82% of Kenyans think influencer marketing doesn’t affect their purchases, but wait, there’s more…

Odipo Dev
6 min readFeb 24, 2019


This is the first in a series of insights we’ll be publishing based on data from our influencer intelligence product, KingMaker.

Courtesy: mycustomer.com

Over the past few years, online influencers have become a big part of internet culture. Kenya has been part of this wave, with many content creators investing in online channels that have amassed a large following. In turn, many commercial brands have sought to partner with these creators in a bid to create resonant content that can reach key audiences. In 2018, we embarked on a project to gather data on influencers in Kenya to see how they are performing and identify key patterns and insights. Here is what we found;

1. Kenyans Do Not Trust Influencers To Recommend Products

Partnerships between brands and influencers are now a common practice on social media. Many brands have hoped to tap into the access and relationship influencers have with their audiences to create favorable associations. However, our study shows that very few Kenyan consumers actually trust influencers to recommend brands or products to them.

Unfortunately, this distrust has been largely brought about by the influencers themselves. As more brands ventured into influencer marketing, many influencers bartered their credibility for advertising dollars. This has led to influencers endorsing too many brands (even some that are in direct competition) or recommending products they’ve never actually tried nor use in their daily lives. The data shows that consumers have since picked up on this trend and have returned to directly evaluating brands for themselves or relying on close friends they can trust.
Essentially, brands have ended up with a dramatic opposite effect of what they hoped to achieve with influencer marketing.

2. Want to Be An Influencer? Being Entertaining Is Your Best Bet

When we asked Kenyans why they follow influencers, the leading answer was entertainment. This corresponds with the data we have collected over the past one year, that clearly shows that the most dominant category of influencers across all the three main social networks is comedians. Both online comedians and those with traditional media affiliations consistently rank in the top 5 in terms of number of fans and engagement. Musicians also rank very high because they largely provide entertainment value to their fans. Musician Akothee, a musician and Njugush, a comedian were the top two most engaging personalities on Instagram in Kenya in 2018. These personalities manage to not only entertain fans through their artistic content but also through showcasing their personal lives in a highly resonant fashion. Akothee has been an industry leader in this aspect.

A large number of respondents also reported not having a specific reason for following influencers. This shows that many Kenyans follow influencers just because they are a big deal or because they come off as the ‘cool kids’ of social media. Additionally, many social networks often recommend personalities with large following to new users. These users will often accept these recommendations since they are unfamiliar with the platform.

Expertise and product recommendation rank low among the reasons why audiences follow influencers. A large majority of influencers have ventured into areas like fashion, fitness, food and parenting where they share experiences, give advice and recommend products. However, our data shows that the majority of Kenyans do not perceive influencers as experts in their respective areas. This may be largely affected by the tendency of many influencers posting content that cuts across many topics; thus not clearly positioning themselves with audiences. This dilution of authority means that brand recommendations become ineffective because the influencer has not cultivated enough trust with the audience within any particular topic.

3. Most Influencers are Followed on Facebook, But Instagram Drives Way More Engagement

While influencers have become synonymous with Instagram and Twitter, Facebook is where majority of audiences actively report following influencers.The top influencer accounts on Facebook have a higher number of followers on average in comparison to the top ranks on Twitter or Instagram. This is testament to Facebook’s reach and prevalence in Kenya.

However, when its comes to engagement, Instagram leads the way by a large margin, followed by Facebook then Twitter. Instagram and Twitter have managed to cultivate their own native stars and are generally perceived to be more favorable towards influencers. There is a higher number of personalities on these two platforms than on Facebook, and they tend to post more on them as well.

4. Even Online, Traditional Media Still Matters

Period: 2018

Looking at the top accounts on social media, it becomes very clear that influence online in Kenya is still heavily influenced by prominence on traditional media. As a result, politicians, musicians, comedians and other mainstream media celebrities have emerged as the cream of the crop. This is especially clear on Facebook which is still the largest social network in Kenya.
There seems to be very little room for ‘purely online’ celebrities on the platform unless they pay to play. Robert Alai and Cyprian Nyakundi are the only top influencers on Facebook without a traditional media presence. Instagram’s top ranks are dominated by musicians and comedians who have heavy traditional media circulation. Twitter seems to be the best at creating digitally native influencers, with five of the top ten most engaging personalities on the platform in 2018 having almost no presence on traditional media.

5. Lifestyle Categories Do Not Have Mainstream Appeal

Niche categories such as fashion, food, fitness and travel still have a long way to go in terms of mainstream appeal. While these categories tend to attract a large number of influencers, they rarely garner a large following, indicating that their mainstream appeal is still quite low.

We infer the reason behind this is that a lot of the content made by these influencers is already being produced by bigger and better funded global influencers and publishers, who can also be easily found online. In addition, many of them have no presence on mainstream media, which we have seen is still the leading platform of influence in Kenya. As a result, local influencers in niche categories may not be top of mind for consumers in times of need or when doing a Google search. The context of consumption of these influencers is more within discovery than intentional pursuit of their content.
They however, have small but passionate audiences, who from our data, have very high engagement rates that even surpass some media celebrities. This will continue to be an asset for them going forward.

Influencers have become a big talking point amongst Kenyans. In 2018, there were 22,000 mentions about influencers in Kenya. However, sentiment towards them was overwhelmingly negative (46%). Such high levels of negative conversation about influencers definitely has an effect on consumer attitudes towards the practice and as a result affects their willingness to purchase based on influencer recommendations. We await to see how 2019 unfolds for influencers.

The consumer survey was carried out among 700 internet users in Kenya in December 2018 to January 2019.

This study was conducted by the Odipo Dev team using our influencer intelligence product, KingMaker. We developed this product to aid marketers and advertising stakeholders in selecting, engaging and measuring ROI from their influencer campaigns. If you wish to know more, please contact us on Twitter via @Odipodev, or email us at team@odipodev.com