With more brands turning to influencers for their marketing, having a way to find the right influencer is a growing need.
Kenya’s Wowzi was created in 2020 to meet that need, and during this week’s INMA Webinar, Mike Otieno, Wowzi co-founder and president, outlined how his company is working with news media companies to fuel new influencer marketing campaigns.
Influencer and affiliate marketing for news media in Africa gave INMA members a glimpse into Wowzi’s world and how it works.
Nairobi-based Wowzi began as a platform that connects influencers and brands: “Think of it as an Uber for content creators or influencers,” Otieno said.
In just three years, that platform has grown to include more than 150,000 content creators across Africa and campaigns have yielded collaborations with more than 210 brands, including heavy hitters like Coca-Cola. At this time, the platform has active campaigns in 12 African countries.
Wowzi holds appeal for multiple market segments, including financial services, Otieno said: “A lot of banks are using Young TikTokers to promote their bank accounts. We have a bank that’s now leveraging content creators to promote uptake of their card usage.”
Wowzi also partners with agencies and media houses. Media agencies leverage the groundwork Wowzi has laid to streamline their use of influencers for the brands they’re working with, Otieno said: “We’ve automated various work streams in the influencer process, so they’re able to use our platform.”
Democratising the influencer space
The platform’s business model has opened the door into the influencer world, giving entry to non-celebrities by providing new tiers of what are identified as nano- and micro-influencer communities. Wowzi’s tiers range from nano influencers (250-5,000 followers) to mega influencers (500,001+ followers), with three categories in between.
“So if someone has 250 followers, they’re still able to join the Wowsie platform. [It] is able to connect them with gigs, so it becomes one of the more interesting job creation platforms.”
Data shows influencers with smaller followings have higher levels of trust and engagement, so more brands are leaning into nano- and micro-influencers.
“Up to 65% of our entire volumes are going to these non-celebrity tiers,” Otieno said. “Of course, we still have the bigger people with a lot more followers, but we are seeing them being used more for awareness creation as opposed to conversion.”
The allowance of smaller influencers opened up opportunities for a diverse range of people: farmers, motorbike riders, fishermen, students, and moms. One recent campaign for Netflix, for example, used mom influencers to talk about parental controls and how they’re setting up different Netflix profiles for their kids. The campaign worked, he explained, because “mums are the most authentic people to talk about such things.”
Influencers in action
One of the compelling examples Otieno shared showed how Wowzi worked with farmers as content creators.
“We were able to work with about 40 farmers in different counties in Kenya,” he explained. “We trained them on social media. A lot of them started from scratch; they joined the platform and were able to understand social media.”
Together, the farmers reached half a million people and Wowzi was able to use codes and vouchers to monitor the success of the campaign. That allowed it to see an uptick in sales of organic food. And soon, the farmers began using social media as a form of peer to peer learning:
“They were all in WhatsApp groups sharing how they use fertiliser or what they do,” Otieno said. “At the same time, they were able to realise that the market wasn’t as flat as they thought.”
That introduced a new way of thinking — and working. Instead of waiting for market days on the weekends, farmers would go online and offer their available food for sale.
“That empowerment to the farmers was quite powerful. That’s one example of an interesting model where we’ve gone against popular belief that influencer marketing is really just for big personalities or lifestyle people to where we are now testing out new models that are very innovative.”
Partnering with news media brands
While Wowzi has impressive numbers regarding influencers and consumer interactions, it is a newcomer to brand relationships. That’s where partnerships with media houses come in. Its first partnership is with Next Media, the largest media house in Uganda; they co-branded and created Next Wowzi, which operates on a revenue-share agreement.
“From our standpoint, Next Media has deep brand relationships that have existed for 20, 30 years. So they already know all the big brands that we are targeting and they already have very deep relationships,” Otieno said. “As a matter of fact, these guys are already their customers.”
Next Media can provide an instant connection between brands and Wowzi, giving access to the advertising decision-makers. That has saved Wowzi a tremendous amount of time, allowing it to start pitching to top brands immediately.
But Wowzi isn’t the sole beneficiary of this arrangement; Next Media also sees significant benefits.
“Of course, they’re getting a new revenue stream. They’re able to inspire the entire organisation [because] they are ahead of the curve. They’re the next thing in terms of what’s happening, what’s new, what’s hot, what’s exciting.”
This new partnership has energised Next Media, allowing it to be at the centre of a new movement instead of just observing it, Otieno said:
“Beyond the revenue, we were able to inspire and spark huge innovation.We’ve ramped up what we call a staff influencer programme, which is inspiring the internal teams to become in fluencers. We were able to drive that agenda. So beyond just the revenue metrics, we are seeing a lot of soft benefits that this partnership is bringing in terms of employee engagement and driving an innovation culture across both Wowzi and Next Media.”
In addition to pursuing joint strategic partnerships and working to bring in more content creators, Next Wowzi is working with social media players like TikTok.
“The key thing is we are going together and our proposals are stronger, essentially, when we do it together,” Otieno said. “That’s sort of what we are seeing.”