Keynote: Josh Spear on social media FTW!

By: Heidi Schneigansz

Josh Spear likes to say he is ‘from the internet’. He is a digital nomad in the true sense of the word. He spends most of his time travelling around the world – he has literally visited 12 countries in the last 30 days!

He started his keynote with a little bit about him: He once told his parents he wanted to ‘sell ideas’. So, in his freshman year of college, he started a blog, within a few months, advertisers came flooding in. This led to an investigation about digital marketing and what success looks like, which in turn led to the birth of his digital consulting company. Undercurrent strives to solve complex business problems with a digital worldview. He’s consulted to some of the largest companies in the world and they listen to him because he believes the Internet is not about technology, it’s about human beings.

He is obviously one of those, he actually danced around the stage to a video of a ginger cat playing a keyboard FFS! Josh taught a room full of Internet geeks about the origins of the memes we spend our days sharing. And then he Rickrolled us.

I, for one, didn’t know just how influential 4chan is. I knew what it was, I just didn’t know what it’s done for us. Apart from the obvious LOLCATZ, 4chan represents the zeitgeist of the connected world. And that’s scary.

Spear says that sites like 4chan prove that the web must change the way we communicate and market, that getting excited about a 1% click-through rate on a banner campaign is getting excited about a 99% failure rate.

The average person has so much media being thrown at us everyday that we have effectively become air traffic controllers of information. Are we even absorbing anything anymore? We need to stop and ask “OMG, who am I? Why am I here? What have I become?” Imagine a whole world of people who have grown up taking the technology that overwhelms us today for granted? How should we be communicating to the future captains of industry?

According to Josh, “disruption is the only path to success”. Do things differently, cut through the crap and communicate to people the way they communicate with each other. There are rules and norms of the world that can’t be understood unless you participate. Companies need to realise that people drive culture, not brands or advertising, that digital is about shared interests and people aren’t one dimensional.

I wish Josh Spear wasn’t getting on a plane tonight to New York. I wish he would stay and teach this to big brands in Africa. We need it.

Registration now open for Tech4Africa 2011

A world-class line-up of international and African technologists will present at the Tech4Africa conference in October this year. The event provides South Africans with a rare opportunity to learn firsthand from technology evangelists about the role that the web plays in African business and development.

The two-day conference runs from 27 to 28 October 2011 at The Forum in Bryanston, Johannesburg and will bring international experience and perspectives to the African continent, while at the same time showcasing what Africans are doing with mobile, web, digital media and other emerging technologies.

Registration for the event is open and early bird tickets are available until 15th of June. To register or for further information, visit Tech4Africa or contact us.

“2010 saw the launch of Tech4Africa and we were met with overwhelming support from both the tech and business communities and our foundation partners, First National Bank and Internet Solutions,” says Gareth Knight, MD of Tech4Africa. “This year we’re delivering the same high standard of content and looking forward to bringing technologists together to look at what’s current now, with an emphasis on social media and how it’s relevant to digital marketing, mobile convergence, the growing cloud and the applications of BigData. We’re also focusing on great African technologists that really are leading the way.”

Keynote speakers include Josh Spear, one of the youngest and most respected digital marketing strategists in the world, and Herman Chinery-Hesse, commonly known as ‘The Bill Gates of Africa’.

Spear is a trend spotter, blogger and brand strategist, sought out for his fresh perspective and no-holds-barred style of consulting on everything from design and gadgets to authenticity and word-of-mouth. His recent focus has been the power of the blogosphere, technology, and the impact of digital media on the world. In addition to his internationally recognised trend-spotting blog, he is a founding partner of Undercurrent, a digital think-tank focused on exploring new ways to reach young people without interrupting them. With Africa rapidly leapfrogging the web and PC experience with a mobile one, the insights into how people and brands interact digitally is crucial, and indeed sets the stage for the foreseeable future. Spear has appeared in publications including Time Magazine, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune and has presented for such diverse clients as McDonald’s, NBC, Pepsi, Virgin, The American Advertising Federation and The Google Zeitgeist conference.

Chinery-Hesse is a renowned Ghanaian technology entrepreneur who co-founded the million-dollar software company SOFTtribe, and then went on to launch BSL, which provides the infrastructure for entrepreneurs across Africa to sell products and receive payment through their cell phones. Chinery-Hesse is passionate about the contribution that technology can make in unlocking prosperity and wealth across Africa, and will be presenting his thesis on this. He has won a number of awards and is also an accomplished speaker who has delivered talks at the Wharton Business School, Harvard Business School, Cambridge University, the University of Ghana, and the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania.

Spear and Chinery-Hesse are part of a line-up of African and international thought leaders from organisations like Amazon, HP, Johns Hopkins University, Mozilla, SwiftRiver, the African Institution of Technology, SimpleGeo, Motribe, Clearleft, Ultinet Systems and many more.

Knight adds, “With Tech4Africa our simple aim is to congregate the best practitioners in Africa and the world to provide inspiration, guidance, case studies, success stories and ultimately experience, so that Africans don’t need to travel the world to gain this understanding and exposure”.