How do you get noticed in a crowded media market like Nigeria? To attempt to answer this question we have to look at what desperate young folks who don’t have the financial muscle of the big brands are doing on social media.
I call them desperate, but that’s a description I am sure they won’t accept. Most would instead want to be seen as being smart, but those who are deserving of that description would most probably be in the minority.
True, the big brands with hefty advertising budgets can pitch their businesses and services to the market place using prime-time ads. So, if you’re a young, determined – or should I say desperate – to make it, what options are open to you?
Personal branding online is time-tested and can be usefully deployed provided it’s done right, and in the age of social media, this has turned out to be a powerful channel. The simple trick though is to create an online personality attractive enough to make people or brands want to do business with you. Many are already making good money thanks to personal branding on the major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.
At its best, it involves marketing your unique talents or knowledge in a specific area. Oh, and lest I forget, you’ve got to invest plenty of time doing it as well. For example, top earners on YouTube for last year included a seven-year-old named Ryan, who made $22 million reviewing toys; Dude Perfect who specialize in trick shots and earned $20 million from doing so on their channel. The list also included two gamers, Daniel Middleton and Markiplier who made $20 million and $18.5 million respectively. Jeffree Star made $18millionn from offering makeup tutorial. Needless to say, they have all acquired influencer status by virtue of their specialties and make their money from brand endorsements and advertising on their respective channels.
Ryan’s case is compelling. His mother quit her job as a high school Chemistry teacher so she could work on her son’s channel and both parents shoot and produce the videos since March 2015 when the channel launched. New Ryan ToysReview videos are uploaded every day, which, if you think about it, means the family works full-time on the channel. To be successful in this way, you need good content and hard work, which Ryan’s channel have in good measure. He’s so influential because he makes other children and their mothers happy.
Nigerians may not yet be playing in this league, but I’ve seen smart and decent people doing good business on social media, from marketing home-baked bread and home-made soups, food, to using it in the classic way of marketing their services. Influencers, and I mean those who have achieved in their chosen fields, are also making money from social media. David Beckham stopped playing football … but still makes 30 million annually. Nigerian brands and politicians are paying for influence marketing, and some influencers are commanding as much as N500,000 – N1,000,000 per tweet or social media post.
However, at its worst, personal branding on social media involves marketing of flesh and nothing more, which in the age of Kim Kardashian, is equally rewarding. Except that this route represents the pursuit of dreams, devoid of hard work but with self-marketing at its most self-indulgent, narcissistic worst. Even in a dumbed-down world, relying on nothing more than good looks to make it must be harrowing even if profitable. Somehow, beauty without brains must have its limits.
The danger for us in these parts is that the corrosive Kardashian effect is forcing young girls in most African countries including Nigeria to undergo surgical procedures to enhance their butts and breasts to make them look like their heroine. Armed with the fake looks, they are even more daring on Instagram, by far the preferred platform for the exhibition of fakeness. By design, the photo and video sharing platform is set up for images and ideally would be perfect for brands that need to tell stories visually.
However, despite the good intentions, critics say Instagram encourages users to exhibit an overly upbeat, attractive image, of which at best is mostly misleading and at its worst, harmful. One angry user called it ‘a ridiculous lie factory made to make us all feel inadequate.’ Not only does it encourage the glorification of fake lives, from what we’re seeing, Instagram is also encouraging the rotten commodification of nudity. Nudity sells – it gets more likes and more followers on Instagram and slay queens, a euphemism for the empty-headed, beauty-without-brains, girls who populate social media, are having a field day.
The erotica artists as they have been described elsewhere, are successfully building large followership on Instagram and other platforms but you have to ask: what has appearing in your underwear got to do with selling hair attachments? Or what has selling herbals got to do with twerking in pants and bras? It’s popular because the format popularised by Kardashian makes money and you don’t need brains to work it.
But I’m sure this tested format that is the preferred template for the crazy, rotten girls of Instagram, is a recipe for misery. I know we don’t study these things here, but there’s evidence that Instagram is really making people feel miserable. You cannot but feel sorry for those forced to go this lane to make money. Urban dictionary defines slay queens as ‘girls who do not have a wealthy background but appear as if they do…’ who ‘use malicious acts to attain cash, drink expensive alcohol, procure expensive cellphones… but back at home, she’s a chicken chaser.’ How more miserable can a person be? I mean, how low do you have to go when you have to appear in underwear in marketing videos? It’s hard to see how the desperate, young girls of Instagram are different from the go-go dancers who ply their trade in seedy nightclubs around Lagos and other major Nigerian cities. After all, what separates the prostitute who operates on the streets and the courtesan is the mode of operation. All said, they are all selling the same product.
So, what does this mean for Nigeria? If the commodification of nudity on Instagram and other social networking sites is taken in isolation, it is easy to lose sight of the big problem. Considered along with the penchant of a lot of young men to choose yahoo plus and satanic rituals over hard work, those who care are right to be worried. It’s more depressing if you think about it because you don’t see signs of a turnaround anytime soon.
Unless there are measures to reduce growing ranks of unemployed youths in the country, we’ll continue to witness the scenes at the audition for Big Brother Nigeria. I mean, people are so desperate, they’ll do anything to get in to participate in a reality show? If that doesn’t spell trouble, surely, the video of the young girl who gleefully said she was a worker in a Church and left that Sunday morning to try her luck has to be the most compelling evidence that all is not well.
It’s pertinent though to note that unemployment is only a part of the story. Nigeria’s reward system is faulty, and that’s chasing a lot of young people from pursuing worthy goals. Think about it, best graduating university students, who spend four years studying will be fortunate to get N100,000 in rewards whereas, Big Brother offers N,25,000,000 and an SUV reward to a housemate who does nothing but loaf-around for 12 weeks in an isolated house. Big Brother may be in the entertainment business, giving people what they want in terms of content, and spending only a portion of the profit it’s making on the rewards. But a system where politicians are better paid that university professors speaks volumes about the value system.
The rotten value system is probably part of the reasons why young folks struggle to find role models. Ask secondary school students who their role models are, and you’ll get the grim picture. If it’s not a music star, it would surely be a football star for most of them. Social media and celebrity culture is harmful, pure and simple.
For as long as a system rewards the brainless one who doesn’t mind twerking butt-naked, so you will continue to have Kardashian-wannabes doing crazy things on Instagram. I fear.