21st Century Social Media Influencer: Smell The Impostors

21st Century Social Media Influencer: Smell The Impostors

Social media influencers are not gods. In fact you have more of them walking around than fake pastors on these hilly Kampala streets.  As brand custodians and marketing executives have started to encounter the social media bug, so has the propensity of encountering a less than real proposition. Championed by the“The world is going social!” war cry, its easy for one to get caught is the frenzy.  Hailed by some, hated by others, they are the keys to “unlocking” social media. They can either make you trend or flop your trend.

In Uganda, the journalist community even has a list of people called the “Twitter Mafia” (a list of people who if they aren’t on your hashtag, it won’t trend and you won’t achieve success. The danger with this is assuming trending is the objective. As the discussion has evolved over the years about whether numbers of followers matter or whether likes and re-tweets matter, the more discerning marketing public has started to ask “What do likes really mean?” “What does trending add to my sales targets?” And mostly “Do I need an influencer to do this work?” There are many answers to each of these questions but this post will address the last one. Do influencers really make a difference? And how do you tell the ones who can?

  1. Influencers Are People, Not Gods: like the rest of us. One day they had 100 followers like you. They didn’t always have 100k tweets or 5k iG followers. They grew their audiences by consistently putting out content people who followed them respected, wanted or enjoyed. They aren’t untouchable and they certainly aren’t infallible. What they do have is influence, that means they bring audiences to conversations; large audiences. Knowing how to leverage those audiences  for results is part of the influencer benefits package. Don’t trust influencers who cannot tell you what they can get their audiences to do.
  2. It is a Science & An Art: It is true there a few tools to measure and a few others for strategy or listening. There is a perfect time to reach the highest audience numbers on your channels and the optimum number of words to put in you Face Book or IG post. All of that is measurable, trackable and fits within a formula.  This is the science part. However there is also a creative part of this business. The one that requires original, authentic, engaging and memorable content. The one that hooks followers. The greats constantly walk this knife edge. You must be able to demand this of your influencers. Ask them what tools they use, platforms, and gadgets. You must be willing to  look under the hood.
  3. Everyone Learnt It “On The Fly”: You’ll often get told that there isn’t a school for digital studies and so everyone learnt their craft “on the fly“. This is bullshit. There are certifiable programs set up by social media platforms that teach, train and evaluate “power users”– people who want to make the most out of the platform or channel. If your influencer or your digital partners cannot provide proof that at least one person in their agency has gone through these free training programs then you’ve been sinking money down a hole. Twitter Flight School, Facebook BluePrint, Google Partners all teach how to use and optimize the respective platforms for maximum value. And you get certified once you pass.
  4. Creative Remuneration: As numbers of audiences and followers rise, the rates for influencing will go higher and higher until it just won’t make sense anymore. The truth is that influencers while there should be some form of pecuniary remuneration aren’t exactly influencers because of their “search for money”. They are already in love with the product or service which is why when they speak, audiences listen. They are authentic in what they see and how they articulate the cool things about products. Brands need to find ways of rewarding their influencers in product and not as one offs but consistently so the conversation is also consistent. As an example I always asked myself as to why when Bossini invited celebrities to their Acacia Mall store launch instead of paying them they didn’t announce a year’s shopping worth xxx amount. What a way to create envy. Or the more garden variety influencers who influence for telecoms but are always asking for airtime handouts. That stuff just doesn’t look cool.
  5. You Cant Influence Everyone: Unless you are the Obamas (who make anything from going to college or working out or buzz feed look cool) no one can influence all the people all the time. So brands need to stop being the George Bush of influence mongering. The same people on every hashtag, at every event, on every guest list, every damn account. It makes you look tired and rancid. Find some new faces, fresh content, some authorities. People who aren’t regurgitating some press briefer your PR agency hashed up at 6:30 am because  they’ve been neglecting the job for 3 weeks. People who care about you brand genuinely.
  6. Authority Matters: Topical experts bring authority and credence to any topic. Sometimes this means you will have to even set up these experts on social media or find those who are on. In my biggest career crisis management we were handling the closure of an airline but we were fortunate to find that some influencers and “friends” of the airline were already online. Seasoned, tested and authoritative aviation aficionados who brought clarity to a lot of online conversations. Find some authority for your brand.
  7. Influencers Sometimes Come in Overalls: Not all influencers will come in Windsor-knotted ties and pin stripped Saville row suits. Sometimes, they come in blue overalls because they know the dirt and grease and that’s what your audience needs to know about. They bring real world experience that your air-conditioned-coffee-machine-with-tea-biscuit offices will never have. An example that comes to mind of Shell and its white lab techs from a few years ago and their choice to use real world mechanics who know exactly how much longer good oil takes your car. That’s influence because real influence knows what it talking about.
  8. Conversion Conversations: Re tweets and trending while they are evidently very good signs of content that connects with audiences still don’t pay the bills. Conversions pay the bills. So we must start linking activity to some sort of measurable conversion. Trending a whole month as a beverage brand and yet your beer beverage is still struggling in sales indicates problematic planning. Measure-ability also puts people on alert that they can’t just eat your “influencer biscuits at and tea” at events and not pay for them.
  9. Hygiene: Account hygiene = Body hygiene. Ensure that you infleuncer’s account hygiene is good. Account hygiene is ensuring links work, pictures are captioned properly and names and handles are accurate. Why? Because its the small things that trip us up that shouldn’t. Create a monthly brand hygiene check. As an influencer you also need to create a process that allows you clean up your Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. Log out of accounts that you aren’t managing anymore, delete accounts of events that won’t be happening again. This process allows you to focus on current clients and their tasks. Keeps you sharp. An example is that  “Good morning… “ tweet that went out a few months ago from 12 accounts. #UOT were aghast. But that is life.
  10. Pay Peanuts Get Monkeys: Like any profession you get what you pay for with influencers. You are better off with a few happy influencers at their asking price rates than cramming 10 or so of them at dirt cheap prices because then everyone is giving you shoddy work which overall looks like one big pile of sh*t. When budgets don’t allow, go with less quantity and don’t EVER compromise on quality. Ever.

