At a time when many are increasingly careful to guard their privacy, especially in matters family in this digital age-of-oversharing, others are opting to bare it all. What’s that all about? BETTY MUINDI finds out
As their morning routine every day, a wife, lets call her Linda, angles her breakfast sandwich to the camera to make sure no detail of the meal goes unrecorded.
Next, she spins round and at the far corner, we see her daughter tie her shoelaces before she steps out to catch the school bus. Her husband is busy on the phone, sitting on the edge of the couch trying to schedule a meeting with a client.
“Look at how my house is in a mess!” she sighs, pointing the camera at some clothes strewn all over the floor. Clutching on her leg is her bare butted two-year-old son, who has totally refused to have his breakfast without having chocolate first.
As these domestic dramas go on, hundreds of thousands have tuned in to watch the ‘show’ online. The loyal fans subscribe to the family YouTube channel, and avidly await their periodic dose of Linda’s family life.
And so is Linda’s life. Everyday, she sets up a tripod to film the ordinary activities in her three-bedroom house, edits the day into a short film then posts it for the world to see.
In Kenya, YouTube has over the past few years attracted millions of users. It is home to many niches including comedy, make-up, DIY tutorials and in recent months, family vlogging (video blogging).
But who would want to watch a stay-at-home mother go about her house chores as well as mothering and wifely duties, you may ask. Well, it turns out, even filming your child’s socks could earn you fame.
Believe it or not, some family’s entire income comes from vlogging, and indeed, the more private the moments, the more subscribers check in. As the vloggers would tell you, vlogging can be addictive and lucrative too, thanks to advertising deals.
Some, especially in developed countries, have given up their well-paying jobs to concentrate fully on producing family content on YouTube.
These top three Kenyan family vloggers on YouTube bear considerable influence, with about 100,000 subscribers cumulatively.
They keep their fans entertained by sharing their real life experiences with day-to-day household activities, work, parenting and marriage, including humorous content regarding the typical struggles of navigating family life.
They share tips about making it work in relationships, parenting, pregnancy, child birth, child rearing… you name it.
Fifteen thousand subscribers follow fitness trainer Frank Kiarie and his partner Maureen Waititu share details about their relationship and tend to their two children, Lexi and Kai.
These slices of their reality haven’t been screened on TV, rather, viewers have been transfixed by the couple’s vlog called AlphaBeta.
The couple started vlogging 10 months ago, and their YouTube channel, AlphaBeta, has been steadily growing over the months.
The title sequence at the beginning of each vlog depicts an animated signature narration that goes, “Hey, meet Frankie. Frankie met Mo, and they fell in love. Little did they know that more joy was on the way. Lexie was born. This is our love story. Welcome to AlphaBeta, it is more than just family.”
Most memorable of their videos and one that jolted many was when they filmed Maureen’s entire childbirth of the second baby boy Kai. The couple had been vlogging about the pregnancy the entire nine months, letting their fans in on the journey, and the highlight of it all being their Wakanda-inspired maternity shoot.
Frank, also known as Frankie Just Gym It, is a personal fitness trainer and Maureen aka Mau works at a corporate branding agency among other engagements such as her hair business. She describes their relationship as ‘like any other couple’.
“We are a normal couple that goes through the same challenges any other couple goes through,” she says. But how do they maintain privacy given that their relationship is so much in the public eye? Maureen explains that they only share what they are comfortable to have people see.
But their greatest challenge comes from some viewers who throw nasty comments at them. “We receive hundreds of comments from our viewers, the good, the bad and the ugly, but we have over time learnt not to let them get the best of us by ignoring or just deleting them,” she says.
Most annoying of the sneaky comments, Maureen recounts, are when people make sensitive statements about their child’s milestones. “Once we spot such comments, we delete and block the poster,” she adds.
The Green Calabash
Another family whose day-to-day life viewers seem to be enamoured of watching is that of Shiko Nguru, her fiancé Rama Oluoch and their two children Ella, seven and Lamu, one.
Their vlog, The Green Calabash, was first a blog, before it transitioned into a YouTube channel. Shiko started the blog in 2010 while living in the US as a way to document her pregnancy journey with her first-born Ella.
The blog then evolved to a vlog several years later, but this time featuring her entire family, where they give their over 30,000 fans an inside look into their love story as well as the ups and downs of parenting as a young blended family.
In one of the vlogs with her fiancé, Shiko explains she came up with the name The Green Calabash out of an overwhelming feeling of being unprepared and naive about motherhood and ‘calabash’ was born out of her roots in Africa, where it is known to be cultivated.
Now 33, she got married aged 22 while still in the US, where she had moved to for further studies after high school, and feels she was quite young and inexperienced, eventually ending up divorced, before she decided to relocate back to Kenya with her daughter.
Their vlogs mainly feature general day-to-day activities; family fun moments, weekend outings, Shiko home-schooling her daughter and domestic chores. They bring highlights of their week every Monday and Thursday, but in October, they took up the Vlogtober Challenge, where they vlogged every single day of the month.
