A discussion about presentation, marketing, and branding with Kukogho Iruesiri, Tolu Akinyemi, and Kanyinsola Olorunnisola
- Collated and Written by Oyindamola Shoola
Recently, I was struggling with making certain decisions in marketing myself, my poems, and books. I expressed my concern to my “board of trustees” which include some of my closest friends, both non-writers, and writers.
Particularly the conversation I had with three people: Kukogho Samson Iruesiri, Tolu Akinyemi, and Kanyinsola Olorunnisola helped me to make the best decision. I had to decide between keeping a new social media account with more followers in addition to the two that I already had which had fewer followers.
Upon republishing To Bee a Honey, with Jeanius Publishing, my knowledge about book publishing increased. With Pierre Jeanty’s suggestions, I learned why a writer’s social media posting and presentation matters and how to engage my audience. With every new knowledge that I gained, my social media accounts slowly became more of a responsibility than a platform where I post things for fun. The fact that I had 3 Instagram accounts did not make the situation better. I started slacking in posting and often when I posted something, I would delete it in a few days out of disgust at my inconsistency.
I had three accounts – One for postings about my blog, book reading progress, and pictures of me, one named To Bee a Honey, for feedback about my book and photos of To Bee a Honey and another account for my poems only.
What was more frustrating was the lack of engagement through feedback on my posts. As someone who has grown so much from receiving feedback through mentorship and writes book reviews, I was craving comments. I was not satisfied by likes on a poem or a picture.
The first time I had a conversation about having multiple accounts, it was with Kukogho, who had raised a friendly concern that having multiple accounts, and especially a new may affect the community I already built online and then my works. I understood him well, and I was open to his suggestions. However, I wanted to hear multiple perspectives.
I spoke to Tolu Akinyemi who further analyzed social media content building and the difference between a community and an audience. I learned a lot from our conversation and here is an excerpt of the notes that I took during my conversation with Tolu Akinyemi.
1. The difference between a community and an audience. An audience will be people you have gotten the chance to share your message with, but they might not neccesarily care about you or your message. An audience is fairly easy to come by. All you need are ears (not necessarily listening) to push your message into. Audiences are usually passive, and audience messages are often received as a (forgettable) nuisance. With communities, they engage actively because they care about you and your message. They do this because you’ve taken time and effort to cultivate a relationship and they genuinely believe you add value to them and they see themselves as a part of your journey or brand. While an audience member might require a strong incentive to listen to you, a community member, will not only listen, they’ll buy your product without an incentive, and even tell others about it. This was an AHA! moment for me. Beyond the general aim of having a social media account, I realized that each post had its anticipated result and goal. I also came to terms with the knowledge that I gained. I realized that my social media audience pay attention to pictures of me while my community pay attention to my poems and engage in the comment section. 2. Knowing my target demographics: To explain this, Tolu simply said that selling a product to the wrong demographic is like selling coffins or insurance at weddings. As a writer, I should know who will be most attracted to the content that I am marketing or posting. 3. Managing one’s social media content: Tolu said that he learned the following about content on social media: A. He can’t afford to write long poems B. Being consistent When he said this, I went back to see the social media accounts of top writers like Rupi Kaur, Pyrokardia, Sarah Aluko, and Alexandra Elle. I found common attributes among these writers.
They have a pattern of posting poems online
They have great content
They have selected colors that they are consistent with
Their writings are accompanied by photographs or drawings
They post only short quotes and excerpts of their works
Their pictures are simple and not congested
With the following attributes, they have been able to brand themselves and their works. Coincidentally, I was surfing through Upile Chisala’s Instagram story, not long after the conversation with Tolu Akinyemi. She was having a Q/A session, and a follower asked her a question about branding her page. She said that there was a time where she had to delete all her posts and start afresh on her Instagram account. This answer eliminated the next dilemma that I was facing; to start anew. Note that, I am only sharing these authors approach to branding themselves and managing their social media content. As a writer, do not feel obligated to follow their paths. You may not need to start anew because other perspectives may be equally successful to what these writers have done. 4. Having a face on the product: Have you wondered why these writers have accompanied their writing with photography of themselves? Yeah, I wondered too. In my conversation with Tolu Akinyemi, he said a statement that caught my attention; People identify to things better when there is a face on it. This is why we have brand ambassadors. If you look at the lives of top Big Brother Naija housemates who have succeeded after the show, they embody personalities and attracting features that sell products which they are affiliated with. If a company wants to sell wigs and they contact, Laura Ikeji who is known for her diverse hairstyles, the company will be able to sell the product better because they have put Laura Ikeji’s face to it. 5. Being consistent: Imagine having a favorite TV show and not knowing when next it will come up. It will be frustrating not to know what time or day to watch the show. The same applies to social media, brand and content building. If your online community doesn’t know when next to expect another post, they are almost discouraged in waiting for you to show up unexpectedly again. Look at Lasisi Elenu for example. I have developed a habit of visiting his Instagram account every Sunday because I know that he will post something interesting about Boda Segun. 