Today our Man Around Nairobi is Sam Mwangi, known across social media as @KenyanSam. Sam Mwangi is a digital marketer based in Nairobi, who helps businesses grow in measurable terms by harnessing the power of social media and other digital platforms. He is the Operations Director at Socialmeds Digital.
Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I grew up in Riruta, Nairobi. It was a fun place to grow up. I enjoyed the days of going to school and leaving at lunch time to go home and sleep and watch cartoons. I fathom at how borderless my imagination was back then. My sister and I believed we could fly, and for about three years, we made makeshift wings (like the ones that father and his son who were locked up made to escape) and tried them out from a tree in our backyard. It never worked, so we moved on with other serious childhood occupations such as cops and robbers, chobo uwa and most importantly, three sticks.
I enjoyed going to Kilimani Primary School and Upper Hill Secondary School. I however do not miss secondary school as it sort of limited my imagination and way of thinking. In short, I have no regrets of growing up in Nairobi.
What you love about Nairobi?
I love the polarities within Nairobi. Especially in people’s personalities and culture. You can dine at the finest fish joints for thousands of shillings, but still catch a satisfying meal at that kibandaski near your office for a really good price. Some polarities I hate, like the difference in cleanliness between Nairobi’s downtown and Upper Hill, which are less than 5 kilometres apart; or the slums and the suburbs.
I love the opportunities. I hear people complain about one thing or another every day, especially work and salary related. I acknowledge that there are some hardships at the workplace and in life, generally but I believe Nairobi offers opportunities you will not find anywhere else.
What would you change about Nairobi?
I would change the cleanliness. Nairobi is the so called hub of East Africa, yet our streets are filled with filth at every corner. And this is not a down town problem alone, even within areas like Kilimani, Kileleshwa and Hurlingham, it is easy to spot a pile of wrongfully dumped garbage and general litter as you walk or drive. I believe as a city; we deserve much better hygiene conditions.
I’d have said corruption, but that is on so many levels I feel like the change would either need to come from the very top, or from a mass action by the people at the “bottom” – who rightfully have the power to do so.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I am Head of Operations at a Digital Agency – Socialmeds Digital and Nairobi is very receptive to this. It might have been a bit hard trying to differentiate what we do from what our competitors do, but the biggest lesson has been to treat each new task as if it is the only task of its type, and create measurable success for it. As many may say, Digital Marketing is now the “new thing” in Nairobi, and in Kenya as a whole, which I believe is a good thing. We are barely scratching the surface as an industry in supplying the demand.
The opportunity is that the digital marketing profession has just scratched the surface. There are a lot of gaps in the industry and though the major problem is education of the target audience (clients), they are learning quickly and seeking these services. As you would expect, others are only approaching digital marketers after seeing the results of a successful campaign run by them.
As for challenges, the biggest challenge in what I do is prospective clients not understanding why they should pay to dollar up for a “Digital Campaign” so we came together and wrote a blogpost where we analyzed the main reasons we feel our work, as an industry, faces obstacles when presenting to prospective clients. Awareness is what needs to be done, educating the target audience on the benefits, importance, impact and effectiveness of Digital Marketing.
I acknowledge that there are some hardships especially in digital marketing, but I have come to appreciate the opportunities for the industry I am in. The main solution to this would be more mass education of the target audience who would then purchase digital services.
If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting?
Interesting question. I spend most of my time at work or working, so I am not the right person to ask this question. But if I had to, I’d say: the food is great, we have an actual national park within the city and we have a very friendly people. Here are a few reasons to come to Nairobi.
The variety I have seen in existing and upcoming restaurants in Nairobi is an adventure worth taking in itself.
The weather. I have come to appreciate the mostly cool weather of Nairobi, all year round
The entrepreneurial spirit in Nairobians. Almost every Nairobian has a “side gig” or runs a business that they’re working their asses off to see succeed. There is so much creativity because of this, in fields like fashion, tech, food, deliveries and many others.