Thursday, September 18, 2014

5 reasons why brands should follow back on twitter

I did my first social media course in 2009. I can't remember the name of the instructor in the videos, suffice to say, social media marketing was still relatively new and was being heralded as a panacea for brands. I've always been sceptical about drinking the kool-aid (whether I was working as a strategist at a boutique (read: small) agency or as a copywriter at a local community radio station) so I approached this new form of marketing with the same pragmatism I'd use with someone trying to sell me TopTV.

 The reason for this context is because something stood out for me all those years ago; something I find some social media gurus (or other bullshit titles we give each other) still hold onto today – applying an arbitrary ratio to Twitter’s follow-follower number set. The instructor said that brands should only follow 1 account for every 5 accounts that follow them. I don’t agree with this general rule, and while brands need to be evaluated on a case by case merit, here are 5 reasons why brands should follow back or follow first.

1)  It enhances brand loyalty.
I am less likely to unfollow a brand if that brand follows me. Perhaps its guilt or optimism (that the content will become less spammy/shitty/irrelevant) but I’ve hesitated to unfollow at times because I appreciated the fact that the brand was following me. I am also more likely to engage with a brand that follows me, or ramp up my replies to a brand that I want to ‘notice’ me and follow back.

2) It opens up Direct Messages as a viable communication channel.
Perhaps it is because I’m in the industry and empathise with other social media people that I prefer to complain to a brand via DM, especially if the complaint is of a sensitive nature. When brands follow back, I can use this channel.

 3)  It assists search. 
Brands that follow back come up faster in searches, and appear in ‘followers you know’ and ‘who to follow’ lists when you are scouting out a third party’s profile. Visibility is quite important as social is often premised on relevance. Does help with affinity as well (especially when it comes to brand positioning) 

4    4)  It gives the brand access to their followers thoughts.
By following someone, you are opting-in to receive their thoughts, peeves and opinions (even if it is what people project themselves to be). Yes, you don’t have to follow someone to read their thoughts (provided their account is public) but that is laborious. Social’s differentiator is that it is two-way communication so why treat it as just a broadcast channel? If the brand’s sum total of its twitter engagement was only based on responding to people who @mentioned the brand first, then they are still stuck in the basics of social media.

5)  It imbues status. As sceptical as I tell people I am (in blogposts that are longer than they should be), I get chuffed when my role models follow me back. I remember when Riaad Moosa followed me back, I was like ‘now I can tick that off a very sad bucket list’. Following back is a great way to reward brand advocates. I work on some cool brands, and I sometimes forget that while I may be a little jaded, it may mean a ton to others when a brand follows them back. Now if only Hashim Amla and Rockstar Games wouldn’t be so coy and follow me back too!

I’m always keen to chat about social media and my experiences (all of my failures) over the years, so hit me up on the Twitter! and let me know what you think about this piece. 


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Metrosexual Muslims Eid Morning

….The night consumes most of the sound. Somewhere down the road, an emasculated man ‘red-lines’ his VW city Golf. The tyres screech on the tar, scarring it, like a black crayon on a rain cloud. Somewhere in a small suburb in Durban, a cellular phone alarm rings. A cacophonmy of xylophones. Asif grumbles, as he blindly swats around to impeach the annoying sound, vowing to himself to replace Gotye's one-hit wonder as his alarm-tone.

The phone lies on his dressing table, nestled between the men’s health and his topi. It’s on charge – undoubtedly due to all the battery draining 'eid-mubaruk' whatsapp messages he got the night before (but mostly because it is an iPhone). He scrambles to turn it off- its three thirty in the morning – and the house is asleep. ‘Gosh’, he exclaimed- ‘only two hours to get ready for Fajr’. Asif runs to the bathroom. ‘So many choices, so many choices. Do I rinse once then condition or just use a two in one? The organics has a nice smell, but the head and shoulders give me volume, which is vital, but I’m wearing a topi, so I don’t need volume… decisions, decisions’.

