Meet Joseph Mwakima, the Ultimate Community Manager

In online circles we believe a community manager is someone who cultivates and activates a group or a brand following on a social network. In Africa I met the ultimate community manager, Joseph Mwakima, a fellow busy activating his community and inspiring change in Kenya’s Kasigau Corrdidor REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Project area through word of mouth.

But unlike his American counterparts, Joseph doesn’t use a Facebook Group, Instagram or Twitter as primary tools of his job (though he is on those Wildlife Works community relations officer, he regularly meets with people engaged in projects throughout the region.


Joseph could have gotten a job in the city. He has a wife and baby, and could easily justify seeking more bountiful land. He’s also college educated, speaks fluent English, and is well travelled. But he instead came back to the region he calls home to make a difference. His community needs him, as does the overall Wildlife Works effort.


A variety of issues are impacting the region, including rapid deforestation through slash and burn farming and charcoal harvesting, a lack of jobs in the community, and disappearing wildlife. The REDD+ Project Joseph is part of seeks to counteract challenges with a sustainable community development program that creates jobs and protects the forest.

Joseph Talikng to Us

I got to see Joseph at work, thanks to working with Audi as part of its documentary project produced by VIVA Creative (you can see Joseph talking to the VIVA team above). Audi supports Wildlife Works as part of its carbon offset program that compensates drivers for the manufacturing and first 50,000 gas-driven miles of the new A3 e-tron being released this fall.

Widespread Community Activation


Nestled between Kenya’s Tsavo East and West National Parks, the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project is widely considered to be a leader in sustainable carbon offsets. Wildlife Works applies a wide set of innovative market-based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity.

Joseph works in the community to socialize the solutions and encourage adoption of them. Here is what I witnessed Joseph doing:

World Environment Day


Marasi Primary School hosted a World Environment Day celebration the day after we (the documentary team) arrived. It acknowledged many of the positive changes that have occurred as a result of the community’s fight to stop deforestation. There, I watched Joseph help a child plant a tree, speak with children, and converse with many of the community leaders in attendance.


The school in many ways symbolizes the future of the corridor. In total, Wildlife Works pays for the school fees of more than 3,000 students in the area, including partial scholarships for some college students. Most people who work for Wildlife Works reinvest their wages in their children’s education.



In this picture below you can see Joseph talking with several Wildlife Works Rangers. The rangers are an 80+ person ranger corps that protects wildlife throughout the corridor’s 500,000 acres from poachers seeking ivory. They also stop people from slash and burn farming or from simply cutting down trees for charcoal. So part of Joseph’s job is explaining to them why the rangers are stopping them from using the forestland, and what alternatives they have.


We spent seven days in the company of Joseph and Evans and Bernard, two of the Wildlife Works Rangers. I was impressed by their work, their passion for the wildlife in the Project area, and the danger they face from poachers. A poaching incident occurred on my last day in Kenya, and the pain was evident on their faces. You can see the rangers at work in the Animal Planet reality TV show “Ivory Wars.”



Instead of slash and burn farming and chopping down forests for charcoal production, Wildlife Works offers new alternatives to citizens. These include job opportunities, smarter farming education, and alternative methods of creating charcoal. This latter effort — the creation of eco-charcoal — offers an innovative, yet pragmatic approach to fuel.


Joseph showed us how the eco-charcoal is created. Teams clip small branches, collect fallen tree limbs, and burn them. The ash is then mixed with a pasty substance, and poured into casts for eco-charcoal bricks. The end result is a brick that burns longer and better than the charcoal most Kenyans make when cutting down trees.

Women’s Groups


Joseph introduced us to three different women’s groups in the region. The loosely knit associations of women engage in entrepreneurial activities like producing arts and crafts that are sold in the U.S. and Europe through Wildlife Works. In all, there are 26 registered women’s groups in the Corridor, touching 550 women, or four percent of the total population.


The women use the resulting money to build clean water tanks, buy solar lights and clean cook stoves for their households, and provide an education for their children. Husbands see the positive impact on their households and are encouraging their wives’ newfound roles in the Kasigau community.

Joseph Small

These are just some of the programs that Joseph supports in the community. Wildlife Works engages in other economic development actions such as textile production, better farming practices and more to build a sustainable future for Kasigua Corridor REDD+ Project Area.

This type of community management shows the real-world impact that such a role can have in the right situation. When local people like Joseph interact with the community and serve as a liaison for Wildlife Works, adoption of sustainability programs increases, and ultimately transforms the entire region for the better.

Disclosure: Audi paid for me to visit Africa and capture content as part of a larger documentary that will be released this fall.

Being an Influencer Is Not a Top Priority

Many people engage in online media to promote their services. The idea of choosing between becoming an online influencer or a communicator probably doesn’t occur to them. After all, they just want to win a few clients and projects.

