We are witnessing the rise of WhatsApp influencers in Africa

Dennis Da-ala Mirilla
Sometimes, the influencer accounts are called WhatsApp TVs| Accounts can have over 11,000 viewers for each status post
The rise of the Nigerian WhatsApp influencers
The rise of the Nigerian WhatsApp influencers

Influencer marketing has many channels and WhatsApp is one of them, knowing that information, the good and the bad, spreads as fast as with other platforms in the digital space. There are people who drive the spread of this information and usually score a high note, giving them the tag: WhatsApp Influencers.

With a contact list that looks like a litany of results from a Google search page, these influencers could be broadcast-message merchants, chain-view status posters, and more, such that a temporary downtime is not enough to bring down their status.

The Influencer mark

Social media companies have created a business model by incentivising users to grow their following. That’s why on more relatively new social media platforms like ClubHouse, a user with over 1000 followers can become an influencer.

On Instagram, with 10,000 followers, one begins to enjoy certain privileges, most notably the ability to include links in Stories. Or the coveted blue check that has been the subject of a series of controversies over the years. This is about the same on Twitter.

As these influencers enjoy the fame that comes with fancy images and well-edited photos, a new kind of underdogs has emerged on one of the most popular platforms across the world, not known for creating influencers until now. They are the WhatsApp Influencers.

Who are WhatsApp influencers?

For a new crowd unwilling to work the riggings of Twitter clap-backs and Instagram filters, seeking a kind of bottom of the pot realness, WhatsApp influencers came to their aid, creating, as they say, “content” consistently tailored to their needs.

Foregoing the fanfare that has dominated the influencer culture as we know it, the WhatsApp influencers came on the scene for many after becoming jaded from building a following on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. They meticulously built their following using WhatsApp status as their stage.

They send broadcast links to numbers asking that they save their numbers if they are interested in viewing their content. From phone numbers to contacts to a fan base.

Sometimes, the influencer accounts are called WhatsApp TVs. And, an account like Sir White with reportedly over 11,000 viewers for each status post, has built a reputation by posting all kinds of entertainment, especially on affiliate marketing platforms.

How they make money

They already have their share of the pie: advertisers’ money, posting ads between their status posts. They also trade in their contact list for a few more coins now and again, sometimes for new people seeking to be WhatsApp influencers and who want to grow their following.

They simply, as they did for themselves, send links to their contact, asking that they follow the link to save the user’s number if they fancy the person’s content. The links then take them to the influencer’s DM, with a message drafted automatically asking that the potential member of the fan base also save their number.

“We ask our contacts to share our WhatsApp link to their friends to save up,” Sandra Adebayo, a WhatsApp influencer said. “We make money by running ads for brands. For people who use it for their personal brand, they use it to sell their personal products.”

At other times, they send broadcast messages advertising a product to a fan.

If you want to be featured on their status, with 50,000 naira you can start a serious conversation with a WhatsApp influencer with 30,000 “followers” – meaning people who can view their status. Some have as many as 150,000 followers.

“One thing WhatsApp influencers can guarantee is a strong audience base,” Adebayo adds. “Because it’s a small space, it’s easier to influence and talk to their audience and can you give you status.”

Not all WhatsApp influencers are “influencers”

Ibrahim Oredola, who creates content on his status and has a huge “following,” is a bit uncomfortable with the term “influencer,” which, in truth, has become a catchall phrase for everyone with a huge following on social media.

The rise of the Nigerian WhatsApp influencers
Ibrahim Oredola is a WhatsApp content creator

“I don’t deliberately lookout for new contacts,” he told Technext recently.

“I focus on my existing contacts. In turn, they recommend me to other people themselves. I just see random people sending me messages with different requests.” He says because he doesn’t see himself as an “official influencer” he makes sure the content he posts “delivers enough value to people in my contact.”

Ibrahim says he has developed a kind of BBNaija-fan level of loyalty with his followers.

When he needed to get an old classic drama book, that had long been out of stock in the market for years, he posted on his WhatsApp status that he needed the book. What happened next was shocking to him.

“Lo and behold, someone sent me the contact of his grandson. His grandson.” He received the private phone number of the author’s grandson in his DMs.

Blocking the noise

Many WhatsApp influencers keep their private numbers separate from their influencer number to retain a bit of sanity from the demanding pressure of the influencing game.

WhatsApp influencers also attend popular events and post pictures and videos of themselves at these events to their followers, updating them about how their day went, posting trivia, and creating “engagement.” But that can’t be their entire life. So, they usually have another WhatsApp account to have other kinds of conversations.

How can one become a WhatsApp influencer?

“You have to be consistent,” Ibrahim said. “That means there are no shutdown days, You have to be posting memes and jokes on your status.”

He adds that “you also have to have sense because people always want to follow people that have sense.” He did not however define what ‘sense’ means in this case.

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