The influential non-influencer

For my Women’s month message I am going to refer to a quote you’ve probably seen before: ‘Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them’

In this new age of ever-evolving technology we find ourselves in the midst of new systems, cultures and trends – one such culture is social media. Its adoption, across the world, has been phenomenal even since its rebirth in the early 2000s when Mark Zuckerberg developed his Facebook.

Fast-forward to 2017, young and trendy Africans are using social media to advance social, political and practically any other kind of cause. In the world of social media it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if your message is important and connects with the social community it will spread like a wildfire. This poses certain threats and opportunities, and one such opportunities is that of social influencers. Influencers are characters who are relied upon and trusted by their followers for information regarding any and most topics. Influencers range from bloggers and vloggers to social media commentators and the opinions of these particular individuals have the power to stage a national shutdown of universities or kick-start a music career of a previously-unknown teenager.

“In my second year, my mom passed away in September right before my exams. Funny enough I passed that year & went on as if nothing happened but I had a delayed reaction to her death. The next year I fell into a depression & I hated campus life & having to be around people. I stuck it out for a while but I just wasn’t focused or interested in my studies because I was in a lot of pain. I left & took time out for myself”

Recent studies have indicated that social influencers are beginning to surpass traditional brands and celebrities when it comes to influencing consumer spending habits. Marketers are developing stronger ties with influencers and spending more of their marketing budgets developing influencer campaigns. In the US, the industry is already worth over a billion dollars.

We got in touch with a young and influential lady, Nosipho Z. Mtshali, to ask her about her experience and views on the matter. Although she would argue she isn’t at all an influencer, her social media profiles combined enjoy a following of at least 50 000 users, and we’re just curious what all those people want to hear from her.

Off the bat, the first thing you learn about Nos, as she is affectionately known, is that she is an open and engaged individual. She has no qualms telling you about the more personal parts of her life and you automatically find a kinship with her. It is always easy to relate to someone who is open about her life unashamedly, and it allows you to share about yourself as well. There is an air of growth and awareness to her, she speaks of the importance of watching what you put out into the world because so many young and impressionable people are watching, and of her responsibility in speaking honestly of the issues that matter most to her.

As a young person of influence, she wants to make sure she speaks on the issues and topics that are relevant to her, and on top of that list is the welfare of women in our country. “Every day our timelines are filled with missing girls/women, stories of human trafficking, assault and rape & just how society fails women every day & it is so important for us to fight for ourselves and each other every day. So many terrible things have happened & are happening to women in SA right now when it’s supposed to be a month of celebrating women & I just want to say that I will do my part in always speaking up about women’s issues & I hope others do the same.
Women are magic & they deserve so much more & I hope the trials we face never dim our light”

Nos is working with ClickMedia via the Voov SA campaign. VOOV is a live streaming platform where people learn more about a person, their daily life or whatever you choose to show them; “I’m enjoying it a lot because it’s made me way more open about myself & just general issues and allows people to see a more in depth side of me.” We’re living in interesting times where young people are beginning to be a bigger influence in campaigns they’re a part of, as it makes the user experience more authentic and personal. Young people are beginning to define the world they live in for themselves, and that is the growing power of social connectivity.

Being an only child hasn’t made a recluse of her, in fact she is quite vocal, even of the estrangement between herself and her father’s side of the family. She attributes her candidness to stem from her recovery from a depressive state, which affected her after losing her mother in her second year of study. In South Africa, as many as one in six people suffer from anxiety, depression or substance abuse-problems, and seldom do people get the diagnosis or treatment they desperately need for depression. I find it important to learn from even the people we look at as famous and popular that they also suffer from things such as depression, as it helps someone else fight the stigma related to mental illness as it affects anyone but can be treated.

My role model will always be my mom as cliché as it sounds. She’s the strongest woman I know. I watched her raise me all by herself & she was an amazing mom at that. But I also watched her fight for her life in hospital & for the longest time I thought she didn’t fight hard enough to stay here with me & harboured a lot of anger, but now I understand it was God’s Will.”

Nosipho accepts that people are more trusting of influencers over celebrities and attributes this to the relationship between influencers and their audiences. A study indicated that influencers with followers fewer than a hundred thousand tend to be more connected and engaged with their audience, making their engagements more organic and as Nosipho puts it, “more girl-next-door”. When speaking on topics it is difficult to choose what to share and what to leave out, and Nosipho goes all in. You get a full experience of who she is and what she thinks and feels. That matters.

She also loves the power that social media gives her. To be able to speak truth to power and address uneasy social subjects and bring to book, by way of social justice, anyone and everyone who offends the society. No one is safe, even brands get the collective justice, take for example the recent uproar over Outsurance’s Father’s Day campaign. I concur with Nosipho in that the reason why brands tend to miss the mark is that they seldom relate to the mass public and the fact the entertainment industry really does recycle the same faces over and over again. Someday soon they really do need to open up the industry to more talents, because social media penetration and the internet in general will bypass traditional media in providing entertainment to the masses.

Even Nosipho admits to the power of her looks, and even goes as far as saying it is responsible for a chunk of her follower base but this doesn’t define her brand. She has had to grow and bear the boons and burdens of social media, the negative comments and the downright spiteful. She explains simply that she did not want to be known as being mean and that maybe you don’t have to respond to every negative person.

In South Africa and Africa, there are still many opportunities for young people to use technology, and as in this instance social media, to create work and success for themselves. The world is still looking to Africa as the new economic frontier, it will need not just translators but personalities who can engage effectively with people, brands will need to understand diverse groups and social patterns and the people who will know these things and be able to be the bridge between brands and society, will be people like Nosipho; who can type a few characters into her phone and make your day just a little bit better.

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