Asif’s shower rack resembled his mothers spice rack, except that instead of an assortment of turmeric, jeera (whatever that is), and elachi,  he had cosmetics (which may or may not have had some of those spices in them - especially the yellow one which is supposed to make you fairer). He surveyed his nails proudly and thought to himself, ‘the guy reading Salaat next to me had the grossest nails. Half bitten, filthy. When he raised his finger for tashahud I felt like dying, like it was gonna jump out and attack me’. As he reached for his loofah, he realized that his shower gel had finished. Asif was horrified- he had read in Cosmo that normal soap dries out your skin- the sacrifices a young Muslim boy has to endure. Meanwhile, next door, Zakaria was sleeping, dreaming of watching some of the soccer matches he taped in Ramadan because his dad didn’t allow him to watch (actually it was his mum, his dad just seemed to agree with whatever his mum said). Asif emerged out of the shower half an hour later. He scanned the mirror instantly, looking for telltale signs of dried skin (he had watched a national discovery channel special on tortoises the week before) ‘Why didn’t I buy shower gel’ he bemoaned as he tilted his body to the left.

If his shower rack resembled a spice cupboard, surely his dressing table resembled a chemical warehouse in Iraq before the U.N inspectors popped in. Moisturizers, of all sizes and aromas. Cream to remove lines from the eyes. Sticky pieces of paper to eliminate blackheads. Asif had his routine down to the last scrub. ‘Half an hour to fajr- where is my toner? And I have to moisturize as well, some uncle is going to dab some foul smelling Attar on my hands, I just know it. I don’t mind the nice smelling ones, but the strong black stuff that stays on your hand for three days and smells like an old Kitaab is just so not cool. Next Door, Zakaria's father knocks on his door briskly, ‘Son, wake up, I need the Musallahs, we going for the Springfield Eid Gah and those mats are like sandpaper’.

A combination of hair mousse, salon gel and hair putty (that thing in a can that gives you the ‘just woke up look’) is applied mutinously to Asif’s scalp – These days it would seem that its harder to achieve a disheveled look as opposed to brushing neatly. Wardrobe choices stump poor Asif. He contemplates a black Kurtah with a white topi, or a White Kurtah with a gray Topi. ‘But I don’t have any shoes to match the white Kurtah, if I wear the grey topi, even though no one will see my shoes in the mosque, someones bound to notice when I’m outside. No No, Hmm – Eid Gah is gonna be outdoors, the white will look good with the sun rising, better put on a little more sunblock. But first, let me take a selfie...#nur4days. 

The End

Eid Mubaruk


(originally wrote this 8 years ago - made  a few small tweaks before posting). 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Concerning Gaza

I often write for validation. My desires (nafs) need to be fed. Tonight is different. Tonight I am writing so that I can start making sense of everything. I feel conflicted, despondent and unsure of the world. I don't have any answers.

What is happening  in Gaza is shocking. Such unbridled aggression by a military power over a largely civilian populace.

 I don't think it is as reductionist as we sometimes frame it. I often wonder what the value of Hamas shooting rockets into Israel is - it does little more than 'justify' further attacks, and hands media outlets a 'balance' to contextualise the bombings. I'm actually against the rockets altogether, as their trajectory is indiscriminate. There is no military solution. Yes, the IDF has killed scores of Palestinians, but firing rockets into civilian areas - this is not the way. I don't have the answers, but I know this is not it. I wonder if a two-state solution will work. Something similar was proposed for South Africa - can you imagine how that would have worked out? Who gets Jerusalem? How do you pick up the pieces and rebuild? 

I remember the battle of Gaza that took place in 2007. Over a 100 people were killed (39 were civilians) as Fatah and Hamas fought. I remember Fatah militants killing the Imam of the Great Mosque (Omari Mosque in the old city). I remember Muslims throwing Muslims off rooftops (yes, saying people throwing people off should have the same gravitas, but I hold my people to higher account). Hospitals weren't safe back then either. The Beit Hanoun hospital had to be closed after a man was shot dead while doctors were operating on him. If Israel recedes to the 1967 borders and hand back land to the Palestinians, who will rule? I believe in the self-determination of Palestinians. I must, but I know what power does to people. I have lived through it in South Africa (during the Boipatong massacre). There is nothing civil about civil war. 

