O Jewa Ke Eng – 12 lessons about a single tweet that became a movement

O Jewa Ke Eng | First Anniversary

O Jewa Ke Eng?, an “innocuous” tweet that was posted over a year ago and quickly turned into a global phenomenon, continues to set new Twitter standards judging by its sustained dominance on digital platforms.

You don’t know what I am talking about? Click on this link 👩🏽‍💻 to see the avalanche of Google search results for the keyphrase.  

Based on my 11 years of digital marketing experience:

  • I don’t know of any single tweet from Africa that has resulted in so many online articles.
  • I also do not know of any single tweet from Africa that is still so easy to find so long after it was posted. Reason? It continues to be quote-tweeted to this day! 
    Look at the publishing date of this tweet 👇🏾:

In fact, the O Jewa Ke Eng? tweet has been crowned by the official Twitter blog as the most quote-tweeted tweet of 2019 worldwide 👏🏾

Let’s get into it.

What does O Jewa Ke Eng mean?

For the uninitiated, O Jewa Ke Eng? is a Sesotho language expression whose English translation is What’s Bothering You?

The original publisher of the tweet is a young lady with a big heart called Keabetswe Jan, an increasingly massive social media influencer from Bloemfontein, South Africa. I admit, like many Tweeps across Africa, I have become one of her ardent fans 🙇🏾‍♂️

O Jewa Ke Eng has since become a movement

This “innocuous” tweet has since taken on a life of its own and become a full-blown movement, mainly because Keabetswe – a Sesotho name meaning “I am gifted” has now turned the tweet into her life’s mission. 

Coincidence between what O Jewa Keng Eng? now stands for (as captured in the Testimonials section below) and the meaning of her name? I suspect not.

The excitement around O Jewa Ke Eng? 's 1st anniversary has thrust the tweet back onto Twitter's trending topics with the #OJewaTurns1 hashtag. As I publish this blog, the first of the associated celebrations is under way in Bloemfontein. #OJewaKeng cc @akreana_

Who knew on the 5th of January 2019 that we will be celebrating the coming of age of a t-w-e-e-t in 2020?

Why is O Jewa Ke Eng special to me?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about positive African stories that are told by Africans themselves, especially those told on social media – a channel reputed for airing dirty African linen. 

To have such an overwhelmingly good story, captured in four indigenous African words, and that has become so impactful in so many ways on so many parts of the continent, feels my heart with endless joy.

Here is the first cherry on top.

As it turns out, the O Jewa Ke Eng? tweet was published on the same day – 5 January 2019 – as the most retweeted tweet ever (thus far), by Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa.  

It is worth remarking that Twitter has not officially crowned Maezawa’s tweet due to the fact that there was a monetary incentive behind it, which kind of makes sense.  Being that as it may – birds of a feather?

Here is the second cherry on top.

O Jewa Ke Eng? – the tweet that continues to break many Twitter norms – inspired me to publish a blog in July, and this became the most viewed blog of 2019 on the eNitiate Website 😎.

O Jewa Ke Eng - 12 Lessons for brands?

Being a digital marketer myself, I get asked ALL the time how we can make brand campaigns we develop for clients go viral, and my answer has always been "it is up to the Twitter massive". #OJewaKeng #OJewaTurns1 cc akreana_

Here is my position – no digital marketer or brand has a virality magic wand anywhere in the world. Not even Nandos. Does Yusaku Maezawa prove me wrong given that his two tweets for 2019 and 2020 are number 1 and 2 in the top 30 worldwide and this happened because he threw money at Tweeps to RT them? You be the judge.  

As you can imagine, O Jewa Ke Eng? leaves us all in the digital marketing community with envy. I would not be surprised if brands are queuing to get Keabetswe to repeat “the magic” for their campaigns, and I can tell them for free they may be disappointed. Virality is hard – almost impossible – to replicate.

For what it is worth, I have taken the time to analyse what the digital marketing community can learn from the [unique] O Jewa Ke Eng?  phenomenon. 

The 12 lessons below are a build-up from the findings I shared in the previous blog on the same topic.

1. Testimony

Many continue to testify how the O Jewa Ke Eng? movement made a real difference in the lives of many of the Tweeps that it touched. #OJewaKeng #OJewaTurns1 cc @akreana_

2. Human(e)ness

Keabetswe is not only human. She is also humane and gracious. This is refreshing given her earned position of mega influence on Twitter, and the twelebrity status that has come with it. In marketing terms, this rootedness is called brand consistency.

Hela, Ngwanana Mostho. O ska ba e lahla #GoogleTranslate

3. Advocacy

No tweet - regardless of its origin or influence of its publisher - will become a trend without the Twitter mob. Such trend is likely to live longer if the mob become advocates. O Jewa Ke Eng? earned such privilege. #OJewaKeng #OJewaTurns1 cc @akreana_

4. Relevancy

The O Jewa Ke Eng? movement has taken on a new hashtag aptly called #OJewaTurns1. This is a sign of malleability that breathes new life that is called relevancy. 

5. Traditional media attention (or hype?)

As proof of the impact of integrated media, it has been shown over and over again that social media topics that are picked up by traditional media tend to trend for an extended period. #OJewaKeng #OJewaTurns1 cc @akreana_

6. Internationalisation

I am loving what I am seeing with African Twitter trends that gain prominence in multiple locations.

Remember the #Idibala trend in late 2018? 

7. Influencer participation

The O Jewa Ke Eng? movement has broad church aspects the allow for mass participation. With other influencers getting in on the act, this has given it an even bigger reach.  

8. Demonstrable results

Let the tweet below speak for itself.

9. Referrals

O Jewa Ke Eng? has proved that it is the go-to place for solutions. This is partly indicated by referrals and recommendations.

10. Authority

Clearly, O Jewa Ke Eng? has become the platform of authority to the followers of this movement, and they help to look out for dubious SOS’s.

11. Transparency

Now, I know that transparency is one of the biggest challenges with many brands. This is why those that can afford it have “spin doctors” right?

See how Keabetswe keeps things transparent. On Twitter. Nogal.

12. Embodiment

Keabetswe is famously referred to as “that O Jewa Ke Eng girl”, a title her followers dislike very much. Looking at it from a different point of view, this is a clear indication of her embodiment of this phenomenon.

I am of the firm belief that she has found her true purpose, whatever label Tweeps choose to give her. 

Was O Jewa Ke Eng searched on Google?

Edited 21 Jan 2020

Using Google Trends, I discovered that “O Jewa Ke Eng” had presence on the world’s dominant search engine as well!

Here are the stats (tap on any of the images to activate scrolling mode):

The top related search terms caught my attention, and so did the top 5 countries. also interesting is the top 5 countries.

Without a doubt, this tweet had a much bigger footprint across the digital landscape.

Here's to the continuance of Africa's rare Twitter phenomenon

O Jewa Ke Eng? may not be in the top 30 most retweeted tweets ever, but it broke Twitter records in its own unique way and continues to leave a lasting impact.

Jwanong ke re mohatla kgwiti

I wish O Jewa Ke Eng? continues to defy the naysayers and continues to do the amazing work, as testified above. 

I wish Keabetswe strength. I sense she derives lots of reward from the work of O Jewa Ke Eng?, but I also sense this is highly emotionally taxing.

Maybe Tweeps must not tire from asking her this question, so she know we all care about her too:

Listen to my podcast on O Jewa Ke Eng

After publishing this post, I was asked to join KG Moeketsi, the veteran radio broadcaster, on SAfm to talk about the 12 lessons. Here goes:

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