Want to be an influencer? Here's what you need to know

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What you need to know:

  • Young people are waking up to the realisation that they can earn a living from social media.
  • A good influencer is one who can create unique, authentic and engaging content pieces, and deliver timely campaigns.

More and more people and brands are coming to appreciate the fact that social media can be used to drive not just engagements and conversations, but also sales.
Young people are particularly waking up to the realisation that they can use social media for more than mere entertainment and social interactions. They now know that they can use it to earn a living. Cue influencing. We speak to three leading influencers in an attempt to understand how to unlock the gold mine that is social media. 

Photo credit: Pool

Collins Njuguna
colloblue_udc ( Tiktok)

Studying and practising psychology as a loss and grief therapist has opened my eyes to how important feelings are to human beings. Rarely will someone forget how you made them feel. When I get off my job and into my dancing shoes as the character colloblue_udc, a dancer and influencer with over 460,000 followers on Tiktok, I bear in mind the fact that people will connect with and remember my brand by how it makes them feel.

On Tiktok, I don’t just sell dance moves, I sell the art of dancing, through love. This strategy has helped me grow my audience significantly. I don’t limit myself to any geographic region or gender, which is why I do a lot of collaborations with other creators, particularly female dancers. They help me create content that excites my audience. I don’t do very hard dance moves to prove that I can dance. My moves are easy enough for anyone to master.

Although I started dancing in 2017, I got on Tiktok towards the end of 2020 and it was not until mid-2021 that my account started growing. My growth has been very gradual. A lot of research goes into the content I create. I spend hours studying globally acclaimed dancers to learn from them and identify trends in the dance industry. I then create my own choreography, then blend the moves to tell a story. I put up posts consistently – three times every day – in order to grow my following.

Since a majority of the people I work with are students, on shoot days, I record about 30 videos a day in different costumes so that I can have content to post for a few weeks . At any time, I have about 30 fresh videos that are yet to be posted. This is the secret to being consistent all year round. My audience and consistency has helped me attract brands and I’ve helped many companies market their products on my platform.

A key component of my success is having a purpose. I don’t dance to gain fame. I do it so that dancers in Kenya can get the respect they deserve and to show that they can live off their craft. I plan to create fresh, disciplined, highly valued dancers through a movement called Collonambogi. I have mentored over 70 dancers and helped them get visibility and build their brands on Tiktok. I believe the cake is big enough for all of us. Helping others won’t make me lack.

Photo credit: Pool

Kevin Monari
Osama_otero (Twitter)

On Twitter where I have over 138,000 followers, I go by the name Osama_otero and I boldly speak the truth no matter how painful it may be. Outside Twitter, I am a technician who repairs computers and is very knowledgeable and passionate about technology.

Something I really like about Twitter is that there, issues are put in black and white – no sugar coating. On Instagram, for instance, when a celebrity says something controversial, you’ll still find a good number of people agreeing with them. However, on Twitter, people are not afraid to disagree. They will voice their opinions regardless of whether you are a celebrity or not, and whether you agree with them or not.

Twitter is where I have made a name for myself, and it is my main source of income. I started my social media journey on Facebook before a friend urged me to join Twitter. I joined and started being active in mid-2017 as I tried to market my laptop business and my work as a technician. Additionally, I was among the first people on Twitter to introduce blood appeals, spreading news on missing persons and speaking against police brutality. People started engaging me on these issues.

As my audience grew, I focused on creating visibility for my brand and my job as a technician. This paid off as I started getting clients from Twitter who needed help with their computers. When I got about 5,000 followers, a brand approached me with an offer to market their brand for three months. That marked the start of my influencing work. Other brands that saw my work approached me to be their influencer on Twitter. So far, I have worked with brands such as DSTV, Sportpesa, Indomie Kenya, Jumia, KCB, World Rally Championship and Bigfish.

Twitter is my workplace and I spend about 11 hours every day on the platform, influencing and engaging my audience. The downside of such a lifestyle is that there is a lot of pressure to create content consistently and maintain my audience. It sometimes affects my personal life as I can stay for long without interacting physically with others. I also get a lot of direct messages from people seeking help and at times I am unable to help.

I would say the secret to growing an audience and becoming an influencer is to develop authentic content, and identifying your niche. A common mistake I see upcoming influencers make is taking up any job. For instance you’ll find an influencer promoting hashtags which insult a politician just because they’ve been paid. This soils their brand. 

