Opinions Thu, 21 Mar 2013

What’s Your BB Pin? GetFamiliar Ghana!

When I look at my BlackBerry (BB) Smartphone, all I see is a communication device.

Well, I do not exactly expect to see any more than that, and frankly, I am sure millions of other BB users see just what I do. Research in Motion (RIM), manufacturers of the BB line of Smartphones will not be disappointed with such a report. RIM however, will and is impressed with what a young Ghanaian in his early twenties envisaged when he saw his BB Smartphone.

Yes, Albert Kwesi Appiah sees a communication device when he looks at his BB Smartphone, but two years ago, Albert did not see just that. He also saw a business opportunity. One that would get him doing something he has come to love.

Popularly known as Kinto Rothmans and very much known to almost everyone who uses a BB in Ghana, Albert, faced the same challenge almost every new BB user faces; how to amass contacts on his BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). Kinto managed to transcend this to some extent. What he would do for his friends who got onto the BB service however, has changed his life and added so much more to the lives of others.

For his friends who were new on the BB service, Kinto would send a broadcast message to all his BBM contacts. The message would read, “Get familiar with...” then follows the person’s name and BB pin, after which he would request for a re-broadcast. The idea was to literally get familiar with the new BBM contact and get to know them. Before long, people would have 300, 700, 1,000 and even 2,000 BBM contacts as opposed to 20, 30 or 50. With that huge a contact base on BBM, sending a broadcast message to all contacts and requesting for a re-broadcast would ensure that the message is received by thousands.

“There is power in numbers, so when you can reach a lot of people, you become powerful and that really is where the idea came from”, said Kinto.

For Kinto, the realisation that he could reach a large number of people at the same time, who in turn could also reach a large number of people with one message got him thinking. “One of the things that make a television station or a radio station successful, is being able to sit in a studio and talk, and get whatever you say to millions of people, sometimes halfway across the world”. Kinto figured he could do similar with BBM.

“I realised I can make good use of BBM, because if you can reach a lot of people with this medium, you can market with it and host events. More importantly, you can reach a huge number of people at the same time”, said Kinto.

There are currently thousands of BB users in Ghana, which is not surprising. A while back, old school mates or old friends who had not seen each other in years, would bump into each other, and before parting, one would ask, “what is your name on Facebook?” Now, the parting phrase is “what is your BB pin?” In order not to feel left out, many young Ghanaians will go to great lengths to own a BB.

The telecommunication companies in Ghana have made it easy and affordable for all BB lovers to stay on the BB service by introducing varying data plans to suit one’s pocket. All the telecommunication companies in the country that carry this Smartphone, have come up with incentive packages to win non-BB users over. Some of them offer free data plans for a couple of months once a BB is bought from them, while others give away BB’s in lotteries.

Although the unemployment rate in Ghana at the moment is not known, it is pegged as at being on the high side. A frightening dimension of unemployment in the country is the rising levels of graduate unemployment. As at 2011, graduate unemployment in Ghana was estimated at 44% of graduate school leavers. For a 2010 Bachelor of Arts graduate from the University of Ghana, it is remarkable that Kinto has set up his own company, barely three years after graduating from school. What is even more remarkable is that right after university, Kinto got a permanent job with a telecommunications company in Ghana, what most young university graduates in Ghana would call, “an answered prayer”. Kinto quit his job after working there for about two years. The reason? “I wanted to nurture my own business into a bigger company and nothing can be bigger than your own idea”. He wanted to nurture the company, GetFamiliar.

GetFamiliar is a Ghana based social media/advertising, event publicity, entertainment (music promo), PR, marketing/promotions and brand awareness consulting group. The group as its mission, provides services for people who want to stay in touch, to belong to a larger family and to be informed and entertained, enabling them to express their emotions, which go a long way in enhancing their lives.

“GetFamiliar is a pacesetter and I totally am in love with what I do”, said Nick Johnson, Solution Manager of the group. Nick, like a number of GetFamiliar’s members, is in school studying for his Bachelor’s Degree. Thanks to the idea Kinto had and nurtured, he now finds himself working while still in school, and most importantly doing something fun that fetches him cash. Nick is looking at working full time with GetFamiliar when he is done with school.

Kinto and just about every member of GetFamiliar describes their proudest moment as when FridayFriends, GetFamiliar’s weekly event, won the rlg Accra Nightlife Award 2013 for the best weekly club event. It really was a great moment for all members of the group, especially its CEO, Albert Kwesi Appiah. It was a moment not to be rivalled by any other except for when officials of RIM paid a visit to Ghana and wanted to meet with GetFamiliar. The RIM officials made it one Friday night, to FridayFriends. Aside FridayFriends, GetFamiliar has organised other events, some in conjunction with other event organisers, others on behalf of other organisations. The group has also undertaken brand activation for some companies in Ghana.

“In some years to come, GetFamiliar is going to be one of the biggest companies in the country”, said Kinto.

GetFamiliar has not left Android users out though. For the Android market, GetFamiliar has developed an application called GetFamiliar that instantly updates its users of trendy music, videos, pictures and upcoming hot events.

The Ghanaian social media marketing group, though started on BBM, has not restricted itself to using only BBM to advertise. GetFamiliar, aside having its own website (http://www.getfamiliargh.com), advertises on other social media such as Facebook (GetFamiliar GH), Twitter (@GetFamiliarGH) and Instagram (@GetFamiliarGH).

Columnist: Oduro, Belinda Dentaa