Lasizwe realised the power social media has and harnessed it to make him a success
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Some soon realised it could give them an opportunity to live the life they have always dreamed of
I can still remember when being on social media was a hobby. A reprieve from the mundanity of our lives.
We actively commented on our friend’s breakfast choices, were recommending new music and TV shows to each other and encouraging people who follow us, to follow people we like.
Social media was a space where it was all about sharing your thoughts, no matter how controversial.
We shared pictures and as time went on, videos too. It was like a little community.
While that may still be the case, some, mostly millennials and Gen Z, soon realised that social media could give them an opportunity to live the life they have always dreamed of.
One of success and all the trappings that it comes with.
Thulasizwe “Lasizwe” Dambuza is one of those who early and quickly realised the power social media has.
And harnessed it to make him a success story. From his YouTube skits, where he takes the mickey out of everything. No one is safe.
From supermarket cashiers and domestic workers to celebrities and civil servants, he creates skits and situations that will either make you laugh or cringe.
However, your reaction doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that you added to his viewership and that is how he has become the success he is today.
And yet, Lasizwe still feels like his success is a fluke, like it’s too good to be true. A mirage. In an interview with Insider earlier this week, the YouTuber shared just how unbelievable his success is.
“You know, five years ago, people were finicky about online marketing and influencing space and my career overall.
People were like ‘he’s wearing wigs, wenzani’ (what is he doing?) They didn’t understand what we were doing until recently, where now even people older than me are realising they can use comedy to make money online.”
Making money online is not easy. There are those who are already celebrities (or fame adjacent) and their transition to being social media influencers is easy.
However, for people who are creating content as unknowns, it is a challenge and it’s added pressure when you are in the same space as other creators who have managed to secure major brands to work with them.
It used to frustrate Lasizwe, however, it was a lesson he feels was necessary in order for him to enjoy his success today.
“It’s literally about being patient and not rushing the process. We all strive to be successful immediately, but that doesn’t happen often. In the beginning, I never got paid for my work until someone told me I can get paid for it.
“You just need to monetise yourself and make sure that people understand what it is that you do, do it well and make money from your skills as a content creator.”
Being a content creator is more than just about being an influencer.
While influencers are also content creators, their main aim is to build an audience that will attract brands to spend money and get access to the community they have built and with the influencer’s help, get them to purchase their products.
Content creators are almost like producers, who create engaging content, that draws an audience. They are not specifically about gaining followers and brand attention.
But what we have noticed is that to be a successful social media influencer, you also need to create engaging content, that will make your audience go out and purchase a brand’s wares.
Lasizwe is one of the few who successfully straddles both worlds - creating content on his YouTube channel that draws a big enough audience to allow him to be a successful influencer.
While being one of the few who have successfully gone from online content creator to becoming a TV star, it’s that experience that has shaped how he conducts his business.
“TV and online are two different worlds. The content you create for a TV show belongs to the producer.
The online content that you create, belongs to you and you will make money from it until you die,” he said.
“Some of the videos I have done on YouTube continue to make me money. But on TV, I don’t get any residuals from the many repeats of my reality show and the shows I have presented.
“It’s just really a reminder of the importance of ownership. That’s how you will make your money - through owning the content you produce.”
Even with that success and the high fee he charges, he has gripes over how brands treat influencers.
“Something brands need to do is to stop trying to force influencers to change who they are.
“There’s constant pressure from brands for influencers to change how they speak, how they interact with their audience, forgetting that the reason we have this audience is because of who we are and how we speak to them.
“Brands want to collaborate with me, for example, and then they want me to use long words and making me speak proper English when on my page I speak broken English.
“Brands need to understand that they are tapping into the audience that I have built for years on my own and now you want to come aboard and try to change me.
“It’s important for brands to allow the creator to be as authentic as possible to sell your products and make the return on investment.
“The key to my success has been just sticking to my own lane and what I know. What also worked was authenticity.
“Being authentic and true to yourself and who you are, will always be important and will always attract a loyal fan base.
“Now to change that becomes rather difficult.”
South Africa’s current youth unemployment rate is at a shocking 46.3% and will likely continue to rise steadily.
Lasizwe believes that social media can be part of the solution to this crisis.
“Kids today tell their parents they want to be influencers when they grow up. Five years ago, that wasn’t a thing.
“It was misunderstood. And yet, technology and social media can open up doors for more youth to be business owners and thrive as entrepreneurs.
“But what we do not realise is that there is a huge gap in the market when it comes to advertising.
“There are so many businesses and brands that need advertising and a boost from online collaborations in order to reach the clientele they want.
“Through them using social media content creators - whether they are micro or micro social media users - to showcase their products, can have a great impact on their business.”
Not everybody can be a luxury influencer, like Lasizwe and his fellow Gen Z peers, Mihlali Ndamase, Jessica van Heerden, Thickleeyonce and Kamo Mafokwane, however, there are opportunities for influencers with a lower following to also thrive.
You must just be on the lookout for where the gaps are and also being brave. Lasizwe is also looking to get into spaces he hasn’t influenced in as yet.
After working with Google, getting his reality show (“Lasizwe: Fake It Till You Make It”) on MTV and working with Samsung, he’s ready for something new.
“It’s a big miracle I am working with Samsung, a major international brand. It’s great to be associated with them.
“But the dream right now is to collaborate with Land Rover. I am growing up and I am getting interested in cars and Land Rover is a brand I would really love to work with.
“I am ready to venture into different spaces that I have never been interested in before.”