This social media guide aims at promoting African knowledge (in particular about climate change adaptation).
This part shares some reflections about social media in general and provides some guidelines for how to get started with social media.

A few thoughts and reflections from the authors




This guide provides some entry points to understand the potential power of social media and how they can be used to promote African knowledge, about various fields. As indicated in the 'Why use this guide' section, it is far from being exhaustive. Using social media is a fascinating journey and we would like to offer some reflections from the work we have put in to compiling this guide:
  • Promoting African knowledge can easily be tokenized, i.e. heralded to attract interest but not intended or practiced. Africans are and remain best placed to determine what solutions they need. Nonetheless, diversity is one of the central features of social media and why they offer rich solutions. Promoting African knowledge can benefit from interactions with others that are interested in Africa.
  • Social media offer an unprecedented opportunity to connect sources of experience and information across the continent and beyond, to rally African voices and collectively make sense of challenges such as climate change, together with other parties working on related issues.
  • The benefits of using social media far outweigh the pitfalls one might encounter when using social media. Perhaps most notably, it's the attitude you take toward social media that determines how much you will gain from using these tools in your professional, and personal, life. Keeping an open mind, accepting mistakes as a natural part of the process, and viewing the universal feeling of being overwhelmed as filter failure and not information overload will transform your experience and lead to positive and satisfying outcomes.
  • Social media tools are only tools. What people do with such tools matters a lot more. Be clear about what you intend to do, think your social media strategy through, focus on what brings most value to you and your purpose.
  • There is no 'one-size-fits-all': social media ought to be played around to assess which tools and approaches fit with the purpose. Exploring social media is an essential part in understanding their true potential.
  • There is an endless and ever-evolving volume of information available re:social media on the internet today. In 2011, the most searched topic on Google was technology [1]. This is not only evidence of the force of nature that is social media, but is also a very important pool of knowledge to tap into and take advantage of. It's a good idea to read what others have to say about their own experiences with social media, and even better if you can contribute to the discussion too.
  • Nonetheless, there is a real gap of information combining social media, African knowledge and climate change - so documenting your experiences (via social media!) would certainly be beneficial to the wider online community.
  • Social media are changing fast and require being connected with wider networks interested in social networks to keep on identifying new opportunities (new tools, new ways to combine tools, new approaches to use these tools and connect) they offer.
  • A social media presence might thus benefit from having a part clearly connected with high added value and well structured processes of developing / sharing / assessing knowledge while another part should remain 'exploratory' to identify new opportunities. Try out tools, adapt them, combine them and assess the value they bring back continually, expand promising areas and stop or adjust areas of challenge and problems.
  • Social media are essentially network-centric. Connecting with others and developing trustworthy relationships (based on integrity, authenticity, good content and ideas) is essential to thrive on social media but it requires time and investment, personally and for institutions or networks that use them. The slow investment in such principles really pays off over time however.
  • Social media are but one part of a wider picture of African social learning and really benefit from being combined with other social learning approaches, face-to-face or otherwise. Trust building can particularly be enhanced through face-to-face activities. It is then easier to extend those face-to-face conversations onto online social media networks.

Still unsure of how to use social media for your initiative?
We recommend you to have a look at the section on 'How to get started with all of this?'.

This guide is indeed just a guide, not a cook book. The social media journey is yours to complete. And we can only encourage you to follow that journey and remain open to the extraordinary things that will undoubtedly happen along the way, but also to keep learning from the difficult moments that you will just as undoubtedly encounter.


Notes
[1] K.Austin, Top 5 Most Popular Topics Searched on Google,SEO Desk [October 2011]