Seven ways for political parties to win on social media before South Africa’s National Government Elections

From Donald Trump’s tweets that make the news, to Helen Zille’s jaw dropping updates, and Jacob Zuma’s videos on Twitter, politics have become a staple across social media timelines. Election time is the perfect opportunity for political parties, and their leaders, to create a digital and social media strategy that resonates with their constituencies and keeps people engaged. Most political parties in South Africa tend to shoot from the hip; to approach social media only as a campaign tool, rather than a significant part of their strategy. This year, things will need to be different to convince the hyper-connected voter.

Social Media

How to change the existing approach:

  1. Research conversations from among key people in your constituencies

    Social media platforms give us the ability to research keywords, discussions and hashtags which are clues around what people feel about certain topics. One of the ongoing discussions among South Africans on social media is their uncertainty about which party to vote for, that most political formations are great on paper but fail to convince voters with their actions and interactions. Looking at some of these numerous updates, comments by friends, and others echo similar sentiments.

    Politicians, by the looks of it, are going on as though it’s business as usual.

    Campaigns seem to work off the assumption that this election will be the same as others, that manifestos and sloganeering are enough to sway the voters.

    Yet every other post tells us that people do not feel as though their views are being represented by a team that speaks to them. Basic conversation data is easily and freely accessible to inform a party that wants to stand for the change that individuals are calling for.

  2. Train a team of leaders across the social web and collaborate with them

    Most parties use their profiles to promote media statements and press releases, which are important but can also take away from human interaction (more about this later) and this is a hugely missed opportunity. Research we conducted on social media leading up to the election of ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, showed that parties with vocal members on Twitter drove a more powerful narrative.

    This was the case in ANC party narrative where the DA and the EFF had vocal individuals, which led to these opposition parties being nearly as visible as the ANC. This meant that, when people looked at ANC party election mentions, the DA and EFF would show up nearly as many times as the ANC. Opposition parties in this case had more influential party leaders speaking up against the ANC process, and adding to the narrative.

    While there may have been numerous contributing factors that caused this, one stand-out reason is that individuals are typically more trusted than brands or political parties. They are also able to disengage from a script, and can interact more meaningfully with their followers. Political parties tend to have a “safer” (read as boring) scripted approach in their response to user comments, which they feel might serve the party well, but in reality, it builds more walls between the party and its constituent base. Having individual voices and responses resonates more with people than media statements and strict, scripted party lines, and the resulting content feels more honest, authentic and transparent.

  3. Drive regular social media engagement

    Critics have pointed out that politicians and their various formations utilise social media to drive propaganda and party messaging. With over 2,7-billion people across social media, building an engaged audience is worth the time and investment – beyond just pushing messages.

    Political parties can see a lot of benefit from regular interactions with their followers, which can range from live videos on Instagram or Facebook, and ongoing Twitter question-and-answer sessions.

    Fake news has become part of our daily lives, so much that some people cannot tell the difference between honest reports and misinformation.

    As we head to May, when it’s estimated that South African national elections are likely to take place, open public interactions may be helpful for parties as a way of dispelling misinformation.

    Hosting these sessions every fortnight at first, then weekly as we close in on the elections, will contribute towards building and maintaining an approachable organisation. The ones who are authentic and honest may win voters over with their openness, which millennials appreciate among their chosen leaders.Voter comments

  4. Create videos for the social web

    Since joining Twitter in November 2018, former president, Jacob Zuma has posted many videos as interactions with South Africa and the world. The account has been one of the fastest growing ones in South Africa and has had its fair share of media mentions. This has, in some ways, increased brought the former president back to the nation’s consciousness without the need to seek media in traditional ways.

    According to the SA Social Media Landscape by Ornico and World Wide Worx, South Africa has over 8-million Twitter users.

    Video is also the fastest growing form of rich media content on across the social web with platforms like IGTV solely dedicated to this form of media.

    Unlike traditional media video, social media requires shorter, punchy content that makes its point quickly and succinctly. These can form part of ongoing messaging that addresses burning issues that come up in ongoing interactions from the previous point. It can also be used to breakdown the often wordy and complex elections manifestos that hardly resonate with the public.

  5. Be more human

    Since the days of former president, Barack Obama’s wildly successful campaign that many politicians and world leaders try to copy, social media makes political leaders accessible. And to win people over, politicians should come out from behind party manifestos, rehearsed speeches and spin.