…Or don’t listen to any of this advice continue letting your IT guy do your social media after all computers are all the same in the end. And you wonder why your career is mediocre.

Talk soon…


New Beginnings

New Beginnings


to a place of sharing.

to a place of adventure.

to hopefully a place of relief

and to a place of a new beginning for me.

I lost my old blog so I am starting out here again. Hopefully I have not lost a lot of you and this time around I will be wiser and better.

Here is to a new beginning.




Moving to a New Home.

Dear Reader,
Having had the pleasure of of writing here for the last 8 years it has come time for me to find a new home where to ply my trade. It has been a wonderful journey; one of wonder, discovery and a whole new side to things I never thought possible. I learned, I loved, met new friends, made great enemies and on the whole grew to a place where I felt my writing could contribute to something bigger than myself. 
Because of the inevitable curve that growth demands, I’m moving to a new home, slightly more spacious, and easier to locate on the interwebs. All the posts will remain the same, and the link and tags will eventually all be migrated as well but it’s neater, more minimal and it feels tighter.
I will try and not be all over the place with my writing as I look to focus a little more on advertising and technology as my core areas but of course with the occasional story on society and my thoughts on that. It is definitely a new challenge and I’m thankful to the ever-patient and graceful Collins Mugume for goading and pushing me into this step and hosting me. 
If you are looking for me you will find me at www.spartakuss.ug; the home of the #beastmode.


