Twitter (X) has long been the hotbed for social media’s trending conversations. Whether it’s as dire as the #BlackLivesMatter and #EndSARS movements or as trivial as gender roles in marriages, the platform is fertile enough to fatten them. But it’s not every day you see the latter spawn a huge brand marketing outlet.

The biggest sensation on Nigeria’s social media over the last week is Deborah Olaki (Mumzee), a stay-at-home mom who became famous overnight. On January 4th, she tweeted about waking up as early as 4:30 a.m. to prepare her husband’s work lunch, and it went viral. As usual, everyone had a hot take. Some praised Olaki for upholding what they saw as traditional family values, while others criticised her choice as regressive and perpetuating gender stereotypes. The narrative became polarising.

So, social media users spent the next three days debating this topic. This pattern isn’t strange since people often stay with trending conversations until the next one comes along. For most, it doubles as a boredom killer and impression/engagement magnet.

And the topic did recline. However, the main character —Olaki— didn’t. Her posts from last year started making rounds on Twitter, and two things became clear: she has a healthy relationship with her husband, and they didn’t have a fridge or microwave. We’ve previously shown how fridge ownership is one of the metrics used to measure Africa’s middle class. That said, she wasn’t a member.

Some Twitter users decided to crowdfund her new fridge. And that was the domino that changed everything. She received millions of naira in cash donations and plenty of gifts. Then, the brands came in. Kuda —the digital bank through which she received donations— made the first big move, matching her donations at over N2 million. Infinix, one of Transsion’s subsidiaries, offered her their latest phone model. From there on, the bandwagon effect kicked in. Firms threw themselves at the chance to gift her something, from insurance to real estate and even ed-tech scholarships. Even the NNPC, Nigeria’s state-owned petroleum company, offered her a fuel voucher.

Why were they doing this? Olaki had become a solid outlet to gain marketing traction. Her follower counts were going through the roof, and tweet engagements were dizzying. Olaki has gained over 160,000 new followers on Twitter as of report time. She’s arguably the biggest breakout internet persona on Twitter since Hilda Baci, the Nigerian chef who broke the Guinness World record last year.

The big ask is whether these brands had anything more to gain than likes and retweets. It’s not news that brands often seek to align themselves with trends to maximise visibility and engagement. Some of them have probably met their engagement targets for the quarter by simply jumping on this wagon. But many times, it’s hard to explain the effectiveness of a marketing strategy when it doesn’t immediately bring in more paying customers.

Olaki’s story is a bit similar to Hector Mkansi and Nonhlanhla Soldaat, the viral ‘KFC couple’ from South Africa. Mkansi was mocked for proposing to Soldaat at KFC. But after they went viral, people and brands donated to give them their dream wedding and make them financially comfortable.

It’s one large-scale social case study that proves that personal stories, public discourse and brand engagement are beginning to intertwine. And many companies might struggle with balancing this art.

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