In a bid to make more money in these trying pandemic times, I decided to give a shot at something many millenials have ventured – social media influencing. Credible rumors reaching my keen ear had indicated that my agemates were ‘making a killing’ by simply ‘influencing’ i.e. posting pictures and opinion for likes and reactions. Can you imagine! It’s like getting paid to truly live, or so I imagined. Since this was a totally new career for yours truly, I reached out to Jasper, who claims to know his way around town, to point me in the right direction, and give me the necessary insight to navigate this new terrain.
I called on him and he gave me a visit in my humble Rongai abode. Expectedly, the young man showed extreme enthusiasm and said that I would make an excellent protégé.
”First and foremost”, he asked, rubbing his hands gleefully, ”how many followers do you have on The Gram?”
”Umm, I’ve never been to ‘the gram, I don’t even know where that is’” I said hesitantly.
”Hapana! Hujui hizi vitu. The Gram ni Instagram. Nimesema the Gram ni Instaaa?”
”Instagram”, I replied, trying to remember the password to the account I had opened a year back but had since failed to keep tabs on it. ”I have one, but we shall have to recover it. Sikumbuki password”, I said.
”Let’s spruce it up. What’s your handle?”‘
”Handle bruh”, said Jasper, almost rolling his eyes, ”Kwani hujui social media handle? Kweli wewe ni mshamba! Unatumia username gani basi?”
”My name – It’s @HowardMukwana.” I replied.
”Bruh, you can’t influence anything on these streets with a name like that,” my self-proclaimed teacher tapped on the table furiously, as if he never had known my names for the many years we’d been friends. ”You’ve got to go with Howie – the ladies would dig that. You also have to let the name Mukhwana go. Leave it in your birth certificate and ID, sawa?”
I was a student in this game so I didn’t have no option but to oblige. Logging into my account on phone, I changed my account ‘handle’ to ‘Howie M’ in an bid to appear sophisticated as Jasper had advised.
Step one was complete.
”Now, you need followers. You can’t be an influencer with your 237 followers fam”, said my mentor. You’ll need to actively engage with your fans so that you can grow your following, you feel me?”
”Yeah, how do I do that?” I asked, utterly clueless.
”It’s easy. By posting excellent pictures. Kwanza, what phone are you using?”
”The key to gaining followers on the Gram or IG, is to have a good camera to shoot pics and videos. Sijui kama unaniget?”
”Yeah. So what kind of photos?” I enquired.
”Now, that is where your creativity comes in. Si you call yourself ”a creative? Anything can make a good photo. It’s the timing, location, attire & crowd that you have to get right. Oh, na pia caption. A good pic requires an equally good caption. A quote preferably. ”
”Very easy,” I said, fishing out my phone and snapping away at a selfie. ”Naweza post hii?”
”Ehhh, ndugu, have you not been listening? Nimekuambia: timing, location, attire, crowd.” said Jasper, throwing his hands up in frustration.
”What’s wrong with this?”, I asked, clearly perturbed.
”Everything bruh, everything. First, look at your attire – you’re wearing a t-shirt that’s seen better days. Look at it”, he said, pointing at my collar, ”This thing is fading. Haiya, thing number 2 – location. Just look at this pic,” he said, snatching my phone from my hands and clicking on the selfie I’d just taken, ”you’ve taken a photo without checking the background. What’s this? he asked, zooming into the pic & pointing at a pile of dirty socks sitting at a corner of my humble home that I’d inadvertently missed while ‘capturing the moment’.
”Nobody wants to see this?” he said. ”Halafu, what’s the context? Where is the crowd? You need to be hanging out with some cool peeps fam. Actually, that takes us to our next step. If you want to be an influencer so bad, you need to stop hanging out at a ka-local with people who don’t know how to parteee. You have to go to where the ladies hangout. They provide good fodder for picture likes. Ditch the local for clubs like 1824. There, you can capture your moments and post on your IG with different captions like ‘sexy Thursday’ or ‘Sunday funday’ if it’s on the first day of the week. It pays to know the DJ too, so that you can take a selfie with him and caption it ‘Hanging out at the decks with my main man. Friday night was lit’ ”
”Are we together?”
”But hanging out in such places costs money, no?” I asked.
”Yes, now you’re getting it. In this business, you’ll understand that hakuna starehe bila gharama. It’s the price you have to pay to dine with the high and influential” he retorted. ”Sijui kama bado tuko pamoja ama wewe umehama chama’?’
”Now to the biggest question’,’ I posited, ignoring his attempt at political humor. ”How do I make money off of it? In fact, how do I recoup the cash I’ll be spending on such things that influencers do?” I asked.
‘‘Bro”, said Jasper, putting his arm on my shoulder, ”when you’re an influencer, money comes to you. Opportunities come to you. Everybody will want to be you, or with you. Unaget? People will come to you saying, ‘si you promote for me this on your page? I’ll pay you’‘. That’s how you make money. Utapanda bei. And that takes me to the next thing we need to speak about. You’ll need to change crowds and start rolling with fellow influencers”.
”Why?” I asked.
Because, fame is contagious. So is oblivion. You are who you hang out with in this city. Think I’m lying? Angalia hawa influencers wote. They don’t hang out with anyone who’s not bringing in more fame or more chums” he said, scrolling my feed to point out the habits of famous ‘influencers. ‘‘As an influencer, everything you do is strategic – to get you likes, reactions and fame. You don’t post for your friends. You already have them, you post to draw in strangers to become followers, comprende?”
I figured that ‘influencing’, according to Jasper, was a much tougher job than I imagined. It was not as easy as simply getting paid to air an opinion or even simpler, a pic. I started to understand that maybe I was not cut out for it.
”Oh, one more thing. You’ll need to upgrade your wardrobe son.” he said
”What’s wrong with my attire?” I asked.
”You don’t know? This story of tucking in your shirt inside your jeans like you belong to a lost generation, itabidi uache. Then, who still puts on sweaters like a high school kid?’ You’ll have to shop for some cool snickers, sweatpants, hoodies and caps. Your followers need to know that you’re easy and laid-back, not some uptight-could-have-been-a-priest-if-I-didn’t-have-a-fear-for-public-speaking type of guy.’
”But I need to look serious”, I interjected.
”Eh, eh, eh. Ati serious? Kwani are you the President?’ Hata yeye hukuwa more laid-back kidogo”, he said.
I thought about the rules, ”Maybe I’m not just cut out for it, eh?”, I asked.
No, everyone starts from somewhere. So, a step at a time. Kesho we shall move to Twitter. Si you know how to type in English?” he finalised.
Till next time.