I reached a point where I needed to prioritize my own online interactions versus a desire to do the work, scale a business, and maintain balance in my personal life. Some are able to build larger agencies and businesses that coincide with significant online profiles, but I struggle to do both. So a choice was needed. In many ways, it is a living decision, one that I constantly need to reinforce.

Last week, a top 100 influencers metric came out, as usual based on Twitter reach, though this time it measured the reach of persona’s following, specifically “how many people are following those followers.” I guess that’s potential RT reach? Anyway, I am not sure how that translates to influence, but many friends whom I do consider to be influential were deservedly on the list. My congratulations to them.

As I watched the usual accolades posted on my social streams, I grew jealous. I could have been on that list if I’d only chosen to focus on my personal network growth over the past few years. But then I reminded myself about my choices. I was able to detach.

How This Choice Impacted Me

I secured an opportunity for my client Cade Martin serve as the primary portrait photographer for the NBA Wives Association (Behind the Bench) black tie gala last weekend. Cade is photographing MLB great Prince Fielder here. Check out all of his shots.

Many who have known me over the past 10 years would agree that I am not as prolific as I used to be online. I am a practitioner now, not an uber-influencer on the social media conference speaking circuit. Ratcheting it back was necessary to achieve those other objectives.

Instead, I am present enough to contribute to the larger conversation and market my business. Further, I use the tools to demonstrate competency with social media, particularly with my photography.

Frankly, I feel like online tools like Twitter, this blog and others are awesome, but they can blind you. You think the attention is necessary to succeed, but it takes a lot of energy and time to keep that influencer flywheel turning. Plus the necessary, um, political schmoozing is not my favorite activity. So I made and continue to make the choice to focus on other things.

This decision hasn’t been unkind to me. I earn a bit more than I used to, and I have better family relationships.

Having attained the right balance, I believe I am still credible to clients. At the same time, my intent is to promote them first, and not myself. I guess that’s old school, the client should be in the limelight, and not me.

Perhaps I have become just a member of the community rather than one of the top voices. Others have taken the mantle, and today, it seems some leaders are newer voices, at least to this old man. I kind of like that. Perhaps it is time for the next generation of influencers.

Me, I just want to build a good business, and do what is necessary online. My time as an uber-influencer — real or imagined — has passed.

8 Random Thoughts

Strap in, this is going to be a bit of a random wild post. All of the mentioned topics were notable but not worth full blog posts so you’re getting a bit of a mash-up.

1) Lists Don’t Matter Until You’re On One


Most folks claim that lists don’t matter until they are on one. Then the lording of mightiness ensues, humblebrags and the posts of “how you, too, can be part of x influencer (or whatever) list.”

Here is the truth. If lists didn’t matter people wouldn’t talk about them, good or bad. Do you talk about lists? Of course, this doesn’t apply if you are one of the top-ranked guitarists of all time.

2) Jason Werth is the Dude


For those that don’t follow baseball, Jason Werth is the wild bearded zen leader of the Washington Nationals. Watch him speak, and you’ll be struck by his calm manner, matter of fact comment, and his slang/poor English, all of which reminds of The Dude. That’s right, The Big Lebowski. Go ahead and make your own determination.

3) What Did That Get You?


A few years ago I won the top Twitter personality in DC according to a Washington Post poll (see #1 above), and called my Dad to tell him. He said, “That’s great, Geoff. What did that get you?” I still don’t know.

4) Be Visual


We’re working on our website and trying to develop something new that will really stand out. It occurs to me if we really are in a visual media era, then we cannot talk about visual, per say. We need to be visual. Practicing vs preaching.

5) Doubling Down on DC


There was a lot of great feedback about last week’s Capitol Communicator announcement that in addition to my building Tenacity5, I am supporting their team as a media strategist. Phil and Paul have done a great job with the product and the Summits. It’s an honor, and rather than blog here and create entities to help the local community this seemed like an easier path. More than 80% of Tenacity5’s business is in the DC area, so it only made sense to double down.

6) If No One Takes Responsibility Everyone Loses


There is plenty of blame going around these days for wrong conversations and content. But if no one takes responsibility for their own actions and participation, then the only winner is Anonymous. That dastardly crowd-sourced villain does everything today. And the cycle of wrongness continues.

7) Distractions


I wrote two Facebook posts last month, one on LinkedIn becoming spammy, the other on real-time marketing off of Robin Williams death. Both were complaints, distractions and wasted my (and others’) time. They reminded me that energy and time spent on negative issues that don’t really impact me is energy and time lost. Plus such actions lead to a lack of mindfulness in speech, something I continue to work on.

