• Tuesday, 21 May 2024
Twitter Bigwig Shanki Austine On His Journey And What It Takes To Become A Social Media Influencer

Twitter Bigwig Shanki Austine On His Journey And What It Takes To Become A Social Media Influencer

The rapid rise in social media over the past decade means one can reach millions of people world over at just the click of a button.

This has led to the rise in a special breed of people known as ‘influencers’, who have managed to amass huge followings and are therefore considered as opinion shapers in their own rights.

They – these influencers – speak and people, on social media, listen and hang to their every word; be it on Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, or Facebook. They breathe and we catch a cold. They’re like mini-celebrities.

A large number of them, most in their 20’s, have now turned this into a job and are minting loads of cash through brand endorsements and paid hashtags. Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while, they fight the good fight too; they’re not soulless money-hungry devils.

24-year-old Austine Adhu, popularly known on the Twitter streets as Shanki Austine, is one such person.

Shanki, who graduated with a Bachelors degree in Drama and Theater Studies with IT from the Maseno University, is one of the most influential Kenyans on Twitter (KoT) and he is just getting started on building his digital empire.

The influencer, who also doubles up as a spoken word artist, recounts attempting to grasp the limited opportunities in the country for graduates before it dawned on him that campus does not actually prepare students appropriately for the job market out in the real world.

 “When I was in second year, I realized the lack of jobs in our country and how campus wasn't preparing us fully for employment. I ventured into different stuff including volunteering in NGOs in Nakuru County. At the same time, I was also doing a campus tour dubbed ‘Let's Vibe’ and working in a radio station,” he says.

“I had a Twitter account since 2014 but I wasn't actively using it. When I started volunteering in NGOs, we were constantly being involved in tweet chats. This is how I started being active on the app.”

Upon realising the potential of Twitter, he decided to promote his music through the platform. The reception was good, he says, adding that he however noticed a massive opportunity in the then new world of influencing after he witnessed his peers getting gigs.

"One day I decided to post a particular meme on all my social media platforms. To my surprise, the one on Twitter did well compared to the rest," Shanki recalls.

Even though being an influencer did not come first in the line-up of careers in Shanki’s mind, he says the potential in the field slowly superseded his dream to be a musician or more so, a radio presenter.

“I really wanted to be a musician - which I still am - or a popular radio presenter. When I realized the potential of social media, I wanted to have many followers like 100K+. I felt like that would put me in a good position to market my music and place me above my peers when seeking employment,” he explains.

The journey of social media influencing for Shanki, hit the trail in 2019 after he mooted the hashtag #MasenoLivesMatter as a means of raising awareness of the rampant insecurity on the campus following a spate of student killings.

He also did the same with #JusticeForVesh, which espoused for Velvine Wangari, a victim of rape and murder; a conversation that spanned about three days, during which he also connected investigators and/or journalists with the victim’s family.

His Twitter handle now boasts nearly 200K followers and a client base consisting of some of the biggest brands among them; Bolt, Multichoice, Spotify, Optiven Limited, Safaricom, Kenya Wildlife Services, hell even rapper Nyashinski.

Shanki recalls a time when he was able to bag $1500 (around Ksh.150,000 with the conversion rates at the time) in a single month while still a student.

He admits that the returns are good, but it also depends on the type of influencer you are and the social media platform you use.

But, just like any other venture, Shanki reveals that social media influence also has its fair share of challenges. Some of them, he outlines, include bad-mouthing by other influencers to brands causing you to be blacklisted, as well as one’s account getting reported  or suspended.

“I think bullying arises because some of the existing influencers fear their positions might be taken by the new influencers. A few years ago there were instances when accounts of some top influencers were reported and suspended. We've also had cases of some influencers wanakuchomea kwa agencies and you end up getting blacklisted,” he says.

Personally, though, he says: “I've never received any bullying because of influencing. Most of the bullying that comes my way is as a result of my music and my decision to stop doing music. I can't count the number of times they've told me my music is trash. But si ni life."

Shanki was one of the spoken word artists who jumped on King Kaka’s 2019 smash hit ‘Wajinga Nyinyi’; a heavily poetic song that criticized politicians and caused so much buzz King Kaka actually said he feared for his life at some point.

Shanki, featuring in part 4 of the track alongside fellow spoken word artist Willy Oeba, used the opportunity as an avenue to speak out about the effects of electing bad leaders to office; a message that is as clear today as it was then.

Currently, he uses his social media presence to influence change and promote peace. He has shifted his focus to empowering Kenyans through music and is doing it through social media.

Despite decrying an increase in competition, he remains adamant about his success as he emphasizes that creativity is the ultimate success.

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