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Aiming to improve ‘lives and livelihoods’ is what drives the enigmatic, Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Thandeka Hlongwa to influence and impact society by posting online through her social media platform on two pertinent issues such as HIV and Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The multi-skilled journalist who has her National Diploma in Journalism, has a great passion for media and mass communication which has steered her towards furthering her skills by enrolling into several Google courses that have added value to her knowledge as a media practitioner.

The Google certified Digital marketer, who is also currently studying towards her Bachelor of Technology degree in Journalism, has become instrumental in educating students on HIV and GBV through her Instagram account.

Now recognised as an influencer, she affiliates and collaborates with brands that approach her because of her 15 400 followers. She has become immensely impactful because of the engagement of her posts which suggests that the content is not only being sold to the consumer, but also landing with them. Hlongwa indicated that social media is the best tool, since being a media student herself she cannot deny the obvious migration of the consumer from traditional news form to social media.

“So for me, it’s been the best way to engage my audience on an array of topics best suited for them using a tool stats easily accessible to them and branding myself in a relatable way. Because GBV and HIV are not new topics, the manner in which I curate content surrounding these topics is however new and relevant,” she said.

Some of her highlights that she had experienced with regards to her campaigns are when she sees those figures and ‘clicks on the link’ which indicates people are following the links she had embedded.

“I have now done what the brand has tasked me to do which is to get the message across, working with MTVShuga and @bwisehealth, the official Department of Health’s website with tons of information often gone unread, I managed to pre-package and rebrand which was something special. After realising the impact of my posts and the potential they have to do better, I started applying and pitching to companies and brands that had timeless stories/brands to sell. I applied for an influencer campaign, which I did not apply for as the followers’ threshold was above my 15 400 followers, however, after applying and backing up my claims with real-time figures, I was shortlisted to be part of a campaign that was promoting a MTVShuga #AloneTogether. This is a web series shot by thespians at home but compiled by the production as single episodes in a season,” she said.

Hlongwa said that MTVShuga often discusses prevalent issues faced by the youth and the theme during COVID-19 lockdown was the rise of GBV and the stigma faced by COVID-19 and HIV positive people. For Hlongwa, Instagram has become a vital social media tool for her, as it is a very visually competitive field, so content curation is another process in itself to ensure her audience is drawn to her page, find something they like and stay there. Her goal is to post three times a week with stories going up to a thousand followers, seeing as they are short, 30 second videos.

As a DUT student, she believes students need to be educated more.
“I am a student and I know exactly when my eyes glaze over and I lose interest in something intended for me. The prime example is HIV testing and counselling on campus, which is something I rarely engage with and when I did I would be the second or third person on the register, proving that although students were provided for, however their attention was elsewhere,” she said.

Her future goal is to be at the forefront of the interlinking of Digital Media and Broadcasting. Her advice to her followers is that if something is not working for one, find innovative and modern ways to tell stories.
“If it means hopping onto a trend or two do it. Bid your time, be your own editor if need be, but find a way to integrate and shift to suit the evolving media space,” she said.

Pictured:Thandeka Hlongwa

Waheeda Peters

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