8) The Super Moon


The final Super Moon of the year is next week and I will be in Cleveland for Content Marketing World. I wonder what I will miss during that two hour window when I am photographing the moon as it rises over Cleveland.

That’s it really. I have a couple more, but will save them for another round some other day.

Care to comment? Or, what’s going on with you?

12 Ways to Boost Your Visual Media Performance

Tenacity5 Media released a new eBook this morning, Visual Media: The New Content Marketing Landscape. My colleague Erin Feldman is the primary author with a co-author credit to me. You can download it for free with no requirement to provide any personal information.

The eBook discusses the visual media era as whole, then seeks to help marketers adapt best practices. Generally, there is one overarching rule: Go mobile or perish. While the desktop is still used, its use is limited to particular tasks. To reach more people, think mobile first, desktop second.

Included in the paper are 12 tips for best practices across a variety of media types and social networks. You can see them in the above slideshare or simply scroll below.

1) Media


Traditional media is not dead, but it does need to be supplemented with digital assets. Engage journalists by augmenting pitches with photos, videos and other visual resources.

2) Social TV


Social TV is not synonymous with newsjacking, but the tactic is relevant, particularly when capitalizing on the social furor surrounding live events such as sporting ones or the Grammy’s. Follow current events and programs, then share timely brand-related updates and images.

3) YouTube


YouTube isn’t replacing traditional TV viewing, but it is being consumed in larger and larger numbers. Brands seeking to create a YouTube presence need to think unique content rather than copy what they do on more traditional video platforms.
Aim to create high-quality, engaging content rather than just another television ad.

4) Pinterest

Pinterest offers a captive, active audience. Tap into their interests by sharing images that they’ll love to “like” and re-pin. Pin images that depict your brand’s story and character.

5) Instagram

Instagram is ideal for user generated content (UGC). Give your audience a chance to tell the story, and they typically will. Grow your Instagram community by asking them to share photos of your product in action.

6) Facebook


Facebook is alive and well, but it’s increasingly visual. Ensure your placement in your fans’ news feeds by tapping into their visual interests. For increased Facebook engagement, post multiple photos rather than a single one.

7) Twitter


Twitter has gone the way of visuals, too. Make sure your work is noticed by using Twitter Cards to feature images and other information, such as a sign-up form.
Use Twitter Cards to feature full-sized images in the news stream.

8) SlideShare


SlideShare is not an online PowerPoint presentation. Other content can be uploaded to the site. In addition, it features robust search optimization capabilities. The presentation’s important, but don’t forget to optimize for search.

9) LinkedIn


LinkedIn is visual, too. Present your company’s story and standout from your competition with Showcase Pages.

10) Flickr


Flickr may be popular because of its storage and archiving possibilities, but the site gets plenty of traffic from people seeking licensed images for their own work. Capitalize on their needs by licensing your work. To increase awareness, license your photos so that people can share and use them.



Vine is home to short video, so it’s not the place to tell your brand’s life story. Aim for sharing highlights and personality. Use your six seconds to let your brand’s personality shine.

12) Non-Traditional Conferences

Nontraditional conferences are the way of the future. Blend your traditional event with digital for an increased return on investment. Use visual and digital media to generate stories before, during, and after an event.

Download Visual Media: The New Content Marketing Landscape for free with no requirement to provide any personal information.

Want more? Read 7 Signs of the Post Social Media Era.

Success Built on a Mountain of Failures

Two weeks ago, Jelly Founder and Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone spoke at the Greater Washington Board of Trade about his lessons learned as an entrepreneur, as detailed in his new book, Things a Little Bird Told Me. The conversation with Board of Trade President Jim Dinegar inspired hundreds of executives.

“My success is built on a mountain of failures,” said Biz.

Biz continued and said that he attributed 99% of his success to failures and 1% to luck. He looked at failure as a method of experimentation. Failure tells you what doesn’t work, and allows you to move on to a different approach and find an answer.

Opportunity means a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something, noted Biz Stone. Unfortunately, most people assume that they have to wait for those circumstances. “We can make the circumstances that create opportunity,” said Biz.

Twitter Success Came from Failure


Biz had an impovershed upbringing. He was raised by his mother who was a single earner. He was busy as a high school student, and ended up starting and participating in his lacrosse team and working at night. He didn’t have time for homework, too, so he actively dialogued with his teachers and worked out an agreement. Later Biz dropped out of college… Twice.

He related how he had moved west to Silicon Valley to work with Ev Williams, and his mild successes and failures with Google’s Blogger platform. During the pre-Twitter success period of his life, Biz was struggling to make ends meet, and he and his wife slept on their floor.

