//Kevin Anderson /November 14 / 2012
#263Chat: How Zimbabweans have a national conversation on Twitter
Most news organisations are already using social media to promote their stories and even to cover live events like political protests, but it is also useful for news groups to follow how the public is using social media for ideas on how they can engage audiences more effectively. In Zimbabwe, for instance, people are using Twitter to talk about the issues that affect them in a series of weekly discussions hosted by blogger Nigel Mugamu, who goes by the name @SirNige on Twitter.
Called #263Chat, the discussions run every Tuesday at 6pm and the theme for each one is set a few days in advance by the community itself. Participants follow the discussion by looking out for Tweets that include the hashtag #263Chat – a hashtag is simply a short keywordKeywordSpecific word(s) entered into a search engine by the user that result(s) in a…//read more or phrase marked with a # symbol which identifies a particular conversation.
263Chat is something that I came up with in September, and I thought about it earlier on in the year and the biggest issue was just finding a time in the day that suited most Zimbabweans.
The idea behind it all is just to help change the Zimbabwean narrative. We complain a lot that we don’t have local content, our stories are not being told. Let people get involved and share their stories around various social and national issues. Yesterday we spoke about bullying, last week we spoke about indigenisation, the week before we spoke about women. So it’s different issues that touch different facets of society.
And the chats are getting very popular indeed, reports TechZim:
Some discussions, like the one on indigenisation last week, can have well over 600 tweets and retweets easily making the hashtag trend locally on Twitter. Mugamu says mention of #263Chat by some local radio presenters has also helped make #263Chat a dialog platform that the community looks forward.
Twitter can be difficult to search so Mugamu uses his blog to summarise the discussion and saves key Tweets using Storify, a service that allows for the easy collection of social media updates from a range of sources, including Facebook, YouTube and photo-sharing site Flickr, as well as Twitter.
But why use Twitter? With a 140 character limit, Twitter doesn’t give participants much room to fully express themselves. But what Twitter does provide is the ability for participants to share no more information about themselves than they want to, leaving them free to be more honest in their opinions. Mugamu told ATV News:
Unlike Facebook, where I might be your Facebook friend, I know your real name, I know personal information about you, on Twitter you can be anonymous. … You share your story, you tell us what you think, and it’s great because you tell us what you really think. As opposed to Facebook, where you’re afraid of admitting which party you’re going to vote for, or what you really think about certain issues.
The conversation can get heated, Mugamu says, and when it does he steps in to try to calm people down and steer the conversation back on topic. But, he says, the discussions are apolitical, addressing everyday issues and trying to find solutions. Mugamu believes that dialogue is the key to addressing the problems that Zimbabwe faces:
As a nation we need to have a number of conversations at different levels. The politicians need to sit down talk to other politicians, they need to talk to us. Community leaders need to talk about what’s going on in the community, the community itself needs to be heard. What’s troubling us? I run a business in an area where litter is a problem, water supply is a problem. And we talk about all these issues at home, at the pub, on the bus. So continue having the conversations at home, but why not have the conversation with people you don’t know and maybe that way you can come up with other solutions.
In #263Chat, Mugamu has hitHitThe record of a single online transaction event stored in a log file. One page…//read more upon a very simple but yet very powerful format for engaging his community, and it’s an idea that can be easily replicated in any country or any language. This hashtag discussion was started by an interested and engaged member of the public, but it could just as easily have been started by journalist. All you need is a regular time slot, a passionate moderator and a place to archive the conversations.
Here is the interview with Mugamu by ATV News:
Article by Kevin Anderson