THE silent question that bothers people’s minds who are already in business is “How can I make money online?” Almost everyone has a Facebook or a Twitter account but this seems to be used more for leisure rather than business. Online business is a goldmine for Nigerians if they knew the essential and vital ways to tap into its treasure. Curious to know the ways in which Nigerian businesses can expand and grow their business through online use, ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with internet guru, Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata, Jnr., on the matter.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is , I am an internet and ICT expert. I live and dine on the internet as it were and I am possibly one of the few Nigerians who make a living via the internet.
What are you really into?
First, I am a blogger. A blogger means that I run a number of information based websites. During the course of blogging, I found out that a number of customers needed what I want to do and some approached me to help them with their internet presence so from being a blogger, I transited into becoming an internet consultant and then from being an internet consultant, I transited into being a search engine optimization expert. From there also, I became a social media marketer. If you put them all together, you can simply call me a web consultant.
Online business is under utilized in Nigeria, how does one truly venture into it?
There are a number of challenges in online businesses in Nigeria, so it’s not as mature as it is outside Nigeria. The challenge for everybody who wants to make money online is typically, ‘How do I get started?’ For me, I usually encourage people that one of the first ways for you to make money via the internet is for you to create a product or a service that people are willing to pay for. If people are not willing to pay for your products or services, then stop deceiving yourself because the truth about the internet is that you must meet a need and then people can exchange the value of the needs you tend to meet and then give you cash or whatever. But at least, you must meet a need. So, if you want to venture into online business, you must think of, ‘What can I offer people that they need?’ When you have decided what that will be, you need to now begin to seek knowledge or find people who can make it happen. But the truth of the matter is that online business is not wishful thinking. There’s nothing like ‘Get Rich Quick’ scheme online. Everything online is a process. It’s a step by step process and for you to make money online, you must follow the process.
How can an already successful business make money online?
For a business that’s already succeeding, for you to make money online, you must think of ‘How do I move the customers that I have now to the internet?’ and ‘How do I get more customers from the internet?’ So, for every business, it starts with the business having a website. A website is critical. You then decide if your website should be an e-commerce based website or an ordinary website. An e-commerce based website is a website where people can actually buy, shop and pay directly on your website without having to come to your bank or go to your bank to pay. But again, Nigerians still have issues with online payment, it hasn’t blossomed as it should, but we are getting there and with the advent of mobile payment, it would also help businesses to get online. So, every business must think, ‘Do I have a user friendly website? Do I have a search engine optimized website? How is my social media presence like? Is it professional enough?’ These are all the factors you put together as a business to begin to make money online. Because the truth of the matter is that any business that doesn’t think of making money online might end up being extinct in no time because your competitor who are younger are actually coming at you from the ICT and internet point of view and if you do nothing about that, you will be shocked that in three, four, five years, they would overtake you so it’s critical for businesses to also access the internet.
Abroad, there’s something like Pay Per Click where you get money by people clicking on your site. Is there anything like that in Nigeria?
Now, we must understand that there are a lot of fraudulent things going on but if you want to earn money in a pay per click arrangement for example, you have what is called Google Adsense. Google Adsense is a service that allows you to participate in Google’s advertising programme. You simply register yourself and your site on to the advertising platform and then you place a set of codes on your website. Each time visitors visit the website, Google displays the various websites of its customers who want to be advertised on your website and then when visitors come to your website and click on those, that’s what is called ‘Pay Per Click’. The person who advertised gets charged and then Google splits the profit between themselves and you the owner of the website. So, yes, you can earn money from Pay Per Click system but it’s not still as easy as anyone thinks. You need to first of all have a good website, a user-friendly website that would attract visitors. The challenge is after the website, you need to drive visitors to the website for people to respond otherwise people will not respond and it’s of no use.
How do you get sponsors to advertise on your website or blog?
The very first thing for you to get people to advertise on your blog or site, it has to be weighty. It has to have traffic, it has to be user-friendly, it has to be good looking, people have got to mention and rave about your blog. If your blog is not like that, then you can’t get people to advertise on it. The same way you market offline in the real world is the same way you market online so you have to send out proposals, add your statistics, show people the number of visitors. Thank God for today’s websites, you can actually have statistics of people who are visiting your website, what page they like, how many people are visiting, from what country. Bring out those statistics and send them out to companies and let them decide. So, you have to perform some activities to get people to advertise on your blog the same way it’s done in the real world.
What is the fastest way to generate more traffic?
