyi and the DFS Lab is a great way to get a view on financial services technology and investing in Africa. You can preview the first issue on how to size up the tech landscape and sign up here if you’re keen to get them all.

Data is still a topic of interest. The year started with the controversial news that Safaricom (disclosure: Nendo client) could be planning to monetize user data.  Brian Ngugi opens up in the Business Daily here.

It will be interesting to see how data protection laws will apply in this case. An interesting take on this was the ability to opt-in or opt-out since as a subscriber, one pays to use the network (becoming the customer) and also could have their data shared (making them ‘the product’).

Has your social media reach gone down this year? Relax, It’s not you. The same Forbes article blatantly confirms that there will be a continued decrease in organic social reach for businesses as publicly-traded social media companies plot to increase ad revenue.

A lot to take in? We’re just getting started! That’s all for me for now. You’ll be among the first to get our next trend report and to make sure it gets to you, add me to your Gmail address book or favourite this email to get The Letter N out of the “Updates” tab into your “Primary Inbox.”

Carpe diem and the decade.

Until next time,

Mark and Team Nendo.

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