A Time Out With The Convener of Ibadan Social Media Summit (@jidespark): Discussing Running A Digital Business In Ibadan
Back in the day, there was no such thing as a digital agency. There were only Public Relation agencies. Today all that’s changed, technology has made communication among humans much easier. A digital agency delivers marketing services and the creative and technical development to its clients. We interviewed CEO of Sparkconect, a Digital Agency which has been in existence for over 10 years in the great city of Ibadan. They are into Digital Marketing Consultantion, Web Development, Social Media Services, e-Campaign, and IT Solutions.
We are having him on this majorly to tell us about the Ibadan Social Media Summit. The 3rd edition of the yearly Social Media Summit is coming up this Thursday.
Engagement is a major yardstick for measuring effectiveness on social media. Social media is a critical tool for engagement in this generation… Let us help you understand how you can use social media to engage your audience at this year’s edition of “Ibadan Social Media Summit” as we discuss Social Media As A Tool For Engagement on the 14th Of December 2017 at the Prestigious Ibadan Business School. The event will feature industry experts, business owners, influencers and enthusiasts. Attendance is FREE but you need to register at ibsms.sparkconect.com #ibadansocialmediasummit is powered by @sparkconect #Ibsms #ibsms2017 #ibadanlawa #Ibadan #Ibadanslayers #Awatibadan @ibadaninsider @ibadanlawa @ibadanspotlight @ib_porsh @iamjlordz @whatsupibadan @bhadoosky @ibadanbusinessschool @ibadanpreneurs @connectibadan @ibadankiniso @ibadan247 @r2929fm @thirtytwofm949 @paulalasiri @donteebaba
Let’s get right into it.
My name is Jide Bamidele. I run a digital agency, Sparkconect Group. We support SME’s to maximise the use of internet in general to increase their sales and all these organisations of course, we’ve been running it with the annual Ibadan Social Media Summit. It started in 2015
What prompted you to organise the summit?
As at then, Ibadan was a sleeping city when it came to digital. I had attended 2 social media events in Lagos, and the number of attendees was huge. Then I thought to myself that we could bring the same thing down here and do something for Ibadan. So I started the Ibadan Social Media Summit
How was the response?
It was something that was very encouraging. As at then, it was held on a Monday morning, towards Christmas. We usually hold the events on weekdays. We recorded almost 200 attendees. It was something for a city that was asleep. Gathering 200 people to attend an event on a Monday morning, I think it was a success.
Can you tell us more about the summit coming up this year, what do the participants stand to gain?
IBSMS 2017 is targeted at discussing ‘Social Media As A Tool For Engagement’. With this year’s edition, we’re bringing a lot of people, we’re widening our horizon. We’re trying to bring people from different walks of life to come and talk about how social media can be used to engage people in different aspects of life. We’re bringing Folake Mighty and Duntee to talk about social media as a tool for engagement on traditional Media. We’re bringing in some business folks from the Ibadan Business School. The founder of Ibadan Entrepreneurs Network, she’s coming in to discuss social media as a tool for business engagement with Fara, the School of Enterprise Lead at Ibadan Business School, they’ll be on a panel with Choc boy to discuss that and we have a host of others to discuss social media for community building. Some influencers on social media Badosky, Paul Alasiri and more. We want to touch every aspect as much as we can.
Is this a 1-day event?
It’s a 1-day event and it’s free. We want to maximise every aspect.
What’s the date and venue?
The date is 14th of December, it’s on a Thursday, our events are usually during the week and the venue is Ibadan Business School at Bodija.
Why choose a week day for the event, don’t you think it’s a bit difficult since people would be all about business and work during the week?
From childhood, I’ve always been one who likes to do what people wouldn’t be comfortable with. I just want to go against the standard, I just want to do something different and I believe if you are serious about what we want to do, you should be able to do it during the week. If you are going to your office Monday to Friday, this is our own work, so if you can’t come and learn free of charge, then forget it. It’s a free event, we’re not asking you to bring anything. We just want you to come and learn and network. So if you can’t sacrifice a day to learn then you’re not serious about it.
Looking at the speakers and everyone expected, it seems a lot of effort has been put into this particular year, what were the challenges you faced?
We’ve always faced a constant challenge of funding. It has always been self-funded even though we’re open to sponsorship, we can’t just sit around and wait for sponsors before we go on. So funding has always been a challenge but we’ll keep pushing until we get someone, an organisation or a group of people to sponsor. Apart from that getting attendees can also be a challenge like I said some people will complain. One of the prominent responses we got was “Why put it on a Monday morning?” Then the last one we had was on a Friday and I wasn’t comfortable with it because I felt like people were already in the weekend mode and were strolling in at their leisure time. I don’t like that, it’s a serious business we’re doing so we should take it seriously. So this edition is happening on a Thursday.
Moving on to talk about Sparkconect, what challenges do you face in running the company?
The major challenge we have as a digital agency in this city is that people want the service but don’t want to pay. People bring a brief of a tiger and drop a budget of a cat and I’ll be like “How do you expect to achieve this”, but we’ve been able to work around that, we’ve discovered that if we want to wait till we’re able to get premium clients before we start servicing clients, we may wait for too long and bills will keep piling up. We have to pay for Internet, pay telephone bills, electricity bills and all that. So we’ve been able to create a very SME friendly service whereby we charge a negligible amount of money that wouldn’t even be enough to sustain an employee to run the digital activities. We did that so we could actually have several clients that we would serve and use the same set of workforce to execute for several clients. So that’s how we’ve been able to manage that aspect. Then another challenge is internet. It’s still a problem in Ibadan. I’m using almost every available service provider. I’m here with Glo inside Spectranet, I have Smile, Airtel on my phone and you just discover that there’s usually a point, almost everywhere in Ibadan there’s usually a point where a particular network doesn’t function. Especially when you want to stream live videos it’s tough.
