Saturday, November 3, 2012

Is it important to discuss Social Media - A debate at #Socialmediabaithak

Social Media is spreading like a virus and Pakistan is no exception!

Youth is predominantly affected, and there is no cure – Once you are in, you are isolated from what we otherwise call human interaction. Your eyes will be on your Smartphone and two thumbs on dial pad. Couple of years ago, in Pakistan using social media was considered as a sinful thing. But now even seniors are sort of okay with using facebook and Skyping with their family abroad.

Though late, but PR companies have also realized the importance of social media. There is now demand from their clients as they want to experiment with it. Xenith PR which is run by Zainab Ansari (who I know from her time at CMC and my job at British Deputy High Commission) has started a digital media division called XenithDigital. Looking at the importance of social media, XenithDigital thought of organizing a three days symposium focusing the subject. I came to know about this event through a facebook update by Saher Mangi who used to work at Xenith and now moved to Arif Habib Group. Invitation was also extended by Uroosa who manages XenithDigital.

Me and Mateen Hamza who writes excellent English humor decided to attend the second day.

Discussion was a bit all over, and I do not blame panelists, it was about social media so focusing was an issue J - I guess moderator was a bit young to deal with these tall order and some extremely loud panelists who at times were debating among themselves. Can’t blame them, Pakistanies generally have distracted focus anyway.

To me the most interesting bit was Jehanzaib Haque who is Express Tribune’s Online Editor. He was quite buoyant about change that social media is bringing in Pakistani society. He was of the view that ET has been able to create awareness inamongst various communities and also in international media. He said that ET has over 70 journalists who use social media and were trained to do so. Soon ET will also produce a 50 page manual for online journalism, which will be available for download.

Faisal Qureshi was of the view that Social Media is an extension of our real life.( I agree, we cannot live without it!)  In his views social media is yet to create meaningful impact in Pakistan. (Yes, he might be right here, but what do we mean by meaningful impact? Perhaps social media community needs more time to build its muscles, or perhaps initiatives such as #SocialmediaBaithak should continue beyond gatherings of those using social media?)

Sarfaraz A Reham was smiling a lot, that’s what he does anyway. But his smiles carry a million messages. He was very straight. Told us that Engro is now using social media extensively and now there is no need for physical meetings (or perhaps lesser requirement), a lot of consultative work is done using social media. Sarfaraz sahib uses Social Media for accessing information.

Mohsin Sayeed was very vocal in expressing the way people get into personal attacks and silly discussions.  
I was unable to get anything from Norbalm ( I did not get his name – Sorry!) Sabeen was also quite vocal about civil society’s inability to use social media effectively.

In my view, just engaging those in such events who know social media won’t help much. Somehow social media community needs to inspire those who do not use social media - that is the only way to build critical mass for creating an impact in our society.

Yes social media is for fun, but let us not undermine the importance of outreach it provides. #SociammediaBaithak generated 463 tweets and had 583,128 impressions, reaching out to an audience of 94,831 followers, a strength that is almost impossible on any other media!