    Social media, from Instagram to LinkedIn offers users the opportunity to connect at a human and approachable level, which is what’s missing – in some ways – in South African politics. This is arguably the case in politics across the world, because even some of the most active leaders are not responsive.

  6. Reach out to engaged micro-influencers and reward them

    Every community has its influencers, individuals who sway the conversations one way or another, and individuals whose mentions generate more chatter than average. As a party that’s paying attention to both data and people, you’ll begin to notice who these individuals are in your community.

    Some of these engaged individuals will be micro-influencers, people with a relatively niche following who are not big-name celebrities. Once they have emerged from the noise and clutter, whether they are card carrying members or not, find a way to reward them. This may be an invitation to a closed event where they get to ask questions, or another useful form of interaction.Voter opinions

  7. Consolidate all digital communication

    One of the great things about social media is its immediacy, the ability to disseminate a message in real-time to people across the world. It’s also arguably its curse because our timelines are so filled with messaging from everywhere that important communication drowns in a sea of ever-increasing noise.

    How can organisations address this? Build a platform that can consolidate these interactions into a single, owned platform that anyone, including the media followers, can get access to. Your digital team can then curate conversations, Tweets, Instagram images and video content that can be displayed on the site.

    A single platform for all social media interactions, such as a microsite, will ensure that you separate yourself from the noise and make content more visible. Some of this content can be referred back to for articles and other content.

The 2019 elections will be interesting with more political formations coming to the fore over the past few months, three of which are led by people with known public profiles. Parties need to stand out and prove to uncertain voters that they deserve a chance, which will largely be the product of creative and transparent communication with South Africans. Social media and digital platforms may prove to be most effective way to reach out.

This post was first featured on BizCommunity.  

5 Digital marketing trends and hacks for brands and entrepreneurs to use in 2019

In the perfect world most brands and entrepreneurs start planning long before the beginning of the year, with the start of each year mostly set aside for some tweaks and updates. Digital marketing trends, social media and the odd social media crisis tend to trip even the most strategically insightful among us. It makes sense to keep the strategy document constantly updated while looking at some growth areas in digital marketing and taking full advantage of social media.

Five strategy hacks and trends for brands and entrepreneurs to improve their digital footprint in 2019:

 

1. Create a video content strategy

 

The consumption of video content across the internet continues to grow at a rapid rate with more social media users also creating their own content. Research shows that 93% of businesses got new customers and converted leads as a result of video.With so much content being created daily, it’s best to keep your brand content short, punchy and fun to ensure both impact and social sharing. This requires brands to be brave and to keep creating content to understand what works, which may take some time.One of the advantages is that owned content may cost less than other forms of advertising and increase engagement between the brand and its community. It also gives added insight into what customers like because platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram give you data.

Quick hack: Start creating videos, even using a mobile phone, and improve quality as well as content. This will get easier over time and post some of these as Facebook stories, then monitor feedback.

 

2. Understand and use IGTV

 

Instagram’s IGTV is the new popular kid on the social media streets and a promising entrant in the long-form vertical video space. Launched in June 2018, when Instagram also announced that they now have a billion monthly users, IGTV has already begun making strides with some brands and influencers embracing this platform. It’s nowhere near being a YouTube killer or a worthwhile adversary to the likes of Vimeo, but it’s changing the game.Some of the top global brands that took up IGTV creating some quirky and fun content include Netflix, Bacardi and Louis Vuitton which have all been creative in their use of the platform. IGTV with its largely youth audience enables brands to think more creatively, to be quirkier (yes, that word is coming up again) and a little “weird” in comparison to traditional strategies.Cisco predicts that video will account for 78% of mobile data traffic by 2021, in just 2 short years, and the early adopters will lead their industry peers. Some brands have already begun building communities on IGTV.

Beginner hack: Start by opening an account and following some of the most active brands for your own inspiration and ideas. You can also check some of these brands on IGTV that are making serious moves on the platform and how they are doing it.

