Tony Wanaswa is the Digital Marketing Manager, Nation Media Group
Is being a digital marketer what you aspired to be or have your career aspirations evolved over time?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a chef. Funny, I know. I admired how chefs can take the simplest of ingredients and turn them into a masterpiece. Cooking, to me, is an art and a science, and in many ways, so is Digital Marketing.
What would you say is the hardest part of your job – how do you work around this?
Being able to find the right audience at the right time and place. This is a challenge for any marketer. Consumer behaviour in the digital world is constantly changing, compounded by the fact that there are multiple platforms where these audiences exist, platforms which are very diverse in nature and highly dynamic.
For instance, Facebook constantly changes their newsfeed algorithm, these changes mean the marketer has to figure out new ways to reach his target audience. In my line of work, you need to be able to predict trends way before they become mainstream.
Is there a difference between digital marketing and digital influencing?
Digital influencing is part of digital marketing. Influencer marketing mainly leverages social media as a channel for distribution of content.
Digital marketing, however, is the bigger picture, it has a number of channels, tools and strategies under it. Worth noting is that it extends beyond the Internet.
The digital space evolves very quickly, what do you do to stay on course?
It does. Every day there are different ways to target consumers, there are new algorithms that come up that affect how you would target your potential customers, at the same time user behaviour is constantly changing. To stay on course, I read a lot about digital marketing and have subscribed to a number of amazing newsletters like those by MOZ, Digiday and Hubspot.
I also follow a number of thought leaders in the industry to stay informed with the changing digital world. I also attend many local and international marketing conferences where I get to learn about new trends and at the same time network with other digital marketers.
What courses would you recommend for a young person hoping to become successful at digital marketing?
It depends on which aspect of digital marketing you are interested in, for instance social media marketing, search engine marketing or email marketing. I can recommend a course for each. In general, however, taking a Google AdWords certification course is a great start.
Hubspot, an inbound marketing platform, provides some great beginner courses. Locally, I know there are some colleges that offer some diplomas and certificates in Digital Marketing, like ADMI (Africa Digital Media Institute) and CIM, (Chartered Institute of Marketing).
What does it take to be the digital marketing manager of an organisation as big as Nation Media Group? What steps can a young person intending to start building their profile while still in school take?
I’d advise anyone to first get the fundamentals of marketing locked down. Digital Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, therefore, it is also important to have a keen interest in many other forms of technology.
Be passionate about growing trends, both in digital marketing and digital news provision. It also goes without saying that you need to have excellent communication and presentation skills.
What learning/training opportunities exist for young people who would like to improve their skills in this area? Any training programs that you would recommend apart from a university education?
The Internet can be the greatest tool one needs when it comes to driving your own self-learning. A simple search can open a whole new world for you, you just need to be keen and know what exactly it is you’re looking for. There are tons of webinars that one can attend, and you can subscribe to newsletters and watch videos that would be able to teach you the various aspects of digital marketing.
Do you have young people that you actively engage with and train on digital marketing as a mentor? How can youth interested in connecting with you get in touch?
I am not as active as I would like, though I have trained a few people who are now heading performance marketing divisions and running digital marketing campaigns within their respective companies. I intend to be more deliberate in my mentoring this year.
Tell us about your first job, how did it prepare you to become the digital marketing manager that you are today?
I was a product ambassador (Sales executive) for an online business directory by Naspers Group called Mocality, back in 2009. My task was mainly to meet business owners across the country and convince them to sign up with the online directory, which was starting up.
This was very challenging, especially at a time when online businesses were not as popular as they are today. The experience in sales, analytics and marketing that I got from this role gave me a great foundation for my digital marketing career.
Which organisations would you recommend for internship in the area of digital marketing?
I will go with Google Kenya - it provides various digital internship opportunities every year.
What is your fondest memory of university?
It has to be all the AIESEC events we used to attend and sometimes facilitate. Especially those outside Nairobi.
Who do you look up to in your career?
There are many people who I admire in the digital marketing world. I will mention a few here: Samantha Barry, Head of social media, CNN, Rand Fishkin, CEO Moz, and Jessica Stiles, CMO Ringier Africa.
Locally, there are a couple of individuals who are making great strides in demystifying digital marketing and are looking towards providing a platform where young people can learn about digital marketing. These include Mark Kaigwa, Nendo CEO, Odanga Madung, OdipoDev, and Sam Gichuru, Nailab Founder.