Known as SirNige to his followers, Nigel Mugamu is making quite a stir. He’s just bagged an award from Highway Africa for 263Chat, a twitter phenomenon that’s got over 8,000 followers and rising.
Twitter? Followers? If you’re confused you clearly don’t tweet. If you haven’t heard, Twitter is a social media platform in which short messages of no more than 140 characters are shared across online networks. In Facebook one has friends that you are likely to know, Twitter has followers who could be, and most often are, total strangers. Messages can be resent or, as it is known by twitter users, ‘retweeted’ – extending the reach of the message.
SirNige’s 263Chat is a growing community of folk discussing Zimbabwean national issues. It’s this online community for which he won the award: for the innovative use of technology for community engagement. If this isn’t community building, what is?
Harare News tracked him down to get to the bottom of what seems to be a bit of a tweeting addiction…
Why do you tweet?
I tweet because I like having a conversation with strangers and them becoming friends. It’s also how I get my news. I don’t wait for print. It’s faster and I can also get an opinion. Retweet…share…what do you think? Right there, a discussion is taking place.
How did you build your following?
I didn’t plan it. There was no strategy. I never said “I must have 7,000 followers” [his own twitter account is also followed by over 7,000 people] – I just thought, “let me log on and share.” I am not afraid to share my journey. I just want to get people to think and talk. The Zimbabwean narrative is often told by people who are not Zimbabwean. I think it is up to us to tell our different stories so that we can replace their negative stories with our true stories.
Tell us about 263Chat
It was created first to have a conversation. Internet is the ideal democratic space. It started as a diaspora initiative as I lived outside. It’s like putting everyone into the same room. Zimbabweans are all over the place. The actual conversation is on Tuesdays at 6pm but it’s used throughout the week. How many people on the conversation? Depends on the topic – topics that involve women generate a lot of traffic. Education. Kids and stuff. We spoke about HIV a couple of weeks ago, people are very passionate.
And the award, what was that for?
I am very humbled to get this award. Totally unexpected! I just thought, hey, let me just tweet, didn’t realise that people out there were paying attention in this way. The award really belongs to the 263 family, who take part on a day-to-day basis.
Do you think you’re addicted?
I’ve thought about it. I just think it is part of me now. Like people who watch the news all the time. Are they addicted? No, they just want to know what’s happening. I am a writer, a blogger. I think it is useful to share.
Do you think that building an online community can translate into a sense of community offline?
Yes it does! You know, I met my wife on Twitter. We were introduced by a mutual friend, we started talking, turned to a phone call, then a meeting, and here we are. So it works. That’s why we also have live 263 events. Technology is great but the face-to-face meeting is really important. I am always encouraging Zimbabwean businesses to use social media, as it’s a way of engaging your customers. I have thought a lot about how I can use this technology to better the community. How do I get my mate in London, mate in Australia and this unknown person in SA to talk? How can we leverage the diaspora? In society we filter – that person’s white, he’s black… Twitter can be anonymous. Someone you don’t know is more likely to tell you the truth. It’s that honesty that I want.
Check SirNige out on twitter @SirNige @263Chat.