Two years ago, Lidiana Solomon was an ordinary university student at Mekelle University doing her internship at BGI. Fast forward to 2021, she is one of the most sought-after digital endorsers of products and services demanding unpreceded amounts of money. The world of digital advertising is being embraced belatedly in Ethiopia and making instant stars of the ordinary but is something that has been popular in many nations around the world.
With followers on her Instagram page totaling more than 200,000, 22-year old Lidiana is fast become successful demanding upwards of 100,000 Birr for a mention on her popular page, joining established popular icons such as Danayit Mekbib, who has a Pamela Anderson kind of popularity, Hanan Tariq, and others.
Danayit was involved in the promotion of Awash wine and used her appeal and her popular show to help the company move from selling cheap wine, to targeting the middle class with better qualities that are now in competition with BGI’s Castel wines.
However, last year, the 20-something bubbly TV personality lost her endorsement of a taxi app company – Feres – when she joined a group of people on a Facebook Live Chat as she smoked ‘shisha’ from a used pipe, that in the midst of the COVID pandemic and in a very crowded room.
That was in violating her agreement to be a face to a new company that was set to break and compete with RIDE. While Feres refused to speak on the record, an insider said, when the video surfaced, the management had no choice but to break its contract with her.
“We knew she had made a mistake and she quickly took ownership of that. We took note of how young she was but to us, as a company that was new and about to introduce our products to a competitive market, we had to be careful as the first impression is how consumers often make up their mind and we did not want to associate our brand with that behavior”, he told Financial Perspective.
“In the end, our reputation is all we have and while she would have been a formidable partner, the risk became overwhelming and it seemed to us, many people were openly discussing and sharing the video on social media, and as everyone was conscious about a new virus”.
While the concept of influencer marketing is still new in Ethiopia, it has been a boom in Kenya and to both nations, Facebook seems to be the most popular, followed by Instagram, while Twitter is playing catch up.
While Ethiopia does not yet have a definite study or report on the influence of digital influencers, according to a new survey published inside Kenya’s Business Today, 100 percent of those surveyed confirmed that they follow online influencers.
Influencers with relevant content continue to have a strong following as they win and retain consumer trust, which ultimately impacts purchasing decisions.
Social media influencers who are trusted and followed by consumers still play an important role in affecting their purchasing decisions, the report concluded.
Hanan, the beautiful actress, is being approached for her endorsement.
At NHY for instance, where the company has a busy operation of selling beverages, owing cosmetics stores among other business interests, she was said to have been paid 2.5 million Birr to allow her image to grace the lobby of its store in Bole and have her appear at public events on behalf of it.
Her success at NHY followed at SOS pharmacies, a new impressive full-fledged pharmacy with growing branches, she was paid even more, to upwards of 4 million.
When the company opened and its image started to get attention because of its rainbow color that, to some, mirrored the image of the LGBTQ movement, her image was used more as the company went to the drawing board to change its image instantly.
Her endless promotion of the company on her social media pages, her endorsement certainly helped it make a comeback. That to them, and others, is the power of the digital influencer, - a new and a growing phenomenon in Ethiopia – money well spent.
Meanwhile, Lidiana is also bagging deals with a taxi company, an online business, and others, turning the humble student into purchasing her first vehicle, taking a trip to Dubai, and moving into a bigger apartment with her mother.
Something that would have been difficult to achieve for anyone at such a young age, whose likely story would have been to look for ordinary employment like much of her age mates.