Tope Hassan, the “Disruptive Diasporan”, is the founder of ISOKO Africa. She is a multi-lingual young African entrepreneur specializing in marketing, compliance, and media to create multi-dimensional business systems where start-ups and multi-national companies can operate fairly in a corrupt free environment and standardized economy.
Tope is popularly known as an African Tourist, backpacking through African nations to discover African brands and entrepreneurs; a yoga teacher dedicated to health and well-being lifestyles of professionals and entrepreneurs; as an advocate for African brands helping them reach a wider market than their local communities; and a Media and Public Speaker sharing experiences of Africa, its brands, commerce and industry, healthy lifestyles, life lessons and inspiration. She also blogs at TopeHassan.com
What inspired your decision to start ISOKO Africa?
I am popularly known for my passion for Africa, which is not limited to Black girl magic, Ankara print, melanin skin and all the paraphernalia that comes with it. The commercial and inter-relations sectors of Africa pumps my passion from my lifestyle to my dreams so much that African brands in all sectors are my first option before seeking foreign brands.
People get shocked when I show them products/services/apps/companies that beat global standards and wonder why they never knew about it. This made me the go-to person to recommend best options for African brands.
So I decided that instead of responding to tons of calls and emails per day, how about if I created a platform for African brands to reach a global target market beyond their local communities? This platform would also to help them sell their brands globally thereby gaining the recognition and market they rightly deserve.
ISOKO Africa is born out of the urgent need to eradicate the popular misconceptions and stereotypes around African brands and exposing them globally. It is geared towards repositioning minds of African entrepreneurs to build their companies as brands and not just a shop/business. ISOKO Africa, a media, and marketing organization is simply “African market” in the Swahili Language.
How has social media been able to help increase your productivity?
When I started out last year, my focus was to inform the world that Africa has a lot to offer commercially. It’s disturbing how Africa is patronized simply for two things: its human resource and raw materials. The social media publicizes Africa as either Black girl magic and talent or famine and war zone. Our commercial brands hardly make headlines.
I started podcasting through iTunes, Soundcloud, Midas Radio and other media platforms and backpacked through African nations to discover and interview remarkable entrepreneurs and thought leaders. These podcasts were publicized through social media, reaching to a diverse audience beyond Africa. Not only that, it also encouraged more Africans to use and listen to podcasts.
We successfully created a diverse and a multi-networking hub for Africans to know about each other which led to trans-national sales for entrepreneurs. This ecosystem further fostered partnerships between entrepreneurs, service providers, and customers. Gradually, ISOKO Africa developed communities in several countries where we formed teams that have become voices of Africa quietly on the search for African Brands.
Our team functions entirely on social media through messaging and meeting apps that have helped us to build the vision together achieving pellets of the milestone at a time.The best way for us to build an influential online presence is to foster communities-Tope Hassan Click To Tweet
What major social media campaign helped to increase your online presence? Kindly give details of the plan and how it worked.
The campaigns that focused on community inclusion buffered our online presence. We advertised our tour of West African nations and this attracted a diverse audience and lots of entries. We asked our followers to recommend brands within their area for us to interview and received an overwhelming response.
The messages recommended amazing brands interested in joining the experience of new Africa by either documenting, making videos, inviting us for a talk or simply to enjoy the trip and meeting entrepreneurs.
It’s amazing to discover that Africans desire their friends and nations to be represented globally. This lead to our conclusion that the best way for us to build an influential online presence, is to foster communities. To achieve this, we
- Invested in awesome and relatable HD graphics and images: One of the greatest assets on our team is the graphic design and photography fellow. People are intrigued by appealing and great images. It’s easy to attract attention when they can relate to what you say.
- Defined our audience: Before publishing our posts, we ensure it would be appealing to our target audience. We also ensured to update our followers about each decision every step of the way.
- Fostered partner communities: We connected our vision online by engaging with our audience offline to build communities around our goal. We did this by partnering with similar event campaigns, communities, and movements. This helped to build trust, inclusion, and network and convert talk into action. It also got us a lot of feedback.
I use social media to showcase a positive side of Africa.- Tope Hassan Click To Tweet
Have you ever had any downside on social media?
I have had to learn how to build everything we used on our platform from the website to recording and uploading podcasts. Our platform started its content through podcasting which is relatively an untapped market in Africa. Unfortunately, social media platforms do not have the capacity to run podcasts and our listenership on the website was very poor.
We ran surveys to find out how best to reach our audience and discovered that majority of African youths prefer to listen or read media on their mobile phones. This meant hosting podcasts on the website would be less effective. We changed our methods and I quickly had to learn the tricks of uploading our podcasts on iTunes, podcasts for Android, Soundcloud, Stitcher and other podcasting platforms.
Gradually, our podcast experienced increasing growth in listenership, subscribers, and loyalty. Social media became our channel to build the movement, engagement, feedback, synergy, and sharing. This channel also helped us discover that we had followers who prefer reading and having reference to African content, hence the launch of our Stories feature on the website to paint a new picture of Africa’s Brand.Build a brand centered on your Personality, Community, Authenticity & Global Credibility. - Tope Hassan Click To Tweet
Apart from social media, how have you fostered growth for your brand?
There was a need to connect our passion for Africa’s brands on social media to the community around us. So we launched partnerships with similar communities online that share our vision. We joined to promote events, campaigns, debates, markets, and conversations about Africa.
We have participated in global events like Social Media Week and are connected with communities like Global Shapers, YALI, MEST Africa, Quintessential Group Africa, AIESEC, Women in Tech etc. The ISOKO Africa community is centered on Africa and as its gladiators; we are born ready to do everything in our power to lift it up.
What’s your perfect one-line statement for young women trying to build a brand via social media?
Build a brand that’s centered on your Personality, Community, and Authenticity & Global Credibility.
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