Nigerias top blogger, Linda Ikeji announced a grand plan in 2016, a social network to steal our hearts and attention. How did that turn out though?
On the 1st November of 2016, Linda Ikeji took everyone by surprise. It wasn’t a new gossip story, or scandal. Linda announced that she was launching her own social network. She called it Linda Ikeji Social.
A blog? A Social Network? Or Both?
“Linda Ikeji Social is not just a social networking website,” Linda said on Youtube about the new product. “I’ve combined blogging, with social networking in one package.”
According to Linda Ikeji, she said she was inspired to start LIS when she met fans who said they only visited two sites; her blog and Facebook.
“The idea came to me, and I was like, why can’t I have a website that’s a combination of both blogging and social networking?”
And so, the answer to that question, for her, was Linda Ikeji Social. LIS was an ambitious project, when you think of the fact that she wanted to compete with Facebook, Nairaland, and Twitter.
And it did get our attention, at first.
It was everything we’ve come to expect from social networks; a profile, a timeline to post your stuff, an easy way to find friends. Posts from Linda Ikeji’s blog also get uploaded to everyone’s timeline. In real time. More traffic for the blog, more engagement for the Social Network.
By the first 24 hours, the numbers were astounding.
By the sixth day of LIS, 86,000 accounts were live. For context, Instagram had 25,000 signups on the first day, even though it was already hyped before launch.
Here was Linda, an ex-model, mostly (in)famous for her gossip blog, dropping an entire social network like it was puff-puff.
It got the tech community talking, as you’d expect. There were theories, and counter theories about the likelihood for success of LIS. But one thing everyone agreed on, was that Linda had guts. And we loved it.
Everything was quickly falling in place for the Linda Ikeji Media Empire; besides the main blog, there was a music blog. More attention was being paid to video, with an entire TV station even in the works. Add Linda Ikeji Social to that. It appeared that everywhere your eyeballs went, Linda wanted to follow. Power moves.
How did LIS get so many sign ups so quickly?
“What do I stand to gain when I visit Linda Ikeji Social?”
Linda Ikeji had an answer; money. In the video announcing the launch, she said: “LIS is quite different from any other social networking website, because you can make money on this site.”
Unlike Facebook, which appears to be the main inspiration behind LIS’ design, this new social network came with a Wallet, where you could keep track of how much money you’ve made.
“There’s a lot of money on advertising on Social media. A lot of brands put money on popular online platforms. And we at LIS want to share some of that money we make on the platform with our users.”
There are three ways for users to make money:
1. LIS buys your stories: As long as they are exclusive, original, and authentic. Each story will be bought for N1000.
2. Influencer status: When you get up to 50,000 followers on your page, LIS places a banner on your homepage, and pays you 20% on whatever advertisers pay for each banner. And when you hit 100k, that share reaches 40%.
3. The good old giveaways: Airtime, discounts, etc.
All of this was November last year, and not much seems to have happened since then. Most of this is because novelty tends to wear out. First time use is never really a good measure of whether a product is sticky or not. The true measure of the stickiness is dependent on how much a user returns to it.
So, what happened to Linda Ikeji Social?
Linda Ikeji is a cult figure. To many of her critics, she’s just a gossip blogger who would publish just about anything for traffic, not giving any damns to ethics, or sensitivity.
To her loyal followers, she’s not just their number one source for everything news, she represents something. Linda Ikeji is a symbol of hope, a proof that it is possible to succeed, against all odds. One thing everyone can agree on is that, Linda Ikeji remains the one of the most influential figures on the Nigerian Internet. When she buys a car, everyone gets talking. And when she buys a house, shutdown.
In the real sense, it’s not about the product, it never was. It’s about Linda Ikeji. She knows this, and it’s why everything she builds, she names after herself. Linda Ikeji Blog, Linda Ikeji Music (now comatose), Linda Ikeji Social. A Linda Ikeji TV, for terrestial broadcasting is in the works too.
The tendency to do this is deeply ingrained in Nigerian culture. It’s why for instance, our politicians spend taxpayers’ money on projects, and then name it after themselves.
Linda Ikeji Social has never really picked up since the novelty wore off. The reasons why, are more than one.
The LIS Model.
The first problem with LIS was that it was a product built, and launched around one incentive; money. Linda understands that money, above all things, is a major motivation, and was willing to throw a lot of it at people who were willing to contribute stories.
When you build a product around telling users that they’ll earn money, what happens when there doesn’t seem to be money being earned? There’s no incentive to stay.
Let’s paint a scenario:
A contributor sends a story that he’s found. Exclusive. He shares it with LIS. LIS pays N1000. Now imagine 100 people sent in a story once, the easy part here is actually paying out. The difficult part, is the editing, the vetting, and verifying of the stories, a structure the LIS editorial team doesn’t appear to have.
In truth, this model is difficult to scale, when the one thing that makes this story valuable is the exclusivity.
Where are the LIS Influencers?
Linda Ikeji said people with over 50,000 followers will get paid for every time a banner ad is placed on their homepage. The problem is not that influencers aren’t getting paid. The problem, it appears, is that there are no influencers by her standards. Period.
Linda Ikeji, who has built the social network around herself, hasn’t even garnered up to 8,000 followers.
Perhaps, the coup de grace of Linda Ikeji Social is the name itself.
Person vs. People.
A page can be built around a person, whether it’s a fan page, or a website. Building social networks is different. A social network is a community, and a community is built around not one person, but people.
When people gather, whether it be a newspaper stand, or an online topic, there are conversations. When conversations happen, there are reactions. Reactions create more conversations. This is how social networks work.
Social networks thrive on sharing. None of this seems to be happening on Linda Ikeji Social.
The products we love today are a product of constant tinkering to better enhance the user experience. Facebook is constantly racing against its own self, trying to get better of its users. So is Twitter. So is Instagram.
The team collects feedback and enhances the product based on that feedback. For LIS, nothing appears to have changed between November 1, 2016, and now.
So, what’s the way forward?
It’s hard enough trying to build a product, not to mention one that’s supposed to be in competition with Facebook. One important way to help build a product people can truly love, is to collect feedback, and hire a skilled team to build, based on that feedback.
LIS is a tiny part of the Linda Ikeji Media empire; with a blogging generating millions monthly, and a TV station on the way, there's still a lot to look forward to from Linda Ikeji.
If anything is clear, it's that Linda Ikeji Social, in its current iteration, is not working. It never will. Unless there's an overhaul from the ground up, Linda Ikeji will always be the one who tried to build a Social Network, and failed. And that's okay, failure is not entirely a bad thing, as long we learn from it.
She will at the very least, be remembered for trying.
*All efforts to reach Linda Ikeji for comments have been unsuccessful at the time of publishing this.