You can never justify killing a civilian. Why is my Islam so different to the thugs in Iraq who force Christians out of their homes in Mosul. What a bunch of dicks. Not in my name.

 I wonder why we as South African Muslims have not been as vociferous in our condemnation for what is happening in Syria - where civilian deaths far outnumber 100 000 (according to more than 4 Human Rights groups - the United Nations pegs it as slightly lower). Over 1700 people have been killed in the last seven days. They were also fasting. So were the 255 prisoners that Iraqi security forces killed 2 weeks ago. Is it because the aggressors are Muslim, and not Jewish? It is so much easier to make the boogeyman the 'other'.

Perhaps this is why we are so emotional when it comes to Israel and Palestine, because we make it a religious issue. I see it in the BDS campaigns and the boycott lists. Even these are sometimes framed for Muslims. Where are the alcohol brands that need to be boycotted. Golan Heights Wineries is listed as an Israeli export, but it isn't included in the forwarded messages I get - little indicators that we can't let go of faith-based action. I don't have any answers.

There are calls to boycott brands that do business in Israel - how far does that go? I'm being told to boycott brands on Facebook, yet Facebook has operations in Israel, and has invested in Israeli apps like Snaptu. Do we boycott Facebook? What about Google? I do not buy Israeli products, but I don't feel the need to pressure a retailer into not stocking any. I have a right not to purchase Israeli products, and I am allowed to make an informed decision when it comes to my consumption habits, why can I not extend this right to my fellow South Africans? 

Death is the great leveller, the lowest common denominator as some pundits would claim. I think its the highest common denominator. The finality of it all. What else matters after death. All injustices pail in comparison. 

I am proud that the ANC has spoken out so vociferously against what Israel is doing, but we have local problems we need to sort out. It's so much more than this condemnation. This is why I don't think its as simple as we paint it out to be. It doesn't wipe out the crime, corruption, poverty, inequity, Nkandla and a myriad of middle-class problems that start with 'e- and end with 'tolls'. Conspiracy theorists say that an Algerian and Malaysian plane were brought down to distract the world from what is happening in Gaza. Would they not think it was plausible that our government condemns what is happening in Gaza to shift focus from our internal issues? I put little stock into most conspiracy theories. 1350 South Africans are murdered every month. We aren't even occupied by a superior military nation. 

I wonder why some of us praise Hitler, the Third Reich and the Holocaust, when that, like this, remains a shame and a blight on humanity. 

Over the next few days I will write more. For now, all I can try to do is articulate my inadequacy in dealing with whats happening. In Gaza and other conflict areas. I pray for the people of Gaza and for the people of Israel - may they know peace with each other, and within themselves. Allahu Alam.

I yearn for a time outlined below, when Muslims were just, fair and compassionate. This is the Islam I want to believe in. 

"Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power" - Oliverus Scholasticus, praising the Islamic laws of war, commenting on Sultan Kamil feeding the defeated Frankish army (during the Crusades).

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَاءَ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَىٰ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا ۚ اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
"O you who believe, stand up as witnesses for God in all fairness, and do not let the hatred of a people deviate you from justice. Be just: This is closest to piety; and be mindful of God. Surely God is aware of all you do" - Surah Ma'ida (Chapter 5, verse 8 in the Holy Quran). 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

My set for the make salaam and laugh comedy show

I didn't get to do a lot of the stuff I planned to last night (with a lot of the participatory skits bombing, which threw me off a bit), but that's ok. Here's the abridged material (with only the stuff I wrote this week and does not include my previous material on the Majlis/ Mufti Menk etc). Let me know what you think. (Context - Written for Durban Muslim audience and is written to be presented, not read)


Asalaam u alaikum. My name is MJ Khan. Some of you may know me from my twitter account, or MCing at various Islamic fairs and souks, although I imagine, most of you may confuse me for something that I am not, and that is, an Eastern Mosaic Presenter finalist. 

Have you noticed how many people introduce themselves as 'Eastern Mosaic Presenter Finalist'? Everyone knows at least one person who is an eastern mosaic finalist. they could be sitting next to you right now. It must be the only tv show in the world where you become a finalist just by submitting an entry form!

