The rise of the micro-influencer in South Africa

Throughout human history we have seen significant rises of civilisations, ideologies, corporations, and of course people in power. Before the 21st century the rise of people came in the form of Kings, Queens, Politicians and Celebrities. With the advent of social media and the different platforms ever growing use across the connected world, we have turned Andy Warhol’s belief that everyone would have “15 minutes of fame” into an eventuality.

The rise of the micro-influencer is a global phenomenon. The Internet has garnered a far more globalised world and has enabled us to now follow, engage and embody people from the most foreign of places. For many in the West,  South Africa may just be that place. But to us it is home, and we welcome the development of our own Mzansi grown micro-influencers.

We currently have influencers in our country but they are already in the public eye as Supermodels, Athletes, Actors and Musicians; think Candice Swanepoel, AB De Villiers, Charlize Theron and A.K.A. Brands already know of their magnetism, which can in effect attract buyers and start conversations online. Those are essentially the macro-influencers (so to speak), we want to understand who and what are the micro-influencers.

This current topic posed more questions than answers – that’s why we decided to ask a professional in this space. So we sat down with an up-and-coming micro-influencer Zaida Omar at our offices in Sandton.


DarkMatter: Welcome to the Unknown Universe. We appreciate you taking the time to give us – as an agency and our readership – some quality insights into this new marketing trend.

Zaida: Thanks for inviting me to discuss it – it’s very spacious out here.

DarkMatter: Glad you like it. So in your professional opinion what do you think a micro-influencer (MI) is?

Zaida: I say it’s more a niche marketing type. One where people can tap into different markets using different narratives. It’s a wholly digital marketing exercise, where those that have persona’s and followers are leveraging their limited base, to directly make contact with them through a brands message that matches their own.

DarkMatter: Today we are so obsessed with followers vs following. Do the numbers matter?

Zaida: It is about the numbers and reach but more importantly about the engagement the MI’s are giving and sharing with their followers. The follower is not intimidated to reach out and drop a DM, as they know you [the MI] will have a conversation with them and answer any of their questions genuinely and sincerely.

DarkMatter: Is there more importance placed on the kind of follower and the buying power they possess?

Zaida: I mean ultimately you want whatever you promote to translate into sales. You want the followers to emulate what the micro-influencer uses in their everyday. It’s all products and services every one can attain and aspire to use/have.

DarkMatter: Can you give us an example?

Zaida: Take a MI whose niche is travel. They offer great buying advice and practical tips; as well as promo codes for places that are affordable and in their current followers locations. It costs less for all engaging on this kind of feed; the brand, the followers and the influencer.

DarkMatter: With all this said, can you give me a definition for this new digital vocation?

Zaida: A MI is just a person – at the end of the day – who is authentic, passionate about their niche and personable enough to interact with their audience and influence their habits and outlooks in life. They inspire those following them to be courageous enough to follow their own dreams and show the rest of the world their authentic, passionate niche, through personable interactions that influence others and inspire them to do the same.

DarkMatter: I like the positive loop that can be created by inspiring those around you. Now, is there more emphasis on the number of brands associated with MI’s?

Zaida: To an extent but before brands contact them they are already ‘cool’. They have to represent a certain lifestyle, some micro-influencers don’t have any brand associations but have a huge pull and voice on a certain topic.

DarkMatter: That’s a great lead to my next question. Are MI’s defined by the life and morals they promote online (and live in reality)?

Zaida: YES!! The younger generation is more woke (can I use that word?!). It’s more than just filtered and photoshopped pictures now – it’s about the authenticity of the person and what morals and lessons they can share with their base. We now have insight into someones life 24/7! If they are genuinely nice that will be seen. If they put it on and act, that will result in a short lived career. We as the audience can see this immediately.

DarkMatter: Before meeting with you, we were wondering the actual impact of MI’s in the South African climate? And if it even really applies in relation to the US for example?

Zaida: Of course it does! We are an emerging digital market that’s still new and still figuring it out. We are always reaching new heights and refining our craft. Brands must recognise this is a full time job to create content. There is a need to pay for the creative property, as this is a necessary step forward in building up the potential of future MI’s.

DarkMatter: For success here, do you think it’s about the types of brands behind an MI that connect more with the SA populace?

Zaida: Yes it is – unless it’s international brands easily available in SA. When you can easily popover to the store next door you are more likely to follow that MI on social media. If it’s easy and you relate to the brand being discussed you will buy and engage but when it’s out of you reach financially or not sold here – you lose interest in their conversation.

DarkMatter: What is the trend you foresee in 2019?

Zaida: Getting paid for the work we love. Many influencers are going to take a stand and respect their own craft, to get what their rightfully deserve. More will know their worth and let opportunities go, to discover the right brand who is willing to recognise what they can offer and do. Sometimes it’s good to say no – especially if it doesn’t align with your personal strategy and your current place.

DarkMatter: Thank you for your opinions and insights, we look forward to seeing more of your own authentic self across social media.

Zaida: Again these are my thoughts and the lessons I’ve learnt. It’s an undefined profession that is always adapting because more and more creative people are following their passions and dreams. Thanks for the chat!

What we learned from this informal conversation is that: micro-influencers effectively influence using their existing niche narrative to inspire others through authentic conversation.

The SA micro-influencer landscape is still young and growing. The advancement will come from both us, as followers garnering our ears, eyes and thumbs to give those up-and-coming influencers a captive audience to share with. However, we maintain the power to decide whether their conversations are worth our time and whether they authentically capture our attention for us to join in.

Will 2019 be the official year we see the rise of the micro-influencer in South Africa? Where big business pay and believe in their non-manufactured-natural-ability to pull, share, sell and narrate a brands vision to all those watching them! Ironically, as with those that rose to power in the past –  we the people decide who achieves it now… 15 minutes and counting.

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