Essays & Musings,  Features,  Self Empowerment

My Social Media Diary: An Open Letter to Anyone Who Considers Me an Influencer.

Dear Friend,

Shortly after my 26th birthday, I took a friend to see Ado Awaye suspended lake in Oyo State; one of only two in the world. The story I told about the mysterious lake and the detailed guide I created would begin my foray into the world of Social Media influence. My audience in March 2018 was roughly 300 on Twitter. Now, 18 months later, my Twitter community has grown to 28,000 and people pay attention to my takes on travel issues and tourism business. A good portion of this influence comes from the work we do at TVP Adventures – the company I founded in 2016 to simplify African travel and bring travel dreams to life. A bigger portion of this influence comes from my persona on Social Media. I did not set out to become an ‘influencer’ but once the accident happened, I became intentional about using Social Media to build something that will live longer than my notoriety as ‘Funmi, the travel girl from Twitter.’ Now I want to share some notes from my diary with you.

1. Be Objective:

Every day, I meet people who say they want to live like me. I smirk. I travel a lot but not as much as you think. I spend roughly 200+ days of the year in Lagos. Sometimes, my last trip ended weeks prior but threads and articles make them last longer in the minds of my audience. I also live with my parents (rent free, God bless them), work three jobs and have a very ambitious investment goal that keeps me on my toes. That’s something to remember when next you feel peppered or intimidated. Be objective about what you see. Discard what’s not valuable to you and be inspired by what is. But take responsibility for what you lust after and what you don’t. I also try to tell as many transparent stories as possible so people understand that I’m just a girl who built a travel business to help people travel better (myself included) and I am lucky to not have to pay for most of my own trips because I worked hard to build credibility. In fact, I charted my travels for 2018 and 2019. Out of all my trips, about 60% were sponsored by the conference I was invited to speak at or the brand I was invited to consult with. When conferences invite you to speak on a topic of expertise, they typically pay for the flights, accommodation and other associated fees. My modus operandi is to extend these trips, spend a few days exploring the country at my own expense, and learn more about the tourism businesses operating there. Now that our team at TVP is growing, our tour managers lead our clients on most trips. However, I still lead about 20% of the trips myself and those fall into the ‘travel for work’ bucket. So I am able to travel with friends, family or solo (for holidays) about 20% of the time. Most of the time, I am in Lagos, doing my bit to contribute to the country I love so much and working hard on projects / adventures that bring in the daily bread and butter for our team at TVP.

2. Pay Attention to your Social Media Relationships.

The keys to building relationships on Social Media is similar to those of offline relationships. You’ll have those who share similar views as you do and those you’d rather not associate with. Give energy to those who you can learn from, those who have meaningful content and those whose aura you are comfortable with. Do not also shy away from taking a small portion of these relationships offline. For instance, I met one of my mentors on Twitter. I tweeted about how much I gain from his tweets, he replied, we engaged some more, he asked for help in designing a workshop he was leading and we worked on that project together. Now, I’m in his tribe and he is in mine and I’m learning more than I could have hoped to. On this same Twitter, I’ve been scouted to help build a small resort in Lagos, entire countries and companies have engaged me on their tourism marketing strategies and I’ve found partners in business. And the women…that’s story for another day. Twitter is a fertile soil waiting for the seeds of women partnerships and support to be planted. I love it!

3. Be Accountable.

You’ll make mistakes, that’s okay. What’s even better is when you can acknowledge these mistakes and fix them. Once, I made a joke about sugar daddies and in minutes, I had calls, tweets, DMs from people showing me how poorly the joke landed. I took it down and apologized. This has happened a few times: a friend cautioned me about vouching for investment companies publicly, another friend told me not to fall into the temptation of taking sides on a needless argument on Twitter. If it is not necessary to contribute to, stay out of it. I have bite marks to remind me of my foray into political, religious and tradition Twitter. And that’s not to say that I shy away from disagreement or controversy. The difference is that if I have to engage in controversy, it is for something I completely believe in and conversations I consider vital. Good examples are political borders (and how these impact travel), good ol’ feminism, and justice for oppressed communities.

4. Be Intentionally Kind.

A gentle answer turns away wrath. Always. Without exception. In a battle among the wittiest, the kinder voice wins. Make your point and stand your ground but remember that some people on Twitter are looking to break their record for number of RTs. Some people simply want to trend so they can plug their friend’s business in the follow-up tweet. If a conversation starts to escalate, find a way to deescalate. See this exercise, if you need help responding kindly to wrath.

5. Don’t worry about the perception people have about you but be aware of it. Hey, everyone on Twitter thinks I’m married and I have no idea why. But I’m not married. Everyone also thinks that when we have trips at TVP, they cannot join if they live outside Lagos. Of course, that’s false. We have people join our trips from Houston, New York, Nairobi, Abuja, Lagos and so many other places around the world. We can tailor any package to suit your departure city. So, these perceptions are important to be aware of.

Social Media has been an incredible market for me and instead of shouting above the noise, I’m finding my niche and building a community that is changing the way we travel. So, thank you for considering this space worth your time.

‘Funmi Oyatogun is a vibrant explorer and travel entrepreneur at TVP Adventures; a company focused on leading people to their dreams by designing creative and meaningful travel experiences within Africa. She is also an experienced travel writer whose stories are focused on breaking through African borders, uncovering the historic stories of her people and places, and presenting first-hand information about tourism and adventure opportunities. She has been featured on the BBC, CNN Africa, Arise TV and many more renowned platforms. Follow her on Twitter (@funmioyatogun).

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