Looking at Ibadan as a whole and looking at SME’s in Ibadan, do you think that they have fully embraced digital?
No, they have not fully embraced digital. But it is far better now than when we started years ago.
What do you think are avenues that an upcoming agency can leverage on to meet this?
I think any upcoming agency should leverage on training. What we were doing to sustain ourselves for a long time were training, training and training. Then when you’ve trained enough people, when you’ve engaged in training activities long enough you start getting referrals. Most of the clients we serve now just came through referrals, somebody will just cal and say so so person recommended you to me, can we have a meeting? Can we do this?can we do that? Between the space of Monday and Wednesday this week I’ve gotten up to 3 referral calls and it was not like that before. There was a time when we had no clients for 6 whole months but we stayed at it. An upcoming agency should understand the fact that if you put in enough effort, over time the reward will come. But we have a problem with this generation, we want everything instantly. It’s a microwave generation, it’s a very serious case. They see the results you’re getting and that is what motivates them to come into the industry and they get to the industry and want to get your results the same day they get in. Life does not operate like that, life operates by principles. There is seed, there’s time and there’s harvest, you can break any of them.
Going further into that, you see the whole wave of digital going on, everybody owns a blog, trying to be a social media influencer and there are now people offering services on freelance websites liver Fiverr and the rest, what happens to digital agencies, what do you think going forward, do you think this line of work would be disrupted in the future?
I don’t think it would be disrupted because when something starts becoming lucrative a lot of people will rush in and I can assure you that they will soon rush out because they do not have the tenacity to stay at it. When you are faced with bills, deadlines and clients are not forthcoming then those immigrants will eventually migrate away from the industry and the ones that are really serious about doing it will stay. The truth is that the opportunities are enormous, nobody can colonise the entire space. My agency cannot serve Ibadan alone and we still have clients outside the city and country so it’s not something that can be exhausted. It’s like the way you see schools springing up. Baby boomers, the rate at which people are entering that age range is very high so there’ll always be private schools, creches, also there’ll always be digital agencies as long as people are realising the fact that creating businesses is one of the fastest ways to grow the economy of the country. They will always need digital specialists. So there’s enough space to accommodate as many people as possible.
Responding to customers and their requests could be quite challenging, they can’t say exactly what they want, they want results too early, especially when they ask for services outside the scope of what you’ve presented for them how do you handle a situation like this especially with SME’s who are your main target?
One thing I do the moment we seal a deal is to send you a contract that would state everything that we are supposed to do for you and what we expect from you. So the moment you bring anything that is out of this contract, I send you an invoice. If you are willing to pay what we sent you then we would do the extra you asking for. Of course, there are times people would demand some things and we would just do it for them as pro bono but when we discover that you’re thinking it’s your right then we remind you of the contract that you signed. This is because if you do not have a legal framework to work with you’d just discover that in the end you’re getting paid like a cat while you’re working like a tiger.
Considering talents, people say most of the talented ones in Ibadan especially in areas relating to tech move to Lagos to seek opportunities, so has it been difficult finding hands?
What I do the most is to work with people on contracts. The graphics designer we work with is on a contract and we have several others so if we give you a job and you’re not delivering on time we move on to the next person. So if we want to fo a video, we have guys on contract for that. We don’t place anyone on salary because the company does not run on funds set aside. We run from what we generate. So everybody knows that we get paid for what the clients bring. The clients are our employers. The moment we are unable to serve the client effectively nobody gets paid. I’ve employed staff before, I’ve had marketers, in-house designers and all that but I discovered that they were just getting paid especially the marketers. So I called for a meeting and told them that from next month they’ll be getting a commission, nobody is on salary any longer and they all left. So they want salary without delivering. Where do I get the money to pay them from? Then we decided that we don’t need marketers anymore, any client we get we exceed their expectations then they become our marketers and that’s what we’ve been doing. So the issue of talent is not really a big deal for us because we’ve found a way to manage that. Another thing we want to do is to run a system where we keep training people and from the people, we would train, we would retain some for internship and outsource some to clients, then we stay on a commission for their salary.
Amidst the competition how does Sparkconect stand out?
I do not neglect the fact that there’s competition but I don’t compete with anybody. The reason why we don’t compete with anybody is we know the fact that no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we know people would still have preferences. So we make sure that we keep our own end of the contract and every time we have the opportunity to showcase ourselves we exceed expectations.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so what do you do asides work?
I run every morning, 2.2km 5 days a week. I play with my kids. I’m a church boy, I spend most of my time in church. If I’m not in the church by 7 or 7:30 pm I’m at home. I spend most of my time in church working or with my family.
Any last advice or business tips?
There’s this saying here in Africa “When the sun comes up the gazelle understands the fact that he must run faster than the fastest lion or it would be eaten. The lion also understands that he must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it would starve. Whichever you are a gazelle or a lion, when the sun comes up in the morning you have to start running. What I’m simply saying is it is every man for himself. If you really want to amount to something or get things done you have to start right now. So every one of us must understand the fact that we need to contribute our quota not just to the GDP but to our own personal lives. We’re in a generation where nobody will help you, let me just put it that way. I don’t mean that people don’t help but we have a generation that has this entitlement mentality. “I am broke because my father did not give me money. I don’t have a job because the government did not provide jobs”, you know stuff like that. We should understand the fact that it’s our personal responsibility.
It was Nice Meeting you sir
Pleasure is all mine.
- Tell us in the comment box what really ‘got you’ from all he shared.
- Register to attend the Ibadan Social Media Summit coming up this Thursday – Registration Link on Sparkconnect’s IG page – https://www.instagram.com/sparkconect/