It’s hard to not talk about how much the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted our dependence on social media. For a time it was one of—if not the only—place where people were able to come together and share time with the people about the things they love. Businesses took notice of this, and if they weren’t all-in on social media and its importance in reaching consumers before, they definitely are now.
Without the right tools for harnessing the power of social media to grow a business, it can seem daunting, even for those who are familiar with the larger platforms. That is why the High Atlas Foundation has made it a priority to get these tools into the hands of women-led cooperatives throughout the Marrakech-Safi region. One of the largest cooperative sectors in Morocco is the argan oil trade. Argan oil is mostly known for its moisturizing qualities, but it also has uses for cooking as well. Through interactive workshops and online training, volunteers and team members are helping women’s cooperatives establish a crucial online presence in a crowded argan oil market.
E-marketing, through social media in particular, has shown promise and has proven to be a resourceful tool for women’s cooperatives. Most rural cooperatives rely on word of mouth to generate traffic through their store. If one has the right connections, they can sometimes get their products into a larger market in a nearby city. In workshops provided by the High Atlas Foundation, these women-led argan oil cooperatives have created online stores and social media pages and have learned how to reach an audience outside of their town and local market.
Cooperatives everywhere understand the importance of expanding their reach through e-marketing. With a focus on e-commerce through social media integration, women-led cooperatives in rural Eastern Europe reported an 86 percent increase in sales, and 93 percent forged new partnerships over a two-year period. These new partnerships could serve to be especially useful to some argan oil cooperatives in the Essaouira Province, which also rely on selling their raw materials to larger companies to make products like shampoos and beauty products.
Social media can serve as a crucial tool for cooperatives in marketing their products. However, just as important is creating an online presence that people can trust and relate to. This is best understood through the words of Jayen Mehta, Senior General Manager of the marketing team behind one of India’s most successful milk cooperatives, “Don’t be an advertiser. Be a content creator.”
An effective e-marketing campaign can include content such as stories, positive customer reviews, and recipe ideas. Staying relevant and switching up social media content while keeping a clear goal can help to create engagement between the cooperative and its followers. These principles were reinforced through High Atlas Foundation’s coordinated training at two argan oil cooperatives in the Essaouira Province this October.
E-marketing can increase the capacity to reach new markets and create new partnerships to help grow an argan cooperative. With a higher demand for argan products, we would expect to see a greater need for more women to join and work at a cooperative. As echoed by a former HAF volunteer, the unemployment rates among young women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are 80% higher than that of young men. This is compared to the average gender differential of 20% worldwide. An attainable goal to strive for in conjunction with the continuous e-marketing workshops and support from HAF is to close the unemployment gap between men and women in the Essaouira Province.
COVID-19 made it clear that having a strong e-marketing presence is crucial to the success of a business. The High Atlas Foundation has a commitment to teaching these e-marketing skills to the women-led argan cooperatives of the Essaouira Province. Skills learned at these workshops can translate into reaching a larger consumer audience, developing new partnerships, creating a positive brand image, and empowering women in local communities. Continued e-marketing workshops would only continue to strengthen these communities and benefit the economy as a whole.