Calling for a Business Blogging Conference in South Africa

Early in September I was a speaker at the 2nd Digital Citizens Indaba. Last year this conference was immensily valuable to me because it presented an opportunity to meet many of my fellow bloggers from across the African content. This year for me I realised the greater need to teach people how to use blogging to generate income. In 2006 I spent many, many hours discussing this with Emeka Okafor, before he was selected by TED to host the first TEDAfrica conference, which may turn out to become an annual conference.

So this year I spoke with Mathew Buckland and Laurien Clemence on spoke on the Marketing & Moneytizing panel. The problem with DCI is that the bulk of discussion is about online activism and citizen jouranlism. This is not a conference about serious business blogging. So I’m making this public call for a conference that would focus on business blogging. This conference would propel blogging to a new stratosphere in South Africa and Africa as a whole. TEDGlobal’s Fellow’s who included many, many bloggers are a testament to the value we can add to business. Such a conference would appeal to large corporates to introduce them to social media, and web 2.0 business strategies, which will be an imperative by 2010.

My dream panel of speakers would include the following Technorati 100 heavy weights:

  1. Darren Rowse
  2. Steve Pavlina
  3. Guy Kawasaki
  4. Seth Godin
  5. Michael Arrington
  6. Robert Scoble
  7. Brian Clark
  8. Steve Rubel
  9. Jeniffer Jones
  10. Leonard Brody (I already know him personally)

I’m looking at doing this during September/October 2008. It would take 4/6 months to secure sponsorships for this event. And another 6 moths to do all the planning and organising with sufficient marketing and public relations building up to the event. These two activities can run in concurrently to some extent.

Who’s your international business blogger of choice for this conference? And how can you help me organise this conference? Post your feedback or contact me privately.

 

Reflections on 2007 Digital Citizens Indaba

It’s been a week after the 2nd annual DCI event in Grahamstown. This event is a sidekick to the much larger and more established conference Highway Africa. As with all these types of events it’s layered with good intentions. However, the practical side of it sometimes leaves much room for improvement. The highlights were certainly the keynote by Ndesanjo Macha and my friend Daudie Were. During the later sessions Vincent Maher delivered the geekiest presentation I’ve ever seen at a conference. And he’s well on his way to becoming everyone’s favourite geek in South Africa.

There was some miscommunication between DCI organisers and Highway Africa as they initially asked me to conduct some workshop with DCI delegates. I could not track down anyone from Highway Africa to confirm it but based on the programme I realised it was not worth the effort. I had so much more to share with the delegates. My own talk was more aimed at inspiring bloggers to think beyond just writing and specifically how blogging can bolster their careers. Much of the investment is upfront and the pay-off is over the longer term. There are excellent online role models emerging in South Africa with the likes of Laurian Clemence, who spoke with me on the Moneytising and Marketing panel, launching her Wibble project recently.

What I would like to see more of in the future:

  1. Better planning of the sessions – there were some hiccups later in the day and the timing was consistent between breaks. Maybe the lunch venue can be in the same place as the conference venue because there was time lost walking to the lunch venue.
  2. Quality control on presentation – while most speakers were awesome there was not sufficient glue tying things together. I’ve noticed this is symptomatic of conferences i.e. the program directors are not checking the contents of the presentations or taking a few minutes to discuss with the speakers what exactly they will talk about. Just doing this one thing can take the quality of what delegates get out of this to the next level.
  3. Interaction between speakers – it would help if the speakers are able to have a dinner the evening before the event to discuss their topics and create more synergy.
 

Blog your way to Being an Expert

This is a summary of the talk and presentation that I delivered at the 2nd annual Digital Citizens Indaba on the Marketing and Monetising panel. My fellow presenters were Laurian Clemence and Matthew Buckland.

I started out telling the story of how I attended the 1st DCI conference last year, met Emeka Okafor, and ended up being awarded a TED Global Fellowship. It’s very difficult to place a monetary value on the experience gained from this event. Simply put the money for my travel, accommodation and conference fees are approximately US$10,000 or more.

Next I showcased my personal development blog, some of the structural elements like the Aweber email subscription form, the TAG cloud, the notable plugin that allows readers to submit my blog postings to Digg, Reddit and other social bookmarking websites. Inside the WordPress Dashboard I pointed out the growing list of incoming links from Blogrolls as the quality of articles has increased over time. There is a direct correlation between this narrowing of my focus, writing more original content, and the increase in traffic I’ve experienced since January 2007.

Next I showed how easy it is to include your blog’s RSS feed into your Facebook profile. There is a regular amount of traffic coming from Facebook users and I’m looking into merging my feeds using Yahoo! Pipes so that I can get even more exposure through Facebook. My LinkedIn profile brings high quality traffic to my this blog.

Next I displayed a awesome graph and quoted some research on a blog entry about how to become an expert. The essence of this is that you need to have persistence and specifically look to continuously improve what you do to set you apart from the drop-outs and the amateurs in your industry. The best example of this Steve Pavlina’s blog and I highly recommend the two articles: Confessions of an A-list blogger and How to make money from your blog, as well as all his podcasts.

