I have been having a blast watching the first viral Digital content from Kenya do rounds on the internet – traversing most social networks. Its creators have been invited to the major news stations in Kenya, their story featured on CNN and even making a debut in the Wall Street Journal blog – that is no mean feat by any standard. It started like most viral content do, with a few people liking it and referring it to a few other people who in turn spread it to more people and so forth. In less than a week after it was uploaded on YouTube, my twitter feed was clogged with #Makmende tweets and my Facebook news stream soon followed suit. This was all very exciting to see but as a social media practitioner, I forestalled my excitement in order to make sense of it all which has led to my eventually writing this post.
This post is aptly titled Monetization of Digital Content because that is what Local Digital Content creation will be all about in Kenya in the coming months and years. My concerns are not about the excitement that this #Makmende character has caused but rather what it has translated to for Just A Band – the people who brought the this character to life – in terms of album sales and other similar benefits.
I have written about local digital content on this blog before and JAB have just made my case as far as the viability of local digital content goes. There is this belief among many Kenyans that digital content creation is a preserve of those with a lot of disposable income and not the normal mwananchi. The Makmende video proves this perception wrong. The Video is like the majority of viral content – home made with zero budget (according to the director), not in HD, It is not graphics fancy, the acting is not the Denzel type and it overall looked like something any of us could do with a descent camera phone. And yet despite all these, it has over 70,000 views on YouTube and the numbers keeps growing by the day and not to mention the hilarious one-liners (some are just vulgar and not work-safe) that make sure you still remember the name after memory of the video dissipates. This should hopefully encourage creation of more videos by Kenyans.
Today, there are no better distribution channels than those provided by social media channels. For years, Kenyan artists have blamed the TV and Radio stations for not playing their videos/music therefore denying them the chance to be famous. But with today’s technology, I refuse to empathize with some aggrieved musician who decides to take on the mainstream media for not doing enough to help a struggling musical brother out. I refuse to sympathize with their cries for help because this is a DIY society where anybody has a chance to be famous by using the largely free tools at their disposal.
I was elated to know that JAB consciously decided to release their Ha-he video via YouTube as opposed to the TV Stations and the viral content it has been is all the evidence local musicians and other local digital content creators need that there is large Kenyan audience on the internet today who are ready to devour their content. But this will never happen if they do not put up the content in the first place. So my appeal is for them to start creating local digital content and upload it in the various social networks. The thing with social media is that you do not choose what is important for your audience; the audience decides that for themselves. All you have to do is put the content up and listen to the feedback. Even the #Makmende creators were surprised at the turn of events because they did not anticipate the attachment to #Makmende that a certain generation of Kenyans had and it is this that has translated to the ridiculously high traffic and views of anything #Makmende.
Most of social media is DIY and any creative Kenyan looking for a break via TV and Radio and who always complains about “not being given a chance to shine” deserves the obscurity they have. If you are a writer with tonnes of unpublished works, start a blog and publish it all up – and if it is any good, the right people will see it and pick it up as great content always sells itself. People will also comment on your work such that you get feedback if you are any good and advice on where to improve and so it is a win-win. The concept of waiting for the big break died when social media gave people the chance to create their own breaks.
This is a new dawn and the old ways will no longer work. Digital content is where today’s generation will be discovered, made and/or broken. It is where all the focus is shifting to.
You will be surprised at how relatively little the marketing costs are when you utilize social media. A big hurdle on local content apart from distribution has been marketing, letting people know that it is out there. This has now been made easy with a simple share button on the various social media channels. The Makmende video did not become viral because they made it so, it became viral because they put it out there and allowed those who loved it to share it. Social Media is the digital word-of-mouth where a retweet, a share button, a recommend to friends’ link will see your content start on your blog and end up across social networks without you needing to appear on the morning show on TV.
When it comes to the digital content, making money online still remains a big hurdle for most Kenyans with the intent of creating digital content and hoping to monetize it. Not everybody who creates digital content with the intention of making money; many write blogs because it is what excites them after the day job and not because they heard about Google Ads. For instance, after almost two years of blogging, I gained nothing monetary but on the other hand, I made very strong friendships, garnered experience and skill, and grew both emotionally and socially. Funny thing is that these qualitative aspects are what have now enabled me to monetize online.
Monetization is an extensive topic that I will address in a subsequent post…
What are your thoughts so far? Are you leveraging social media to market, distribute, and promote content online? What has been your experience?