Content marketing and Africa’s tech scene

The best adverts don’t resemble ads. It’s why it’s getting harder to tell which Instagram story is an ad or from your friends, or why your favorite influencer puts “#ad” at the bottom of the post telling you just how much they’ve been working out lately.1

US venture capitalists and Tech companies do the same thing. Their CEOs write marketing pitches thinly disguised as books. Stripe moonlights as a book publisher. Basecamp has a blog, podcast and independently publishes books. 

This is much more than a startup’s corporate account creating a meme on Twitter. I’m talking about creating long-form content that requires investing time and money. 

Ostensibly, these companies create content to “give back” or “explain their secret sauce”. More likely, it’s an important part of controlling the narrative around their businesses. The content they create help attract people to join the company and venture capitalists to invest. This is especially helpful for companies who do not have access to the traditional reputation building opportunities available to more established companies. 

Why don’t we see more of this from African VCs and startups? 

My best guess is the participants think the market is too small. In Nigeria tech, all the players are a few degrees removed from each other. Paystack and Flutterwave worked together at founding. A chunk of the new startups founded in 2020 used to be at other companies. If you believe this, then it’s not clear how content can help you hire or attract funding beyond where you are right now. If you’re part of this space, you already know most people you need to know, and those that you don’t, your friends know. And if you don’t know, maybe you should go back to where you were working before.

However this isn’t true at all. The tech scene is growing exponentially in ways that are hard to see in real-time. Startups are attracting senior hires from Nigerian industry. Investor interest is multiplying as more VCs become interested in the Nigerian market. Content is a way for participants to get noticed, either by investors, future partners or prospective employees. 

On the other hand, creating quality content costs time and money, two things young businesses and startups lack. Again, this is a short-sighted view. It is easy to ignore the “marketing” part of content marketing, but getting customers and partners is part of the job at an early stage company. The right content marketing strategy helps you attract the resources you need to grow, whether customers, investors, employees, business partners, etc. 

Not all African startups hold this view. For example, Paystack has a great podcast and creates tons of content. Many founders appear on podcasts and give interviews that build their profiles and those of their companies. In the past few years, a number of startup-focused PR agencies have emerged to guide early stage tech scene participants through all this. But there’s still much more room to grow, and many more stories to tell. And yes, the marketing matters. 

  1. Well, that and FTC regulations that state an advert must be clearly disclosed. Otherwise, both creator and advertiser would rather pretend it is not an advert. ↩︎

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