3. Create a robust LinkedIn brand strategy

 

LinkedIn is the single most useful tool to gain access to the decision-makers in most organisations that matter and this is why everyone spends time networking. It enables users to have a better understanding of their potential clients and the platform has been improving its offering for professionals, brands and entrepreneurs.Over the past few years, LinkedIn users have been utilising the platform to share stories and original articles, which in turn improves engagement. It’s a more powerful platform for lead generation and general brand engagement for professional B2B services.

A hack to use: In addition to the company page, build a showcase page for a service or product because these showcase pages increase engagement for specific products. Some of the most interesting LinkedIn showcase pages include companies like HP, Cisco and a few others.

 

4. Personalise! Personalise! Personalise!

 

Next to customers wanting more customisation than ever, personalising the customer and client journey as much as possible with a brand strengthens the relationship. In 2019, personalisation from shopping data to search will evolve more.Leading brands like Amazon have been personalising the customer journey for years and they continue to make the individual experience more worthwhile. When it comes to improved customer interactions 96% of marketers say personalisation helps to advance customer relationships.

A hack to try: Instead of a broad strategy, personalise your email and social media marketing for a specific target audience. This may exclude some of the customers you want to reach but it will be impactful for the people to whom the message resonates. Try this a few times and track the results.

 

5. Work towards a medium to long-term micro influencer strategy

 

Big brands from Listerine to Cîroc Vodka had their share of major criticism in 2018 which made others approach influencer marketing with caution. Some countries have since created policies around influencer marketing where people should mention that they have been sponsored or even paid by brands. This will increase transparency in 2019 and increase awareness among consumers, as opposed to people believing that brands are used organically.That said, influencer marketing will continue to grow in 2019 with more brands potentially collaborating with micro-influencers. Instagram is the leading platform for most influencer and brand collaborations which will continue in 2019. Twitter and Facebook will also be part of this influencer marketing mix as the connected get access to brands.

Micro-influencer marketing hack to develop: Follow some of the people who already engage with your brand and industry, then invite them, as early adopters to small pre-launch meetups. Let them be the first to sample products and experiences, as well as be the first to spread the word.

 

Budgets are tight and most brands are bringing things in-house with less to play with, and this may be the best time to experiment with a few ideas. A long-term approach is always key because it often takes time to see results and build the traction needed to grow a community behind your idea.

 

This post was first featured on WordStart. 

Social Media Race to the ANC Presidency: The resignation and the presidential hopefuls

This article was first featured on WordStart.

As the ANC presidency campaigns intensify, often marred by scandals, violence at the Eastern Cape Electoral Conference, renewed calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down by some corners of society and opposition parties. The question of succession is a pressing one, and it’s interesting to monitor social media chatter as it relates to the South African political scene.

Two recent events created quite a stir online. On Thursday, 21 September 2017, ANC presidential hopeful, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was sworn into parliament, on the same day, Dr Makhosi Khoza, dropped a bomb that sent shock waves across social media by resigning from the ANC.

WordStart, in collaboration with Crimson Hexagon, have investigated, tracked and analysed the social media conversations, the sentiment and public social media perceptions, as they relate to these two events. This specific analysis forms part of a larger piece of social media research that will investigate the race to ANC presidency that will be decided at the electoral conference due to take place in December this year.

An analysis of social media data for the period 1 September to 1 October 2017 reveals just over 16 000 posts on the topic of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Makhosi Khoza, with the most mentions happening on Twitter on the 21st of September 2017. Some people on social media felt the move to swear in Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would position her campaign more effectively in the running for the party’s top post.

The graph below shows the total number of posts that mention both Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Makhosi Khoza throughout the period and the 21 September spike is clearly evident. Leading up to 21 September, social media conversations were dominated by the public’s choice of ANC candidates. As factions within the ANC, and the public at large align with their candidate for party president, we see more linked social conversations, with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa often mentioned alongside Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Makhosi Khoza began making a greater appearance in social media mentions from 5 September, with some public mentions speaking about her redeployment from chairperson of the Public Service and Administration Committee to the Economic Development Oversight Committee. We see social media making more mentions of Khoza on the 10th and 11th of September following her non-attendance of a disciplinary hearing.

Total posts for the period: Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

Total posts for the period: Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

One day in September

21 September saw most of the posts being shared on social media, where 90% of the 4 954 posts that were picked up came from Twitter and the majority of these were by members of the public who watched parliamentary proceedings. The surnames ‘Khoza’ appears 3 805 times mostly from Twitter, followed by ‘Dlamini’ which makes 717 appearances and ‘Zuma’ which accounts for 760 mentions.

