South African Cultural Observatory

The Influencing sector will dent youth unemployment in creative industries, argues Bongeka Gumede

BY 30.09.21

The creative arts haven’t always been seen as industries where creativity or content creation (in its many forms) was a sustainable way to make a living. The Influence industry (the sector that predominantly uses social media to shape, change and influence the thinking of their audiences in specific ways) is shifting that narrative. Brand collaborations and social media platforms such as YouTube have started making serious inroads in changing the perception about financial gains in the arts, breaking down stereotypes associated with artists being seen as “poor”. 

In a report conducted by Stats SA, the official unemployment rate currently in South Africa is 34,4% and is reported by Bloomberg to be amongst the highest the world. Influencing encourages self-employment and can thus help in absorbing young people into gainful employment. The more young people begin to find ways in which they can use their social media platforms to generate an income, the better fighting chance we have as a country to combat unemployment.

We’ve seen influencers such as Mihlali Ndamase collaborate with other self-employed content creators such as photographers on campaigns with large industry brands in the beauty and lifestyle sphere, creating a domino effect in job creation.

The beauty of influencing is that it allows consumers to interact with the products on levels previously not seen in or associated with traditional media forms. When influencers stay honest, authentic and genuine in their engagement with consumers, it creates a trust not only in the influencer but in the product or brand being advertised.

Concerns of authenticity with brand collaborations have been raised as there is always a threat of the influencers being paid to promote a product or a service without due regard to the potential negative impact to consumers. To this effect, the SA Advertising Regulatory Board has developed a social media code that “serves to provide a clear set of rules around Social Media Marketing to ensure the protection of consumers and the promotion of ethical conduct by brand marketers and their representatives across all Social Media platforms and activities”.

Despite these concerns, any non-conventional job creation opportunities such as the influencing industry, should be welcomed as an important contributor towards job creation and an important intervention in the fight against youth unemployment.

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