The reason why I travelled to Skopje was a very kind invitation from GVers – @ieli and @razvigor (working on a daily basis for Metamorphosis Foundation) to I Media conference dedicated to discussion around the state of traditional and new media in Macedonia. The first day was based on panel discussions, whereas second gave all attendees a chance to actually discuss the state, challenges and future of media in the region. To cut the story short I will only share my own observations and learnings, as you can find the rest on their site here. I do apologise if I am wrong at any point – do correct me. I only had one day to come to those initial conclusions.
First of all, I am honoured that I witnessed the times when Macedonian media is just on the verge of a social media revolution in a unique way: opening itself to the global arena, sharing regional developments and passion for spoken/written word. I saw a country where old media sees the revolution coming, is weary of full usage of the new tools as – sadly for some – they will advocate freedom of speech. I do not think that (mentioned by a local worker of press industry) manipulated photos posted in newspapers will be accepted without comments for long. I do not think ladies like @Arheoblog will need to face potential difficulties with their brave initiatives to disclose unlawful behaviours, this without a network of strong, supportive voices from her community and from outside of it. I do not think global, English speaking social media will appear distant and slightly patronising for long. As soon as the regional voices, organisations, NGO’s and other initiatives enter the space with a strong commitment to making a change – and realise the true power of social media -we will all see the big shift some are so scared off, and others impatiently await.
From the discussions during the conference my first impression was that the is a strong feeling of passiveness – for instance, why would a young generation of users expect Wikipedia to come up with ideas on how to improve the content of the site it this particular project is based on open, public contributions and almost per definition is there to take ownership of it?
I felt it was crucial to remind everyone the main characteristics of social media there and then, and luckily I had a second during the open discussion on the second day of the event:
- Social media is open and transparent – there is no space for pretending to be who you are not.
- Social media requires you to be genuine, thus gives you the power to use or misuse the potential of building trusted voices and brands – you can easily, for a free show the local and global community who you are, what you do, what are the things you are passionate about and what are our opinions. As NGO you have a great potential to introduce your work, and if you link it to activities for your cause you can promote the transparency of your spendings. You can join the discussion, you can listen to the needs or your target audience and establish a dialogue with your audiences.
- Social media is social – you build personal, hopefully, long term relationships with people representing themselves, but also organisations and brands, so you can use it for networking, informing, searching information, or co-operation.
- Social media is about contributing and sharing – you need to put a side the financial motivation here because this community is built on social capital; you are almost expected to share openly and to contribute meaningfully to the discussion. Take a test: take 10 bits of information you own and put it on paper – look at the list and decide which one can you give away easily? Which one would be the second? Can you give away the 5th one without any expectations to gain smth back? Can you give away the 10th, the most unique and valuable idea of yours? Why not? Yes? Why would you do it? Why would you not mind to do it? Why would you loose on sharing it? Once you get used to the idea of giving away the 10th idea you are just about there to join this community;) You will also be expected to cooperate – to comment on others blogs with valuable opinions, to add content and to commit your skills to projects where those can be needed. Why? Because if you do so, you will become a respected personality and trusted voice – and when it is you who needs help, you can count on the rest of us!
- Social media is free but might need a financial injection – when it comes to NGO’s in social media, I totally understand that we are tempted to think of grants and donations, however vast amount of social media branding, communication and cooperation can be done for free. Actually, if you use free tools, those tend to be used by large communities and are enhanced with more and more networking options. This should b enough for a start. Once you have your on-line presence and community you can use it for projects which do involve financial investment to enhance your brand and activities (events, self-hosted platforms or simply fees for maintaining your presences). But when you’re at this stage you should have a clear idea of how much money you need because you are using the tools already and know which bit of your project needs further development so it should be easier to put a proposal together and pitch for money as well as predict results, measure risks.
- Social media is not a monster – I am preaching about social media because yes, I do believe it’s extremely powerful world with very appealing mechanisms and so far the most supportive, creativity and achievement focussed communities I have seen. But please do not forget there is always a human being at the end of the line. It
So learn to listen, talk, share, contribute and co-operate. Join global arena (not because it’s better, but because it is there to listen and contribute to your great ideas too!). Do it openly. Be brave in your honesty and goals. And do not forget: social media is tools to empower us, at the end of the day it’s always about people – incorporate this virtual reality into your everyday life and use both wisely.
I really trust the ambitious bloggers from Macedonia are gradually heading towards those realisations and with their initiatives will change the face of local traditional media and support their NGO’s in their wonderful work. Mind me – some of the local bloggers are now aware of the fact IT IS ALREADY HAPPENING THERE;)
Thank you for the invitation!