How Cyril Okoi became a top Nigerian tech influencer in under 3 years

Dennis Da-ala Mirilla
How Cyril Okoi became a top Nigerian tech influencer in under 3 years

Cyril Okoi‘s journey into the ranks of top tech influencers, posting short-form content on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube began just under three years ago, after the COVID-19 pandemic. But his interest in tech has been way longer.

Growing up, he was the tech guy – the one who you met when your camera stopped working or the radio wasn’t receiving any signal.

As an undergraduate at the University of Calabar, as far back as 2012, Blackberry was hosting a rap battle on campus and needed a host. Cyril, who had volunteered unofficially as part of the planning committee, decided to offer himself for the gig.

He got it.

By the time the show was over, he had gotten a nickname, Cypher and a side gig as a Blackberry student ambassador on campus. Thus began his tech career.

When he graduated and the ambassadorship ended he joined Red Media, the media conglomerate that used to be run by Debola Williams and Chude Jideonwo, as an intern. He joined the set of the long-running Sunday afternoon TV program Rubbin’ Minds, he did social media, learnt marketing and communication, all while he was the personal assistant to the CEO and completed other tasks as assigned.

How Cyril Okoi became a top tech influencer in under 3 years
Cyril Okoi

Cyril Okoi and the content creation journey

But 9 to 5 was not Cyril Okoi’s style. Barely six months into his internship/NYSC service year he bounced. He did freelance PR, digital marketing, and advertising work.

It was in this phase of his life that Cyril Okoi realised there was a lot of money to be made posting content on the internet, having himself seen people get paid for their content. So he decided it was time to pick up his computer and start making tech videos.

In his early days, Cyril Okoi was excited about the prospect of being an influencer. But by his own admission, “excitement is not enough to pay the bills.”

“So I already knew if I can be the best or be top five, I can make money,” he said.

Read also: Editi Effiòng discusses ‘The Black Book’, Nollywood, and the future of streaming in Nigeria

But the race to the top, and the skills that he needed to get there will not come easy. Cyril Okoi had to learn lighting, scripting, mixing and mastering, sound engineering, editing, and setup design.

“The struggle for me was scripting because I went from doing stuff off the top and just picking up my smartphone to make videos, to scripting and trying to make perfect video lighting, learning everything from scratch, learning everything professionally, getting a camera,”

As he put it, he is a bit of a perfectionist and so he had his work always cut out for him. “What I make today pisses me off tomorrow. I always want something better,” he said. “That’s my struggle.”

He had an assistant back then. But she couldn’t keep up so he let her go. She has been his only assistant ever.

Midway into making content, he realised that he was giving value but not to a Nigerian audience. His videos were heavily tilted towards iPhone users and he had neglected the world that was out there. A world of many young Nigerians using other more popular brands of phones in the country Tecno and Infinix. Plus Apple didn’t have a direct presence in Nigeria. And he didn’t want to be seen as the “iPhone fanboy.”

But he wished that his iPhone focus days had not been over.

“If the iPhone brand was in Nigeria, it would make my life very easy because I can wake up and if you ask me anything about the iPhone, I’ll give it to you straight up. I’ve been using the iPhone since the iPhone four years. So I practically have grown and know everything about it,” he said.

The challenges for tech content creators in Nigeria

Like many creators in the tech category in Nigeria, the economic decline and fall of the naira against the dollar has reduced the focus areas of their content. Many creators don’t even bother reviewing laptops because only a few people can afford the types of laptops that they can vouch for.

Nigerian creators are also rarely invited to the launch of these computers and expensive phones in Europe and the US anyway. If they want to attend, they have to pay out of pocket and order the product out of pocket as well.

By the time it gets to them the news cycle has moved away. Influencers in the West have posted all the possible angles and hot takes on the gadgets. The videos will likely not do well.

“It means your money will just go. You won’t get the views,” he said

What does he think of the new iPhone 15 which dropped this week?

I have made my peace with the iPhone so I don’t ever think of them making any innovation or advancement in the smartphone space,” he said.

“What I see them do is make ideas better. So for example; After how many years they are now using USB-C and they’re talking about it like it’s the future. We give you 10 X speed. We know other devices will be using 3.0 which is a little too slow. But 10 X will be faster. And they’re talking about Titanium Body. Samsung already talked about Titanium,” he added.

Over the years, he has grown his following on Instagram to over 240k followers. He has also included personal finance tips in his offering. Why does he think his rise to the top has been so rapid?

“I think I’m more direct and I pick useful tips. An average person would make a two-minute video; joking, laughing, telling stories before they get to the point. I always go straight to the point,” he said.

How Cyril Okoi became a top tech influencer in under 3 years
Cyril Okoi

But now, he is ready to move on to the next phase of his career making content.

“I think I’ve conquered short-form content. I want to be better at making YouTube videos, more details YouTube videos that will give you genuine reviews. I also want to do a lot of travelling next year. So I’ll make short-form content on that,” Cyril Okoi said.

Rapid fire questions with Cyril Okoi

Samsung or iPhone?

Game of Thrones or The Witcher?
That’s a tough one. If you had asked me before The Witcher I would have said Game of Thrones. Both of them. I can’t pick.

Favourite Nigerian fashion brand?
For now, I would say Zeus. They sell very good Turkey suits.

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