Durban, its good to be home. Its good to be home. The only problem with Durban is that it is full of people who remind you how much weight you’ve put on. I am convinced that ethekwini is the zulu phrase for ‘place with relatives who tell you that youre fat’. I keep telling everyone..i am twice the man I used to be. So Durban, whats happening, whats new? TookUmgeni Road today. What is happening on that road! As it is, we are still dealing with Highway Sheila. If the construction company building the flyover was any slower, they would work at caminettos! Love caminettos, but boy do they make you wait. You best be placing your Ramadan orders at sehri if you want to break your fast with more than just a kajoor and water.

Ramadan is around the corner. Man, I miss Ramadan in Durban. I miss calling Aunty Nadia on radio al ansaar to tell her that Ive kept all my fasts. Speaking of Aunty Nadia, have you noticed that a lot of female presenters on muslim radio stations all sound they are reciting something at a jalsa. (typical apa voice - 'Asalamu alaikum, today we will be talking about the evils of mxit'). I miss telling little children that half fasts don’t count. I have a friend whose kids do half fasts. He is always about positive I always hear him say, 'Masha Allah Fareed, well done Fareed'. Fareed is 14 years old. Give that boy thechampal.

Im from reservoir hills. By a round of applause, who else here is from reservoir hills? There is a Common lie that all muslims who move up to jhb from reservoir hills use – whether your surname is Moolla, coovadia, kadodia or khan, there is one lie we all tell, and that lie happens when our white colleagues ask us where we are from.

Happens to me all the time.
So MJ bru, where are you from tjomm?
I’m from Reservoir hills, know where that is?
Oh yeah yeah yeah…no.

and then the lie comes in – its five minutes from pavilion. Just down the road. My mom walks there for bread and milk. 

Lets  chat a bit about muslim weddings. My dad is Younus Azam Khan, so I’ve been to a lot of weddings. A good way to find out if youre at a muslim wedding is to look for a row of mats behind the stage. You can confirm this if the bathroom looks like a scene from titanic. After it hits the iceberg. Water everywhere. Its physics really, size 12 foot in a size six sink... and don't get me started on the men's bathrooms. 

None of my white friends carry a 2 l ice cream container to a wedding. Bob does not take gajar halwa home. Bob stops at Jonnies. 

Who came up with the rule that the girls family must wait for two weeks before giving an answer? Thats ridiculous. Are they waiting for a full moon to check that he isnt a werewolf or something? Why is it always two weeks?

Who decided that aunty firoza, with type 2 diabetes will be in charge of making the sarbat? half a glass of milk, 19 tablespoons of sugar and a drop of syrup. even coke is going 'thats too much sugar for one drink. 

Lets not forget about our koonchas. Durban people love their koonchas. Ive recently seen massive burfee structures in the shape of the taj mahal. Isnt that weird? What are trying to tell someone? 'Have this mausoleum as a token of my love. I’ve put a jelly baby in the middle to represent the people buried there'?

There is a tradition in muslim weddings called bidaagrie where the bride says 'goodbye' to her parents (well, until tomorrow when she sees them at the walima) and this tradition makes the groom very happy, and also rather kak. He is happy because he doesnt have to smile for 200 more photos for a photographer who thinks its cute when he poses like this for his wife (do a ridiculous wedding pose) but he is sad because everyone including his wife is crying and its all his fault! 

Durban, I’m getting old. Can’t jump around the stage at the souk anymore and act like im excited about Arif Subrati performing. Can’t do it anymore. Somewhere along the line, I got old, and I think it was when I started paying Eiddee instead of receiving it. That was the moment. You know you’re old when the highlight of going to the Hartley road fair is when you buy a new tea pot. Aunty in the front, you know what im talking about. Repeat after me…boiled tea zindabad! As muslim men grow older, we start developing a skill. A skill for finding a chair to sit on. I can find a chair anywhere! Any shop, any park, you name it. I am the lionel messi of finding chairs. As you get older, all you want to do is sit! Gentlemen, clap your hands if you agree. You weren’t going to come if you couldn’t sit.

Let’s talk about relatives. I believe that we all have these four relatives.

