Wednesday, 30 November 2022

In Leisure

Instamodels: The Expandable Economy of Africa

Instagram has created new economic models that any beautiful woman in Africa can tap into, that I would like to call the Expandable Economy. As is in many African countries, there are many Instagram influencers in South Africa, for example, that can no longer be ignored by brands and businesses. These are influencers that can expand a brand’s consumption, market share, and profitability, yet not expendable.

The Expandables are African beauties that are rising to become influential in various circles of life, using Instagram as a point of contact to pull daily surprises that are backed by a lifestyle of business transactions, as they enjoy life. 

Instagram, one of the largest Social Media network in the world, owned by Facebook (the largest), and sister to WhatsApp (the second largest), has created what is called The Instagram Economy out of the daily lives of the Expandables.

Unlike many social media networks, Instagram asks you to create a specific type of user account – Personal account, Blog, Public (thematic community), Internet shops and offline shops, Business accounts (cafes and restaurants, touristic agencies, manufacturing, etc.), Brand accounts, Celebrity accounts, Bots, Landing accounts, Video accounts. Out of these types of user accounts, the magic of pictures, videos, animations, and conversations gave rise to the Expandables and an economy now valued at over US$1 billion (2017).

The Expandables are rising beyond their sympathy markets, to not only gain daily confidence and support within their local communities, but are stretching forth into new territories of brand diplomacy, representing brands, products, and services in exchange for a monthly retainer.

Mmabatho Makgoale is one such expandable. 

Mmabatho, a 24-year-old from Limpopo, a social science graduate from Brooklyn City College, an Afro-centric beauty – natural, no make-up, no weave, yet accumulating 75,000 followers whom she influences via Instagram.

Before we continue with Mmabatho and Instagram Influencers, allow me to digress awhile and talk about “The Audi S8” and the new normal for luxury goods, services, and brands in the world and Africa.

On their South African website, the profile of the new Audi says “Get in. Buckle up. Start the engine. Wherever you’re heading, enthralling driving dynamics will power you there. For as you know, the world is your oyster when at the wheel of your Audi S8. You decide the direction. The driving style. The pace. And you enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you have plenty in reserve. More than enough to get the very best from every drive.” 

With just by these words alone, one literally taste the feeling you get being in the Audi S8. Audi being a brand that has stood strong in the world of luxury car brands like Ferrari, Porsche, Range Rover, BMW, and Mercedes, the Audi S8 has space for consumption amongst both the aspiring and the affluent of South Africa. 

Audi and other market intelligent, are daring brands that make it possible for the aspiring to acquire a taste of affluence, and the Expandables like Mmabatho bring a connection for brands to new markets, whilst consolidating territory.

The Financial Times wrote, “Influencer marketing was then becoming relevant to the industry as a more mature — and wealthier — audience took to social media; at the same time, luxury goods companies introduced more accessible product categories for younger users. The rise of influencers is linked with fundamental changes in the economics of the luxury sector and the technology of the wider world. A 2017 study by consultants Bain indicated that millennials already make up 30 per cent of luxury consumers.”

There are such influencers in African communities, cities, that are local champions in the digital space, that at the same time, are global influencers for their country, and local brands can tap into these spaces for diplomacy.

In a 2019 interview with Cabanga Magazine, Mmabatho shared her passions, and life on Instagram;

Q: When did you start your Instagram page, and how do your grow your influence?

A: I started My Instagram page in February 2017, did not have many followers back then, but did not give up. So, I think being me, unique and positive grew my influence.

Q: Now tell me more about the promoting business, what do you do?

A: Ok. As soon as I realized that I am a natural (no make-up, no weaves, no body enhancements) and am well structured, my body is perfect, and I have skills, so I said to myself why not use what I have to build something of myself. I then advertised myself and got a lot of offers. I promote local businesses. I do shoots and advertise the work. I also promote local artists and sell products.

Q: Which are some of the local businesses you have promoted, in shoots and adverts?

A: I've worked with @GodLens photography, @Tshi_amo photography, @kasi_nton_nton_carwash_and_gril, and local artists such as @dree_at_tug, a Drummer from Mpumalanga.

Mmabatho has realised she has influence and can use that to create a future of greater power and possibly wealth, and is willing to work on it from local to national circles. She is proud of where she comes from and loves everything about herself – confidence and contentment.

It is such an attitude that draws brands, as she is swimming out of the micro-influencer waters of Instagram influencers, and keeps rising in number and confidence. This focuses on the way in which an influencer shares content, and where they sit in the wider influencer community.

Mmabatho’s friends speak highly of her, and supportive of her thoughtful enterprise. Ndzalama Mabunda, close friend to Mmabatho said “When you are around her, you will never get bored or annoyed because she knows how to make other people laugh. She is a social person that loves singing and dancing crazy stuff. She is a natural beauty; no make-up or weaves as she just wants to be herself.”

It is such influence from a local level, that Instagram helps translate into a national and international level, as more influencers like Mmabatho are rising globally.

Like most social media platforms, there are five types of Instagram influencers, namely Creators, Curators, Conversation starter, Connectors, and Commentators, and Mmabatho is a Creator Influencer.

Creators Influencers create and share their own original content. This kind of influencer is great to co-create some content on. If the content is mutually beneficial to both audiences, then payment isn’t necessarily required.

Curators Influencers have less focus on creating their own content, but rather sharing others’ content. Brands can build relationships with content curators in the hope that they start to recognise and share their branded content. Alternatively, a short-term approach would be to pay the influencer to share their content with their audience for a quick win.

Conversation starter Influencers provoke conversation and debates on social media. Brands can get on the conversation starters’ radars by entering the conversation and/or starting conversations and debates themselves to provoke the influencer to get involved.

Connectors Influencers are well connected to the wider influencer community. Influencers like this thrive off meeting new people and expanding their network. Brands can invite connectors to their events where they have the opportunity to mix with other influencers and broaden their network.

Commentators Influencers are always reacting to industry news, breakthroughs and content. These kinds of influencers are great to approach for blog post contributions. If you’re giving the influencer some brand exposure, then this can be done organically.

According to Alyssa Kleintjes, a social science genius from the University of Cape Town, coined there being “The Instagram Economy of South Africa”, as published in his dissertation titled “The rise of the 'Instagram economy' phenomenon in a South African context: An exploration of how conspicuous consumption on Instagram contributes to brand value creation”.

Kleintjes says the number of brands using Instagram as a branding tool is steadily rising and so too is the rate of brand related consumer Interactions on social media. The sociocultural shifts in behavioural norms on Instagram have facilitated an increase in social word-of-mouth that is surpassing traditional media advertising as the primary influence on consumers' purchase decisions. This revolution in Instagram marketing has facilitated the development of the Instagram Economy. 

Kleintjes’ research drew actionable insights into the South African Instagram Economy, which brand managers can use to inform their Instagram marketing strategies in order to leverage the economic capabilities of this platform. 

This research identified that in order to develop successful brand presence on Instagram and increase the rate of brand related Instagram interactions that influence consumer purchase decisions, brands need to develop the right content for their target audience, partner with influencers that match the brand's values and know their audience's Instagram usage habits in order to reach them effectively.

In order to achieve phenomenal results from Social Media, especially Instagram, brands have to partner with Influencers as their brand ambassadors, and have habits that will bring success.

The types of influencers were discussed before, yet, after acquiring a brand ambassador, brands have to create habits that bring simple success. Michael Catford of The Social Saviour, says the seven habits of highly successful brands on Instagram are as follows;

A Complete Profile is a Sweet Profile - It doesn’t get much more basic than properly filling out your Instagram profile, which makes it all the more surprising that so many brands fail to do so.

Use Instagram Ads - Instagram ads are effective because of the bare bones’ nature of the platform.

Don’t Be Shy to Follow - To increase your audience more organically you can’t afford to be thrifty with the use of the follow button.

Be Smart with Your Hashtag Use - Hashtags are the engine room of any Instagram post.

Post Quality, Not Quantity - A basic tenet not only of social media, but of life in general, quality over quantity is an obvious objective to have as an Instagram user.

Post Variety, but with a Signature Look - As far as the quality side of the quantity/quality equation goes, you want your Instagram content to be entertaining, educational, beautiful, or a mix of all three.

Gain Insight with 3rd Party Tools - The minimalism of Instagram is both a blessing and a curse.

Mmabatho sees herself in the next few years running her promotion and modelling business, and being a paid influencer for big South African brands. With her steady pace, and consistency, she will soon hit the mark as more and more brand managers, marketing managers and executives turn to Social Media to look for their influencers that can stage their market victories.

The Instagram Economy cannot be ignored, and in South Africa, it is the most talked about on social media as it has more beauties on exhibition than any other platform, and these beauties are called The Expandables. 

Sources: Instagram, Cabanga, UCT

Cabanga Media Group publishes of thoughtful economic and business commentary magazines and online media, in several African markets, that include South Africa, Botswana, East Africa Community, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, and Zambia.