See you on the other side.
Unlike the fish in the picture above, I haven’t settled into my new home yet

Uganda Bloggers 7 Day Challenge: NO, YOU ARE NOT GOD – Day 3 Post

When you work in any communications and advertising business especially an ad agency you learn quickly and swiftly how the work flows.
Account manager or client services
Creative studio.
Account manager
That is how it works in almost every industry. There is an interface between the specialist and the client. Someone who interprets the jargon for both ends. In certain agencies, studios and indeed workplaces they pay it a little differently
Account manager or client services
Account manager
The creative people have such a refined sense of what their communication should be doing that they consider themselves gods. They are the final word on photoshop, layouts and headlines and punctuation. All this is fine until it isn’t. Ruling with no mercy or empathy and a fist of iron they have no place for bickering or talking back. No matter what the client says or wants. That’s not what THEY want. But mostly it isn’t about the client and what they want. Its more that someone in the universe doens’t want what they want.
Someone differs with their approach to things.
Someone differs.
The argument can be made that creative people have been over indulged and therefore have over sized egos. That they are paid higher than most people in their age range or that they tend to have specialized skills which make them as good as they are. Which is all well and good. But the truth is they are human. They shit. They breathe. They err. And that should be enough. However, their inflated sense of self doesn’t allow them to see their own humanity. Their fallibility.
The last point is most likely as a result of how long they think they have worked to get where they are. The truth is the trenches in advertising are grueling and cruel. Starting out it is impossible that one can even ever hope to make it anywhere worth mentioning. The hours are atrocious, there is no credit given for work and no work you do is ever good enough. Ever. There is always a guy with a better script. A better ad. A better layout. A faster computer. And so the thick skin develops from early on. Merging and morphing with complexes (some from as early as childhood) to form creatures no one recognizes in the end. The long work hours make these people impervious to the level of exhaustion that will normally tire out ordinary people. They will push and push hard. Warping their reality of what the people around them can and can’t do. And eventually warping their own minds about their own abilities. They think they inexhaustible, indefatigable. Untouchables.
At this point you must put the dog down. Because they cannot be saved. Why am I tirading like this? Because a person of meagre standing in my office said to me recently “Just because you know the answers doesn’t mean you will get asked the questions. The truth is people hate a know-it-all.”
As I sat back and ruminated on that it hit me for all the reasons creatives were revered and feared; they still were people. More seasoned, yes. More exposed, yes. But still people. Their years of working like slaves did not entitle them to treat the rest of the world like lesser people; especially because they are lesser people. They willingly applied for these jobs. They signed up for the pain and suffering. Thhy chose this path for the glory it promised. That was the price.  Their genius isn’t a validation for their behaviour. In fact it is their greatest undoing.
By being as great as they were, they were inadvertently not as great as they were. Because they missed out on the simple stupid moments of being human. Of being fallible. This made them Outliers. Observers of the human experience and not partakers. Like the orphan child looking into the home of a family unable to comprehend how people can have so much emotion. They are in fact relegated to the observer status. Watching other human beings to do their work better. And thus the sadness of it all; foiled by their own genius they come to terms with their humanity. And accept they are not god. They could be. If they could walk away from it all. They could be. But alas. Without it all to look at and do great ads. They are nothing.
This is a message to all creatives: you are not god. But you could be.