5 Steps to becoming an Expert

  • Choose Your Topic (Niche) – it’s very important to differentiate your blog from others in your industry. So spend time using Google Blogsearch or Technorati to checkout your competition.?
  • Read Books – According to Dr John Demartini if you read 72-85 books on one topic it’s the equivalent of completing a Ph.D on that topic.
  • Interview Experts/People – By interviewing experts you can learn from them and also get to know them personally as people.
  • Participate > Online Discussions – It’s very important to go and find where your people are having online discussions and contribute to those. Start with forums, they have been around since before blogs became the rage and some are exceptionally influential.
  • Write Articles Not Blogs – What can I say. This is a must read by Jakob Nielsen.
      Download the presentation from here:
 

Ansbert Ngurumo on blogging in Kiswahili

Ansbert Ngurumo spoke about blogging in Kiswahili in the Fractured Identities session of the Digital Citizens Indaba 2007. This was in some respects one of the most inspiring talks for me because it is in sync with my own views that one of the best solutions to reducing the digital divide is translation of software and websites into indigenous languages like Kiswahili.

Here’s my podcast interview with Ansbert using my Sony Ericsson w880i:

 

Daudi Were on Blogging and Democracy

My friend Daudi Were spoke in the Fractured Identities session of the 2007 Digital Citizens Indaba. We first met last year at the DCI and also at TED Global in Tanzania. Daudi is currently organising a African Bloggers conference to be held in Kenya in April/June 2007.

 

Ndesanjo Macha keynote at Digital Citizens Indaba 2007

Ndejanjo MachaProfessor Fackson Banda opened the 2007 Digital Citizen Indaba. This is turning out to be an annual blogging conference. He welcomed everyone and introduced the keynote speaker, Ndesanjo Macha. Ndesanjo is a blogger, journalist, lawyer and digital activist. He is the sub-Saharan Africa editor of Global Voices. He runs Jikomboe, a kiSwahili blog, and Digital Africa. He is a newspaper columnist for the Tanzanian newspaper MwananchiHe’s opening was so powerful: you can’t tell stories if you can’t explain things to your mother or your grandmother. And there is a great quote from Steve Biko, “I write what I like” in honour of the anniversary of his death next week.

 

Digital Citizens Indaba 2007 opens this Sunday

Tomorrow I will be flying to Port Elizabeth for the 2nd time in just under a month. This flight has been booked by the gracious hosts from the Journalism and Media studies department at Rhodes University, who are the organisers of this conference as well as the annual Highway Africa conference. Sadly I will not have time to visit family and friends in Uitenhage because we’re all going directly to Grahamstown for the opening drinks on Saturday evening.

This is the updated programme for DCI 07. Please note that it is subject to change.

The main conference will be held at the Barratt Complex in Prince Alfred Street on Rhodes University campus.Registration will take place in the foyer of the African Media Matrix building on Rhodes University campus. Click here for a map.

SATURDAY 8 SEPTEMBER

Registration opens in the African Media Matrix building, Rhodes Campus.
6pm: Please join us for welcoming drinks at Olde 65 in New Street, Grahamstown.

SUNDAY 9 SEPTEMBER

8-9am: Registration in the AMM building, Rhodes campus

9-10am: Opening and keynote address
– Opening by Prof Fackson Banda (Acting Head School of Journalism and Media Studies, RU)
– Keynote address: Emergence of the Digital Citizen – Ndesanjo Macha (Blogger and writer, Tanzania)

10-11.30am: Fractured Identities — the African Blogosphere
Nixon Nyikadzino (Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe)
Daudi Were (Kenyan Blogs Webring, Kenya)
Ansbert Ngurumo (Kiswahili blogger, Tanzania)

11.30-11.45am Tea at Barratt Complex

12-1pm Why I Blog (and Things that Happen Because I Do)
Bob Sankofa (Photoblogger, Tanzania)
Remmy Nweke (Blogger, Nigeria)
Khaya Dlanga (YouTube Vlogger, South Africa)

1-2pm Lunch at Nelson Mandela Dining Hall, Rhodes campus

2-3pm Challenges of Content: The South African Experience
Riaan Wolmarans (Mail & Guardian Online, South Africa)
Renee Moodie (Independent Online, South Africa)
Carly Ritz (The Times, South Africa)
DeWaal Steyn (Die Burger, South Africa)

2-3pm Challenges of Content: The African Perspective
Ore Somolu (APC, Nigeria)
Elles van Gelder (AfricaNews & Voices of Africa, The Netherlands)
Anna Badimo (LinuxChix, South Africa)

3-3.15pm Tea at Barratt Complex

3.15-4.30pm Money and Marketing
Laurian Clemence (Wibble, South Africa)
Matthew Buckland (M&G Online, Online Publishers Association, South Africa)
Ramon Thomas (NETucation, South Africa)

3.15-4.30pm Cyberactivism & Legal Lessons
Guy Berger (School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa)
– Habtamu Dugo (Ethiopia/ Blogger)
Brenda Burrell (Kubatana, Zimbabwe)

4.30-5.30pm Web 2.0 and the Media
Vincent Maher (Amatomu, M&G Online, South Africa)
Mohamed Nanabhay (Al Jazeera, Qatar)

The Digital Citizens Indaba blog has been dead since the last conference and I’m hoping that they will follow in the footsteps of the TED blog which has been posting updates on the progress of the speakers and TED Fellows since TEDGlobal 2007.

