Being a brand influencer on social media is a lucrative way to make money online. What’s more, it’s no longer just limited to Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter; WhatsApp, through its status feature, is now on the list of platforms one can use to influence, especially in Nigeria.
Esosa, a WhatsApp influencer, is redefining the business of influencing through her WhatsApp stories, where she promotes her clothing business, as well as several other business owners. In this interview with TechCabal, she tells us how she became a WhatsApp influencer, and more.
Starting WhatsApp brand influencing to make money online
Sociology is Esosa’s major in university, but it wasn’t her first choice. “Music was originally my major. However, it didn’t allow me to work, so I switched.”
The Cross River state-born Nigerian discovered her love for Whatsapp influencing when it first became a trend in 2018 and 2019, but it wasn’t until the following year, 2020, during the pandemic, that she fully delved into it. “Anybody who knows me well, or who has been on my contact list for a while, would know I always say COVID changed my life,” she said. Like many business owners during COVID, Esosa was trying to promote her clothing business online. To drive sales, she decided to enlist the services of a WhatsApp influencer. She sent this person her advert content to be posted on their stories. However, the person displayed what Esosa described as nonchalance towards the success of her ad. He was only online to make money and not ready to help others make profit.
Esosa said, “He told me, ‘Woman, I’ve posted your ad. Don’t stress me. It’s not my business if you make sales or not. My own is that I’ve posted your stuff!.’”
Esosa was hurt, so she decided to channel her frustration into making things right. She started consciously garnering WhatsApp contacts, and posted other people’s businesses for a small fee. Unlike the WhatsApp influencer she encountered, Esosa ensured she focused on promoting the brands she worked with in an authentic way. She’d tell interesting short stories around each product and brand, and position the business in a dynamic light.
Understanding how WhatsApp influencing works
Esosa confessed to being clueless when she began influencing on WhatsApp. She underpriced the value she was offering, for instance. WhatsApp TVs were charging ₦5,000 per day for simply “posting” the business, whereas, for ₦500, Esosa would tell robust stories about the business and product, and produce multiple posts, videos, voice-overs, and copy, just to get each brand the desired attention and best possible conversion rate.
Becoming a WhatsApp influencer was not capital-intensive, she said. “I started out with my phone and, of course, data. But, as I grew, I knew I had to invest in getting a better device, video gadgets, and accessories. Since 2020, I must have changed my phone four times,” she explained.
Growing your contact base as a WhatsApp influencer
To grow her contacts list, Esosa networked and reached out to individuals and business owners. As her contact base became more substantial, she switched to organising referral contests in which her existing contacts would be rewarded with cash and gift prizes for referring people to her.
Boundaries and precautions
Speaking of her threshold with regard to brands she wouldn’t influence, Esosa said, “I’d influence mostly any kind of brand. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have reservations. Sex toys are the first for me. I feel it’ll negatively impact the kind of community I’m building. Of course, sex isn’t a bad thing, but I guess we all just have differences and comfortable hubs.”
WhatsApp influencing: Curbing fraud and scams
In trying to make money online, people have lost money to Ponzi schemes and supposed investment plans. Interestingly, these fraudsters come in the form of structured businesses, approach influencers with massive audiences, and eventually perpetrate fraudulent activities.
“It’s happened in the past,” Esosa said, “and it hurt so much because people in my community got scammed, but what I’ve done so far is to verify before taking ad placements. I ask them, ‘Who referred you?’ because I need to be sure that there’s somebody I can hold to ransom if I need extra accountability. And since then, I’ve had no fraud issues.”
What makes WhatsApp influencing tick
Esosa praised the proximity and privacy WhatsApp affords. “Something unique about what happens on WhatsApp spaces is that it’s pretty personal. It’s not the way you just scroll on other platforms. On WhatsApp, I can know and affect people closely, and vice versa.”
Piloting all these online money-making ventures and other things
At some point in a persistent and consistent entrepreneur’s life, the work starts yielding results, but it gets more taxing, and if one is not careful, they can burn out.
Esosa admitted it’s been challenging balancing work and life. She spoke of her constant unavailability earning her frowns from family and friends. To help her manage her time, she resorted to employing help to manage her physical business store and some virtual aspects such as Instagram and email.
Need for professional improvements as a WhatsApp influencer
Esosa exemplifies how and why a successful business requires extra effort. She’s done this by investing in professional marketing and advertising skills.
“I’ve helped small businesses become better because of the knowledge I’ve gained overtime. And I’ve been acquiring the knowledge from reading books, taking paid courses, and from observing the space.”
Balancing brand influencing with entertaining your WhatsApp audience
As much as you’re trying to make money online, you can wear out an audience if you post only ads. However, Esosa has managed to keep her audience entertained and glued to her innovative advertising too.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m being too serious, and I’m like, ‘Would these people like this content, or have I not posted too much today? Or would they pay attention to this brand?’ But somehow, I succeed in balancing it. I intermittently post memes, funny videos, health content, financial tips, and lifestyle. All of these combine to keep my audience satisfied.”
Challenges of using WhatsApp for influencing
WhatsApp can make you money online. But Esosa hasn’t had it all smooth sailing. Speaking of problems she’s encountered using the app, Esosa specifically complained of its crashing, lagging, chat and contact loss, and media quality reduction.
Does the knowledge of WhatsApp influencing breed ideas of expanding to Instagram and co?
It’s not uncommon to seek new territories in business. For example, Dangote Industries, at some point, was known for cement, but today, the company is also known to produce other foods like pasta and sugar.
Esosa said she plans to expand her influencing to other platforms, although she is not pursuing that actively right now.