David Kezio-Musoke

I ALWAYS advise my clients by telling them that there are more Rwandans on social media platforms than those watching RTV or even reading The New Times. Sometimes I tell them, the audiences you want to listen to your brand conversations aren’t necessarily listening to radio despite that medium eating up of the biggest share of the landscape in Rwanda.

As it has been indicated by figures from the regulator (RURA) numerous market segments (apart from mass consumers) are today spending more valuable time particularly on social media platforms particularly on Twitter and Facebook. Some of my clients still opt to go traditional with their communication, manning billboards, placing display ads in the newspapers and probably spending millions of francs on unnecessary TV ads that only 8 percent of Rwandan households have the capability of watching.  (Please Note: A credible quality TV commercial ad would cost you, not less than $10,000 of your marketing budget)

Sometimes brands are not aware that they might not necessarily need traditional advertising as a solution their communications woos. PR is sometimes used to parades and utilizes influence. Influencers can be in digital platforms, and can also be in physical form using different stakeholders like regulatory agencies, line ministries and partners, celebrities or even political figures.

In this industry many times you will hear us talk of digital influencers and stakeholder influencing. Influence marketing in either way is the future of marketing and communications. Take for instance a telecom company like Airtel Rwanda or MTN Rwanda, mapping RURA, the Ministry of ICT, PSF and even Rwanda Development board as some of their influencers meaning that the names institutions would endorse their narrative. However celebrity endorsements here in Rwanda has proved to be not so successful.

With digital marketing, influencers could also be popular bloggers or twitter enthusiasts with impactful audiences that can push content related to your brand. Digital influencing and stakeholder influencing should never be confused BUT can both work at the same time. The good news is that Rwanda’s digital consumers are growing! ‘Twitteratis’ are growing! According to ‘socialbakers’, the Rwandan blogosphere is blossoming and despite the media landscape being thin, PR practitioners have the digital platforms to make impact of particular brand’s conversations.

Its important for a brand to map its influencer program before laying out communication strategies. In this blog post I explain why your brand should quickly embrace influencer marketing as one of your strategies for 2018. Here are eight things you needs to know about ‘digital’ and ‘stakeholder’ influence marketing. And how this could be the breaker for you in this new year!

  1. Blogging for business versus blogger trivial issues
    The regulator RURA has given space to on-line publishers including bloggers to produce content. RICTA can easily register bloggers with Rwandan (with the .RW prefixes) to allow you Rwandan-ise your content for the growing digital landscape. We all know that content is king but our bloggers aren’t commercial. The realization that we can use other people's platforms to build our business has quickly become a go-to strategy for most small, medium, and large businesses of all kinds.
  2. There are many opportunities out there
    The amazing thing about working with influencer marketing is that it is so new. Many brand custodians might not necessarily understand how to mask it and 2018 offers greater opportunities. The good thing about Rwanda is that most institutions (RDB, PSF, RSSB, RURA etc) are intertwined and are working towards the same cause. We are only at the start of scratching the surface of influencer marketing; more is yet to happen in the next 5 to 10 years.
  3. Influencer marketing is youthful and exciting
    The most complex market segment to penetrate are the ‘progressives’ and the ‘trendy’. These comprise mainly the youth who are over 50 percent the global population. Brands should lay strategies to be more youthful because these are the future spenders. MTN Rwanda came with YOLO, Airtel Rwanda toyed with ‘Teri Stori’ and others should follow the trend. Millennial(s) and ‘baby boomers’ who make the most of the youthful consumers are very innovative and are the biggest chunk of digital influencers. With digital Influencing marketing brands have the chance to work and connect with brilliant young minds, as many of them are typically found to be the ages of 15 through to 35 years. This is the biggest market today.
  4. No high budgets needed for influencer marketing
    Lets say Bank of Kigali calls a presser to launch a product and invites the Bank Governor as the chief guest. Because of his influence and his stature in the industry, isn’t his presence an endorsement already? Lets say a telecom pays 3 top commercial bloggers $100 each to create content (FAQs, FACTSHEETS) about a product they are launching and thereafter use 10 top digital influencers to endorse the same content. (A practice still rare since today’s so-called influencers don’t even produce content). What would be the return on investment as compared to using traditional media (TV, newspaper advert)? Remember a full page ad in a Rwandan daily is about Rwf800,000 (for just a life span of a day). The great things about the influencer marketing model versus the traditional channel is that the execution on influencer marketing allows brands in obscurity to truly build up quickly without needing such a large budget.
  5. Digital influence creates solid influence
    Working within the influencer marketing arena has helped many businesses create a more solid foundation with their audiences. This is mainly because of the two-way traffic. Digital engagement with influencers creates two-way conversations and this way you will feedback about your brand. There are more people reading Igihe.com from their palms than those buying the New Times. The beauty with digital is that you can make an instant comment Its better to make the argument that there are more people reading The New Times online than those that buy the newspaper there are more Rwandans accessing their twitter accounts than those with TV household. Probably its better to integrate the two.
  6. Managing a crisis is as easy as a single click!
    Service providers are usually prone to PR crises. Improving customer care responsiveness through influence marketing can easily allow companies to be quick to respond to negative tweets.
  7. Re-tweeting versus creation of content
    Influencer marketing derives its value from different sources but the most paramount is the original content. PR practitioners have to be able to create content in order to create effective influencers. Digital influencers should not be paid for simply re-tweeting because this gives no value to the brand.
  8. Picking the right influencers
    Lastly the dilemma is usually on how to pick the right influencers and the messages you want to air out. Stakeholders are picked based on the audiences and influence (ability to influence the market, policy making etc etc). Digital Influencers are picked mainly because they maintain strong relationships with their audiences, who have a certain level of trust in the influencer’s opinions. Rwandans brands need to consider this before picking influencers who simply have large numbers of followers but not meaningful to the brand’s communication agenda.

CONCLUSION: Influencer marketing combines all the forms of marketing from word of mouth to networking. However you shouldn’t forget the power of written, audio, pictorial and video content when considering digital influencing.

If you have enjoyed reading this article, drop me a comment below in the comments section. I will be grateful. Or reach out to me at keziomusoke@inspire.co.rw