Somali Content Creators: A Critical Perspective in the Attention Economy Era

Increase of social media use has increased but with a cost | Photo: Said Fadhaye | Graphics: Mohamed Sharif


       Digital content creation has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Humans are spending more time on screens than ever before. The consumption of digital contents has considerably skyrocketed. And as a result, content creation has emerged as a formidable force that transcends borders and cultures. It has become a hotbed for entertainment, education, and information sharing.

       Research indicates a significant market value increase in the next decade. The market value of content creation was estimated at staggering USD 25.6 billion in 2022. The global market size growth of content creation is forecasted to surpass USD 181.4 billion by 2032.

       This ever-growing world of content creation has given many young people the opportunity to unleash their creativity and artistic talents. And in the process, turn their passion into a profitable adventure. Somali youth, too, have seized this opportunity to amplify their voices and overcome the obstacles induced by the country’s political turmoil.

       Although obtaining accurate data on the exact number of Somali social media users is challenging due to various limitations, it is estimated that as of 2023, the Somali social media user base reached approximately 1.95 million, This figure accounts for less than 11% of the total population. The increase in social media users and the improving availability of internet services is a promising window for Somali content creators.

       With such enormous potential, there have been growing challenges that can impede the growth of Somali content creators. These challenges are often, in my view, self-induced. The view count has become the driving motivation for social media use.

       Despite the promising role of digital content for Somali youth, concerns about a lack of originality and creativity are rising. In this piece, I will address why Somali content creators should embrace creativity and scale up their content.

The elephant in the room
       To decode the challenges facing Somali content creators, we must address the elephant in the room: the Mighty Algorithm. Algorithms play a crucial role in amplifying the reach of content by tailoring it for search engines and for individual preferences on social media . This optimisation boosts visibility and engagement across platforms.

       To exploit the algorithm, digital creators focus on employing variety of methods. They exacerbate their thumbnails, give their contents attention-grabbing titles, and in some cases, resort to fake, scripted, or staged contents.

       Similarly, Somali content creators have exploited algorithms in a negative way, potentially harming their digital growth. They centred their content on producing fake pranks and controversial content that elicits reactions from the public. For some to continue to elicit reactions form their audiences, they stage clan riots on Facebook and TikTok. This pays off as reflected on the number of followers they have on these platforms. Most followed content creators on Facebook, for instance, are people who create content that revolves around clan hatred.

       Exploiting the algorithm is a smart strategy. It enhances visibility and brings engagement. There’s no infamy in that, but the question is, how long can a content creator maintain this strategy without losing audiences in the process? Doesn’t this strategy undermine the content creator’s authenticity and break the trust of their audiences? Prioritising views and engagements at the expense of core traditional and religious values prove counterproductive.

Embracing creativity and authenticity
       In the world of content creation, authenticity and distinctiveness are essential for the long run. As a content creator, you want to invest in your content so people can enjoy your uniqueness. It’s more about building relationships for audience retention. That’s what most successful content creators do. Creativity also plays a key role. It prevents stagnation and nurtures innovation.

       Authenticity and creativity go hand in hand. Young creative Somali content creators should embrace this. Harnessing these twin strategies promises enduring rewards. This path not only paves the way for sustained digital growth, but also contributes to building a loyal and sizeable audience.

Adopting to the changing dynamics of technology
       Content creation is a multifaceted world. it changes so fast that we, as consumers, don’t realise it. The augmented reality, virtual reality, and the increasing demand of high-quality content production is becoming the norm. More digital creators are incorporating their contents with the fast-moving advance of generative artificial intelligence (AI).

       Due to numerous challenges including the limited availability of resources, keeping up with these trends can be, understandably, challenging to aspiring Somali content creators. However, finding ways to keeping up with these changing dynamics can be useful for Somali digital creators.

With power comes responsibility
       Being an influencer entails possessing power and influence. Somali content creators must recognise their influence on public discourse. Their contents receive thousands of views and there are plenty of youth who look up to them. Acknowledging and using this influence responsibly is paramount.

       Being responsible influencer should be your sole purpose. Views will follow as long as your focus is being uniquely creative, authentic, and socially responsible.

       Our society has been struggling with many challenges. Use your platform to promote social justice and peace. Recognising your platform’s potency in breaking the cycle of violence and hatred is the most impactful action you can do.

       Somali content creators are at a crossroads: utilizing their platforms to creating new opportunities for a youth-led digital Somalia or succumbing to the ever-hungry clout chasing paradigm. Choosing the former paves the way for progress, prosperity, and moral society, while the latter does not. Choose wisely.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of this publication.

Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi is a lecturer, researcher, and independent environmental health and safety consultant. He’s also a staff writer at Gorfayn where he writes about environmental, climate change, social, and cultural issues.

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