Social networks feed off interactions among people. As connections grow, participants build confidence, and the entire system gathers strength.
Timothy Macharia will tell you a powerful network is a terrible thing to waste. The chief management officer of Arielle for Africa is a passionate digital marketer, brand developer and graphic designer.
In an Africa Tweet Chat he reiterated his belief in social media for social impact.
“Social impact can encompass organizations and individuals as well as movements that have a mandate to better the community around them economically and socially,” Macharia said.
“In more palatable language, social impact includes any activities undertaken to better the communities in which they are targeting,” he said. “Think of clean water projects and agriculture group projects.”
Sustainable development goals and corporate social responsibility also have their place in the social impact space.
“I’ve worked with Transformational Business Network East Africa,” Macharia said. “It focuses on helping entrepreneurs to grow their impactful businesses, thus growing their social impact and betterment of the community. I’m currently chief management officer of Arielle for Africa, a startup focused on dealing with sustainable development goals.”
Social impact influences civil society organizations that capitalize on online dialogue on hot topics.
“Most governments have attempted to take advantage of the online community to put their points across,” Macharia said. “However, the media has taken more precedence in reporting government news.”
Education and empowerment play big roles in social impact.
“There are a considerable number of non-governmental organizations operating in East Africa and Africa,” Macharia said. “They are specifically involved in education programs classified under social impact.”
Social media is changing the face of today’s society in many ways.
“Over 3 billion people use social media,” Macharia said. “That’s nearly half of the world population. It has helped redefine an array of cultural and societal issues. I can have friends from all over the globe, which means I speak a new language and culture.
“I can find a suitable life partner from anywhere in the world through my phone,” he said. “Love has been redefined. I can make money by having a number of followers. Richness has been refined.”
Not all rosey
This is just one way social media changes or influences people’s lives.
“I wish it could be all smiles about this, but there are viable downsides,” Macharia said. “Social media addiction and its effects are considerable. The most outspoken ones affect social and family life, mental health and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
Social media frequently helps organizations advocating for social impact to grow their influence and achieve transformation.
“Look at the Sudan uprising,” Macharia said. “The whole world came together for them. That illustrates why it’s virtually impossible to confine communities to any kind of definition, which is quite an incredible thing.
“I’ve been impressed by how many organizations have turned to social media to communicate and grow awareness of their efforts to make social impact,” he said. “The United Nations is a perfect example of how great these platforms can be used to communicate this impact.”
The spillover flows through traditional news media.
“Africa Eye on BBC News Africa is changing the transmission of news on the continent by sharing its content through social media using a very specific language that many can relate to,” Macharia said. “Social media has allowed them to share their visions, progress and impact reports. That has given incentive to positive movements and challenged governments to get involved.
“Social media has also become a platform on which consumer views matter more than ever,” he said. “One mistake and a brand could pay dearly. Alternatively, great businesses have grown due to social media impact.”
Being social has also greatly enriched other media such as radio and TV and gotten the public to get involved with shows on issues.
“They have now become more dependent on social media to grow their reach,” Macharia said. “When you think about it, that’s relevance.”
People have built communities out of social media, which affects entire nations. Macharia pointed to the Sudan uprising, the revolution in Egypt and the aftermath of President Robert Mugabe’s ouster in Zimbabwe.
“There is no denying the impact of online communities,” Macharia said.
Avoid at your own risk
He offered advice for organizations that shun social media for social impact.
“Is there such a thing as corporate suicide?” Macharia said. “Any organization that dismisses social impact will pay.
“The beauty about social impact is that it is a marketing strategy in itself,” he said. “Without going too far, Safaricom PLC with their #Twaweza — ‘We can make it happen’ in Swahili — campaign is a perfect, relatable example.”
To get funding and awards for an organization, there’s more focus on social entrepreneurship and social corporate responsibility.
“There are quite a number of international organizations willing to give grants or fund businesses that have social impact as their core value,” Macharia said.
As it takes broader effect, social media contributes to behavioral change.
“Among many shiny examples are more cautionary matters,” Macharia said. “Addictions, malace, data breaches and all manner of risky tendencies have resulted from social media and the online community as a whole.
“It is our duty as model citizens to make sure that all we perpetrate on social media benefits us and the communities in which we’re influencers,” he said.
Looking closer at social media addiction, Macharia believes that is a valid concern.
“There has been research, especially in First World countries, that used metrics such as times teens look at their phones per night, percentage of social media users that sleep with their phones and other factors,” he said.
Although these studies raise concerns, Macharia said entrepreneurs must move forward.
“Any business not there to make an impact in the community it serves should not be in business at all,” he said. “The world does not need more money-making schemes. It needs real transformation through these establishments.”
Similarly, organizations that use social media to reach their prospects should be cautious about breach of data.
“Breaching does not affect organizations as directly as it affects the consumer,” Macharia said. “However, organizations should be at the forefront to speak against data breaches and manipulation of consumer data by third-party organizations.
“They should also emphasize online security to their clients,” he said. “They need their clients and prospective clients online for them to have relevance.”