The Urban Legend Party and Bad Black’s Dollars

For those of you who weren’t there at the ULK celebrating one year party a lot of things went down.
Well for starters me and the Good Doctor walked down there after judging the 3rd Annual National Inter-University Female Public Speaking Contest. A mouthful you think? Well, I wish the contestants had a mouthful to say. They didn’t, which made the task a chore in tedium. But which had its redeeming moments of laughter, conviction, and eloquence. We had been tasked to deliver 20 out 87 students appearing from 17 universities across the country. Last year’s winner was from MUBS (I don’t know why they don’t just build annex dormitories down there already). Makerere oyeee!!! But I digress.
So we got there and they had this beautiful TV slideshow rolling at the chic Boda Boda restaurant. They had cordoned it off for the VIPs and so we just stood in the “kirasha“: the place where the general happiness crowd hangs out. And we stood there waiting for it to begin. And we stood. Polite smiles to old enemies. Annnnnddddd we stood. At some point in the evening, we were joined by more amenable company, a lady who is making her first appearance on this blog and will hopefully be making many others in the course of this blog (OK Carol, now you have appeared on the Spartan’s blog). The evening lit up as friends started to show up and also make polite gestures. I had to wonder whether they too were making polite smiles at old enemies. But I learned a long time ago never to live without enemies, makes you soft. Ask Bad Black or Gilbo Mahogs.
The party began and the emcees took it away; I don’t know who the male emcee was (and frankly I’m fresh out of rats, so…) but the female emcee, Marie just rocked the daylights off the party. It was really good. I can still visualize Streetsider trying to take on IamEnyma in Runya-flow; and almost conking out like a badly-serviced P.S.V. It was hilarious. As we stood around chatting, talking, and sharing the delight of being among good company came to me. It fell on me like the morning dew that always fell on my face in secondary school on Monday mornings because that was when I always read the news for the whole school. I had to be at school early. That’s why the dew always fell on my face as I walked in.
But my absolute favourite part of that night was when the legends started making it rain on us with Black dollars. OK, the money was black on one side, But the front had Bad Black. The one and only Shanifa Nalukenge. 
One Black Dollar from Bad Bank
Yes, that was the highlight of my evening. I am easy to amuse and that’s proobably because there things about me that are impossible to change. Its the ying and yang that balances me out. Those of you who don’t know Bad Black and all the acrimony she has caused read her life story here
I eventually walked home that night when my ride was unceremoniously hijacked by a wily and sharp witted damsel. I’m quite sure he had his reasons. And besides, who needed a ride anyway? Right?
So Thank you ULK for a glamorous party. Incidentally, I noticed while taking a long stroll with a fellow writer friend of mine recently that of the 5 legends, 4 went to the same school. hhmm… But my theories on that later.
Till next time.

A story about new business and hard work

I have been here in a while eeh?? It feels good to be writing again. Well actually I have only written  one sentence but that still feels better than what I have written over the last half year.

My life has been dramatic as you might expect. Up and down. Here and there. But mostly in and out. Well, it’s almost half year and I am thinking about things people who would normally read this blog would normally be looking out for.

A new house

I moved out of my house. Well the other one where I lived and again to a new one. Quite nice actually. I was able to get a house with two bathrooms but one toilet bowl. So what the hell does one do with two bathrooms? Wash your feet in one and the rest of your body in the other? Then I discovered that when you host guests over, it serves well for you to use different bathroom coz then you both ruminate on your iniquities of the previous night separately. No shared guilt. Also after one of the guests run away with my special Radox weekend strawberry smoothie, it became wise to split the bounty so as not to inspire larcenous feelings in people.

Then there was the issue with the new account at work that caused a lot of excitement among my colleagues and forced there to be screaming and wailing and tears.

It all started…

So when I was hired as Business Development Manger I was not told that things would be as difficult as they had been over the last few months. I really needed an account. A new paradigm, some salvation, anything! If you are in this business, you know that once you draw two salaries and stuff ain’t working, you know that your pitches need to get better or you need to get going.

 I was getting used to the place. I was starting to like this place, as I am oft wont to do. I liked the people, had made some friends. I had gotten attached. Then one day the owner of the money descended upon me in a dark part of the office that has no CCTV (yes, there is CCTV, and this conversation “never happened”). And there it was delivered with a clam, death-defying tone that I would not be tolerated anymore if I was not getting any clients. As I looked into the facts surrounding the lack of clients, it was not because clients were afraid of working with us, it was because they actually had and were happy to stay with whoever they had at the moment. So when I went into “pitch” mode for a beverage company, I was truly frightened that things would go awry since I would inevitably fall at the foot of all pitches for new business… We went in. Pitched for the business. And went back home.

They called us two weeks later to say we had won the business. We were called and that is how after almost two years of being out of the business, I was thrown back into the tumultuous and high-octane world of Public Relations. Things like these sap your soul, one thing at a time, one day at a time. This is what we did.  And we hope to do more.


(To be continued…)

Orbis non Sufficit