 

African Bloggers monthly SkypeCAST for August 2007

This month we discussed the importance of Social networking profiles and how to link it with your blog. For the last few months since TEDGlobal myself and Henry Addo, a blogger from Ghana, has been having regular discussion via Skype on Blogging. Currently Skype allows maximum of 9 people on a Conference Call and in the future we will move to the SkypeCAST platform to reach more people. This month Andriankoto Ratoza also joined us for the monthly session.

This month we discussed the following:

  1. We started off discussing LinkedIn as the premier business to business social networking tool. When you follow all the instructions in this ebook on LinkedIn you start to derive real tangible benefits. For your blog you can also add a link from your LinkedIn profile to your website and your blog. This starts to drive traffic from a premium source back to your blog.
  2. How to import your Blog’s RSS feed into your Facebook profile. The benefit and importance of this is that you can reach a new audience who may not otherwise be exposed to reading your blog. Certainly in South Africa with the explosive growth of Facebook this is crucial to marketing your blog. For your Facebook profile this keeps new content coming through which reduces the burden to keep updating it.
  3. We also touched briefly on setting up a MySpace profile, creating a customised URL and re-posting some blog content onto your MySpace blog to again reach a wider and new audience.

These session are open to African Bloggers so please join the Google Group to be notified of future conference calls. This is one of the examples of how the Cheetahs from are working together to create a better future for Africa.

 

Digital Citizens Indaba 2007 announced at Rhodes University

My friend Henry Addo notified me of this event via the African Bloggers Group. The Digital Citizens Indaba, which is a Blogging Conference, will take place again this year from 9-11 September 2007.

Last year I was a speaker at last year’s event. There was a lot of talk about blogging being used to for activism and the now stale debate on blogging vs journalism. There were several international speakers like Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices and Emeka Okafor, program director of the TEDGlobal 2007 conference. There was a very small focus on blogging for business and so I sincerely hope they will bring more of that into it this year. If we really want to make an impact with blogging we need to get more companies in Africa to use it as a tool.

On Tuesday this week I did another one of my blogging seminars for Douglas Green, a very big wine and spirits company in SA with distribution in Europe and America. They are reeling with possibilities based on the Stormhoek success. And I helped them see these possibilities more clearly.

Perhaps the most important thing we need to do is to help individual Bloggers , especially those from other African countries, make money or generate an income or get some consulting work for themselves from their blogs. It certainly works for me here in South Africa. And I can say once again that my experience at TEDGlobal in Tanzania has taught me how fortunate we really are here in South Africa. My friend and mentor, Tony Roocroft, makes more then R1 million per annum from over 100 websites even with the high prices of Internet and broadband costs.

 

Benefits from Blogging for Business seminar in Joburg

Last Friday, I launched my first Blogging for Business seminar. This workshop has been in development for several months. And the response has been huge. There is such a great opportunity for South African businesses to benefit from blogging. A reminder to those who attended of the core benefits of blogging for business:

  • Become the Expert: when blogging start with issues affecting your industry and use your experiences in your company as a ongoing case study. As you become a industry commentator your peers and people on the outside will start to look to your for guidance.
  • Customer Relationships: this is where blogging can have the greatest benefit for very large companies. If you ever experienced high call volumes in a call centre, writing your feedback on a blog can help blow off some steam. Other clients can read the response from your company and may never have to call in with their complaints or feedback.
  • Media Relations: When you issue a press release to the media in many cases the can edit it or rewrite it and certain important messages can be taken out of context. You can publish your media releases on your blog unedited. And your audience, clients, partners can get the story straight from the horse’s mouth as they say.
  • Internal Collaboration: Again in very large companies or in virtual teams blogging the progress of a project can be invaluable way to communicate in a non-obtrusive manner. Project managers can keep track of the project progress without getting involved in calling meetings which only take people away from the projects they are working on.
  • Knowledge Management: Information can be shared using blogging technologies like RSS to keep relevant people informed of updates.
  • Recruitment: As you write about your industry and your company you can be seen as a open and attractive company to work for. Younger generation of employees are very intolerant of old fashioned bureaucratic ways of working.
  • Test ideas or products: You can use your blog to communicate new products, features and updates. And you can get quick and instant feedback from your audience. This can be seen as a kind of co-development with prospective clients and they will help spread your word of mouth better than you could ever imagine.
  • Rank high in Search Engines: The most obvious benefit from Blogging is how it boost search engine rankings. Search engines like Google love frequently updates web pages.

You can download my presentation from here: