NB: This entry has also been published in the Financial Junction, Issue 2, 8-15 Dec. 2012, see www.financialjunction.info
Since August 2012 I changed my career from academic research and teaching to management consultancy. As my background is in ‘Politics and International Relations’, management consulting has been a challenge yet it has provided me with fascinating opportunities to see the world from different perspectives. However, I have learnt that at the end of the day, human beings strive to solve the same problems in which we realize that knowledge is knowledge. My International Relations and academic background, for example, has proven to be invaluable to management consulting engagements. These include advising firms and organizations on planning, policy-making and research. My International Relations knowledge is clearly helping me to understand the trends and rules of game as they develop in the global sphere, which is integral in organizational strategic planning. The academic research experience has given me skills to marshal concepts from different sources of data. In connection to this, I have found myself increasingly thinking and trying to understand the role of social media networks in academics, politics, and business.
When doing academic research, twitter is, for me, a primary data source. I can gather the thoughts or ideas of certain people who I need to know about their perspectives or standpoint on certain issues. My PhD Thesis, for example, cited tweet feeds of certain politicians. I was not the first one to do so. Some of the recently published books have cited twitter as their sources of data. I also get to know views of renowned scholars. I follow and trace current discourse and ongoing debates on certain topics. Thus twitter is becoming a reliable source of not only secondary data but also (in fact mostly) primary data. Twitter is designed in a way that one can quickly filter information and news. The 140-character limit allows for a quick look into enormous information. In fact in this age of ‘too much’ information, we only need something like twitter to keep up.
In politics, the term ‘social’ as a qualification for twitter speaks for itself. Politics is about people and anything social has to do with people. Twitter is an online sphere that holds millions of people. There are people who have millions of followers on twitter. I am not sure if there’s any politician who commands such a following yet, however a number of celebrities do. Nevertheless prominent politicians in the world have twitter accounts and they keep updating their followers about their ideas, policies, and even personal lives. In Tanzania, we have seen a number of our very own politicians who directly engage with citizens through twitter. President Jakaya Kikwete has a twitter account. Cabinet Ministers have accounts. Bernard Membe, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, updates his followers about different foreign policy engagements and his other personal lives. Members of Parliaments also do have accounts. Zitto Kabwe, MP for Kigoma North and a prominent politicians in the country, actively engages with his followers by directly answering their questions as well as posting and updating on ongoing issues pertaining our country. Kabwe has about 40,000 followers and tries his best to address questions raised by hundreds of his followers on daily basis. This highlights accountability and respect to citizens. Other local politicians who engage in twitter include Dr. Wilbrod Slaa, January Makamba, Halima Mdee and John Mnyika. Through their twitter accounts citizens get to directly engage and voice their concerns to them. These politicians also gain from twitter by collecting ideas and advice from citizens.
In the businesses, I cannot stress more the imperative of using twitter. Twitter provides a space for free international marketing and a forum through which businesses can project their services and products. Through twitter, businesses can learn from other businesses both local and international. Key to any businesses is interactions and twitter is all about interacting with each other. This is why at BUMACO (Business Management Consultants), where I work, we have started to train our clients on the use of social media to learn, expose, and interact with other like-minded businesses in the world. We have designed a special training on how to use twitter and other social media networks for businesses. Through its 30-year track record and experience of providing consultancy services to firms and organizations, BUMACO realizes the imperative and potential of interacting and networking. This is why we want our client to embrace this new and effective technique.
If anything, contemporary International Relations discipline underscores the fact that we live in a globalized world. In this respect, academics, politicians and businessmen cannot afford not to interact through modern techniques in particular the social media networks.