I have been a Social Media Manager for about 5 years now – that is if I lump in my entire experience in the field – and in about 3 of the 5 years I have worked on digital marketing campaigns for African entertainment content. In this post I will try my best to shed light on my experience in finding a winning formula for marketing Nollywood content online, and consequently, taking African content digital.
First off, I am yet to find a winning formula, disappointing right? One thing I have learned from marketing Nollywood content digitally is that there is no one trick that applies to all. Just like you’d employ different strategies to get a vibrant toddler to eat on time, you’d always have to come up with exciting, yet engaging ways to keep users interested in your content. I will highlight the challenges I have recognized as the most daunting ones, and I will do my best to shed light on how I was able to face these challenges.
First Challenge: To Bot or Not?
What’s content marketing without followers and fans to market to? A complete waste of your time, that’s right! One striking think I have noticed in marketing content within the Nollywood space is that a lot of people are obsessed with numbers. The higher the numbers, the higher the perceived notion that you are actually reaching an audience – this notion is totally WRONG, a real dream killer to be honest. Most campaign managers tend to buy followers to boost their numbers, instead of building and growing a community, and this will go a long way to hampering engagement levels on their pages.
In my brief experience, I have grown a small number of pages from scratch, all organically, and I can boldly say that I have not had to buy followers for any of these pages. The result was simple, organic conversations with actual users, not bots, and this has gone a long way to shape my experience marketing Nollywood content digitally.
The toughest part of growing an online community organically is that you will spend a good part of your time holding conversations with yourself, however, it will be worth it once you get it right with your content. What I do is to pose questions to the audience that will engage them and influence them to get others interested in joining conversation; this way they interact with your content and are influenced enough to be part of your community.
Another thing I have tried in the past is give my growing audience a name, one that makes them feel unique, like they are part of something very important. Just like the “Beyhive”, your community can be nicknamed something cool to give them a sense of belonging. This method can come in very handy for marketers who are working on promoting specific content – a movie or a web series – as this helps your fans identify with you and what your content stands for.
Organic growth is key, and you would do well to pay attention to this when you are building your online community on this side of the world.
Second Challenge – Are we Viral Yet?
OMG this part! As a content marketer who has worked on marketing Nollywood content in different forms online, one of the biggest challenges I have faced is definitely the headache of creating viral conversations. I have had days where I’d go “Urgh why does Pulse have more viral videos that we do?”, or “Why is Emmanuella so popular?” or “Why does Frank Donga have so many fans?”, and after a lot of soul searching, I have discovered one thing – snackable content is key!
“Snackable content” in my head is that 30sec or 60sec video or Image/Gif that packs a punch and draws people in and gets them talking and taking action. If you are quite discerning and in tune with social media trends, you would know by now that the most viral content is either shockingly funny, or shockingly tragic.
The internet loves a good laugh, and as such, comic content goes viral quite quickly, compared to say a short film or documentary that you have worked so hard to produce. It can therefore be quite nerve racking to come up with the most effective means of making your content viral.
Desperate to spark conversation with the content I was marketing, I’d sit down and watch entire episodes of whatever series or talk show I am working on, and then I’d watch out for the most interesting soundbites that would trigger conversations online. I made a habit of editing these videos myself to suit the narrative I wanted to push, and while this worked in some cases, and absolutely failed in others, it did in fact boost engagement in most campaigns I have worked on.
What I’d recommend for those who work on African content is to be as indigenous and relatable as possible. Except in cases where your target audience is Africans in the diaspora – or an international audience – you need to ensure that your video content for marketing appeals to the sensitivities of the audience you are targeting.
One thing I have been meaning to try is creating captions on my videos, just to see what the audience retention rate would look like. I personally think this has helped brands like Pulse and Emmanuella – asides from the comic value of their content. Your captions should be as clean and coherent as possible and you can also try translating them into other languages to increase engagement.
Mistakes and Easter eggs make for viral content, and while the former can be quite embarrassing – when not done right – it can be great publicity for your brand in the long run.
Embrace your mistakes before someone else does and watch magic happen (lol) , please don’t get me wrong, it can be quite horrifying when your content goes viral because you made a mistake, but if you are awesome at the content you create, you will sail through and come out unscathed. I have once recorded a 2% growth on a page I was managing because of a horrendous mistake that was fixed quickly. We literally had fans fighting themselves on the authenticity of the viral content, it was indeed a spectacle to watch unfold.
