Eswatini Meat Industries Marketing Communications Manager, Nqobile Simelane, notes that local influencers have done well in growing their digital communities (with some having more than 50 000 followers) and brands can leverage this audience to amplify their voices within the digital space. Local Marketing Influencer, Bantu Nots states that authenticity and choosing your niche is key for those who want to enter this space.

By Phesheya Mkhonta

Ten years ago, who would have thought that someone would hold a job title as a ‘Social Media Influencer’ or ‘Content Creator’? And here we are in 2022, with more social media influencers than ever, making a living through their social media content.

It’s a global phenomenon that has added a new dimension to how businesses market and how consumers’ buying decisions are shaped. This, of course, has been fueled by the continued increase of social media users and their consumption of the media cosmos, worldwide.

In Eswatini, the two most popular social media platforms are Facebook and Instagram. According to the social media data tool, NapoleonCat, in June 2022, Eswatini had 430 100 Facebook Users (up from 307 400 in June 2020), while Instagram had 65 700 users in the country (up from 51 000 two years ago).

According to Nqobile Simelane, Marketing Communications Manager at Eswatini Meat Industries, the country has a pool of micro (influencer with 10 000 – 50 000 followers) and nano (1000 – 5000 followers) influencers who have done phenomenally well in terms of growing their digital communities. These content creators range from personalities in the arts to fashion icons, to cosmetologists.

Some of the well-known local influencers include; rapper/philanthropist Illa Penboy, comedians, Dr. Shakes and Ndosh (of Nandosh fame), fashionistas Tiitee McBubbles and Zindzi Thwala, as well as Bongani Shiba (Sibebe Lager ambassador), to name a few.

One of the more prominent nano-influencers in the country is Bantu Nots (Nothando Ngcamphalala), who has been enlisted to drive online campaigns for brands such as KFC, First National Bank, Eswatini Electricity Company, OBC, and most recently, the beauty brand, Lamelle Eswatini.

Asked how she has cultivated her position as an influencer, Bantu Nots confidently states that authenticity is key. “It is important to understand your craft and what you bring to the market. Find your niche, find your audience and don’t just copy and paste. Take yourself seriously, take your work seriously. Don’t be a one-trick pony, try to learn something new that will benefit your own personal brand’’

She reveals the social media platforms where she has a presence ‘’I’ve created a presence for myself on all the social media platforms; Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, and Twitter. Instagram is my business page. I use Instagram for more curated content”

Of critical importance to companies when commissioning advertising and related marketing activities is a return on investment (ROI). So, does influencer marketing actually translate to a positive ROI for brands locally?

Nqobile responds in the affirmative; “Definitely. Locally, from a marketing perspective, we have barely scraped the surface in this space. There is huge potential for organizations in both the consumer goods and services industries to tap into curated content through partnerships with well-known and growing content creators who have a loyal following. Through the use of social influencers, brands can grow their own followership exponentially through tapping into the communities of social influencers that they would not otherwise have access to.’’

Bantu Nots agrees, ‘’An influencer is the sample of the population that is your audience as a brand, so it’s important to take this part of your marketing plan seriously in order to reap the right rewards. However, alignment between the brand and influencer is equally as important.’’

This brings us to a critical point in the influencer marketing conversation, as a relatively new practice that digital marketers, brands, and even influencers can get wrong, those critical of it have often pointed to a result measurement dissonance, but more often than not, it is often said that influencer marketing exposes a particular brand to risks associated with the (negative) public image of a social media influencer.

To this, Nqobile had this to say, ‘’It is important to ensure that your brand and influencer are a well-thought-out fit. The influencer that has been tasked with growing your reach has to resonate with your audience by conveying your brand intrinsic authentically. If the two are not aligned you will lose the trust of your audience and this will have a detrimental effect on your brand equity, which may not be easily rectified”

She adds ‘’It is important to ensure that the influencer (s) of choice signs a detailed contract outlining the ‘’Do’s and Don’ts’’ of their online activity for the duration of the relationship with a brand. This may be a tight rope to walk for brands as they need to carefully balance the influencer’s authentic tone of voice with the brand’s identity and guidelines. However, if matched correctly, this can grow your brand in significant ways over a short period of time.’’

In addition, Bantu Nots declares ‘’for a successful influencer marketing campaign, I would say that before anything else, alignment is critical in driving a successful campaign. Other key considerations are (1) Relatability between a brand and the influencer of choice who already engages with his audience. (2) Authenticity, which differentiates that particular campaign from others. (3) Consistency, which is why some brands opt for long-term relationships with a particular influencer.’’

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