Young Kenyans turn YouTube into money-spinning platform

If you ask a Kenyan on the street who Bien-Aimé, Chimano, Delvin and Savara are, a majority will stare blankly. But ask about Sauti Sol, the band name, and the likelihood is that most will have seen them on TV or YouTube.

It is the millions of fans who watch these young musicians’ YouTube channels almost daily that have seen them earn money.

According to Social Blade, a site that runs YouTube statistics, tracking websites and users to determine channels’ growth, the earnings of many Kenyans and companies with YouTube channels are growing.

YouTube, a video-sharing website that operates as one of Google’s subsidiaries, is turning Kenyans into techpreneurs.

Kenya’s top 100 YouTube list is dominated by channels of well-established companies, but it is the names of channels belonging to individuals that stand out. These money-making channels are run by the youth who bank on YouTube to educate, entertain and to promote their services and brands.

Jim Nduruchi, for instance, through his anti-jigger campaign is estimated to make between Sh1.7 million ($16,900) to Sh27.2 million ($269,800) a year, according to Social Blade.

The campaigner posts videos of people gravely affected by jiggers, graphic videos that reveal the reality of the menace that has hit many people in western Kenya.

Since he opened the channel on November 2012, he has uploaded 1,096 videos and garnered more than 62 million views. His channel attracts more than six million views in a month.

Social Blade placed him at position five of the top 100 most viewed channels in Kenya.

As Internet use grows, many Kenyans are turning their YouTube channels into money spinners.

Kangai Mwiti started using YouTube as a medium of communication, but saw the potential and monetised it. She uses her channel Belles Africa to make announcements on her Afya make-up line that she launched last month and for posting tutorials on applying make-up.

Like many YouTube entrepreneurs, she represents a growing number of youth who are fast embracing new technologies to do business.

Last year, she quit a well-paying job as a marketing manager to venture into business. She travels all over the world to do make-up on clients and partners with aertising and beauty companies. But the business does not stop there.

She uses YouTube to scale up the returns of her business. On Belles Africa YouTube channel, Ms Mwiti shares tutorials on how to apply make-up.

She opened the YouTube channel in 2012 to pass time, but it was not until last year when she realised that it had the potential of generating a decent earning.

She started off slow, with 12 subscribers registering in eight months. She continued sharing the videos and gradually attracted traffic. One such video attracted over 1,000 views.

Encouraged, she improved the quality of videos which increased traffic to her YouTube channel.

Social Blade puts her channel on the list of the top 100 most viewed channels in Kenya, standing at position 36 with more than 4.7 million views.

Ms Mwiti’s channel has 82,604 subscribers. Her estimated yearly earnings stand at between S5,653 ($353) and Sh565,600 ($5,600).

“YouTube uses the videos on my channel to run aerts and in turn I get a commission. The pay was small when I started, but it is getting better now,” she said during an earlier interview with the Business Daily.

Usually, YouTube sources the aertisers, but content creators can directly look for sponsors earning themselves more money.

“Digital media is huge. It offers so many opportunities for businesses. YouTube is a new way of broadcasting information and reaching out to people in the community,” said Martin Muli, a digital media strategist.

“It is so powerful because it transmits words, voice and images generating interest just as TV does,” he said.

With governments pushing the youth to start businesses instead of waiting for white collar jobs, most tech-savvy young people have found an entrepreneurial path in this website.

How to start earning

So how do people make money from YouTube? Creating a YouTube channel is one way. The online community is not limiting so content creators can come up with different material to upload on YouTube, but it is the most interesting videos that attract viewers and thereafter aertisers.

Once the account is live, one needs to upload interesting videos regularly to keep the audience interested.

“By uploading regularly you can help hold an audience. People are more likely to subscribe if you add content on regular schedule and maintain that schedule as much as possible,” said Dorothy Ooko, the head of communication and public affairs, Google Kenya.

“Building an audience is key to increasing your monetisation. You need people to watch your aerts in order to make any money off them. There is no one secret to getting more subscribers, just make the best content that you can and they will come to you,” she added.

YouTubers need to share links of uploaded videos on social media to create awareness and mobilise the social media users to visit the channel. Viewers leave comments, keep in touch by responding to comments and making occasional videos directly related to viewer comments and questions, Ms Ooko said.

“Having a personal connection with the community will bring more members into that community,” she said.

Mr Muli said content creators need to be aggressive to make the channels popular because the frequency of aert clicks and number of views will determine the revenues.

To make money, content creators must first monetise the videos to enable YouTube to place aertisements on the videos.

Before, creators who wanted to pair sponsors’ ads with their videos had to get YouTube’s permission, but now the platform has automated the process with a “monetise” button.

For budding musicians who cannot afford airtime on mainstream media, YouTube has presented an opportunity for them to post videos and engage the online audience, Mr Muli said.

“It is an affordable way of reaching out to people. But to monetise a channel first there has to be enough content,” he said.

As YouTube attracts more users so are young tech-savvy Kenyans seeking to make money.

Irene Kamau is one such budding YouTuber who started Kenyan Kinks channel two months ago and hopes to make money off the channel one day, but first she is concentrating on building her brand.

“I want to make money from the channel but first I am concentrating on building the brand by creating more content and getting a following,” she said.

“YouTube is indeed a source of income for many people, some have made it a full-time job,” she said.

The latest statistics, released in late 2013, indicate that YouTube viewers in Kenya grew by over 95 per cent. And as a result of the growth Ms Ooko said, YouTube content creators are earning more because of the growing fan base.

The growth of YouTube viewers is attributed to affordable Internet connections and the rising number of Kenyans accessing Internet.

According to the latest statistics by the Communications Authority of Kenya (April-June statistics), the number of Internet users grew by a 32.9 per cent to stand at 29.6 million during the quarter.

Google statistics indicate that in South Africa, YouTube users grew by 85 per cent, 116 per cent in Senegal, 45 per cent in Ghana and by 36 per cent in Nigeria.

Nigeria leads Africa with the most revenue generated from YouTube followed by South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal and Uganda respectively.