Fact. Ghana was the number one trending topic on Twitter during Barack Obama's speech to Africa.
This is a big deal. Against the Iran Elections, Michael Jackson and other topics on the minds and hearts of people, Ghana became number one on twitter as Obama was delivering his speech.
I personally have had people who would in no way have met me either online or offline relay my thoughts and opinions all over the world. I believe others like (@Kwabena, @jdakorah, ) had similar experiences. It is a great time to be Ghanaian but we have #obamaghana fever for only a few more hours or days at best. It is time to take that popularity and sustain it into branding Ghana as a destination for investment and tourism.
In stating the above it must be obvious that majority of this interest especially in terms of sustained interest was on online social sites like Twitter and Facebook and discussion forums on news websites like BBC Have Your Say.
Capital required for initiatives to improve the tourism and investment outlook of a country are usually large and pound for pound or more appropriately; 'Naira for Cedi' or 'Rand for Cedi', Ghana cannot compete with juggernauts like Nigeria and South Africa and even the North Africa countries. This is where 'obamamania' provides us with a tremendous opportunity to level the playing field and we must not squander it.
The Ministry of Tourism recently launched a three (3) year tourism strategy (Budget:GHC 15 million) and I assume our capable and able leadership have included budgets for online and social media channels. Online social media like any medium online and offline needs time, investment and strategic understanding to effectively deliver a return on investment. The government needs to embrace this new medium and find the people with the right skills and knowledge to effectively use this medium.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube all offer a possibility to send our message to the world, if harnessed properly. This medium offers great opportunities at relatively lower costs. Leveraging the viral and interactive nature of social platforms including their ability to provide a more personal experience can be a powerful way to improve the marketing mix for 'Brand Ghana'. In some cases social media campaigns could be more effective than ad spots on CNN. I mean remember the beautiful ad campaign on CNN about two years ago? They didn't last very long and I assume the rates of ad spots were just unsustainable for long term with the tourism budgets available to Ghana. (Help with Youtube Ad URL, still can't find it. Add link in comments)
I believe to effectively execute any type of tourism strategy, the ordinary Ghanaian must pitch in. As the visit of Obama has shown without any direct investment an army(#Ghana, #obamaghana) rose up to ensure Ghana was the focus in the eyes of the world online. It is time for us to draw lessons from 'Mr Hope' himself Barack Obama. Heres's a quote from 'The Social Pulpit' a study by the PR Firm, Edelman of Obama's succesful use of social media.
Barack Obama won the presidency in a landslide victory (by a margin of nearly 200 electoral votes and 8.5 million popular votes) by converting everyday people into engaged and empowered volunteers, donors and advocates through social networks, e-mail advocacy, text messaging and online video. The campaign’s proclivity to online advocacy is a major reason for his victory
Remember, the same ads I referred to were distributed on Facebook and watched hundreds of times on Youtube. Give us 10 videos like that within the three (3) year campaign and I guarantee a viral distribution without any direct prompting. Our very own Brand Ghana army is waiting to be mobilized. South Africa is doing this very effectively with its 'My South Africa' campaigns.
Barack Obama during his campaign and in his administration uses technology and new media to ensure his message is heard. Ghana must embrace this culture and make of message of opportunity reach the companies, governments and people of the world.
The following section, is almost a 'how-to' for doing it the wrong way. I have struggled with myself whether to include this section in this post, but it would be irresponsible not to show the potential consequences of underestimating the power of the internet and new media (blogs, social networks). In aiming to promote Ghana, I sought to highlight Panafest in my tweets. Google 'Panafest 2009 website' and this is what you discover.
Welcome to what was once the Panafest - Ghana website. To satisfy your curiosity, I am the former webmaster and I have removed the website from the internet for nonpayment of fees by the principal organisers of the event.
Simply it tells the tale of people misunderstanding the far reaching consequences of this medium and how the organisers of Panafest have done Ghana a great disservice.
(Note: I do not condone the action of the 'webmaster' but he seems to really want his money)
However this also brings hope because it allows me to start a real life case of why social media works.
PROJECT CODENAME: Social Media Works.
Follow @panafest on twitter for updates.
Share this Ghana.gov Panafest article URL : http://bit.ly/kCw3Z
I will update this post with statistics on how well the link is doing. Please help me prove that, New media works.
Yes We Can!