Words: Aluwani Ratshiungo | Visual Director: Ricardo Marcus Knipe | Graphics Director: Luke Benett | Styling: The Threaded Man | Make-up: Palesa Mkwananzi Artistry | Director of Videography: Nic Rawhani
Hard as it may be to imagine in this age of hashtags and memes, there was a time not so long ago when social media didn’t exist. No one could have possibly thought that they could make money simply from posting a picture online. Those days are now a distant memory.
When Lifestyle Blogger Twiggy Moli, started out she had no idea that she’d ever find herself getting paid for it by brands or even winning awards. Social media has not only changed the way we communicate, it’s also become some people’s main livelihood including Twiggy as co-founder of Sleepless in Soweto. From collaborations with international brands like Levi’s and travelling as a Tastemakers Africa ambassador, she has managed to claim her share in the market.
Blogging continues to grow and social media marketing is fast becoming as important as traditional marketing for many brands. Brands use social media influencers like Twiggy Moli because they want targeted exposure to the right kind of consumer. This trend has been growing for a while and yet, there’s still so much snark surrounding social media influencers. People find it inconceivable that people like Twiggy have managed to turn coolness into a commodity. There is a disdain for influencers which is probably fuelled by the fact that a lot of people don’t get what influencers actually do and not realising that a lot goes into it in the background.
We spoke to Twiggy about her blogging journey, what it takes to make it as a blogger/influencer, and what we can expect from her this year.
When did you start blogging?
I started blogging in 2011 when I was living in Cape Town and at the time I don’t think I knew what blogging was ‘cause I was on Tumblr and I was just reblogging things and then I realised that I could create my own platform and shoot my own outfits and talk about it and with that I grew. But in Cape Town there wasn’t much of a market for a black blogger so I don’t think I did as well as I’m doing now. So I moved back to Joburg and started getting approached by a lot more brands, I started curating my social media and that’s just how it grew.
You’ve mentioned before that you started blogging because you loved it, not because of money. How and when did it start bringing in money?
I think when I started blogging there was probably only three bloggers that were getting paid for it and they were doing it on a more professional scale. Then I went to a workshop in my last year in Cape Town hosted by Talya Goldberg who’s an OG blogger and she told us that we could get paid for it and that’s when I realised that I’ve been sleeping on myself and that I could have been taking it more seriously and making money . I obviously woke up when I moved back to Joburg and started taking it more seriously and getting professional images. I was putting myself out more so brands could be aware of me and the offers started coming in. It started slow though but as you advertise one product another brand is like “Hey, if she can do that for them, why can’t she do that for us?’”Eventually you realise that you should be charging people. In the industry we sort of talk like “How much do you think I should charge for a blog post/Instagram?” and as your followers grow you can charge higher and higher.
So you had those channels? You had people you could ask?
Ya. Talya was like my mentor, she still is. I didn’t know where to start. If you’re in a new industry, you can’t just say you’re gonna charge a R100, you don’t know if you’re undercharging or overcharging. Because she had already been getting paid she was able to tell me that “hey this is the standard and as time goes by you’ll decide if you wanna take the price higher.”
Isn’t it easier when you know the person personally.
Of course, you’re not gonna just ask any person because the industry is still very new and small, people are very selfish and don’t wanna share. But what I realised is that if Talya wasn’t there then I wouldn’t be where I am so if someone comes up to me, like for example Rato K when she started out she came to me and said “Can you help me?” and I mean, we weren’t close at the time but I was just like she’s like me back in the day when I needed someone so I helped her. It’s not gonna take anything away from me if she’s charging people.
What was the significance of winning the Best Female Lifestyle Influencer award last year?
A platform like Student Village was trying to put us on and make other brands aware that they believe that the person in this field is Tshepang, Trevor or whoever. But for me more than anything it gave me that validation that everything I’m doing is not for shits and giggles, all the hard work is paying off. I’m getting approached more by people. I’m getting a lot of radio interviews which is very strange because bloggers aren’t like people that you’d expect to hear on the radio, it’s always celebrities and sportsmen or whatever. It has made media and more brands aware of me.
Speaking of radio, you were on Cliffcentral…
Ya, I was on Cliffcentral like once every two weeks just speaking about whatever was on my mind on that day which was a lot of fun but I think for someone like me, I need something more consistent. Once every two weeks, people forget about you. I’d love to go back to radio but I’d like a more frequent feature cause I actually studied radio production.
Are you gonna do that anytime soon?
I don’t know. I wanna get into radio and TV this year but I feel like I’m still in December mode so I don’t know which direction I’m taking this year but I definitely want to get into radio and TV and focus less on the blogging. I feel like blogging has always just been a stepping stone for me to get to the next level. Like how Nomuzi started with the TV thing but rapping has always been what she wanted to do.
Don’t you worry about getting pigeonholed?
People tend to forget that as a person you’re not restricted to one talent and one platform. I think in South Africa people expect you to call yourself a rapper for life if you call yourself a rapper. When you branch into something else people are like “Oh my God, what’s Twiggy the blogger doing?” and it’s fine because some people are probably gonna be introduced to me as Twiggy the TV Host. They probably won’t even know that I ever had a blog.
You started a PR and brand communications company. How’s that going?
So I started it with my sister and then she decided to go to Cape Town. Initially our purpose was to be a PR management slash creative consulting agency assisting brands curate content and doing creative direction for their campaigns. We both worked in agencies; I did my Honours in Brand Communications and strategy so I kind of know what I’m doing. Last year I was doing PR for Tshego from Family Tree and this year I’ll be working with him and Gemini as well.
Where do you find the time to manage other personalities when you’re a personality?
That’s why I was saying I’m still in December mode, I haven’t figured anything out yet. But for me, I don’t see PR as another piece of work; it comes naturally to me to just write up briefs and stuff. But I need to find space where I’m able to still continue with my own stuff and still do everything else.
What do you hate about the industry?
A lot of people take themselves too seriously and they look down on people who are not in the industry. I think that’s the only thing I don’t like. They need to just relax.
How did you become a Tastemakers ambassador?
Cheraé Robinson (Tastemakers founder) found my sister and I on Instagram and she took us on our first trip to Ghana and we met other bloggers from around Africa. We’ve managed to maintain the relationship because she likes us as people and she likes our work ethic and just how we curate everything.
How do you describe your personal style?
I always have to make sure I’m super comfortable but it also depends on what mood I wake up in. If I’m in a good mood then I always try to look very sexy and a little bit edgy sometimes in my Doc Martens or Creepers. so ya, comfortable, sexy and a little bit edgy.
Who’s your style crush?
Margaret Zhang. I love her! You never see her wearing anything uncomfortable. She’s also very androgynous, I love that.
ALL items worn by Twiggy Moli: PUMA Select