Last year, Mazuba Kapambwe decided to marry her love for Zambia with her social media savvy. C1rca 1964 was born shortly afterwards. Named in honor of the country’s gaining independence in 1964, the company aims to celebrate and encourage the untapped wealth of creative talent located in Kapambwe’s home country. “At C1rca1964 we believe that the voices of Zambians are rising through the various platforms and avenues of social media,” reads the company’s bio. “We believe that these voices when joined together form a chorus to a song that can not be drowned out by politics. The song that Zambians are singing is the same one they sang of around 1964… independence.” With an impressive background that spans the U.S., Africa, and Australia, Kapambwe has used her extensive knowledge of creating content and fostering community to an area reluctant to embrace new media. We spoke with her about some of the challenges C1rca 1964 has faced (including a potential client laughing in her face,) as well as the differences between promoting clients in the United States versus Zambia.
What led you to social media?
I’ve think I stumbled into social media through blogging which I started in 2008. In 2011, I was a social media intern for an African-Inspired fashion retail site, Heritage 1960, which then turned into a full time job as Community Manager for the site, where I managed the Facebook and Twitter accounts for the brand.
What prompted you to start your own social media company?
C1rca 1964 initially started as a blog founded by my business partner Mukuka Mayuka which was meant to spotlight Zambian creatives, as we realized there was no site doing that. We quickly realized that many Zambian businesses were not on social media or if they were, they were not using it effectively. So in October 2012, we decided to monetize C1rca 1964 by turning it into a social media consulting and content generation firm.
Have you faced any major challenges yet?
The idea that businesses should be active on social media is still a relatively new concept in Zambia. One of the main reasons for that is because internet is not easily accessible by most of the population, is expensive and depending on your service provider, it could be frustratingly slow. So businesses don’t really see the value in investing in social media consulting because they don’t understand how it generates sales. I’ve actually had one business owner laugh in my face when I told them I had a social media consulting company. We’ve had to convince companies that it’s absolutely essential that they be social media savvy.
How is the social media strategy you used in New York different from those you’re using in Zambia?
New York and Lusaka are entirely different markets, so the social media strategies are completely different. New York is more socially advanced, so we posted more frequently and used popular hashtags like #MusicMondays #TumblrTuesdays etc. We were also on more platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest in addition to Facebook and Twitter. For the Zambian clients we’ve worked with so far, we’ve mainly concentrated on getting them active on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s been a slower process getting fans to ‘like’ certain pages and interact, but I think we’re heading in the right direction. For the Zambian market, we’ve also hosted social media workshops for clients.
Tell us about your experience scouting and dealing with new clients.
We’ve obtained new clients in different ways. For instance, we approached our first clients (The National Arts Council of Zambia) instead of waiting for them to approach us because we were new and many Zambian companies didn’t know who we were or what services we offer. We’ve been recommended to other potential clients through acquaintances in the IT industry.
What advice would you give individuals interested in launching their own social media company in Africa?
I would advise them to go for it! There is a market for social media consulting companies in Africa right now because as technology advances and more people have access to the internet, companies are realizing that the majority of their customers are online, so in order to interact with them, they have to have a social media presence. Plus, all you need to start is a laptop with reliable internet. Secondly, I would tell them that if they want to get into the social media industry just because they have 1000 followers on their personal Twitter accounts and 1,000 friends on Facebook, they are in the wrong industry. Social media is about a lot more than Twitter and Facebook and ‘likes’ and followers. Lastly, I would tell them to start small. Think of companies in your town or area that you visit often that may not have a social media presence. Research the company and its competitors, then come up with a pitch. Set up a meeting with one of the managers of the company and convince them to hire you.