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Society

Splurging on Influencers: Does It Pay Off?

Diani
Diani. Social media influencer are not your typical holidaymakers.  

It is a Thursday afternoon at Lantana Galu hotel in Diani. A group of millennials are jet skiing and playing water polo. Later in the evening, they are treated to a pool party as they while away the night by the pristine beach.

They are not your typical holidaymakers. The tech-savvy of the group are glued to their smartphones, taking pictures by the minute as they strategically sip and pose with beer bottles.

Welcome to the world of influencers — individuals with followings on social media — who are now an integral part of the media buying mix as companies train their sights on online consumers.

James Wamathai, who runs an online blog hapakenya.com, is one of the influencers.

“I love this beer,” he tells me as we engage in small talk on the beach, words that sound as convincing as they would in an advertisement.

“Usually such events are done in Nairobi but this time these guys chose to launch something outside the city. The activities were fun,” he says of the White Cap Big Brunch Campaign aiming to woo young beer drinkers.

Back in Nairobi, I met Wamathai at ibis Styles Hotel in Nairobi's Westlands where Chef Rubia Zablon, another social media influencer who was at the White Cap Lager event, works.

“This job gives me the independence to do what I love and it employs me. It pays all my bills,” Wamathai says.

“The biggest thing about the work that we do is publicity. Any publicity we do is searchable. Internet users looking for content will find a lot of information about a product. We give a brand campaign the extra push, creating awareness and it may lead to a sale,” he adds.

Infancy stage

In Kenya, influencer marketing is still at infancy stages.

“Hapa Kenya receives 200,000 unique visitors every month but we get less than what offline media earns. Companies have not embraced online personalities as ambassadors,” he adds.

Maureen Mutisya, whose full-time job is being an influencer mainly on Twitter and Instagram, says she has worked with brands such as White Cap, Safaricom, Tuskys, Samantha Bridal and Burger King.

“Most of the time I work with the brands that I actually believe in. That’s really a good thing because I am not just pushing for pay but doing what I love,” she says.

Apart from the passion, the social media keyboard warriors say that they command respect among their followers, which spurs awareness albeit in a subtle manner.

“Maybe people don’t value what we do but I have seen people visit places or try out a product because I have posted about it online,” she says.

Wamathai agrees, saying his audience trusts him and when he promotes a brand, his followers will tend to attend an event related to the brand.

“For instance, some people attended the brunch because of the campaigns that we did,” he says, referring to a White Cap promotion at ibis restaurant in Nairobi.

White Cap Big Brunch

White Cap Big Brunch campaign that was held in Lantana Galu Beach Hotel in Diani. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Professional cooking

For Chef Rubia, he started blogging to take professional cooking to home kitchens so that his followers can prepare and enjoy delicacies that are a preserve of high-end restaurants.

He partners with food manufactures and kitchenware makers in digital marketing campaigns. His exploits online have taken him to Ghana to promote an Accra-based Fulani Kitchen, which promotes Fulani cuisine.

“I get more recognition from foreign individuals and companies than in Kenya,” he says, adding that Nigeria-based Mielen Kitchen has invited him for its marketing campaigns in August.

He will also be at the Slow Food International event, a partnership of hospitality firms in Italy that promotes healthy eating.

Another blogger Williams Magunga, who runs magunga.com, says the work of an influencer is a “serious job” and that there is a lot of effort that goes into it besides the allure of fun that many associate with it.

“Yes we have fun but you have to maintain a conversation with people online for hours on end, some whom you have never met. People might think that it is easy and yet there are those who cannot sustain a conversation even with their own friends for an hour,” he says.

Buy products

On whether their online popularity prompt their fans to buy the products they vouch for, Magunga says theirs is not a sales job.

“My job is done as long as a brand is exposed to my followers. My job is to get them to engage with the product not necessarily to consume it,” he says.

Alice Owambo, the marketing manager, Kenya Breweries Limited Emerging Beers says companies hire bloggers to create talkability that will influence consumers to buy.

“In the past, we have leveraged influencers and our brand has grown in terms of awareness and sales. At the moment, we are still monitoring sales records, but eventually we shall know the impact {of White Cap Campaign} in July, once we announce our financial results,” she says.

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