Why are YouTube influencers taking over many businesses marketing campaigns, how well known are these brand ambassadors on a global scale and how big can they become?
YouTube has come a long way since it started out back in 2005. It’s true; once upon a time this site didn’t even exist and people had to watch TV or gather round the old family piano to find some entertainment.
In the 12 years since this site was launched it has proved to be a modest success, hasn’t it? Well, it is estimated that a billion hours of content have been watched, making YouTube the second most popular site on the internet. Oh hang on, that’s a billion hours viewed every single blooming day.
An interesting modern twist now sees companies pay the most popular YouTube stars as influencers who work on their behalf. How does this work and what is behind this extraordinary appeal of YouTubers?
These people are the new celebrities
Whether you love them, hate them or are completely unaware of their ongoing existence, people like PewDiePie, KSI and Lily Singh are the real celebrities of this generation. You might have heard more about Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Jennifer Lawrence but it has been consistently shown in surveys that young people are influenced more by YouTubers than by boring old film star or pop idols.
A quick look at some of the figures shows the incredible appeal of these stars. For instance, the YouTube personality who tops most lists is Swedish gamer PewDiePie. He is estimated to earn some $15 million (£12 million) a year thanks to the 54 million subscribers who watch him play games.
Prankster Roman Atwood has around 10 million subscribers who love watching him do wacky stuff like fool his girlfriend into thinking that he has thrown their son off the balcony. Even if you don’t find the pranks very amusing, it is hard to deny the influence that he has over millions of people.
Comedienne Lily Singh is another who has shot to fame and makes millions from her YouTube videos. With 11 million people currently subscribing to her channel it is easy to see how much influence she now has over the public.
British vlogger Zoella is another star of this medium with a huge legion of fans who hang on her every word.
Meanwhile, Ashly Burch, a teenager who started off making video sketches with her brother and posting them on their YouTube channel ‘Hey Ash, watcha playin?’ had no idea how much attention she would stir up or where those opportunities would take her. Funnily enough, it lead her into the world of voice over where she found herself voicing lead characters in game successes such as ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ and ‘Life is strange’.
She had never even heard of a career in voice over until she checked out a name in the credits of one of her favourite games.
It was the first time it sort of clicked in my head that these characters have real adult humans who are voicing them. That was kind of the thing that made me realize I wanted to do that, too.
From YouTube to protagonist she certainly has done very well for herself indeed.
In general, it is felt that these famous YouTubers are seen as being more engaging and easier to relate to than traditional Hollywood celebrities or pop stars.
It makes great business sense for both parties
There is no denying the good business sense behind the idea of using YouTubers as brand influencers. For the online stars this is an excellent way of getting extra income or of receiving gifts such as clothes or even holidays.
For the companies, well they instantly get access to a huge fan base that adores the star and have similar interests with the topic at hand and could realistically be influenced by them.
While many celebrities make money through launching their own products or appearing on traditional ads. YouTubers are being paid in money, products, holidays, nights out and much more to big up brands and it makes perfect sense for brands to be spending a lot of money on them.
Companies can spend millions of pounds on a thirty-second TV ad which may or may not be shown to people of interest or they could spend that money on YouTubers that are powerful influencers in certain fields, setting trends and creating entertainment for followers that are already interested in their topics.
Jamie Genevieve is Scottish YouTuber that posts make up tutorial videos on her channel. She is spoiled by many of the top cosmetic brands with free products that she will hopefully endorse in her tutorials but not only that, they also pay for her holidays, nights out and anything else they can to keep her sweet with the brand! She is also sponsored by brands like Tarte and Rimmel who help fund her life as a full time YouTuber.
Reach a worldwide audience
One of the most fascinating aspects of the appeal of these YouTubers is that they have an incredible global appeal.
At this precise moment we can safely say that there are people watching their favourite YouTube channels from London to New York and from the thriving city of Constantinople to the Kingdom of Bohemia (note to self: it might be time to get a new map).
This means that if you are looking for a way of reaching out to customers all over the world then this could be an effective way of doing so. By adding subtitling to the videos you can appeal to potential customers all over the world in their language too.
KSI has a big fan base now in Korea due to a selection of his videos being made available with Korean subtitles.
How to do it?
As more people end up watching YouTube instead of viewing television or taking up the dying art of playing the trombone in their spare time, it seems certain that the trend for YouTube stars to become brand influencers will carry on growing. In fact, up to three quarters of marketing teams are said to be working with influencer advertising.
So, how can this be done well in order to reap dividends?
The first step is to make the content seem genuine and appealing to the YouTuber’s fans. This can be a very clever way of breaking into a new market but it can’t seem forced or something that is just about the money.
Toyota, Macy’s and Proactiv are a few of the brands that have done a good job of reaching out to new customers in this way. By combining a proven YouTube star with video subtitling it is possible to see the benefits of getting access to a whole new market.
Of course, it is important to work out which YouTubers are relevant to the campaign or product in question, rather than just choosing them solely on the basis of their number of subscribers. You will also want to analyse the figures to see what level of engagement they tend to get from their visitors.
It can be worth choosing a channel that is dedicated solely to what you want to advertise, rather than run the risk of providing something that isn’t of interest to many of the viewers. For instance, a wide-ranging channel may not be tightly enough focussed to provide such good results on a specific product campaign as a more focussed channel with fewer subscribers.
Finally, it is worth remembering the importance of letting the YouTuber maintain a good level of control over what they produce. They are the experts in this industry and you need to trust them to produce something that is seen as authentic and engaging by their audience.
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