DIGITAL TREND-SETTING LIKE TIMMY
As they say “I do not trend, I set trends”. For many years, Africa has been playing “catch up” with the rest of the world; Western solutions and trends have been adopted across the African continent with the expectation they will bring about desired changes. But what would become Africa’s new narrative if it took full control of defining what development and progress looks like across its different industries? What kind of innovations would we see and embrace as a result of setting our own trends and devising solutions that address our unique challenges? The power of information made available on the internet and the influence of social media are some of the ways in which Africa is flipping the script and starting to own its narrative, creating a generation of influencers who are breaking through glass ceilings and charting new paths for themselves and others.
Timmy, real name Timothy Ntilosanje, raised himself from the age of 12. He is one of Malawi’s top digital marketers and social media influencers; he is the go-to person for influencers who want consultation on how to strategize and market their brands. Years of spending hours studying and learning from YouTube videos and the internet led to Timmy creating a career that allows him to be his own boss and consultant to organizations and individuals’ brands, with his own digital media company, Klaus Media Corp and other organizations he is affiliated with. Although he used to consult for some of his friends, one of his biggest breakthroughs in charting his own path was his first prototype in digital marketing for malawi-music.com, a music platform that showcases Malawian music; he is proud to have been part of the process that developed the website and marketed it to the product it is now.
Social media is one of the latest innovations of our time, shaping new ways of creativity and interaction. Several years ago, people were not posting on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, as often as they do now; Facebook was consuming everything, says Timmy. Nowadays, he sees more and more people posting video content on Twitter and Instagram, trends which he sees as necessary to pushing the importance and benefits of digital marketing in Africa as a way of raising the visibility of what African brands have to offer on a global scale.
Timmy believes that organizations can benefit from the changes in how people now communicate with one another by knowing their target market and having strategies on how to reach them. Unclearly defining a target market leads most organizations to wasting resources through marketing incorrect information and using wrong mediums and media to reach an audience that does not exist and if they do, little is known about them. Using social media analytics tools to gain insight into existing and potential target markets can help brands effectively narrow down their marketing strategies to focus on markets that exist and need their products and services. Even the most successful companies still advertise despite having products and services that are well established in the minds of people. The day more Malawian brands understand the power of digital marketing will be the day they become more confident in creating original strategies without the need to mimic existing ones, more especially in a culture that is starting to lean towards preferring original content says Timmy. Instead of flying in foreign experts to run digital marketing campaigns for local brands and organizations, he says it would be more effective to employ the services of domestic/local experts who know and understand the conditions, structures and trends of the different markets on the ground. He also emphasizes that the ability to post and advertise on social media does not automatically make one a digital marketer or a part of the digital marketing industry; digital marketing requires one to be able to understand how to engage audiences, how to use data and analytics purposefully and one must be tech savvy in understanding the basics of web coding.
Timmy’s latest career adventure was in Durban at one of the world’s top digital marketing events, Social Media Week, held worldwide in Nairobi, Durban and Lagos. As the first ever Malawian to speak at the event, he tackled the topic digital strategy for local needs. As it is, influencers are classified based on the number of followers they have, the aesthetics of their photographs, their achievements and successes amongst other things, yet their content lacks engagement and is full of social media bots designed to automatically generate messages whilst acting as followers of users to gain followers for specified accounts. Some social media influencers in Malawi now follow the trend of buying followers, which distorts the ability to measure the authenticity and power of social media influencers/brands. When they asked him about his thoughts on the launch of Influencer Awards in South Africa, he responded by saying that although it was a good thing that it would drive people to stay on top of their game, there is need to define the criteria for what an influencer actually is in order to award appropriately. He further added that it would be better for us to develop original metrics of measuring social media influence and setting trends that reflect the direction in which we want to take African culture and narratives instead of playing catch up with the rest of the world says Timmy.
Whilst most people become complacent when they reach a certain level of success and achievement, Timmy is driven by his constant need to learn and keeps challenging himself in his field of work as he charts his own path whilst continuously improving himself and enjoying the process.