App aims to get SMEs into influencer marketing
Harriet James @harriet@86jim
When his Kenyan-based ventures failed to become sustainable in 2013 and 2015, Peter Kironji, sat down and looked at the factors hindered this growth.
One venture was an entertainment business: a video gaming site with emerging gaming technologies such as virtual reality and the other was a platform that connected Kenyan writers to clients in the North American market.
Kironji discovered his businesses were not affordable and lacked market access despite the vast internet penetration and adoption of social media platforms and mobile banking in Kenya.
His experience with the two failed businesses gave him the idea to help small and middle-sized enterprises (SMEs) have an online presence.
In 2019, he created an app called Twiva to offer SMEs, affordable digital access to the market.
“I started this as a digital platform since I was still based in Toronto and I needed to be able to give back without having to go back home.
I had just transitioned from the University of Toronto,” recalls Kironji.
Twiva is a start-up that harnesses vast penetration of smartphones, internet connectivity, mobile banking, and social media to give SMEs affordable, efficient and digital market access.
This involves leveraging social media influencers to market and sell their goods and services.
“The platform was started as an influencer marketing platform to link SMEs to influencers, so that they could work with them to market their brands.
We have recently pivoted the business to an influencer-driven social commerce platform that allows influencers to not only help with marketing, but also sales for SMEs products and services,” he explains.
Kironji believes for SMEs to grow, they must understand the power of digital platforms, the relevance of influencers and know how to position brands, products and services on these platforms and have higher sales conversions.
According to Digital Marketing Institute research, 60 per cent of teens buy something after an influencer marketed it, 49 per cent of consumers use products influencers recommend.
“The key players are social media platforms and marketplaces such as the Twiva app that connect SMEs to these platforms and activate value.
There are also digital content creators like photographers and graphic designers who help SMEs create great content,” he says.
The app has digital tools influencers use to automate majority of their work on the platform such as scheduling and publishing of content and tagging products to content they publish.
It also has social listening tools that track content they push and measure the performance.
“We use this to make sure they deliver on the agreed mandate. Businesses can either engage us to choose for them or they can go to the platform and select the influencers they want to work with.
The platform would also recommend influencers that would fit their marketing objective,” explains Kironji.
The platform has two sections. One is the influencer marketing capabilities, through which business hires and collaborates with influencers to promote brands, products and services by either inviting them to gigs or allowing them to bid for the gigs. The other is social commerce.
“Once SMEs list their products and services on the platform, influencers will have access to the catalogue and select the ones they can sell and add these to their Twiva shops.
Twiva automates the listing of selected products across all social media accounts belonging to the influencer,” Kironji says.
He adds that they opt for a thousand influencers, each with three social accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube because of their impact), who then select a product and add it to their Twiva shop.
The product would then be listed on 3,000 online shops Twiva has partnered with within seconds without investing in an e-commerce platform or any marketing initiatives.
“Customers discover this product online and complete the checkout process either natively on social media platforms or on the Twiva platform,” he explains.
Among challenges Kironji has faced is pricing.
“Majority of influencers have inflated rates that are out of touch with the value they create versus what they should capture.
We are working to have the platform quantify and fix rates and have them within reason,” he says.
They have also had to find ways to measure performance to enhance return on investments for their clients, beyond vanity metrics such as likes and comments that do not create value for SMEs.
Kironji dispels some myths about influencers.
“People should understand that micro-influencers are more specialised, trusted and affordable.
They have higher engagement rates than the celebrities. The other myth is that it can only work in developed markets.
Influencer marketing works for developing markets and creates more value for SMEs in a more affordable manner,” he notes.
He foresees influencer marketing rising across the globe and continue to have higher adoption rate.
“More businesses are digitising their operations, particularly their marketing initiatives as they realise customers are online and are spending more time on social platforms and it makes sense to not only market where they are but to go through the people who are trusted in these circles,” he adds.
The app has won various awards including the Mastercard Foundation Pre-seed funding in 2019, the highest price on MbeleNaBiz business competition in 2021 by the World Bank and the government and were accepted, as one of the 20 high-growth startups in the Whitebox Accelerator Programme by Strathmore University, UK government and the government and won the Kenya Catalytic Job Fund business competition.