6. Conflict of result vs. reputation: In a day and age whereby social media had become so intoxicating, and there is a craze for likes and followers, people struggle with building their reputation versus having a certain result. As a writer, it is recommended that you should maintain your reputation as much as you can when it comes to social media. After discussing with Tolu Akinyemi, out of my excess excitement about this new knowledge, I had a lengthy discussion with my partner in crime; Kanyinsola Olorunnisola. I shared what I learned with Kanyin and asked for his perspective. I also shared another dilemma I had in republishing my second book. I was trying to decide whether to brand my book To Bee a Honey since it is unique or brand my name; Oyindamola Shoola. Complimenting what Tolu Akinyemi said, Kanyin pointed out that well-established artists have chosen the latter option. He gave two eye-opening examples. 1. Beyoncé: Kanyin said that Beyoncé had developed tactics to test her audience’s response with a sample of her product before releasing the whole product. For example, during the half-time show of 2016’s super bowl, Beyoncé presented Formation, which was a song in the Lemonade Album. Soon after this presentation, there was a media uproar and several anti-Beyoncé protests to the level of her blackness. 2 months later, when the uproar died down, Beyoncé released the Lemonade album. Everyone that was angry about Beyoncé’s pro-black performance at the super bowl had become calm enough to accept the Lemonade Album with more open hands. Additionally, Kanyin shared that unlike many other artists, Beyoncé’s brand is so excellent that she does not need to make announcements or advertisements before dropping her album. She has a strong connection with her community, and they are always expectant of whatever is coming next from her. She is consistent with her unpredictability, and around the 4th month or day of every month in every year, people are still anticipating something from Beyoncé even if nothing may come. 2. Chimamanda: From our discussion, I concluded that Chimamanda has successfully branded herself to the point whereby, people are more focused on knowing Chimamanda, having her opinion, and having read “Chimamanda’s book(s).” So, it doesn’t matter if Chimamanda publishes a bad book next, I will buy it because it’s from Chimamanda. When you fall in love with the writer, you fall in love with all that comes from them. Similar to Apple products, many people want to brag about owning an Apple product regardless of what type it is. So even if apple remakes the same product with a different name, some people will buy it just because it is an apple product. This revelation allowed me to realize that if I brand myself and have a public presentation that my audience finds attracting or connected to, it will be easy to sell my works. When I shared this with Tolu Akinyemi who agreed with Kanyin’s perspective as well, Tolu narrated an incident to me. A friend of Tolu (let’s call this person friend A) had sent someone (let’s call this person friend B) to check Tolu’s Instagram page saying that She (friend B) will love his poems. After perusing Tolu Akinyemi’s page, Friend B came back to tell friend A, that Tolu Akinyemi is quite handsome. It is easy to love a page or work when you fall in love with the face and personality behind it. Tolu continued saying that in the kind of world we live today, it doesn't matter if you have a good product. What matters is the identity behind the product. If there is no identity, the product has to represent itself. Few weeks after this conversation, I decided to maintain only two Instagram pages using the tips that I learned. I also decided to wipe off my Instagram accounts, to start with a new approach and focus. I have seen improvement in my social media engagement, for example within 2 months, my Instagram followers increased by 200+ without running advertisements. I feel more confident in self-publishing my next book and marketing it well.
Tolu Akinyemi aka Poetoluwas born in Akure, the capital city of Ondo State, Nigeria. His writings have appeared in some notable anthologies such as 'Verses From The Sun,' an Association of Nigerian Authors anthology, 'A Way With Words' (2014 & 2016), a Great British Write Off Anthology and other printed and online outlets. His poetry play 'The Big Society'; written for The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, London was performed at The Greenwich-Lewisham Young People's Theatre, London. In 2017, he was named on the 'Nigerian Writers' Awards' list of '100 Most Influential Nigerian Writers under 40' and also won the 'Poetry Writer of the Year' Award. In March 2017 he obtained an 'Exceptional Talent Endorsement' as a writer, from the Arts Council England. Tolu currently lives in London, England. He has published 3 books titled; ‘Your Father Walks Like a Crab,’ ‘I Laugh at These Skinny Girls,’ and ‘Funny Men Cannot Be Trusted.’
Kukogho Iruesiri Samson is theFounder/CEO of Words Rhymes & Rhythm Publishers Ltd – an educational and publishing firm. A multimedia journalist and youth mentor known for his work with young Nigerian writers and the promotion of Nigerian writing, KIS (as he is popularly called) has authored four books: What Can Words Do (2013), I Said These Words (2015), Words Of Eros (2017) and We Who Sowed Hurt and Beaded Pains (2017). He is the 2018 winner of the just concluded Dusty Manuscript Prize contest worth a million naira, an initiative of Guaranty Trust Bank PLC supported by Farafina Books and Okadabooks.
Oyindamola Shoola is a poet, short-story writer, a book reviewer, a feminist, and a blogger. She is also the Co-founder of Sprinng Literary Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to curating, revitalizing, and transforming Nigerian literature. In 2017, she was awarded by Nigerian Writers Award as one of the top 100 influential Nigerian Writers under the age of 40. She published her first collection of poems titled Heartbeat in 2015. Her second book titled To Bee a Honey was republished by Jeanius Publishing in March 2018. Her third book titled The Silence We Eatwill be released on October 1, 2018. Oyindamola Shoola is currently a student at New York University in her junior year, pursuing a major in Organizational Behavior and Change. Blog: www.shoolaoyin.com