How to give WhatsApp networks a life and direction

by James Kamuye Kataru

The most difficult stage in developing a social media network using platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp is giving a life and direction to an established group. Most groups disintegrate and lose purpose at this point, while others evolve and take a different direction from what they were formed for. Making basic guiding rules whether “written” (listed and occasionally shared by admins), or “unwritten” (guided by basic principles of social cohesion) isn’t enough. Enforcing these rules is a bigger challenge more so to social networks where one chooses to belong and exit at will.

Above left shows how SAWBO educational content flows from global experts to users in communities around the world. Above right shows some of the established and upcoming WhatsApp groups in the SAWBO NETWORK. Image credit: SAWBO & Kataru Concepts

In about four years of working with SAWBO and establishing WhatsApp groups and networks, I have come to learn that there are a number of leading factors that give a group and network life and purpose hence reducing the indulgence of the group administrators  to occasional moderation, these include;

Giving a group a definitive name or title

As we have learned before, any group that’s formed needs a self-explanatory name or title. One should know the purpose of the group by just reading its title and definition. A group name shouldn’t be complicated to keep new members guessing or confused on its agenda. A name should instead be a hint to what happens in the group. It should attract members and cause them to willingly join when the group link is shared.

Establishing the purpose of a group and network

Any group that doesn’t have a well-defined purpose lacks direction in its activities. Such a group has no decorum, suffers indiscipline, and is prone to misuse by rowdy members with ulterior motives. But a group that has a well-defined agenda is enjoyable to belong to. For example, in all SAWBO groups and networks, the main purpose it to “disseminate content” which comes in form of educative animation videos. Any member joining these groups will instantly notice that they are about enhancing peer to peer education, and so their expectations are set to nothing less. The addition of key words such as “farmers” to a farmers group, “health” to a health workers group etc. is quite important because it signals the agenda of the group.

Having variety in content spices group activities

This is another key point in social networking group formation, discussions, debates, and activities. “Variety in content spices group activities” and makes discussions enjoyable and all inclusive. In SAWBO groups, not all members are farmers. We also have health workers, traders, environmental activists, and other social change drivers. Having a little “something for everybody” makes SAWBO a home for all, a complete society where each community interests are well catered for, and a rich source of information on the most important spheres of daily life.

A quick scroll down the animated video categories reveal that every important practice has been factored with agriculture leading, followed closely by health and women’s empowerment, with plans to add more categories as the video library grows. It doesn’t stop at that but goes down to listing countries of origin, and translating the animations into local languages and dialects used in those countries. Truly, SAWBO is a world without borders or boundaries.

Having content for discussion by group members

Having content to feed the group members plays a bigger role in moderating what is discussed and shared in a network. When that content is easily accessible for downloading, exciting to watch and use, touches on topics that create an instant interest in the users, rest assured your group and network shall have a life and direction.

In this case, SAWBO is providing content on some of the most popular topics that touch on people’s lives. In the African countries where we have networks and in the rest of the world there are no topics that draws as much attention than agriculture, food security, climate change intervention, and women’s empowerment. Animated videos provided by SAWBO in these thematic areas are giving WhatsApp groups and network a life and direction with inspiring impact stories from users.

Time as an essence of change and maturity

Just like fine wine, social networking groups mature over time. When members are drawn to a group which discuss and share content that impacts their lives positively, they tend to create an attachment and sense of belonging hence forming a virtual community with common bonds. Interacting with others, sharing experiences.

Honestly, after members get to know and interact with each on social media for a long time, they develop a familiarity and confidence to indulge in more personal interactions that benefit both parties. This realization forced me to create a second group for Kenyan members and convert the first one to “SAWBO FARMERS AFRICA NETWORK”. I then added members from other African countries to give them an opportunity to learn from Kenyan members how to spice up and add life to WhatsApp interactions in their networks.

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