Zuma has overlaps between the president and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma both of whom come up a lot in social media mentions on 21 September. When looking deeper into the social media data we also note mentions of ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa whose surname comes up in 108 mentions from the media to the public.

Top 10 Tweets on 21 September: Data made avaialable to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

Top 10 Tweets on 21 September: Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon 

 

Top 20 sites with the most mention on 21 September: Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

Top 20 sites with the most mention on 21 September: Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

 

Twitter mentions still largely referenced media houses as they were the ones who shared most near real-time stories and happenings from parliament. The public sentiment on most social media data sourced by WordStart and Crimson Hexagon on 21 September are negative towards the ANC, while suggesting that the resignation was a positive move on the part of Makhosi Khoza, which in turn also supports her arguments and her perspective on the corruptness of the ANC.

Although Twitter was the most dominant platform on 21 September accounting for 90% of total mentions (or 4 482), there was also a general dominance of known media outlets that South Africans generally follow for daily content. It is also worth noting that most news content ends up on Twitter and other social platforms, which further adds to the overall mentions among the 16 084 for the month. Most Facebook content is kept private and not available for usage or analysis by outside platforms, as a result the numbers remain low due to the platform’s restrictions.

Most active content drivers

People on social media were vocal throughout the month, from Khoza’s public criticism of ANC processes citing that the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled that the party’s provincial leadership was unlawfully elected to her invitation of media as she prepared for the announcement on 21 September. The most influential Twitter content was driven by media outlets which account for 15 of the top 20 most influential authors and the Democratic Alliance was also among the most influential authors over the period.

Top 20 most influential authors (1 Sept – 1 Oct 2017): Data made available by Crimson Hexagon

Top 20 most influential authors (1 Sept – 1 Oct 2017): Data made available by Crimson Hexagon

We begin to see an even split of individuals and media in the top 10 of the most active Twitter users over the period. The list below is a collection of Twitter accounts that had the most number of tweets on the topic of Makhosi Khoza and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in September 2017.

Top 10 most active Twitter accounts

Top 10 most active Twitter accounts

 

 

 

Most prevalent social media topics

Social media data shows President Jacob Zuma as the common link in all mentions about both Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and former ANC MP, Dr Makhosi Khoza. In the case of Khoza, people make mention of the president in association with the resignation and the reason for the disciplinary hearing. It is also perceived that Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma goes into parliament as a way for the president to enable her party presidency campaign to gain momentum.

Most prevalent topics in 10 000 posts: Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

Most prevalent topics in 10 000 posts: Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

A snapshot of the first 4000 thousand posts shows Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa with greater prominence, who was mentioned a lot in relation to his campaign now that Dlamini-Zuma is in parliament. Some of the data also alludes to allegations of an affair which some people think may affect Ramaphosa’s run for ANC president.

The first 5 000 posts also show themes that include ANC corruption, the Gupta family and the ANC elective conference in December. Some earlier and less prominent themes begin to decline as more post data is included.

As the ANC pre-election campaign for presidency takes shape among various candidates, some of the big occurrences of September brought up many assumptions across social media. People are referring to strategies that are being employed by candidates that are in the running for presidency, some of which Khoza’s resignation is seen to have impact in. The president is perceived by social media as being aligned with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign with some ANC structures also coming up in conversations.

WordStart and Crimson Hexagon will bring more data as the campaigns intensify leading up to the December 2017 ANC elective conference.

On Talk Radio 702 about Facebook seeking scripted content in Hollywood

News of Facebook looking for content partners and talking to studios in Hollywood have been doing the rounds, Talk Radio 702’s Stephen Grootes asked me what the implications are. In my opinion, this is an opportunity for Facebook because people already consume more video in general across the web and longer videos at that.

The obvious growth of advertising revenue for the platform would mean that they get more into the space that YouTube has come to perfect over the years and more time will be spent on Facebook than anywhere else. This also increases the likelihood that Netflix might also feel the pinch if great quality content is produced for Facebook and competes for dwindling attention spans.

There is no lack of content, even great quality content which tends to rise above the noise and near data that comes our way. The challenge for anyone competing with Facebook or another influential social media platform is the fact that there are friends we trust using the platforms that we active on.

Please listen to the interview below and share your thoughts.

Don’t forget to share if you liked the interview.

Community Manager Appreciation

Recent months have seen brands get their fair share of social media criticism, from Uzzi going viral because of xenophobic attacks in Alexandra, the ‘bestie’ post by Appletiser to KFC in Braamfontein, where community managers needed miracles to dowse the blaze. These are just a few of the instances that made it onto the radar.
Social media - mobile

On a normal day, social media community managers work their magic wands on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and the rest of the social web around brand reputations and fuming customers. My latest post on Marklives covers some insights from seasoned social media strategists who built some award-winning communities and campaigns. They all agree that trust and being more human – yes, even as brands – is what wins over brand-speak and policy.

They also maintain that the responsibility lies with both the brand the social media who represent them online.

Have a look at the post on Marklives here and get chocolate for that community manager on your way to the office.

Build Your Business Idea at Lean Startup Machine in Johannesburg

If you’ve spent a few weeks (months or years) around the block working towards building an idea into a business, you might have also heard many business buzzwords. If not, don’t bother with them. It’s not the buzzword vocabulary that builds startups, it’s the work. Afterall, small business challenges don’t care for how much you speak of scalability or anything else that was used at a seminar this week.

Look below for most of the buzzwords that you might have heard before and ignore them as you read on. Deal? Go!

Lean Startup Machine Johannesburg

Business Entrepreneurial Buzzwords

 

The truth of the matter is that it’s nimble, lean businesses that start well and thrive for longer. In the spirit of steering clear of the flavour of this week’s jargon, the simpler you keep your offering and the quicker you test – the easier it becomes to prove your model and go to market. Or to fail fast and hit the ground running. These are some of the lean startup principles which gained massive traction following the release of Eric Ries’s book The Lean Startup.

Since the book was published in 2011, the Lean Startup Machine built a community to put some of its principles through real-world testing and proof. Part of the iAfrikan team have joined forces with other local minds to bring those principles to Johannesburg. Now you can you can pitch your idea, test it in the real world, with real potential customers and collaborate with would-be team members.

You can also test new ideas for an existing business, or use these principles in your business to build a day-to-day lean startup culture. It focuses on what’s important now to test if the idea is viable and enables you to take it to market – with the least amount of unnecessary fuss in the process.

Companies Google, Facebook, Dropbox and other global organisations use the lean startup principles. It’s a way thinking and executing work in your business.

Does this sound like something you would want to learn and include into building your next idea?

Is it something you would like to cultivate as a way of thinking in both your life and business?
Lean Startup Machine, Johannesburg
If not, this is where you read on before sending this piece to that forward thinking friend. To you, forward-thinking friend, click here to register and share the love. Let’s say you know another two forward-thinking people and all three of you want to attend, you can use the promotional code ‘flashfree’ to get one free ticket.

What you are paying for

The Lean Startup Machine weekend is not a conference, it’s a whole weekend of both practical learning and testing some of the new concepts. It includes both keynote presentations and being matched with a team of people who either gravitate towards to your idea, or whose ideas appeal to you.

The team that implements the lean startup methodology the best stands to win an incubation deal.

You will:

–          Pitch your idea for feedback

–          Work on a high level plan test your idea

–          Go outside to speak to potential customers and find out if the idea would work.

–          Build webpage that would showcase the product, service or idea.

It will be an interesting weekend that promises to far surpass most (if not all) conferences you’ve been to.

Are you in? Register here: http://ctt.ec/fM8HF+

If you buy two tickets, you’ll get the third one free by using the promotional code ‘flashfree’.

Get social and get paid for it

This was originally posted on WordStart.

Yesterday saw the official public launch of IceBreaker, a platform that lets you connect with new people who want to meet online and extend that to in-person connections. In most instances, the social platforms that you use reward you with more connections and the right people’s attention.  You rarely, almost never get anything more than that.

The deal we struck with IceBreaker is about to change that.

 Own your social life

What’s in it for you?

We are looking for 10 people to try out the platform and start their own groups, where you can then meet other groups of people. Whenever you meet with a group, you’ll need 25 points which is the equivalent of R25.

As a WordStarter, and we can only accommodate 10 people, where you’ll get 1000 points for FREE. You can use your points to meet as many groups of people that you and your friends think are worth having an outing with. You can also be part of as many groups as you want.

