Why it takes more to be a social media influencer

Friday August 30 2019

In the millennials' world, being an influencer is now one of the coolest careers! PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Lights, camera, action, share and yiey! likes. That's what we imagine to be the life of a social media siren.

But behind the glitzy veneer is a lot of hard work and personal sacrifices. Until a few years ago, the word influencer was an alien term.

Then, we watched the Kardashians become overnight sensations and start to flash dollars from just likes, and we started to pay attention.

Like wildfire, the game changed from that of being socialites to influencers. In the millennials' world, being an influencer is now one of the coolest careers!

These trendsetters are causing ripples in the social media sphere - the racy photos, charming backgrounds, the clouts, the fear of missing out, vanity metrics and misjudgements.

But behind all the glitz and glamour, is being an influencer as easy as it seems? How do these sirens demarcate their social and private life? Three social media influencers reveal what it really takes.



Anita Nderu, 29, five years as an influencer, Instagram (IG): @Anita Nderu_ 365k followers and YouTube: @Anita Nderu

"The first time someone asked how much I would charge to post their stuff on my Instagram page, I was like, why would I charge you? It didn't make any sense to me.

I was behind time. Social media influencing had become a big deal and different companies were making budgets for influencers.

It is one of those things you wake up one morning and wonder, ‘when did this happen? ‘That was in 2015.

I had joined Instagram in 2013, it was a cool app and still is. Then, I would post random photos of myself baking on TV or on Radio, and anything I fancied.

I recall that when that call came through, I had about 20,000 followers but I didn't even know about the rates. I sought advice from those who had more followers.

You see, influencers have different target markets. Some have full-time jobs but only post photos of themselves whenever they travel.


Then some have a particular theme for their backgrounds and others who don't post photos without makeup. And then there is me — I post anything that I feel is worth sharing.

Towards the end of 2016, I decided to come up with a strategy. I had just made a cool Sh1 million through Instagram, created more content and social media influencing had proven to be a great source of alternative income.

I started by noting down the brands I had worked for; those that I enjoyed working with; those I worked for to make money, and the ones that were on my wish list.

On these streets, the higher the number of followers and engagements, the higher the rate card.

I resolved to focus on what I'm most passionate about and brands that I could vouch for even without pay.

If you visit my Instagram page, you will realise that I don't post as often and it is a typical Instagram page.

You want photos of me all glamorous, you will find them there. You wish you would see me without makeup, those photos are there as well.


I am an ordinary woman who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities. I don't have sleepless nights wondering why enough people did not like or comment on my particular post. By the way, all my 365k plus followers are organic.

Attracting clout to your profile is not as easy as it sounds. It's a lot of work. I send a lot of proposals - and some get rejected.

For those beautiful photos you see, sometimes there's a director of photography involved, a lot of crafting and many minutes spent on makeup application.


Anita Nderu. She has been an influencer for five years. PHOTO | COURTESY

I like my face makeup-free on particular days (she's without makeup when we meet).

The other day, there is this man who made a delivery to my house. I could tell he was trying to solve some sort of a puzzle going by the many glances he kept stealing at me.

Then, after leaving, he texted, ʻYou know you actually look alright without makeup?' 'I love to think so,' I responded. He had never seen me bare.

Social media influencing is fun but it has its challenges. Late payments and limitations on where to take photos are constant."


Wabosha Maxine, 23, influencer for 1.5 years, IG: @wabosha Maxine - 165k followers

"I love makeup and creating vlogs. But it took me time before I could identify myself as an influencer.

You see, by the time everyone was talking about it, I was already out here developing and posting content on my YouTube channel.

Then, influencing was largely associated with celebrities and nudes.

But now you don't need to post naked photos to attract followers. You could thrive on sharing tips, DIYs and so much more.

The job comes with the pressure to look glamorous all the time. You have these thoughts like, ‘what if I meet a fan and they want to take selfies with me?ʼ


Maxine Wabosha, a social media influencer. PHOTO | COURTESY

I am a full-time mechanical engineering student, so if I don't have shoots, you are likely to meet me without makeup and dressed down, maybe in a pair of jeans and a Tee.


The first thing you bid goodbye is your privacy. People dig and want to know more about you.

So I keep my family and close friends off my social media platforms. I had to set boundaries and remind myself that I do not owe anyone anything.

Do the number of likes and comments I garner give me sleepless nights? I like this question because you should see the number of messages I get from young people, some below 15 asking me to give them shout outs. Why? To earn them more followers and likes on Instagram."


Janet Machuka, 25, influencer for three years, IG: @janetmachuka - 23.2k followers, Twitter: @Janetmachuka, 83.3k followers

"It was 2016 and I was a student at Moi University when someone asked me to post something for them.

I was paid in the form of airtime. Back then, I did not have an idea what social media influencing was and I only saw myself as a writer.

I got into a WhatsApp group with some Twitter influencers and that's when I learnt.

I later enrolled in an online digital marketing class to learn more. Since l am a media personnel, it became easy to manoeuvre through social media. I created a brand that is now identified to have influence.

What I like about social media influencing is that you don't have to get a huge following, but you need to impact people in a way they feel motivated, inspired and challenged.


My typical day starts at 6am and ends around 10pm. In between those hours I have meetings, I plan my projects and proposals and meet the team I work with to strategise.

Marketing in this digital era is huge. You can make a living solely out of it. I charge anything from Sh65,000 upwards.

I have learnt to stay within my limits and niche. I am all about protecting my reputation. There are instances I have had to delete content that does not align with my brand.

I treat the online space as my office and keep my personal life private. Being able to draw a thick line between the two has helped to keep me level headed."