Others post unverified news, which makes them become untrustworthy sources of information. Do not share ‘breaking news’ unless you have verified all the facts. Finally, don’t focus on getting followers, focus on creating authentic content. 

Photo credit: Pool

Janet Machuka
janetmachuka_ (Twitter)

Prior to my internship with a media company, I viewed social media as a place where people post photos of themselves or short articles that allow your friends and relatives know more about you. It took an internship for me to truly see social media as a powerful platform where one can build and engage an audience, and convert this interaction to meaningful engagements for brands. 

I work as a social media marketer. I write blogs for brands and also handle content and digital strategies for our clients. Social media marketing involves using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok and LinkedIn to share brand information. For brands, social media marketing is about building a community and a fan base that can buy their products or share info about their brand. 

My platform of choice is Twitter. I use the handle @janetmachuka_ and have amassed over 179,000 followers since 2017. I chose Twitter because thought leaders who I admired all had Twitter handles where you could engage them further. Companies too will often refer you to their Twitter handles for engagement. I also find it very easy to get information on Twitter.

Unlike other influencers, I represent the professional side of social media and digital marketing. As much as I sometimes share content about my personal life, most of my content is focused on professional digital marketing .I am always online from around 9am to 7pm.

As a professional, certain strategies have worked to grow my audience. First, I joined communities where I could learn, and participated in engagements hosted within these communities. I also did a lot of pro bono speaking and training events where I engaged with different audiences and urged them to follow me on Twitter. Additionally, I created my own community, Africa Tweet Chart as a way to bring together more digital marketers and others who want to learn digital marketing, and to also grow myself as a thought leader. This is how I grew and got to work as an influencer.

To succeed as an influencer, you have to grow your brand. Think about the value you’re giving your audience. Apart from promoting brands, what are you known for? You need to balance between growing other people’s brands and growing your own brand. This is why completing your undergraduate studies is important before venturing into influencing.

It is important to become an influencer of your own personal brand. This you can do by collaborating with other people who can give you a chance to meet new clients. For instance, not all my engagements with brands are paid for. At times brands approach me without a budget but offer me a chance to come in as a speaker and a thought leader. From such an engagement, as much as you might not be paid, you may end up getting an even better chance to grow your audience and influence.

Finally, you need to be choosy. I don’t promote any alcoholic brands or political outfits who want me to join in their conversation as this does not align with my brand. Don’t be an influencer who’ll do anything for a penny. Let your brand be known for something.

Photo credit: Pool

Maureen Were is the Head of Business Development at Wowzi, a company that connects brands with influencers.

Tell us a little about what your company does...
Wowzi is an influencer marketing management platform that enables brands to leverage social capital and trust for unique online and offline communities. We groom talent and interest groups such as influencers to launch high impact targeted campaigns for brands that wish to use influencers to engage their customers.

What does it take to be an influencer?
You need to have a rich circle of people who trust and enjoy a referral-like engagement with you in online spaces. Anyone can become an influencer. We have influencers with as little as 500 followers to those who have millions. A good influencer, however, is one who can create unique, authentic and engaging content pieces, is able to understand brand needs, and deliver timely campaigns. An influencer can earn from a minimum of Sh500 a day up to their rate card preference which can be as much as Sh500,000 per month depending on the task, deliverables, and client budgets.

How does someone stand out as an influencer in an effort to attract brands?
Your content and creativity are key. Influencers who earn well are those who can understand brand needs and articulate that to their audiences through unique, compelling, exciting content pieces. They make their audiences react by engaging them directly regarding the product, and not just the aesthetics and vibes.

What are some mistakes you’ve seen influencers make while working with brands? 
Loyalty. For instance, if you have a deal with a beer brand and then one weekend you post wine content, it shows a lack of commitment. Using other artists' content to elevate yours is also unethical and illegal. Some influencers participate in derogatory activities such as domestic abuse that can make them lose their attractiveness. Wowzi educates influencers on these practices and teaches them how to build strong brands.

Your advice to someone interested in online influencing? 
Build an organic following, pick a niche that interests you and comes naturally to you, test and keep testing formats, and engage in collaborations. Also, be consistent in content creation. It is incredibly important to stay authentic and not mimic others. Learn about the world of influencing and if you need a partner to walk that journey with you, approach companies like ours.


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