Known locally as Pirate Mulwana – Joshua Mulwana is a young Ugandan entrepreneur who at the age of 25 spends more time on Twitter than the professional vocation that made him study electrical engineering at Makerere University. Notwithstanding the recent social media tax in Uganda, “Pirate” as he likes to be called is keen to use social media to tell the stories of startups and brands in Uganda. This is indeed a testament of real entrepreneurs who toughen up even when the going gets tough. He decided to instead build a social media marketing startup in one of the African cities that prides itself as the Pearl of Africa. Pirate casually signed up on social media in 2014 though he did not start getting active on a regular basis until November 2017. Apart from retweeting, Pirate also does side jobs including graphics, data entry as well as tending his mum’s farm.
In a recent interview with Weetracker, Pirate expressed that he never planned to do social media marketing. “I used to post funny memes on twitter just for fun that used to get shared widely by my friends mostly on WhatsApp and Facebook. Eventually, my twitter followers started to increase. That is when I thought of monetising my following and approaching brands which I drafted tweets for them to use.”
He has in the past been involved in brand campaigns of several big names in his location. When the organising team of Rolex Festival Uganda that is partly sponsored by Coca-Cola realised that their social media engagements were low, Pirates was tasked to join the media team and push their campaign. He has also helped Shell, Britam Insurance and other companies similarly. To get his gig going, he gave himself a challenge of saving every dollar he makes from his social media activations. Over a period of four weeks, he was able to put together USD 400 that went into registering a media company and build his website piratemulwana. “Initially, I also didn’t fully understand how everything worked. At that time only 175 people followed me on twitter. Over the past year, I have constantly been posting interesting content that has seen my followers grow to reach present 31 K. This has made more people seek out my services.”
According to Joshua, “Ugandan customers love publicity, whenever they are having a party or a corporate function they would love as many people as possible to know about it.” This makes it easier for the startup to sell our their services to companies. But Joshua also maintains that it is not as bright as it looks. “This love for publicity also has its shortcomings since not all the customers we assist end up paying, leaving us on hard times when they default, ” he adds. Since the job does not have immediate returns, often customers do not perceive the value. He clarifies, “What we do as digital marketers is also rarely understood. For us to execute a good campaign we spend time and resources to brainstorm and craft ideas and develop graphics and sometimes all this effort does not get seen nor recognised. We get punished for our success. Since Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have different audiences you have to spend time planning the direction of the content so that you come up with appropriate graphical content that will elaborate the client’s message in the right way to his or her audience.”
Joshua contends that Uganda is still a virgin market making it a very attractive place for startups. In the recent past, he has even been able to help out on two projects. One was with “find my Id” that sought to connect lost documents to their owners. The process of getting some documents replaced could sometimes prove to take too long, meaning that people would rather pay to get their collected items back than go through the process of fresh applications to get them replaced.
He is also mulling on launching “Tarvana” which is going to be an online platform for booking various unique adventure activities and experiences in Uganda. As it is, he is happy to keep helping brands, and people reach bigger audiences by retweeting their content. Depending on the nature of the campaign, he sometimes offers to do this at no cost. By doing this, he can shore up goodwill and attract some interesting gigs. “I covered the young achiever’s awards 2018 in August, and my twitter account had over 7 million impressions, performing better than the verified accounts of ALL recognized media companies in the country, plus all the verified Ugandan government accounts that were covering the event live on Twitter. In other words, my account was the best performer about covering the wards on twitter that night in the entire country, ” he quipped enthusiastically.
The secret to this success is meticulous planning. Joshua’s core team consists of Kakooza Emma who is a software engineer, Echeru Rodney, and Nakawunde Catherine. After getting all the information we need concerning the brand or campaign from the client, “we sit down with team to create content for every day and for the various social media accounts thus coming up with a systematic campaign for our client” It would appear that his customers also seem to love this attention to details.
This has seen him receive an invitation be the Twitter media partner from Uganda to live tweet about the AMMA (Africa Movie Academy Awards) taking place in Kigali Rwanda on 20th October. If things go according to plan, this would be his first gig in a different country where his media firm will get to add another feather to its cap.