TEMITAYO JAIYEOLA takes a look at how the ban on Twitter is affecting Nigerian Small and Medium Scale Enterprises that rely on the micro blogging site to promote and run their businesses
The Federal Government suspended indefinitely the operations of the micro blogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria recently. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, cited “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” as the reason for the suspension.
A report by NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool discloses that Nigeria loses N90,712,044 ($250,600) every hour to the ban. According to a report by Statista, Nigeria has about 33 million active social media users, with about 26 per cent on Twitter, most of who run businesses on the platform.
Financial planner, Kalu Aja, when asked about the effect of the ban on businesses said, “Social media enables the brand to talk directly to consumers. It’s direct marketing, specific and targeted. There is no organisation on earth, profit or not for profit, without some form of advocacy via social media.
“The Twitter ban raises a narrative about doing business in Nigeria, and it’s not a good narrative. Specifically, Twitter and social media allow Small and Medium-scale Enterprises and sole proprietors with zero marketing budgets but a smartphone to build and communicate a brand promise.
“It provides an ecosystem of jobs for IT professionals, copywriters and even influencers. It makes the cost of commerce fall and even boosts trade, which generates VAT. It is a bad call to ban social media without options.”
Anyiam Anita graduated from the University of Benin in 2014. She studied History and Diplomacy. Her first job was as a sales person. In 2017, she decided to try her hands on other things. She began a cloth selling business, but it did not pick up. Later in the year, she began cooking and got a gig as a food vendor to a Zenith Bank branch. She left after a while, because the conditions were unfavourable and hope was bleak.
She said, “It was 2018. I was trying to make ends meet. I just left my job as a contract food vendor with a Zenith Bank branch. Sales were poor and the business was unfavourable. When I left, I didn’t have an idea as to what I wanted to do. I only had a dream and I knew I needed to make money to cater for myself and family. But I didn’t have any plans.
“One day, I was scrolling through my page and a friend suggested Twitter to me. He offered to teach me how the app works. And he told me he believed I had a huge market on the app. After that encounter, I joined Twitter. My friends paid influencers for my first campaign on the app. I had influencers talking about me, that day I had a few orders. Then orders soared.”
However, she persisted and asked people to help her retweet her business. Gradually sales began to pick up and Lanita’s Kitchen was born. Her name soon changed to Iya Olounje, and people began to patronise her from the app. In 2020, she said her revenue was more than N20m.
She stated, “When I started off on Twitter, I started at Agbara. I had to go to the market, cook, then go to deliver by myself. Because of the bad roads, delivery bikes didn’t want to come. So, I had to do these things by myself. But as sales boomed on Twitter, I gathered enough money and moved from Agbara to Maryland.
“Revenue wise, I have made about N40 m from Twitter-driven sales from 2019 till now. In 2020 alone, we did about N20m or more. In a month from Twitter sales, we are talking about N1.2m to N1.5m. In an average month, N1.2m, while in bad months, N600,000 to N700,000.”
However, since the ban took effect, sales have been trickling like water from a faulty tap.
“Since the ban began took effect, this is the first time I am making sales from Twitter. Although I have been selling, it is not from Twitter at all. I have lost close to N300,000 since the ban began,” she added.
Anita said she was paying salaries to her staff of five persons. She got a dispatch motorcycle in January and was hoping to get another in June. According to her, she is directly responsible for the wellbeing of a couple of her friends and her mother through Lanita’s Kitchen, which is her only source of income.
“I cater for my friends. But for my family, the only person I cater for is my mum, who is ill and can’t really do much. I pay for everything. I pay her rent and she lives in Lagos. Everything is on me. The money spent on my mum is equivalent to taking care of a full family,” Anita added.
Kanyinsola sells cake on Twitter. According to her account, she has made N2m off sales on the platform. She started baking in her second year in school, but rebranded properly in August 2019 when she joined Twitter.
She stated, “I post daily and that could be about two or three times daily or even more. And of course, once people are satisfied with what they see (i.e., pictures of my work and reviews from past clients), they send messages to make inquiries to place an order for a later time, or place an order immediately. Birthday cakes are something people order often for celebrations and the likes.
“Loaf cakes, cake slices and other things I sell are also ordered daily and they mostly don’t depend on celebrations,” she said when asked about how she operates her business on Twitter.
The graduate of Soil Science and Land Management from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, makes around N20,000 daily from the sale of cakes and relies on her business to support her mother and two siblings.
When asked what the Twitter ban meant for businesses, she said, “Sales have dropped drastically. I haven’t been able to make sales off Twitter. I do not make as much sales on other platforms, because Twitter works for me.
“It’s really affected my business and I’m really just hoping that this is not going to last any longer than already.”
Oyinda Akinfenwa was in the orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps for the mandatory three weeks when the ban was announced.
She isn’t sure about what will happen next to her business.
She said, “You never know what will come next. So, I think even from this moment, business owners on Twitter are trying to find other platforms and also build them to help their brands along the line.
“You just have to secure your business at this point and diverting to various other platforms will go a long way.”
Oyinda started her business as a hobby on Twitter in 2019. She makes and designs clothes. According to her, there is no need to wait to graduate before starting her brand.
She explained, “My business actually started on Twitter. I was making designs and posting them randomly, because I was still in school at that period. It got a lot of attention and people wanted to buy them, so I decided to start my brand instead of waiting till I was done with my education.”
She won the Fidelity SME grant of N1m in 2020. When asked how the ban had affected her business, she said she was not even properly motivated to want to work again.
“Well, I’ve been in camp, so I haven’t designed or posted all these, while and right now I can’t really wrap my head around the ban, because definitely it’d affect me since I pull most of my customers from Twitter to my website and also my Instagram page.
“I’m not even motivated to post here anymore, because everything seems so disorganised and scary”
Oyinda’s story is similar to Ore’s. Ore makes crochet outfits and posts them on Twitter.
“My outfits are made on order so a customer can place an order from any of my social media pages with their measurements and when it’s ready, I ship it. Twitter is my biggest channel.”
SMEs are the backbone of major developed economies and important contributors to employment, economic and export growth. In South Africa, SMEs account for 91 per cent of businesses, 60 per cent of employment and contribute 52 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product. In Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48 per cent of the national GDP, account for 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of employment.
With a total number of about 17.4 million, SMEs account for about 50 per cent of industrial jobs and nearly 90 per cent of the manufacturing sector in terms of number of enterprises, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Also, they have contributed about 48 per cent of the national GDP in the last five years.
The Internet encouraged the evolution of businesses, it changed how businesses interacted with their customers, and brought products a little closer to home for customers. Many SMEs leverage the Internet, especially social media, for their business activities (customer acquisition and service). There is a huge ecosystem on Twitter.
No other platform as of today allows for the kind of engagement that Twitter allows; businesses might migrate to other platforms, but the Twitter ban is a loss for everyone. ,,
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