It’s 2019 and everyone with a decent smartphone and internet access could become a social media influencer and make cool money.
However, it’s not that easy. With hundreds of existing and wannabe influencers all fighting to reach the same set of eyeballs, the industry has become more competitive than ever.
To gain some leverage, many resort to buying fake followers and engagements. While such gimmicks seem to work in the short term, attracting unsuspecting advertisers, they often fail to produce expected results -- to ‘influence’.
Few influencers, however, take the painstaking path to growth by patiently and consistently providing value to their followers. One of such is Lily, the woman behind Hustlersquare, an Instagram page with over 200,000 followers targeted at helping small business owners succeed on social media.
On a noble mission...
“Hustlersquare is a hub for SMEs,” Lily told Techpoint Africa. “It is a place where they come to learn about business strategies and implementation.”
Although Lily started Hustlersquare in 2018 primarily to empower women with the necessary skills to make money and be independent, she says the brand has grown and now “rubs off on the men too.”
“I do not like to see any woman begging, broke, idle or dependent on others. It irks me,” she said. “I started Hustlersquare to make women know that they can do more and be more than just housewives in the kitchen.”
The journey to real influence ...
In less than two years since Lily launched Hustlersquare, it has become so influential that an average post could get over a thousand likes and comments in less than 24 hours.
This level of engagement is so rare among Instagram-native (non-celebrity) influencers that it earned her the now-famous title ‘Jagaban of Instagram’ -- ‘Jagaban’ being a popular title in Nigeria’s political sphere which means ‘leader of warriors.’
Lily attributes the rapid growth of Hustlersquare to being able to provide solutions for her followers. These solutions mostly come in the form of daily posts providing marketing tips and advertising her followers’ products or services.
Hustlersquare is also popular for posts facilitating ‘transmissions’ -- a form of peer-to-peer marketing which encourages followers to engage by following each other.
Despite being the sole hand behind Hustlersquare, save for a virtual assistant in charge of advertisements, Lily says the page has also grown rapidly because she posts consistently.
“I show up daily and I am committed to dishing out great content. That's another secret to growth in the online space”. However, she admits that “it can be very stressful at times.”
Unlike most Instagram influencers, Lily takes a rather unusual approach to running Hustlersquare. While a typical Instagram influencer’s page is usually heavily curated with high definition photos and professionally designed graphics, Hustlersquare features mostly unsophisticated text designs, screenshots and amateurish photos.
While it might seem counterintuitive, this, in addition to Lily’s upbeat and relatable tone which is reminiscent of an open-air market trader, has endeared Hustlersquare to its followers.
To grow their followers, Instagram influencers typically follow a routine of running paid ads, publishing at certain times of the day and so on. On the contrary, Lily maintains that she does none of those.
“I do not believe in the norm. I just do my natural thing and the growth comes. I don't even look at my insights and all to determine anything.”
Laughing all the way to the bank
Although Lily is primarily driven by her mission to provide value for her followers, she has nonetheless begun to generate enough revenue from Hustlersquare to make it her main hustle.
“Hustlersquare takes most of my time no doubt but I have other side hustles,” she said. “We do regular adverts for business people and I am the brand ambassador to several brands like @Njetours @Oseduduspecialskincare @Hair_boss_chic.”
Lily declined to disclose how much she makes from Hustlersquare, however, her rate card, which we obtained through sources, reveals that she could earn up to ₦200,000 ($550) per sponsored post.
So far, Lily is confident she has been successful in her mission to empower women to be financially independent. She says she has several success stories of women whose businesses have grown remarkably after joining the Hustlersquare community. But she’s not relenting.
“Jagaban simply means a boss of other bosses. So I am a leader of other leaders, not servants,” she remarks. “I am raising a generation of women that will be bosses in their various fields.”