Q&A: Muthuri Kinyamu, Founder/Business Director, Social Edge Africa

Most businesses are now taking social media seriously, with a report by U.S.-based small-business accelerator Manta showing that the majority of them claim it helps them find and stay connected to their clients.

The report shows that more small-scale business owners are now using social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with potential customers and business partners, with 90 percent of the 600 small-business owners surveyed using the networking sites.

Nearly 35 percent said the networks helped them find clients, with 38 percent of the respondents saying they spend a quarter of their time online using the networking sites.
According to Muthuri Kinyamu, 24, of Social Edge Africa, social media has the capability to perform the same enabling role for educationists as it does for businesses. HumanIPO caught up with Kinyamu to find out how his company’s SocialPro Clubs are helping to connect students with the wider world.

What are SocialPRO Clubs?
Muthuri Kinyamu: SocialPRO clubs bring together social media enthusiasts, speakers, lecturers, bloggers, industry experts, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, digital agencies and organisations who have immensely contributed to the growth of social media in Kenya to pass on their knowledge to university students using both online and offline platforms like workshops and conference talks. SocialPro clubs will help university students refine their business ideas, network, and find partners, capital and market.

What inspired you to venture into social media?
My former work experience as a business development manager at Shade Systems EA Ltd exposed me to social media so much. Then I began my blog, Kenyan Marketer, and saw the potential of social media and after some time working at a digital agency, Brand 2D, I was sold to social media. Then I realised it was time I began my own venture and Social Edge Africa was born.

Any funding yet?
No. We are still searching for strategic key partners to help us grow. Money only may not necessarily help us grow but we are looking for individuals and companies who can put in more in terms of networks and presence across Africa to Social Edge Africa.

What problem are you solving?
We make information available, exchange ideas and opportunities for all university students. SocialPro Clubs tackle unemployment by using social media to connect university students to opportunities, information and key partners in the industry.

What is your business model?
SocialPro Clubs for universities is our CSR programme at Social Edge Africa and we are seeking corporate sponsorship and support from various NGO’s, GoK bodies, universities for the launch in all universities. So far we have the Ministry of Information and Tech, Kuza Biashara and the University of Nairobi on board as sponsors.

Why Universities?
Social media isn’t a fad, it’s here to stay and it will shape our future. These clubs are meant to revolutionise learning in institutions of higher learning because it will change the how and when lecturers create and share content with the students online and on social media specifically. These clubs will also provide companies with a talent pool of graduates with a solid understanding of social media to help fix the knowledge gap in the corporate world.

How do students benefit?
The clubs enable collaboration and exchange of ideas among students in other universities and industry. This will spur innovation at the university level. It’s more like having small iHubs in campuses connected to all campuses online. This allows for information sharing with external partners and students, thus boosting entrepreneurship and connecting students to opportunities and information. The exchange of information with the industry will bridge the gap between the university and expectations of employers.

How do Lecturers benefit?
They help lecturers embrace social media and learn how to integrate it into teaching, and understand how to connect with their students on social media and gain valuable feedback and share information.

Have you had any challenges?
Yes. Every startup has challenges: attracting and retaining top talent, funding, training and competition from PR Agencies running social media for their clients. But the worst is the perception of social media by some corporate firms as lacking impact.

How different are you from the competition?
We focus on social media only, we target SMEs and individuals like celebrities, government officials, politicians, business owners and CEOs who want to keep tabs on what’s happening on social media. We help them professionally manage their presence online and monitor. We also help firms with recruitment of social media managers, digital managers and social media editors as we have been in it and have served several big clients.

What do you like about the African startup scene?
Africa is the next big frontier. The next Apple, Google and Amazon kind of companies will be in Africa. Ngong Road [in Nairobi, Kenya] is just about innovation, name the hubs! The angel and venture funds and investors are also stirring the local startup scene and platforms such as Demo Africa are very encouraging.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
It’s my passion, it makes the best out of me, I also want to inspire young people to do the same and I want to create employment.

What’s next on your plate?
We are working with Eyeballs Marketing on organising Social Media Awards – the first in Kenya and probably in Africa – to take place in November. We shall be focusing on awarding social media excellence on three major platforms: Blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Nominations are currently ongoing at www.soma.or.ke.
We will be working with Strathmore University as from October on a social media survey on habits of Kenyans on social media and the findings will be used to guide our strategy for 2013 and beyond.

Expansion plans?
To be realistic for now, no. We need to boost our technical capacity to handle bigger business, work on capacity building, invest in our business then we can spread our wings to other markets.

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