Esaja.com caught up Nandi Tembo, the Founder and Head Designer of Dudlu Ntombazana Creation, and we managed to capture her insights on the power of social media in this digital era.
Tell us about yourself, what you do, and how you got to where you are now.
I’m a Supply Chain Manager in the public sector by profession, a jewellery designer by passion. I started playing around with beading a few years ago and making various (and sometimes scary) pieces for myself and with more practice, I got better to the point where I am at now. I’m still so far from where I want to be but the self-teaching journey is an amazing journey to be on; one I enjoy tremendously.
Your collection is breathtaking. Tell us about your design style and aesthetic.
I wouldn’t say I have a design style per se, not yet anyway. I don’t know if I’m at a level where you can spot a piece and say “that’s a Dudlu Ntombazana piece”. I want to get to that but also don’t. I want to have a signature that’s different every time if that makes sense. I want my work to be easily recognizable but unique at the same time. So the style is to have no set style but rather to invent a new style every time. I’m currently working on a new collection of accessories. When it comes out, I want people to be wowed. I want it to look nothing like the current collection but to be recognizable as a sibling of the current collection, fraternal twins if you will.
As a designer, where do you draw inspiration from?
I think I’m just inspired by the concept of creation. I love picking up a pack of beads or a piece of leather and the following day there is no pack of beads, only a neckpiece…there is no piece of leather, only a bag. That’s what inspires me. It’s like picking up a guitar which is just a set of strings and an hour later, there exists a musical piece that will be sung by millions of people for years to come. That creation is what I love, it’s what inspires me.
What’s your favorite piece from your collection, and what was the inspiration?
My favorite piece is The Hayfron. It’s also my most simple piece but I absolutely love it. Our current range of neck pieces is called the First Ladies range because all the pieces are named after former African First Ladies. It was very important that the theme of the range talk to our passion for women empowerment hence we decided to honour First Ladies. Why First Ladies, you may be wondering? Well, I feel like First Ladies are the epitome of a woman being in the shadow of a man. Most people do not even know the names of First Ladies other than those of their own countries but we can name the presidents of numerous countries. As such I felt that First Ladies would be fitting persons to highlight our theme of taking women out of the shadows and empowering them.
This is why it was also important that we use their maiden names rather than their married names. This ensures that the theme is associated with them alone and not their spouses. Hence rather than calling a piece The Machel (which would be associated with President SamoraMachel), we called it The Simbine, after GracaMachel’s maiden name. Instead of calling a piece The Mbeki (which would be associated with President Thabo Mbeki), we called it The MaDlamini, after Zanele Mbeki’s maiden name.
The Hayfron is named after Sally Hayfron Mugabe, who was the First Lady of Zimbabwe. I have such a soft spot for Sally Mugabe and I think that’s why The Hayfron is my favorite piece in the collection. So rather than the piece itself, it’s who it is named after that inspires me and makes it my favorite.
@dudluntombazana tweeted about your beautiful jewellery, asking the Twitterverse to support and retweet. What were your motivations and why did you choose to join Twitter?
— Dudlu Ntombazana (@DudluNtombazana) January 5, 2017
On a personal level, I’m a Facebook person. That’s been my social media platform of choice for many years and continues to be. So when we launched Dudlu Ntombazana Creations a few weeks ago, we were immediately on Facebook but the aim has always been to be on other social media platforms as well. So for me, twitter was new. I’m learning about how to use it more and more with each day. I like its instantaneous nature which I think pushes you to be creative with your message. On Facebook, you can write your promo message with 800 words and Facebook people will read it because we are used to such long statuses but Twitter audiences are used to 140 character limits so they want you to be direct with your message.
Ultimately, the market dictates which platforms you are on. If a new platform starts up tomorrow and the masses flock to it, then your business better be there waiting for them.
How relevant is social media for a designer like you, and what benefits have you received from it?
Social media is so important. It has literally eliminated the traditional barriers between a business and its customer. In times past, you had to take out an advertorial in a paper or magazine, for instance, to reach a new audience. Now you can easily connect to an audience anywhere in the world with ease. And social media’s special sauce is that it puts the power of product promotion in the customers’ hands. Customers are almost in charge of spreading the word about your product. The digitalisation of word of mouth has been a godsend for businesses, especially small business. You can literally post a tweet right now and people on Twitter will move your message across the world for you. Next thing you hear from a potential client 10,000 kilometers away.
How has social media helped you to connect with potential clients?
It’s helped us access client bases I never thought we would be able to. Dudlu Ntombazana Creations is literally only a few weeks old but we’ve had the pleasure of making pieces for clients outside of South Africa; on the continent, in Europe, and the Americas. That’s the power of social media. Traditional forms of connecting with clients are still relevant but they usually come at a cost. A radio/tv/newspaper/magazine advert does not come cheap. In fact, even an advert on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc. doesn’t come cheap but social media allows you to connect with a client directly and free of charge. This is crucial especially for small businesses that have massive financial constraints. It’s all good that we have www.dudluntombazana.co.za as our eShop but nothing drives more traffic to it than social media.
What strategies do you use to attract more Twitter followers, and how do you keep them engaged?
As mentioned above, Dudlu Ntombazana Creation is still a baby, literally only a few weeks old and we are learning every day. One of the things we are learning is that, unlike tradition methods of connecting with customers (like an advert), social media is about constant engagement. Over the next few weeks, we intend to explore various methods to increase this engagement. We intend to increase the number of posts on all platforms and to communicate with customers beyond just talking about ourselves and our products. You can’t engage with a customer just by talking about yourself. You must give them a space to talk about themselves too. That also allows you to see which clients could take your brands further.
How do you measure your brand influence on Twitter?
At this moment we are using basic metrics like the number of times we get Retweeted, Mentioned, or Liked. The rate at which our follower count increases is also relevant to us. Twitter offers very useful analytics that measure the reach of your engagements and impressions on the platform. This is a very powerful tool to monitor the activity of your tweets and try to get a sense of where to target your engagement and promotional activity.
What are some of the best practices that you’ve used on Twitter?
The tweet you mentioned earlier where I asked people to retweet my tweet is one best practice I will advocate for. Simply asking people to support you is something I’ve noticed people doing on Twitter for their businesses and for themselves when job hunting for instance. It’s a simple but very effective method to spread the word. People are generally very supportive and will retweet you if you ask. It’s however, crucial for you to turn that activity into leads by then adopting traditional customer service best practices like responding to all inquiries timeously and courteously. No inquiry is a waste of time.
What advice would you like to share with your customers and those who aspire to be where you are now?
Don’t sleep. Work hard, hard, hard. I’m literally only just starting out and I don’t know if it will be like this forever but as things stand, that’s my best advice. Work hard always. Social media is your friend. It’s free but it requires TLC. I love apps that allow you to post one status or image and that status is posted to all social media platforms at the same time but I also believe they should be used only when appropriate. Your client base tends to be different on each platform so it may be very advisable to cater each message to each platform accordingly.
Many thanks to Nandi, for showing us how to put our best foot forward in 2017. Check out her twitter page, https://twitter.com/DudluNtombazana, and support her movement.