The rise of digital marketing has introduced a relatively new set of careers for people out there and one of the careers is being a social media executive. We have interviewed others players in the industry like Ahmed Salim about Digital Marketing and Naomi Mutua, also a social media manger This time round, we had the opportunity to have a talk with Brian Mbunde, a social media manager, where we talked about how he was able to find himself in the industry, the highs and lows of the job and lessons he has learnt on the way.
So who is Brian Mbunde?
A: I am a social media executive at Scanad. I run major brands in Kenya, I do social media for them, posting content, moderating for them and creating strategies for them.
So, how did you end up in this industry?
I started journalism as a profession. Initially I didn’t want to do journalism, I wanted to do Law. I love arguing most of the time [laughs]. So, umm…I tried journalism and loved it when I started it. Later on, I realized that I had potential on social media and realized that it was a resource that was untapped in Kenya
[Which year is this?] That was in 2011 that was when we had a campaign that had kicked off in Kenya called Kenyans for Kenya and it was strictly digital. I decided to try it out and actually I applied for my first job through Twitter and boom! Landed in Gina Din.
I started off as an internship then they later absorbed me then after some time, I decided to move from Public Relations to Advertising and here I am at Scanad.
Your best moments?
My best moments especially right now were when we started doing Smirnoff Guarana and everyone loved it. Right now, people still consume it and it was a huge success, especially for the brewery.
Other campaigns that have worked on that are huge out there, we had the Love Whiskey festival for teaching people to enjoy whiskey. I worked partially for some big brands out there and I won’t reveal their names, due to issues internally, things happened so yeah
Downsides of being a social media manager?
Personally, I’d say friends, sometimes you lose some friends because they say “Oh! You don’t have time for us; this guy is very obsessed with his job.” Trust me, making time for my friends is usually tricky plus definitely you have to go into relationships where everyone complains: “Oh! You are always on your phone, you are always tweeting.” You have to keep up all the time and check out on your brands how they are doing and that is my job daily.
Challenges? Umm…definitely pitching to clients that you need 3 million for this campaign and they are like “Nooo! Reduce it to 300,000,” so yeah, it kills big ideas just like that. They usually don’t see the value in you quoting like that.
Clients are usually not very open when it comes to digital. Right now in 2016, where even for most brands I’m working on, we are looking into more of engagement and knowing how the consumer feels about our product as compared to likes. You know, it takes you a second to “Like” but engagement takes you a minute or 30 seconds to type out and say “Screw this brand” or “I love this brand” or “Where can I get it?”.
The challenge is getting consumers to give you their actual feedback rather than liking. We are trying to move from the page just growing to getting impressions, engagement, and feedback on how brands actually are and how consumers relate to our brand.
Are there any opportunities with this line of work?
Many. Right now, I am so sure NGO’s will jump into this. Next year will be a very interesting year coz of the elections, so I am sure many politicians will decide to jump in.
But now I’m learning to increase my scope of work, at least I get to know the industry itself. Trust me, I don’t want to gauge myself with the level Kenyans are limiting themselves to. Most of the brands we are competing with are even international brands. Day by day, I usually learn and Google stuff and try to do my research well on what guys are doing and try to get a hit on what you can do in the local market.
What can you say about the industry in the region?
If I was to compare social media locally (of course Kenya is big although our internet is expensive versus other markets), it is also an opportunity for us to teach Tanzanians on how to improve their social media and everything. Uganda has its limits. The communication industry, they usually have this bias where they can be banned, sites can be blocked and for them, digital is not so strong versus other countries.
Lessons that you can give people who are new in this industry
One lesson is don’t limit yourself, there is so much out there. The second one is when a new platform is launched, be curious. Don’t be that guy who says: “Twitter has few characters, I can’t express myself,” and later on, everyone is on the bandwagon so you end up trying to keep up. On Snapchat, you complain like “Oh! Why is this platform all about taking selfies and talking about myself rather than just taking pictures.” Most of these platforms need you to be curious; due to curiosity that is how you learn.
My last point is learn how to make friends online. Through social media, I have made very many good friends. Due to interactions, I have made very good relationships. My first and second job is due to interaction with people
Any interesting projects for this year or next year?
Personal projects definitely I’m trying to delve into projects that assist the society. Yes I am a church person, so definitely I’ll venture into that. I love hiking and doing all these road-trips and everything. Of course try to create a club for guys to experience all this and you end up meeting people you never expected to meet and boom, you’ve created your social media community
What events will you attend this year?
We advise members of the team to attend sessions at Bake at iHub where guys are taught on how to improve how they run brands and stuff like that.
As a final parting shot, can you speak on behalf of Brians out there
[Laughs] Umm…Brians are good guys. The problem with Brians is that we are very friendly so guys out there are not so sure about this is the perfect Brian or the player Brain or the crazy Brian.
So don’t judge the Brian by the cover.