platform x context

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When opening a new business, part of the process is usually an acknowledgement (in many contexts) that what ends up on your store’s physical, analog signboard (if it even has one) is not as important than what ends up on its digital one. Beyond the choice of platform, assuming you don’t have resources for all of them, think about which platforms people are drawn towards in a given place, and the reasons behind it.

In Jordan, our research brought us into contact with a good number of small business owners who considered having a Facebook page (Facebook was nearly always their first-mentioned choice) as necessary for their business. WhatsApp was also cited as highly useful for its ability to function almost as a ticketing platform for taking orders from people and critical for keeping the day-to-day wheels of commerce turning – whether a chef working out of her home kitchen to take orders for her locally legendary kibbeh, or a perfume vendor keeping a running tally of her customers’ requests as she amasses enough orders to make a wholesale-sized order from her overseas supplier.

Don’t ever assume there are universal rules around something as flexible and mutable in its form and function as today’s digital platforms. What you associate Facebook with “fake news” is for someone else a way to sell kibbeh. While there may be some ideal trajectory imagined by those trying to “steer” how each country’s users engage with the platform, it remains that Facebook is, at the end of the day, a highly flexible and context-specific tool. To dive further into this rabbit hole, look at this superbly-written piece by Craig Mod about how folks across rural Myanmar (a place I was fortunate enough to spend several years living) view the value of Facebook (and Viber, and Zapya, and others).

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