Your one group of friends may be into indoor activities, others may like outdoor adventures and the other may be into travel or backpacking around the world. The last thing you want to do is force someone who’s terrified of spiders to go camping in the bush. Okay you might, but we don’t encourage it.

Get paid to connect people

We also understand that you are a connector and you should get rewarded for it. You are one of the people who invited your friends to Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and maybe even Google+. This time, as you invite your friends to join you on IceBreaker and they meet people, we’ll pay you for it.

WordStart has teamed up with IceBreaker so that when a friend of yours gets their first 25 points, you get R25 in cash.

For example: If 100 of your friends meet up with groups of interest to them, IceBreaker will pay you R2 500. Plus you don’t have to do anything other than invite friends using a link that we will send you, which you can share.

Friend rewards

What kind of a friend would you be if you got everything and you didn’t share?

Starting this week, whenever your friends buy their first 25 points, they’ll get another 75 points for free. That means you all get to meet new groups of people together.

Are you in and know some people that may want to get paid, as the first 10, for connecting as well? Send us an email to info [at] wordstart.co.za and we’ll get you started.

Alternatively, tell us in the comments below and we will get in touch with you.

Cycling with Tutus in Johannesburg

It all started with chat at a bar with friends where “I said want to do series of activities in different costumes, for the fun of it” and a friend dared me to go cycling in a tutu. Now for the real story; I posted an update on Facebook about cycling in a tutu to which two friends, Jonathan Dicks and Steven Bakker – both cyclists – commented saying ‘if you pull it off and organise us tutus, we’ll join you’.

 

Jonathan Dicks cycling

Jonathan Dicks cycling

Jonathan Dicks is a regular at the Critical Mass cycling community which takes off on the corner of Juta and De Beer streets in Braamfontein – every last Friday of the month. Naturally, they suggested that we put on our costumes and ride with Critical Mass which is the easiest community to participate in.

 

Steven Bakker is more of a social cyclist who takes on the odd mountain (and by mountain I mean he once nearly into a river one Saturday morning) but he’s a rockstar of note. As you’ll see in picture below, he has already worn a tutu on stage before. He’s the second guy from your right.

Steve in a Tutu

Steven Bakker (second from right) in a tutu

I haven’t cycled in years and part of the deal is getting a bicycle from whoever collaborates with us. You will be mentioned in two blog posts thereafter and a small company banner of yours will be placed on the sidebar of this blog for two months.

 

Are you in?

 

The basic idea here, which I haven’t told Jonathan and Steven about, is to cycle a few times with various communities and support a few causes while doing it. My secret mission is get into shape and score a bike while raising funds to help a chosen cause. The guys have been asking about it for months and I think we can get more people to join us over time, but that would be a bonus.

 

So you, bicycle shop in Johannesburg and you costume hire store in Jozi, why don’t you collaborate with us to make this happen? This invitation is also open to anyone who wants to either support the mission or cycle with us, for both a good cause and well…..strutting your stuff on a public road in a costume.

 

To accept this mission, leave your comment below.

 

= = =

Featured picture by: dickdavid on Flickr

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YOU are Your First Client

In the never ending chase for new business, proposals that fall by the wayside and delivering our best work – I tend to neglect the business. This is not in the ‘I spend more time in bed’ neglect, ain’t nobody got time fo dat. It’s in doing less of the things that we are likely to deliver for clients.

 

Clients look at what you are doing for yourself, as a business and an individual, whilst on course to making a decision about whether to buy from you or the next guy. This certainly doesn’t speak to all industries, it’s largely applicable for creative work. Not that many people care how one shop owner likes to have fish and chips in comparison to their the competitors.

 

The more time we spend pitching and writing up proposals, we leave the business to fend for itself. Blogs posts become less and less. Facebook updates decrease and we drop balls. What if those interactions, like the next client meeting, were taken as seriously because they are part of your marketing?

 

As I meet with more clients and would-be clients, I realise how they look more into our work than what we do for other clients. They are more interested in how our work achieves what we aim for. If what you do is a labour of love, schedule it and commit as you would for a client deadline. That’s what the first few weeks of 2014 have taught me, again.

