Meet Thithi Nteta and Keagan Kingsley, whose vibrant and unique Instagram posts have attracted both followers and South African brands.
"I actually think that I've low key always liked sharing my life but sharing it in a controlled, curated way," said Nteta.
"I fell in love with creating content," Kingsley added. "So it wasn't necessarily about me specifically or sharing my life, but it was learning the craft of taking beautiful photos and what goes into that."
Kingsley works with the likes of adidas, Ray Ban and Clinique, while Nteta works with brands such as Ponds, DKNY and G-Star.
"I would maybe say (my brand is) a bit of feminine sports-lax," Kingsley explained. "I wear like a pink sparkly top with my sneakers. I'll wear a dress with my sneakers."
"I like to describe my brand like casual glamour because I do like to be comfortable in what I'm wearing," Nteta chimed in. "I really have been lucky enough to work with brands that get who I am and at the beginning of those relationships, it wasn't paid for. It was honestly just, 'Ooh, I'm so excited that you even want to work with me.'"
South African micro-influencers
Nteta and Kingsley are based in South Africa and they both agree that while Instagram influencers is a new industry in the country, it's a growing one.
"We've got such a multi-faceted country and lots of different cultures. And you'll find that people follow you for a very specific reason," Kingsley said. "Now we're seeing a trend of micro-influencers coming up. So it's people who have three or four thousand followers or less who are the most authentic and have the highest engagement stats."
Kingsley has more than 6,500 followers while Nteta has over 32,000. For them, posting authentic material is crucial to maintain their fame with both audience and brands.
"A basic Instagram post for me I would charge anywhere around 5000 rand a post, which is about $375," Nteta said.
"I'm definitely more affordable than Thithi because I've got a much smaller following than she does," said Kingsley. "So usually it's around 1,000, 2,000 rand a post."
As one of the most highly engaged social media networks, the photo and video sharing app's influencer market is massive. It's worth $1.07 billion and is estimated to reach $2.38 billion by 2019, according to influencer marketing agency, Mediakix
The South African Social Media Landscape 2016 study led by World Wide Worx and Fuseware revealed that Instagram has seen the fastest growth among any social networks in South Africa with an increase of 133 percent.
A rise in social media users in South Africa
Research firm World Wide Worx reported that Instagram users in South Africa increased 32 percent between 2016 and 2017
. This is a trend that is in line with smartphone penetration in the country.
Arthur Goldstuck, the managing director of World Wide Worx, said: "Back in 2010, we had about five million smartphones in use in this country. Now there are more than 30 million smartphones in use and most people when they go onto the internet for the first time through a smart phone, it's usually via Facebook or Twitter or one of the other social networks."
Brands are keen to tap into that opportunity, he says.
"Around 40 percent of brands are advertising on Instagram versus more than 80 percent advertising on Facebook," Goldstuck said. "But bearing in mind that Instagram advertising has only been around for about three years, that's fairly high and it will start catching up to Facebook in the near future."
Marketing via micro-influencers
The rise of social media has made influencer marketing one of the fastest growing categories in advertising, and an effective strategy for companies such as adidas.
"The macro or the famous people - they help you when you want the reach. And the beauty of the micro-influencers is that they are experts in their field of interest and because of that their followers, they are seen as a very authentic element and that increases the engagement," said adidas SA Brand Director, Mike Jaeggle. "You get that instant feedback that traditional media is not giving you."
Woolworths is one of South Africa's largest retail companies that sell everything from food to fashion. With many brands under its belt, Woolworths is no stranger to marketing via Instagram influencers.
"We have a number of brands such as Studio. W, Country Road Group, JT One, RE that also have their own sort of platforms on Instagram," said Ayanda Moholi, the senior social media manager of Woolworths SA. "Because we have the different tones with the different brands, we try to align our influencers strategy with those ... We try to localize that content in South Africa. And in that we use a whole bunch of influencers to put out great content."
And companies look for two main features when searching for brand ambassadors: highly engaged followers and the content creation.
"Overall, those influencers they have to speak and resonate to our product, to our brand stories and maybe even more important, their personality to our DNA, to our brand DNA, to our values, and that I think is the most important one," Jaeggle said.
And while this industry is up and coming in South Africa, Nteta and Kingsley agree that brands have much work to do when it comes to targeting Instagrammers.
"Instead of asking who's got the biggest following? What can we get out of you? They're asking who's right for the brand, who's going to be believable, who can we build a bigger relationship with," Nteta said.
A relationship that will bring both the brands and influencers to the global spotlight.