Sharon Mundia, popularly known for her blog ThisisEss, is an award winning, fashionable and classy blogger. Shea is also on YouTube as “This is Ess” and she also generates thousands of hits per video. PHOTO
Fashionista Sharon Mundia is one of the most popular bloggers in the country. After her “over the top” engagement to fiancée Lonina caused quite the stir on social media, she undoubtedly became one of the most famous people associated with fashion and style.
Her social media following consequently grew. She has a strong social media presence with over 126,000 followers and subscribers; 28,000 people like her Facebook page, more than 12,000 people follow her on Twitter, she has 6,000 subscribers and more than 250,000 views on her YouTube page.
Not forgetting her fashion blog Thisisess, she also has over 80,000 followers on Instagram.
On her recent adventure to Istanbul, Turkey, she posted scenic, exotic photos of her trip. Fans marvelled at the exquisite shots and suggested various places that she could visit while there.
However, one fan in particular asked why she kept using the same hashtag on every photo she posted.
“Why do you keep tagging Turkish airlines did they sponsor your trip?” Edythjames asked before adding “good view.”
According to Ms Mundia, it wasn’t a sponsored trip, but a partnership between Turkish Airlines and her brand Thisisess.
“We wanted to share with Kenyans a different angle to Istanbul, a city that is often praised for the shopping opportunities but overlooked for its rich culture, incredible cuisine and unique location.
From my readers’ reactions, I believe they valued what my team and I had to share from our adventure in Istanbul,” she says.
The practice of using social media users with a large following (influencers) like Ms Mundia started locally about three to four years ago as advertisers sought to capitalise on the audiences these users have.
Mr Jack Mugi, a digital marketing practitioner at Internet Exposure Limited and Digital Media trainer at International School of Advertising, says this trend has seen widespread use in the last two years and is currently reaching its peak. It might however not be the case in the future.
“I expect it to decline in future since social media platforms are making it easy for advertisers to use these platforms directly to reach the audiences, it will ultimately limit the opportunities for influencers,” he says.
Meanwhile, still a hot trend, advertisers are reaching out to these influencers whose value is in their big social media following, shares Mr Mugi. Advertisers, he says, go where the audience is and currently everything is moving online with a bias towards social media.
“Facebook has 4.1 million monthly active users locally, Twitter almost a million, advertisers know social media is getting bigger and bigger.
Most brands took a while before adopting social media and integrating it into their overall marketing strategies.
A lot of individual users joined the platforms and formed healthy numbers before the corporates took notice, so they of course want to capitalise on the more popular users to increase their digital footprint,” says Ms Mugi.
With this in mind, influencers are becoming smarter and picky over the sponsorships and partnerships they choose to associate themselves with to remain organic and not be seen as sell outs.
Ms Mundia, like a few other influencers, works with brands she only believes in regardless of how much money is put on the table.
“I only work with brands that I genuinely like and in the case of product reviews, I always give my honest opinion,” she says, “In the past, I’ve turned down really great deals because I didn’t feel that the brand was aligned to mine. I’d never want to compromise my authenticity because in the end, my readers will start to lose interest, the endorsement will be watered down and my brand will suffer. Everyone loses,” she says.
Creative photographer Mutua Matheka who boasts over 83,000 Instagram followers only picks brands that are aligned to what he is trying to achieve.
“If there is a high chance that I can tie the brand to photography, and it shares what my grand plan is – having Africans document Africa with dignity – then we would work together. Taking pictures of starving children and other photos that depict Africa negatively is not my thing, we are trying to move forward,” says the photographer.
Mr Matheka, who has worked with brands like Coca Cola, Safaricom, Airtel and recently Chase Bank, says he has had to pass down some offers for fear of making his platform an advertising one, some did not allow him creative freedom.
Influencers have to walk a fine line between endorsing a product and keeping their own brand afloat as well without going overboard on the sponsorship. For Ms Mundia, it’s all about informative content.
“I like to focus on giving creative and informative content, whether or not a brand is involved. I believe if you’ve got something interesting to offer then your readers, clients and fans will be willing to listen. I’ve had to learn this the hard way but it’s a lesson I’ll never forget! Content is king and as long as I’ve got something worth their while, I’m sure my readers will be interested,” she says.
STYLE AND VISION
Mr Matheka on the other hand knows that he wields the power to choose which products and campaigns to associate his brand with, his clients know that they have to work with his style and vision first before finding a middle ground.
“I don’t want to take advantage of my followers that’s why I don’t do many campaigns at a time. Instagram is a continuation of my work and some people concentrate on the photographs, not the captions. I’m trying to do something good, original, cool and adventurous,” he says.
Other people considered influencers who drive conversations and promote products on social media include Soko Analyst, Masaku, Brian Mbunde, Rammzy, JichodaDog, and Caroline Spencer.
Although advertisers look for cool social media stars to amplify their messages, it is not usually just about the numbers. Mr James Wamathai, a director at Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) says an influencer has to relate to what he is promoting.
“We really don’t just look at the numbers, an influencer can have as little as 3,000 followers but be able to speak to the brand both in language and reach. They also have to be consistent and create content in that area,” he remarks.
Mr Wamathai reveals that advertisers test an influencer’s temperament in campaign meetings to see if he or she is willing to listen. From these meetings, it is easier to know whether to continue, stop or change the tack with an influencer.
The BAKE director says using influencers is not a trend rather an online business module that is cheaper.
“Online banners, Facebook and Google ads are cheaper than traditional advertising. The number of people who have viewed the ads and the impressions left are a measure of how successful a campaign or promotion is,” he offers.
Mr Mugi adds that exposure, engagement and the domino conversation that come from the influencers’ work is a sign that followers are getting the message.
“If you get high exposure, good engagement with positive sentiments in the responses and other people join the conversation, and take it further without direct effort from the initial initiators, then the influencer did their job well,” he says.
So just how much do these influencers get to cash in at the end of the day after “loaning” their impressive social media following to advertisers?
“The current practice is a pre-agreed figure per campaign with most campaigns running between a week and a month.
The range is too wide with some getting a few thousands and others getting six figures in single campaigns,” says Mr Mugi, who also notes that influencers’ pay is dependent on the content they create and the visibility they generate.