Whether casual chats or sparks for world-changing events – online conversations can have far-ranging effects. At both extremes, social media communities have unexpected influence, particularly on matters close to their hearts.
On such heart-tugger is Simon Okelo, a storyteller, entrepreneur, and founder and executive director of One Vibe Africa, which promotes social welfare and economic empowerment. He talked about social media’s ramifications during an Africa Tweet Chat.
“Online communities have an impact beyond the people participating in it,” Okelo said. “Revolutions have been made possible in the last decade because of online communities.
“The response to natural catastrophes like the cyclones that hit Malawi, Mozambique and other parts of Southern Africa was heard globally,” he said. “The victims were supported faster because of online community participation and the ripple effect.”
Communities in online networks share common characteristics.
“The key is whether you can trust a person, organization or brand that you interact with in online networks,” Okelo said. “What are you looking for in online networks? Why have you chosen online networks to pursue your agenda?
“The other property is the impact of your actions online on your community and the world,” he said. “You have to be accountable for your actions on and offline.”
Okelo recounted how conversations in online communities have benefitted him.
“I have been running One Vibe Africa since 2008 after the post-election violence in Kenya,” he said. “Online community has enabled me to connect with over 80 percent of the current support system for my work.
“I have connected with some of the most gifted artists such as Sauti Sol records, Blitz the Ambassador, Nik West, Choklate, Rocky Dawuni, RockyDawuni, Meklit, Aramide and many others, primarily through the online community,” he said.
Okelo makes a point not to take these online connections for granted.
“I have built real and lasting relationships with organizations and partners through online communities,” he said. “I’m consistent and connect our message online with the work we do on the ground in Kenya and Seattle through One Vibe Africa.”
If interested in online communities, Okelo urged those tempted to jump in.
“Start from where you are,” he said. “Don’t wait for the perfect time. There is never a perfect time to build your network and grow your vision.”
Voice builds brands and can form powerful communities.
“When your voice can be trusted, you can use it online or off to drive change and form forceful online communities,” Okelo said. “It takes time to build a forceful voice online to a point where you can form an online community that can have a true impact.”
He cited the author and ambassador Boniface Nwangi as one example of having influence. That leads to unexpected benefits.
“Being intentional with each other and understanding why we do what we do can drive online conversations,” Okelo said. “This fosters communities that create an impact wherever they are.”