Although the couple says they do not make a dime from YouTube, it is one of the social media platforms that has helped them grow their fan base. As a result, they get paid to endorse products or do product placements. “We don’t work with products that do not fit our brand though.
And also if we don’t use your products,” they explain in one of their vlogs published in December 2017. As their follower numbers grew, they got approached by companies for influencing gigs. They say an influencer can make up to Sh250,000 per gig, and reveal that they make a living through endorsements and running their digital company.
Shiko quit her full-time job as a marketer to become a content creator on social media. “I love telling stories. I used to do it in my blog, and now I’m doing it in visual form. This is where I feel fulfilled,” the YouTuber explains her reason to run the channel. Rama is a digital marketer who specialises in content for brands.
Gospel singer Linet Munyali aka Size 8 and her husband gospel DJ Samuel Muraya aka DJ Mo launched their family vlog in February 2017 and today, they have a following of over 32,000. In their vlog, they describe themselves as ‘a simple Christian couple living in Nairobi, whose aim is to be a source of motivation and inspiration from God to their viewers’.
Through their vlog, The Murayas, the couple has managed to keep their fans hooked to their family life, their philanthropic projects as well as their ups and downs as a couple.
Some of the videos that have garnered a huge audience include one where they talked about the most recent argument they had.
Size 8 had sent her husband to get sugar and water for their daughter, but he forgot, making her go bonkers on him. “You know you can talk, you have a mouth papapapa pwaaah!”
Dj Mo exclaimed as his wife kept poking fun at him over his short temper. At the end, they advised viewers on the importance of tolerance and patience in a relationship.
In another vlog, Size 8 shocked her fans when she revealed that she had been battling hypertension. “I have been diagnosed with hypertension.
I take medication every morning and sometimes it is difficult to be joyful, glad and happy, and I question God why I am sick. The hypertension makes me so tired because I am taking care of Wambo, my husband, my family and Size 8 the ministry,” she narrates.
But of course not without their happier side, such as when Size 8 got herself a brand new Jaguar XF. The couple also shows us how they pamper their daughter Ladasha Belle, whose popularity earned her a multi-million shilling deal with a baby products company, Softcare Diaper, when she was just months old, as its official brand ambassador.
Owing to their fame as renown gospel industry personalities, they have used their rising YouTube brand to seal product endorsement deals, which definitely translates to cash in the bank.
“Our channel helps us make money, but our joy in running the vlog is to be an inspiration to other couples and families, and show that we are just like everyone else, as we go through ups and downs too,” says the Afadhali Yesu hitmaker.
Risks and opportunities
David Sakwa, a social media analyst, agrees that clearly, family vlogging is a highly sought-after endeavour that is getting more competitive by the day.
While it has its own advantages, he explains that with the increasing number of people subscribing to family vlogs, privacy concerns should be of essence, especially where children are involved.
“Just like anywhere else on social media, vlogging about your daily routine on YouTube exposes you and your children. There are chances of anything happening to your children, including kidnapping or harassment,” he explains.
On the brighter side, there are also advantages, which include opportunities opening up such as earning from the venture.
“The advertising revenue generated by views of a vlog can totally earn a family a living. Running a family vlog also enables families stay at home or spend longer periods of time with each other as they film content for their channel, thus greater bonding for couples as well as parents with their children. It is also a good way to create special memories for families,” he offers.
YouTube, a subsidiary of Google Inc based in California, US, is a large online video community, used by millions across the globe to upload and watch videos. According to Google Kenya, the platform has seen an 80 per cent increase in mobile usage and viewership of content in Kenya.
Content creators are taking advantage of the opportunity to make money on the video platform, which attracts advertisers, and YouTube is helping them by offering training on how to grow their fan base and use other online tools.
Content creators such as Mark Angel Comedy from Nigeria, beauty enthusiast Maxine Wabosha and Chef Raphael were on Tuesday part of an interactive YouTube content creator training, where they shared their experiences and learned strategies for channel optimisation and growth.
Across the world, more than 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute, with 1.8 billion viewing hours a day and 1.9 billion monthly logged in users. Globally, almost 40 per cent of YouTube’s staggering six billion hours of monthly watch-time comes from mobile devices. On average, 60 per cent of a channel’s views come from outside the creator’s home country.
“YouTube attracts a global generation that has grown up watching what they want, whenever they want, on whatever device is closest. Over the past year, we have seen impressive growth in Kenya with an 80 per cent increase in mobile usage.
This means more people are spending more time on mobile, watching YouTube videos. With over one billion people across Africa, we’re incredibly excited about the ways in which we can improve the YouTube experience to entertain, educate, and help individuals and businesses flourish throughout the region,” said Dorothy Ooko, Africa PR Lead at Google Kenya, during the event.
The organisation also highlighted that its launch of over 300 product improvements to the search and discovery systems last year was to help people find even more videos they love. An example is the localised YouTube Music Charts, which captures what Kenyans are listening to every week.
There is also YouTube Go, an app that was introduced last year, for use where connectivity is slower and more expensive, thus help a user control how much data they use, play videos without buffering and watch others offline.