The key message here is to aim to go viral – be intentional with the part of your content you choose to put out – and remember that there will be many misses and maybe one hit, don’t be discouraged.
Third Challenge – Earth to Fan base, do you read me?
Have you ever posted a teaser video for your project and waited for days and absolutely nothing happened? Yea, me too! It’s the saddest thing ever and on some days I am not sure how I get by when my post has zero engagement.
Here’s how I see it, the secret to getting your fan base to interact with your content is simple, STOP TRYING TO SELL EVERYTHING! I see some video content marketers lump a lot of words in their captions with a gazillion social media handles of “stakeholders” thrown in, and often times, these posts have very little comments underneath. Yes, I get it, you want all concerned to see that you have begun promoting that content you shot with them ages ago, but it’s not the best practice to adopt.
The average user will scroll past content that has a bogus caption, so the idea is to keep things simple at all times. Ever seen an ad or post by Netflix? It’s the most succinct thing you’d ever read, and I’d recommend that style to every content marketer who works predominantly with video content.
I promoted a Nollywood feature film last year – It is by far the biggest project I have ever worked on – and I realized that the posts with the most traction were the “memes”. I’d like to say here that the writer of the movie, who also happened to be the producer and director, had made it so easy to play with content for the pre-launch campaigns and it was indeed seamless.
To warm up, the memes served as a precursor to the main movie launch, exciting and drawing fans in to the total experience that the movie eventually was. I use memes because I feel they are quite relatable – if you do them right – and will help you avoid using the same pattern of copy over and over again (i.e XYZ Movie is coming this August, don’t miss it!).
The more relatable your memes are, the more your fans will engage with your content, and the easier it will be to go viral with your content.
Getting your fan base to participate is quite different if you are promoting a web series or a talk show, and in fact, this is one of the hardest things to do. As you are well aware by now, audiences differ, and sometimes your engagement might be abysmal when you try to promote a certain kind of content.
Something I have tried, and that has worked for me, is creating dedicated groups; this can be done on Facebook and can be quite effective in growing your fan base and getting them to engage on a much more personal level. I did this with Skinny Girl In Transit – I have worked on this show since inception and I only created a group in its 4th season – and it has been mighty effective.
On the group, fans and users have the freedom to discuss plots and topics on the show and share their thoughts on what could happen in subsequent episodes of the series. The interactions usually spill over to other platforms and fans generally interact even without prompting – all organic.
Creating groups and communities to discuss plots and topics around your content is a very good way to increase fan engagement, and if you do it right, it could grow your audience and push your content beyond your imagination.
Fourth Challenge – What if they don’t like my content?
Face it, you will be given content to market that no one really wants to waste their data to watch, but you would have to do it anyway because yea, it’s your job! So how do you do it? How do you tease your audience enough with snippets from a potentially abysmal talk show or web series and get them to click on your links?
Yes, at this point, I have to admit that I have had my fair share of meh Nollywood content, like absolute mehhhhhh! Haha, time to stop being dramatic. Okay, here’s the thing, nothing can be totally bad right? I mean, the writer must have created at least one piece of dialogue that you can use as your HERO content right? Well your job is to find it, and use it!
Before I go far, I think I have to admit that I have been quite spoiled when it comes to marketing video content – I get to read scripts and watch clips before anything is released – so this gives me an edge over most of you who would read this post (I guess).
When I have watched enough of the content and I realize that it would not be well received by fans, I start to plot ways in which I can fantastically sell the idea of the greatness of my new project. Simply put, GET PEOPLE TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE IDEA OF YOUR PROJECT, and the best way to do that is to live and breathe your content, no matter how terrible it is.
Pick out the best parts of the content and release them in bits and pieces – on Facebook, promote 15sec clips and well shot stills from the movie or show or web series, whatever it is you are pushing – this gives your audience only snippets that would be enough to get them excited.
Now you have to be prepared for when your audience will catch on to the fact that you are indeed trying to sell them on content they will never fancy, so you need to plan towards this eventuality. What I recommend is sticking to promoting the good parts and ensuring that your captions stay as engaging as possible.
I’ll continue this series in another post that will focus on how I market content digitally with very little budget. Do you have specific challenges you have faced in marketing Nollywood content online? Feel free to ask me a question.