In this technological era in which we live, the ability to ‘friend’ someone in business, is literally at one’s fingertips. Smart phones such as the Blackberry and Apple iPhones are making internet access remarkably easily and speedy. Many young women striving to break male stereotypes in the business world, can now network and promote their businesses and careers from their mobiles, while walking the dog or cooking dinner. “MySpace is a vital avenue for marketing my music because it has a networking feature to enter my industry, which allows me to connect with others in it,” says Jackie Kwenda, a 28 year old songwriter and vocalist for 2 bands; ‘The Proud Marys’ and ‘The Swingsetters’. In my quest to find out more about how social media sites – and as mobisites – benefit young, career orientated, black South African women in their career outlooks, I spoke to 3 driven ladies.
Masithokoze Moyo is in her early thirties and is a pilot and Executive Director for Alpine Aviation, a skills development specialist and the Founder of the Masithokoze Abatakale Foundation Southern Africa. Using her Apple iPhone 4, she browses online. “I am a serial networker and skills development activist who belongs to over 35 networks of professional business development platforms. Being part of social media sites was a strategic move for me because they allow me to engage with people I would otherwise not have met, who require my service or who could possess viable business leads for me. I have been assisted by many individuals throughout my career and as such, I too can offer contacts for emerging business people. Through social media sites I have expanded my existing contact base and now have access to a variety of service providers should I need them. Building mutually supportive relationships is key for the growth of any business and social media technologies are helping us along.”
How Useful is Facebook?
Asked if she has joined the popular Facebook revolution, Masithokoze admits that she has, and uses it to keep abreast with developments concerning friends and family abroad. She quickly brings it back to business saying, “I rather choose to use it to bring to the forefront upcoming events by sending an event invite to all my friends. For example, last year I set up an event profile named ‘Sign-up Business 2010 – Your One Stop Business Networking Event’ to publicize and invite as many business people as possible, since I was speaking, along with other industry experts.” Jackie also says, “The Swingsetters have a Facebook fan page where we advertise the next events, new songs and communicate with the people who support our cosy rock band of 7 members. This is where people hear our sound and offer us gigs.”
It is exciting to have the online platform of social media sites that can bring talented women together to intellectually feed off of each other. The occasionally patriarchal, crotch-rubbing, distasteful-joke-sharing, chauvinistic networking drink-ups, are now made optional with the birth of networking opportunities found online. Social media sites are proving to be great educational tools which facilitate discussion and deepen understanding for graduates hoping to delve into their careers shortly.
25 year old Vimbai Chasi, soon-to-be Masters Graduate in Environmental and Geographical Sciences specializing in Disaster Risk in Weather Systems says, “Engaging in virtual conferences means I get first-hand knowledge from overseas speakers”. She confesses that she “primarily joined Facebook, unlike others [her] age, not to aimlessly peruse others’ profiles, but to be a part of a group started by a fellow classmate.” She says, “Here, we discuss projects and topics related to environmental and geographical systems, as well as post interesting links and articles. I often use social media sites to confirm attendance at virtual conferences which target my academic interests and to watch academic presentations given by respected professionals in my field.”
Twitter as an Educational & Marketing Tool
Vimbai is amongst many who believe that the sites are a good forum for learning. Having asked why she accesses Twitter on her Nokia E71 she responded saying, “through Twitter I have found other websites which speak about my area of study and which have proven to be very useful and which I have quoted in some of my research work.” It seems Twitter is the buzzword these days if one wants be deemed software technology trendy, ‘cool’ and gripping the world in one’s palm through all the news updates; from the stock market, to the President Jacob Zuma’s unexpected political election strategy of joining Twitter, or to the latest celebrity waif-weight achieving soup diet. Twitter’s attraction is that, as Masithokoze appropriately puts it, “time is money” and Twitter’s immediacy allows her to keep business associates updated on her business ventures thereby leaving the door open should a business opportunity arise; a free and effective marketing tool! Jackie says, “Twitter is convenient because it’s easy to log on using my phone. Its 140 characters also mean that there isn’t much rambling for me to sift through as is the case with Facebook updates.”
The Issue of Self-Management
Speaking to the dynamic aforementioned Jackie Kwenda, the question of the importance of self presentation on such sites was raised. Jackie says, “it’s highly important because in the bands with which I sing, a high level of professionalism is required or else we don’t get gigs. So the language we use has to be clean. Our manner of dress has to reflect a young, vibey, smart and casual group of talented individuals bearing shiny instruments and Aquafresh smiles. It’s all about first impressions and if some big music executive happens upon our profile someday, our appearance and the look and feel of our profile will be the difference between a music contract and not. In my own personal capacity, it is important, though not critical for me to watch my language or dress, since I dictate who accesses my profile. With the group profile, it is open and thus anyone can view our band details, so we have to be careful what we show to the world out there. I would not grow as an artist without it.”
Preferred Social Networks
Jackie’s social sites of choice are Soundcloud and MySpace. She says about Soundcloud, “I can exchange ideas on methods of recording or songwriting, get musical advice and commentary on my own posted songs, get invaluable criticisms from local and international music experts and generally improve my sound.” Regarding MySpace she adds, “My MySpace account is a vital avenue for marketing my music because it has a networking feature to enter my industry, which allows me to connect with others in it. By simply putting up a profile, I can display my work and lure industry professionals who may aid my musical maturity.
Through the more mature avenue of LinkedIn Masithokoze feels she is “able to exchange ideas and business information” adding that “it serves as a vital networking tools”. Logically, her current preference for meeting fellow black inspirational woman of varying ages is DestinyConnect.com. This is because, she admits, “it is an all encompassing information resource for a young black woman like me. It has forums for discussion, groups specifically targeting issues we are passionate about, such as my foundation, which I cherish, workshops I can engage in, and live chats with like-minded women.”
So shall you be left behind, frowning upon this overload of social media, or will you take up the challenge, get tech savvy and watch your network spread like an unstoppable business virus? As Jackie aptly put it, “Thank the heavens above for social media.”
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