In today’s digital landscape, the world of influencers has become a powerful force, shaping trends, consumer behaviour, and brand perceptions. Creators who typically share videos to expand their fan base have discovered a way to monetize their skills, transforming their craft into a highly profitable source of income. They now earn lucratively in millions while engaging in activities they would typically pursue for leisure.
Although the influencer marketing industry presents a myriad of opportunities, it is not devoid of substantial challenges. These challenges include notable pay disparities between Nigerian influencers and their globally recognized counterparts, struggles in attracting brands, and ongoing discussions within the ecosystem regarding conflicts related to personal branding.
To shed light on these topics, BusinessDay had an exclusive conversation with Tobe Ugeh popularly known as Tobe SZN, a prominent social media content creator, who is also an advocate for mental health awareness in men and dysmorphia among young people.
In this insightful interview, Ugeh sheds light on the multifaceted dynamics that contribute to pay disparities among influencers, offering a glimpse into his journey as a content creator, and the challenges and opportunities that shape the influencer landscape in Nigeria.
Ugeh’s story started in Benin City in Edo State, where he received his primary education at Igbinedion Montessori and completed part of his secondary schooling at University Preparatory Secondary School. His trajectory took a unique turn when he ventured into the University of Benin in 2015 to pursue a degree in Law.
Despite his academic pursuits, Ugeh has always harboured a passion for fashion that had germinated since the tender age of 7. Expressing a desire to be a tailor, he found himself diverging from the professional paths set by his parents and mirrored by his three elder siblings, who were carving their niches as engineers and doctors.
Ugeh gained a following by sharing stylish outfit photos during his time in university. In 2019, he attended the Lagos Fashion Week where his unique style and coloured hair earned him praise and sparked his interest in becoming a fashion influencer. Fashion has been his strength and has given him confidence and a large audience.
“It was like my brand was born without me even knowing it, just by being true to myself. And guess what? I ended up creating a whole community of amazing friends and followers along the way!”
According to Ugeh, the significant differences in earnings stem from the evolving landscape of influencer marketing in Nigeria. Comparatively, international influencers can earn double or triple the income of an average Nigerian content creator, primarily due to the limited number of brands in Nigeria embracing this modern form of promotion.
The evolving landscape of influencer marketing in Nigeria has seen the likes of content creators like Ugeh, start earning as low as N30,000 for a post on social media at the start of their journey to commanding millions of Naira for a single post on their social media platforms.
“Lately, the metrics have been astonishing. Content creators are pulling in N2 million to N3 million for a single post. The reach of content has become truly global. Even international brands, rather than opting for traditional media channels, are turning to us influencers, compensating us in dollars. There’s a noticeable shift occurring, with influencers and their social media platforms emerging as the new focal point of mainstream media.”
From posting fashion pictures of himself on social media, Ugeh has found himself working for some of the biggest brands locally and internationally and giving him the opportunity to make his first millions. He has worked with Google,Coca Cola, Marvel, Spotify and many more.
He reminisces on his first trip to Rwanda while working on a promotional campaign for Spotify.
“It’s both surreal and a testament to the reality of influencer marketing. Imagine getting paid not to create content in your own country but to travel abroad and share your message. It’s a beautiful experience, especially with the lucrative financial rewards. I earned my first million through influencing, highlighting the profitability of this career.”
Ugeh advises those aspiring to enter the realm of influencer marketing that it boils down to putting in the work and not necessarily about creating a viral video but the subtleties that catch someone’s attention.
“Someone might come across your content, notice the way you speak or the artistry in your transition videos, and think, ‘Can I get you on this?’ It underscores the importance of authenticity and consistency in building your presence—because in the world of influencers, opportunities often arise from the genuine and unique aspects of your content.”
Ugeh, whose influence extends across various platforms, said that personal branding isn’t confined to a logo or a catchphrase; rather, it’s a reflection of one’s choices, from the clothes worn to the words spoken in videos. “Whatever you do is your personal branding,” he said, shedding light on the profound impact every decision can have in shaping an individual’s public image.
In a world often dominated by curated personas and carefully crafted images,Ugeh champions the idea that personal branding isn’t just about projecting a facade but embracing authenticity. “Personal branding is important, but being yourself is more important,” he said, signalling a shift in the influencer landscape—one where the true power lies in the genuine connection forged between creators and their audience through the shared experiences that define them.
Discussing the intricacies of charging brands, Tobe acknowledges the need for a nuanced approach. “You can’t charge the same amount to a Chanel brand that has branches all over the world to a fashion brand in Nigeria that has only two branches.”
Tobe underscores the challenges faced by Nigerian influencers who lack the abundance of opportunities enjoyed by their international counterparts. While global influencers collaborate with well-established brands with centuries-long legacies, their Nigerian counterparts contend with brands that are still establishing themselves.
Drawing a distinction locally, he notes that understanding the revenue a brand generates is crucial in determining a fair compensation.
Ugeh touches on how content is monetised and how content creators are paid. “In Nigeria, it’s more common for creators to get sponsorships from brands. If you’re a creator and Google wants to work with you, they’ll probably send you an email. They might have worked with agencies in Nigeria before, so they know what they’re looking for.”
He said brands will rather work with influencers who connect well with their audience. “If your content resonates with your followers, you might get a deal. Usually, you’ll get paid upfront and then you can start creating the kind of content the brand wants.”
Ugeh emphasised the importance of self-worth, advising, “Always value yourself highly. If someone offers you $1000, don’t be afraid to ask for $2000. Trust me, there’s usually a budget that can work for you. They like you, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.”
As Ugeh reflects on the emerging generation of influencers, he expresses pride in their potential accomplishments. He emphasises that the older generation paved the way for the new influencers by resisting lower pay and contributing to the growth of the creator economy.
Ugeh anticipates a future where Nigerian influencers can benefit more significantly from the profitability of influencing, echoing sentiments shared by influencers abroad who reportedly command up to $2000 for a single post.
He also advocates for creators to embrace the learning process, acknowledging that mistakes are inevitable but essential for growth in the dynamic world of influencer marketing. Finally he advises his counterparts not to keep following trends which will lead to them becoming passive. Rather he urges them to create more trends which is a key factor in the landscape of influencing both locally and internationally.