Saoussane Hmidouch is a Casablanca based beauty and lifestyle youtuber, the winner of the 2015 Miss Webelline contest, an ambassador of various local brands such as Morocco Mall, one of the three largest shopping malls in Africa. Her following across social media channels sees an unstoppable growth, making her a new member of the much coveted elite of Africa-born influencers with an international audience. Hers spans across North Africa.
SM: As a teenager, I was very passionate about recycling. I used to create a lot of things with used stuffs. I created a cellphone case, a t-shirt, a bermuda, etc. People were impressed and would encourage me to show my creations on the internet. This is how my facebook page started. At the beginning it was just an audience of around 300 people. Then I noticed that people don’t read on facebook, they don’t go beyond a few lines, so I opted to offer them more options for accessing my content. I progressively moved from facebooking and blogging to youtubing.
PG: How has youtube impacted your relationship with the audience?
SM: Video is a much more active channel, people feel more engaged. I regard viewers as friends and neighbours. I came to build that relationship through various ways such as the language I use – the darija (Moroccan Arabic) – and the setting. I sometimes shoot in my bedroom, other times I shoot at 6AM. People like that I am spontaneous, true to myself, telling it like it is. I also literally reply to all queries.
PG: How often do you post videos?
SM: It used to be whenever I felt like posting. Any time I had an idea. But then people don’t necessarily come back when you disappear for a while. Now I post minimum twice a week, on a weekday. Never on weekends. People are mostly connected via cellphone on those days, they don’t watch videos and tutorials on their cellphone. They may bookmark it for a later viewing.
The bottom line is that I want as many viewers as possible as it also helps with how youtube finds you in search requests for instance. Now I have much more content and ideas. They come with the trends. In order to be in sync with the trends, I have to post more videos, to have the appropriate frequency. Now I do tutorials about make-up, lifestyle, discoveries, purchases…
PG: Can you walk us through the process?
SM: I do my own videos from filming to editing. My equipment is pretty basic but that’s all good because I have always liked learning different things, touching on diverse areas in the process, perfecting my own way up. I like the craftsmanship aspect of the whole thing.
PG: Do you know your numbers with precision across social media?
SM: I do actually. But I see value more in the two-way relationship I have with the audience, in how they react to my postings. I feel like my community is a real community. But as it is growing, I get concerned about losing the strong relationship with my followers because this is what differentiates me from other bloggers, youtubers and influencers.
PG: How do you cash in on your achievements so far?
SM: Through advertising but it is not worth mentioning as it is very low compared to other markets. In Africa, in Morocco, revenues from blogging are close to zero because you hardly reach the threshold defined by youtube for revenue generation.
Another source may be sponsored videos. Things are starting to move forward in Morocco as bloggers, particularly in cosmetics, bring in more results when it comes to attracting specific audience targets. Compared to traditional advertising, people prefer to trust someone who has really tested the products. It is not a sponsored video per se, but I did like the work I did with L’Oréal for Elseve. I wrote the script, there were three bloggers involved… From there I have participated in other initiatives from L’Oréal.
PG: How do you position yourself in the local youtuber landscape,?
SM: I have come to consider my blog as a mini communication agency because I am also contacted by companies who are looking at penetrating Morocco. A recent collaboration was just that and I got to submit concepts that resulted in two great videos. I had total freedom in the creative process, I was allowed to say whatever I wanted – liked the product or not.
It is not all rosy though: recently a partnership with a global brand did not materialize, even though both parties were satisfied with the creative, the legal and the financial. So far I have no clue as to why nothing happened. That left me frustrated because I don’t know whether they moved on hiring someone else and implementing my concept, or they just buried the whole thing.
PG: Big corporate brands tend to be the dream partner for youtubers. Do you consider independents and starters?
SM: Yes! I believe blogs are mostly done for them! Because if you don’t talk about new things, don’t offer things for people to discover, what’s the point? Talking about stuffs that have been there for ages? Talking about new products, new brands in particular, is extremely exciting for viewers and consumers.
But then, it’s up to the new kids on the block to deliver, notably in terms of distribution, customer service, availability everywhere…this has been a serious issue in Morocco where you see labels, products, brands one day in the shelves and gone the next day. Followers complain so much about products I have talked about but that are no longer available in stores.