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A new type of ‘digital child’ is here, and every parent should have one

By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

 

This 23-year-old American, Kris Sanchez, is the kind of child every modern parent would wish to have. 

Like all young people his age, he spends a lot of time on social media — Twitter, in particular. 

But he is not sharing selfies, gossip, or leaked photos of a naked Rihanna or a shirtless Cristiano Ronaldo.

Instead, according to a recent article by Fast Company, Sanchez works hard doing research and tweets about 60 to 70 facts (some serious, some fun) a day under his Twitter handle @UberFacts.

He tweets things like, “One in 20 people do not have the biological father they think they have”, or “More bank robberies happen on Fridays than any other day, and the most popular time for banks to be robbed is between 9am and 11am.”

This young man, who really is still wet behind the ears, earned $500,000 (Sh44 million) last year. How? 

He has 7.4 million “followers” on Twitter and his page is so popular that companies pay him to post links about their products and services, and that is where the money comes from. 

The world has really changed. 

Can you imagine your child, in his pajamas, lying in bed with a laptop, not even having had a shower, making more in a year than you who wears your sharp suit or business skirt and white or blue blouse and goes out in the maddening traffic every day to labour in some office? 

Or that there are parents out there who are happy that their grown son is not getting out of bed to hit the streets to look for a job.

CORNERED THE MARKET

The future is here. So we looked around at Kenyan twitterdom to see how things looked and who could make some decent change or really help give wings to a cause if they chose to tweet about it.

Media companies, journalists, and presenters, not surprisingly, have cornered the Kenyan Twitter market. To pick a few: KTN has 652,000 followers, NTV 594,000, Citizen TV 587,000. 

When it comes to Twitter handles of newspaper titles, Daily Nation leads the pack with 485,000 followers and The Standard follows with 314,000. 

This means that when, one of these days, the migration toward digital platforms comes of age and media companies get smart at figuring out how to make hay out of their social media footprints, they will not need to pay a penny to marketing firms to help them with their campaigns and promotions.

But the really intriguing bit is that there are now individuals in Kenya who have a larger Twitter following than media companies that are older than 100 years. 

For example, Jeff Koinange, who does his thing on KTN, with 415,000 followers, NTV’s Larry Madowo with 373,000, and Citizen’s Julie Gichuru with 367,000, all have larger followings than The Standard with 314,000. 

Who knows, if Koinange continues interviewing more controversial and colourful characters that come to his set looking like peacocks, he could surpass Daily Nation on Twitter in a year. 

I sense that there is a major power shift underway here. Exclude non-Kenyans based in Nairobi such as Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore, who has 322,000 followers, and throw in more random Twitter heavies in the basket: columnist, blogger, and financial adviser Aly-Khan Satchu has 114,000 followers and controversial blogger Robert Alai has 137,000.

If social media becomes a truly mind-shifting platform in Kenya, and everyone who has attended Sunny Bindra’s “social media summits” at Strathmore Business School probably believes that it already is, then very soon folks might be making some interesting choices.

Jeff Koinange’s following on Twitter is nearly twice the combined circulation of all the daily newspapers published in a day in Nairobi. 

Assume people are paying as much attention to social media as the papers and you are an advertiser with a budget of Sh2 million to run a campaign in all the newspapers, but you can also pay Koinange Sh500,000 and reach twice the number of people, what will you do?

Also, if you have a small business and no advertising budget, now you have a prayer. All you need is to be nice to Satchu, Alai, Gichuru, and Koinange and they can drop in a good word for your product in their tweets on a slow day and, voilà! you are in the money.

For now, though, it would more than suffice to have a Twitter-smart son called Sanchez.

 

The author is editor of Mail & Guardian Africa (mgafrica.com). Twitter:@cobbo3

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