Ev left Blogger, and Biz became the leader of the unit. Google then IPOed, which help relieve Biz’s financial woes. Biz decided to leave Google after the IPO because he wasn’t happy with the experience, even though he was the voice of the Blogger platform. He didn’t love what he was doing, and he had specifically come to California to work with Ev. So even though the Google IPO promised more wealth, he joined Ev and built the podcasting software company Odeo.

Odeo’s failure produced the concept for Twitter. Rather than simply close the doors, Ev and Biz held a hackathon to come up with cool ideas. By then Biz and Jack Dorsey, a programmer at Odeo, were becoming good friends. They hacked the idea for Twitter based on AOL’s Instant Messenger platform.

During the company’s initial successes, Twitter experienced severe technical issues, and the service kept collapsing. It was the era of the Twitter fail whale. Everyone was strained, and one day Biz — who again was the face of the company — came in and snapped. He yelled at the team.

Jack got up and asked Biz to talk privately. They went for a walk and Jack told Biz that he couldn’t behave that way. “I realized I was the leader of the company,” said Biz. “I always needed to present a positive outlook for the team.”

More stories were shared including a stiff conversation with Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg who inquired to buy Twitter.

All in all, I found Biz’s adventures to be very inspiring. I believe that success is something that could happen with hard work and faith. And that belief was reaffirmed. I liked the Jack lesson, too.

Biz did note that it was important for people to give back. He said it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you always need to give to people, even if it is just time or $5. It changes who you are and the benefit is that it make you a better person. Biz is actively involved with DonorsChoose.

A version of this post ran originally on the Vocus blog.

What If No One Pays Attention Anymore?

Attention drives the social web, particularly now that it is maturing and there is an ongoing dogfight for precious seconds from the billions of people on social networks. Algorithms determine what does and doesn’t get people’s attention in feeds on many sites. But what happens when people stop caring?

The loss of attention is why social media marketers are freaking out about Facebook’s algorithm changes. These evolutions promise only 1-2% reach for business page updates. Now marketers can’t earn attention on Facebook brand pages by posting cute puppy pics. Instead, they have to pay for it. Like schemes are falling to the wayside.

Brands are really starting to learn a painful lesson right now. People hate branded social media updates.

The movement towards “dark” or private social media isn’t just about avoiding awkward conversations with family and co-workers. People want to escape the considerably intrusive shilling of chatty products and services trying to be cool in that oh so social way.

User Experience Matters More


In considering today’s media environment, here’s a mission that most traditional publishers would agree with: “User experience matters more than branded approaches to owned and earned social media.” After all, if you chase everyone away in the name of helping corporate partners out, there won’t be anything worth advertising on.

Social media marketers cries of greed or rationalizing Facebook’s moves as profiteering for Wall Street are misguided. Let’s say all of the conjecture about Facebook’s forthcoming decline is true (data shows it’s not, but…) Perhaps Facebook fears that engagement rates will drop and knows it has lost younger audiences. Facebook can’t stop grandparents from joining, but they can control brand interactions while increasing visual and mobile functionality for individuals.

Maybe, just maybe retention and user experience trumps brand use.

Perhaps user experience causes Twitter to consider dropping hashtags as a primary conversation tool. Afterall, which demographic really cares about and tracks hashtag use? Marketers, of course.

Think about it. If there was a better method to track hot topics like The Walking Dead, would people really miss the consistent barrage of brand inspired hashtags?

See, I believe that for the most part people are tuning out brands on social networks anyway. Only the die hard brand loyalists and fans care now. They are the ones who opt in and follow organically.

Pretty Breakfast Waffles

To reach more people, brands and individuals can’t resort to the same old cheap social tricks. Buy a like or follower? No, now they have to advertise. And brands better deliver contextual value in some form or people tune out.

How many Taco Bell ads have you seen across diverse media featuring their breakfast campaign? Don’t get me wrong, I admire Taco Bell’s marketing prowess. The Ronald McDonald TV spot was great, and some of the social media updates have been technically brilliant. But as a consumer I think I am going to puke if I see another sponsored breakfast Taco Bell pic.

There is no contextual value for me. I won’t eat fast food. So I am asking not to see the sponsored ads anymore. I am sure many people have similar brand experiences on social networks every single day.

I think it’s the same for personalities who sustain themselves on social followings. Star power is attention, but if there is no return on time given, most people get bored with petty “selfie” antics and move on.

Attention is an opportunity to give value and meet commitments to customers and community alike. It should not be used as an opportunity to celebrate one’s self. Even when milestones are achieved — from sales to followers — these are things to be grateful for, and that gratitude needs to be expressed.

Brands and entrepreneurs who have this ethos — an experience ethos that values each moment a customer spends with them — stand a better chance of winning the game of marketing. They stand out from the crowd of noisemakers who always want to take the easiest path to ROI.

What do you think?