Africa has more than 500 million internet users, making the continent a ripe market for digital products like blogs, vlogs, podcasts and newsletters that can be turned into money-making media outlets — something that Bella Naija founder and CEO Uche Pedro has mastered. She started Bella Naija in 2006 and has turned celebrity and lifestyle news into an influential media brand that has an audience of five million. Today, the brand has three platforms: www.bellanaija.com, www.bellanaijastyle.com and www.bellanaijaweddings.com.
Pedro joined the Africa No Filter Academy with her team to discuss how content creators like bloggers, vloggers and influencers can turn their passion for storytelling into money-making platforms and bonafide digital media outlets that build engaged communities and partner with brands to amplify their vision. The conversation was moderated by ANF’s Grants Manager, Victor-Mark Onyegbu. Here is what you can do to make money online.
1. Put your wellness first: As you set out on the journey to grow your business, brand, revenue and net worth, it is important to do the inner work - your confidence, your wellness, your state of mind, your mindset. “We live in a capitalist world where bigger is better". Do more but in the midst of it all, understand that you are firstly a person with feelings and emotions. You need a wellness check as you set out on your journey.
2. Tap into opportunities that already exist: Pedro said that while the story the world tells about Africa is dominated by gloom, this also presents an opportunity for creators to use content that closes the gap through alternative stories about the continent. “Africa has more than 500 million Internet users and we have platforms that provide tools to grow a media empire. This is the mindset that you need to have, one that recognises that you have plenty of opportunities to tap into.”
3. Go for the low hanging fruit: She suggested going for “the lowest hanging fruit” like Twitter Super Follows, which allows creators to share subscriber-only content with their followers on Twitter. There is also Substack, an email newsletter platform that offers paid subscriptions. Pedro said while the platform is not as big as social media platforms, it has the potential to be lucrative if used effectively. She added that creators should also keep their eye and business strategy on programs that social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok are offering through their creators' programs. These support creators who have already built communities, making it all the more important for creators to simply get started on delivering their vision. “It’s all about building for the future. What are you doing on these key platforms, so you are ready to leap when opportunities come your way? You want to be prime and ready for opportunities.”
4. Expand on opportunities: When it comes to digital platforms, content is king. Audiences follow content that resonates with them. However, this doesn’t mean you have to come up with new products to keep your audience engaged; you can scale products. For example, if you have a newsletter, you can turn it into a podcast. If you are a vlogger or video content creator on TikTok, you can share the same content on YouTube shorts, a platform for content that’s 60 seconds long. YouTube Shorts has accumulated over 5 trillion views. Pedro said another opportunity that creators might miss is working with their greatest strengths. For example, a writer might fare better as a blogger or with a newsletter while a photographer is best served by Instagram and a graphic designer by Canva. “If you are doing well on one platform another way of increasing potential is repurposing it for other platforms.”
5. Review and amplify your brand: What can you do to make your brand stronger? This is the golden question every creator needs to ask themselves. This is where closing the gaps you post in the market comes on. Aim for quick wins like collaborating with mission-aligned brands, including local ones. She said you can get started by identifying brands that you always favour and finding out what their plans and priority areas are. You can also approach them with your plans to see if there is an alignment that can be harnessed into opportunities. Another way of amplifying your brand is working as a consultant “You’ll get paid for your expertise as brands are looking for people with real, organic expertise.” You can also add products like your brand merchandise. Other products that amplify brands are e-books, paid courses, speaking engagements and endorsements. “Your creativity can take you a long way,” Pedro said, “You don't need a community of millions to start sharing, if you have specialised knowledge and anything that has value, you can turn it into a paid opportunity.”
6. NTFS, Web 3.0 and the Metaverse: Enter the next frontier now by taking a deep dive into new technologies like NFTs and the Metaverse. These are still taking hold in Africa — presenting a valuable opportunity for creators to be among the first to master these new frontiers. “In so many technologies, Africa has been able to leapfrog from A to Z fast. This is an opportunity to explore, dig deep to find out what they are about and how you can play in these spaces,” she said, adding, “They’re in development and imperfect so don’t rush into these platforms without a clear understanding of what it’s about. Remember, there’s always an advantage to being an early adapter or mover in space. You can become a domain expert in some of these very critical areas.”
7. Partner, innovate, experiment and standardise for scale: Pedro calls this engagement strategy PIES. They work together to add value to your content and can catapult platforms into sustainable and profitable businesses. “P” is for partnerships. Do this with other creatives, peers and brands, especially local ones. She added another effective partnership is one between a creative and a businessperson. This way, each partner can use their core strengths for business development and growth. “I” is for innovation. “You need to innovate. We need more global platforms coming out of Africa. We will need our platforms straight from here thankfully there is a lot of interest in our continent, and there is also funding coming into the continent. Don't be stuck in a corner because you can come up with a media idea that turns out to be the next media sensation. “E” is for the experiment. “You just have to try it. Some people may have analysis paralysis. You have to experiment even as your business is growing.” She suggested trying out ideas and pursuing them without fear of failure. Rather use every challenge and mistake as a learning opportunity for growth. “S” is for standardising for scale. “One of the biggest things that helped Bella Naija with monetisation was having standard products we can sell, and we can sell them every single day so we are not stuck creating new products every single day because this can limit your potential for scale.”
8. Use these guidelines as your guiding light: Authenticity and alignment build communities and grow digital media brands. Alignment and authority are important. It’s not about doing anything and everything, it is not sustainable. Do what’s in alignment with your plans, company, personality and strategic plans. “Of course, authenticity is important but beware that it is not a trap that you use as a self-limiting belief.” She added that you also need to focus on quality. You can’t go wrong with quality. Maintain and elevate your quality always. We oftentimes want to rush into opportunities but when it comes, do you deliver? You have to ensure your quality is on point and you are reliable and deliver. Consistency is the secret sauce. It takes years of trying, experimenting and pushing before you get that big break. The final guiding tool is your mindset and being able to rise above anxiety and fear. “These are natural emotions but don’t let them limit you. You have to push forward, bearing in mind that you can have slow and steady growth before you get a big break that takes you to the next level.
Watch Africa No Filter Academy Presents: How to Monetize your Digital Platforms: