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Meet the stars of Instagram

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When Instagram was named South Africa’s fastest growing social network, a surprise was who emerged as its biggest stars. However, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK reveals the real local heroes of the photo sharing network, and what makes them tick.

It may not be the biggest social network in South Africa, but Instagram is growing at a pace rarely seen in the world of online sharing. In the past year, it grew by 133 per cent in South Africa, from 1,1-million to 2,68-million users, according to the newly released SA Social media Landscape 2016 report.

Instagram started life as a photo-sharing app for iPhones, but has become a new frontier in photography and in the lives of celebrities. It is the latter who dominate the network locally, with two TV personalities, Minnie Dlamini and Bonang Matheba, each having more than half a million followers.

The next five highest-followed users are also in the entertainment game. All have one thing in common: most of the images they post are of themselves.

It is only at number eight that we find creative content being posted, and that is where we begin to see the true stars of Instagram emerge. The 8th most followed South African on Instagram, Gareth Pon (or @garethpon), is also the most followed photographer in the country, with close to a quarter million people on the lookout for his highly creative and original techniques.

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Gareth Pon’s Instagram home page

He is followed at number 10 by landscape photographer Craig Howes at just under 200 000 followers, and then a clutch of another five photographers in the top 20. Pon is also founder of an organisation of South African “Igers” – serious Instagramers – which has grown to more than seven thousand members since it began in 2013.

He himself makes a living as a globetrotting photographer, with most of his work coming off the back of his Instagram profile – and from major brands’ growing awareness of the power of the medium.

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Craig Howes’ Instagram home page

“Instagram has only started being utilised as a platform for marketing this year,” he says. “Many brands are just playing games around the space and have failed to execute Instagram as a platform for marketing. We all have a long way to go, because it’s such a new space, but if you speak to the right people and use the right perspectives, then you can use it in the most unique ways.”

His active role in building a community around Instagram is an indication, however, that he regards people as a priority.

“I believe that Instagram has a great way of showing people that they can be creative without needing to be too hard on themselves. Hundreds of smaller communities have sprung up and there are ‘instameets’ happening all the time. I just wanted to let those people find a place where they could spend time with others who have a common passion.

“The other reason I did this was to expose the beauty of South Africa to the world, in a small way. “

He pays little attention to the media personalities whose selfies and egos dominate Instagram in South Africa.

“If you engage with the platform on an international level, you very quickly realise how huge it is within the photography and creative space. All the divas, personalities and egos may have a large following, but ultimately most of them will never ever publish a beautiful image.”

Ironically but not unexpectedly, Pon is taken more seriously outside South Africa than inside. It is partly a mark of the immaturity of the platform in South Africa, but also of its rapidly increasing importance globally.

“South Africa unfortunately carries very little respect for Instagramers. I’ve worked with some reputable brands on an international level – Nike, Absolut Vodka, Mercedes, CNN, to name a few. To be honest I’ll rarely take on work in South Africa, because it consumes so much time where I could put the same time into gaining more international traction.”

Nevertheless, he remains committed to the local Instagram community.

“The initial inspiration was discovering the beauty of our cities again. As an international community we find ourselves making connections on a global scale; there are friends in every city and there is always someone who can show you the beauty of their city. I like to believe that the Igers South Africa community is the friendliest you’ll meet in the world.

“My hope is that as Instagram and the community changes, we’ll begin to see and embrace a new way of capturing South Africa. We’ll see our stories come alive through images and, as we discover our stories, we’ll see South Africa captured in a way it’s never been captured before.”

Inside the igers

The igersouthafrica Instagram account is curated by University of Cape Town postgraduate student Dean Horwitz, better known on Instagram as @mediamandean. He relaunched IgersUCT in 2014 as a space for sharing photos taken at UCT, and also helps out with IgersCapeTown.

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Dean Horwitz’s Instagram home page

“On a personal level, the biggest benefits are that you get to meet new people who share the love and passion for photography, which often translates into immediate friendships,” says Horwitz. “You get to attend instawalks and instameets, which offer opportunities to take photos of unique and different locations as well as an opportunity to meet people who you follow online. These meets and walks offer a fantastic opportunity to improve your photography, learn from other people and occasionally to work with some incredible brands.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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A screenshot of Arthur Goldstuck’s Instagram home page.

Top 7 South African photographers on Instagram

1. @garethpon (Gareth Pon) 246 000

2. @craighowes (Craig Howes)195 000

3. @levonlock (Levon Lock) 139 000

4. @unclescrooch (Ofentse Mwase) 136 000

5. @roywrench (Roy Potterill) 132 000

6. @rowaneva (Rowan Eva) 116 000

7. @ciden (Jacob K) 106 000

Hone your Instagram creativity

Gareth Pon has taken Instagram to a level of creativity that most casual users and followers never encounter, let alone produce. His greatest wish, he says, is that ordinary users learn some of these techniques, or at least attempt to take and post a creative photo. He has created a concise Instagram branding course on a learning site called Skillshare, at http://skl.sh/1MjuTs2. He also recommends two apps to edit images: Snapseed and VSCO

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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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