The first relative is what I’d like to call Conspiracy Mamoo. Now Conspiracy mammoo is so tuned in, he already has a conspiracy theory before the event took place. And its always ridiculous. I’m not talking about the kaka who still believes that Osama bin laden is alive. I’m talking about the uncle who thinks Jacob Zuma is part of the Illuminati. The one you avoid when you and your friends are at gateway. That one. I have an uncle like that. He comes up with ridiculous stories. Last week he told me that the americans kidnapped some girls in Nigeria and have blamed it on bokomo haram.  Bokomo Haram? What is this? Did he stand out outside the embassy with a Bring back our wheat bix sign?

Lets go to number two. I’ve just come down from jhb, so obviously I was given a parcel to bring down for gori kala. Gori Kalas are such a phenomenon. Every muslim family knows one. , but no 2 gorikalas are the same. At what point in a woman’s life does she realize she has become a gorikala? Is it like the pope, once one dies, another is anointed?

Arise Gorikala, and bring the world pre-made samosa, rotis and dressmaking.

Now Gorikala, is very different to cuzi kala.. Cuzi kala is the aunty that wants to know everything. She’s the one in all the family groups on whatsapp and BBM. Shes the one who makes rude jokes at bridal showers, Tupperware parties and even a mayyet house. Cuzzi-kala… come for the Yaseen, stay for the gossip.

Finally, we have Qurbani King. This is that uncle that looks like he came from the tv show, breaking bad. We all have that one uncle who is kitted out for bakri eid. And all these uncles had a convention because they all dress the same. Once a year – white lab coat, blue construction pants, gum boots and more knives than Zain Bhikha nasheeds on al ansaar.

So whats with this halaal cruise? The first time I heard of it, I thought Conspiracy mamoo was trying to convince the world that Tom Cruise converted. Nothing makes a muslim happier than when a celebrity converts to Islam. Its like fasting 29 days in Ramadan. Its like we need validation or something. Sometimes, you get a winner, like Yusuf Islam…but other times, you get busta rhymes. So ive been thinking a lot about the halaal cruise these days. And the problem is..we have different definitions of halaal. And within muslims, you have two extremes – one camp who says kulun halaal (everythings halaal). These are the chaps who are like ‘read bismillah and eat it’ and on the other extreme, you have theharaam police. Sailing without going on jihad – haram. Puppies and rainbows haram. Banks. Haraam. Cricket – haraam. Mufasa dying in lion king – haraam.

So what makes it a halaal cruise? The food? What is it? MJC, Sanha, ICSA, NIHT or maybe that new body that got the tender to certify burger king?

Do all the toilets have built in istinja facilities? Or do we have to use the small glass that non muslims use to gargle their mouth with?

I know they segregated the men and women in the movie titanic, but that’s when it was sinking, so how will they do that on the boat. I know teenagers, I used to be one a very long time ago. If they will make tawaaf around kingsmead, you can be sure they will do the same on a boat.

How do they choose a destination that isn’t part of ab dawjees middle east tour? Is there a tourism wing at sanha that gives cities halaal accredition? Maybe its like the water board and you get green flag status. I know isipingo, azaadville and ashervile got theirs last year.

Ladies and gentlemen, shukran for your time, my name is MJ Khan – As salaam u alaikum

Sunday, May 04, 2014

MJ Tweet collection 2011

Over the next few days I will be posting some of my  tweets over the past few years so that I have a repository for my stand-up comedy. Here is 2011s lot: 
I think Noah is the ultimate wildlife conservationist

I want to meet the guy from sanha who convinced nestle to get their water certified

Counting sheep is always easier around eid ul adha

Dyquik is a horrible name for a cough syrup

Bananas in pyjamas - sounds like a suhoor programme to me

If I was illiterate and someone gave me a fortune cookie I'd be pissed

Every date with a purdah chick is a blind date

I don't know how many people are really born again and how many people just like fish

My Pakistani friends invited me for a spit braai. I wish they didn't take everything so literally.

White friends - don't get happy when you see shot glasses at our weddings. Its for the sour milk

They should have got Tom Cruise to act in 'Two and a half men'. That way they can keep the name no matter how tall Jake gets.