The fastest way to generate more traffic is to generate highly interesting content. On the internet we say content is king and content is the king so you just need to generate content. If you are somebody who is busy copying content then your website has no originality. When you generate content, you must now think about the other internet strategies that you can use to drive your traffic. You can look at social media site, social bookmarking sites, search engines, forums, other blogs. So, these are all the strategies you put together that would help you to grow not only from the social media site but also, the search engine. Also, for everyone who is starting out a business online, you must have a small budget for advertising. The internet is so competitive today, you have over a billion websites. Back in the day, you can just wake up and start a site and then the site booms. Today, it is extremely competitive. You must understand that every niche you want to play, the internet levels the playing ground. What this simply means is that a business in Japan can actually prospect for a customer in Nigeria. A business in Nigeria can prospect for a business in South Africa. It levels the ground. It simply tells you that no matter your business today, you have at least a hundred thousand to a million, people who are already in that business worldwide so you’ve got to be competitive. If you’re not competitive, you can’t drive traffic.
We all hear online businesses, how does the money really come in?
One of the challenges we have in Nigeria is the fact that the major payment processors don’t accept Nigerians. Paypal is the world’s biggest online payment service provider and unfortunately, it doesn’t accept Nigeria. It is a big challenge and that is why you can’t really be an effective internet marketer in Nigeria without having Paypal or Click bank. Click bank also provides services where you can be an affiliate of various kinds of products but unfortunately, Nigerians are exempted. What it means is we are left with options of other smaller relevant payment platforms but not very relevant. Personally, I know that Google Adsense payment is usually made by cheque. The cheque is sent to you either by courier service or regular mail service depending on what you choose. It’s difficult when it comes to payment and that’s why for international online marketing transactions, it is difficult to do it internationally. But for the local ones, our payment platforms are improving. Interswitch, ETranzact, they are all doing pretty well and also, the Mastercard service has really helped. So, right now, Nigerians can actually do more business with international organizations and websites than receive. Receiving payment is still a challenge that I can say for sure.
How does someone like Linda Ikeji make money online?
Linda Ikeji is a very early bird on the internet. She came to the internet when a lot of Nigerians were still oblivious and sleeping about the internet, she was already there. Right now, she’s got a presence nobody can take from her. A few of her income comes from Google Adsense, but a vast majority of her income comes from local endorsements and local businesses. Do you know why local businesses are pursuing her? Because she has traffic. Linda has a lot of traffic and that’s why it’s paying her.
Do you use social media in your business?
Social media is critical in today’s world. You can’t think of doing business without thinking of social media. I use Linkedn more than Facebook and I can tell you for sure that Linkedn has earned me a lot of money because I understood what is called social media optimization. Because Linkedn has a search engine built in it. I always appear in searches because my account has been optimized for certain keywords that people are searching for within Linkedn and it has helped me not just for local connections but also international connections. So, I recommend social media for every entrepreneur, business person and every employee who is forward looking. You need to take social media very seriously. One of the success of social media in my case is I use cfagbata as my username. You must use a uniform username across all your social media profile. It helps your brand. You must understand that your presence on the internet is a brand and you must carefully manage it. I advice that you use the same username across all your social media sites and you should also use the same uniform image across all the sites. It gives you a seamless outlook and a seamless brand. So, my username is the same on Facebook, Linkedn, Google Plus, Youtube, Twitter and all the social media sites I’m involved in. I use cfagbata uniformly and also my blog is cfagbata.com.
Where do you see the future of online business in Nigeria going?
Great. Nigeria is going to be a powerhouse in ICT. I can say this without any doubt in my heart. Nigeria is a powerhouse. What we don’t realize which foreigners have realized is that Nigeria has the population and to an extent the spending power and that’s why majority of the big e-commerce sites are either owned by foreigners or foreigners have very good interest in them. It’s because they see something we are yet to see. So, I want to assure Nigerians that Nigeria would certainly play a big role in internet and ICT so you must begin to start now to think, ‘How do I position for the boom?’ because I can assure you that the boom is about to take place. Remember that there is an ongoing plan to democratize and make broadband cheaper and the two people pushing this are Ernest Ndukwe and Jim Ovia. Ernest Ndukwe is somebody in ICT who pushed what we are enjoying today in GSM and Jim Ovia has invested so much in ICT over the years so I want to assure you that the future of internet and ICT is bright. Business owners and individuals should be optimistic. As soon as broadband drops and becomes more accessible, you find out that education also will move to the internet. When Nigerian universities are wasting time or JAMB is wasting time for students, you’d find out that very cheap universities in low cost countries would start to offer Nigerians degree programmes. Just watch what would happen, it’s going to be lovely.
- DAMILOLA SHOLOLA
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, June 25, 2013