How To Harness Innovation In Business: Q&A With Innovation Leader Ravi Chhatpar

[This was originally posted on Ideate]

When building a business ‘innovation’ is spoken about as something you need apply – and in many instances – it refers to the use of technology. Ravi Chhatpar, one of the speakers at the TEDx event in Johannesburg , speaks to Mongezi Mtati about inspiration and focus, and how to harness innovation in your business.

Ravi’s experience spans clients across industries including BBC, Cox, ETS, GE, Microsoft, Prudential, and Virgin Mobile. Ravi has also authored publications for the Harvard Business Review and the Design Management Institute. Ahead of his presentation at TEDx Johannesburg, Mongezi asked Ravi to share some of his insights about innovation in and for business.

 

Q: We hear a lot about innovation and it seems like an ever moving target, how do you describe it?

Ravi Chhatpar: Innovation means different things to different people. It’s tempting to point to a new technology or breakout business success as signs of innovation, but it’s more important to define innovation from the human perspective. It must lead to a change in behaviour, typically because this behavioural change is creating new forms of value for the user or consumer. If your new product (or service, experience, business) is able to get people to behave in new ways, to be motivated to do things differently, then you have successfully created a solution to a deeply felt and poorly met need. It means this solution is creating value – both tangible and intangible – for the user or consumer. This is real innovation. Whether a new technology is involved or whether the business scales is an ancillary point.

 

Q: When working towards building something new or different, how do you do it without aiming to be different and instead build something useful?

Ravi Chhatpar: Innovation is not about being new or different, just for the sake of being new or different. It must be fundamentally centred around an unmet human need. The final form of the solution may be truly new or it may resemble what’s come before, as long as it meets the unmet need. While we tend to gravitate to things that seem very new, in reality innovation is always inspired by what’s come before. We learn from competitors, from what we see in other countries, from what we see in other industries, from what 2-person startups and mega-corporations are doing. Mashing-up, remixing and experimenting with what’s out there already often inspires the new.

 

Q: Some have said the next Facebook will be from Africa, do you agree? Why?

Ravi Chhatpar: I don’t think “the next Facebook” should be Africa’s innovation aspiration. Africa presents some very complex challenges that require specialized solutions that are difficult to scale. But if we find ways to scale localized solutions across markets, then we’ve truly created groundbreaking innovation. Take the oft-cited example of Kenya’s M-Pesa which is not directly replicable for a variety of reasons anywhere else. Other countries are experimenting with mobile payment solutions with varying degrees of success – some resemble M-Pesa – and some are very different. More successes will prompt more experimentation which will spread across markets. A continent with high mobile payments penetration, more than the developed world – even if it looks and feels and acts different in different countries – would be much more impressive to me than a single African Facebook.

 

Q: Without giving away too much, what will you be speaking on at the forthcoming TEDx Johannesburg?

Ravi Chhatpar: I’ll be talking about inspiration, which is such a fundamental component of the innovation process. Of course, inspiration is a massive topic in and of itself, so I’ll be focusing on a particular slice of it. That’s all I’ll say for now.

 

Q: How do you stay ahead of your last great idea?

Ravi Chhatpar: I like to switch industry and focus regularly. While it’s true that experience in one domain is valuable, thinking about the same problem space over extended periods of time will trade off expertise for freshness. Switching industries or focus areas provides a fresh start. Eventually, your mind starts looking for opportunities to cross-apply and cross-pollinate insights. How can a behavioural insight from a healthcare context be relevant to a financial context? This helps minimize creative fatigue.

 

Q: If it’s true that innovating is a mindset that be cultivated, where do we start in developing that mindset?

Ravi Chhatpar: What’s really needed is a deep cultivation of both right and left-brain thinking from an early a stage as possible. More importantly, this cultivation needs to be done in a way that doesn’t make the distinction between the two sides, to encourage a truly interdisciplinary approach. The creative side needs to be complemented with the analytical, the thinking needs to be complemented by the doing. Increasingly these divisions of labor that we see in our (older) generation is being replaced by younger talents who come up with ideas and make them real, who brainstorm wildly then sketch concepts and then write business plans, who experiment and prototype and assess results analytically. This is absolutely the right direction. Education should support this as early as possible.

Catch Ravi Chhatpar at the forthcoming TEDx Johannesburg on 15 August and find out more about his insights and findings.