The rise of YouTube, the monopolising video site that anyone can add video to, contributed to the phenomenon of the Internet celebrity: a person famous solely thanks to their Internet presence. Video makers now known as experts on beauty, video games, pranks and music thanks to their tutorials, reviews and vlogs, all started out making these videos for their friends, slowly building up devoted fanbases as they began to shape their own TV channel. Starting out in their bedrooms, they’re now famous across all corners of the world wide web.
For these ‘Creators’, making videos isn’t a hobby, it’s turned into an opportunity to make some serious money.
YouTube has evolved over the past nine years to support and promote Creators, helping them "create better content, build fanbases and turn [their] creativity into a career". As a result, the most popular channels receive subscribers in the millions, reaching across the globe.
This offers public relations teams huge opportunities for wide-reaching exposure to a variety of different audiences. They also have the relatively rare opportunity of creating a completely genuine and natural brand association – if the product is relevant and good and endorsed by someone who demonstrably knows what they’re talking about, then association will be positive. After all, these aren’t celebrities schilling anything and everything, these are regular people telling you about something they know works. The fact that they’re getting paid is an aside.
Alex Carloss, YouTube’s global head of entertainment wants creators to think of their subscribers as fanbases, rather than audiences. "An audience tunes in when they're told to, a fanbase chooses when and what to watch. An audience changes the channel when their show is over. A fanbase shares, it comments, it curates, it creates."
This is precisely why brands should be looking to user-created content partnerships – not only is it genuine, but creators have the full support and guidance of the host sites (YouTube has a dedicated hub for its creators, with information, advice and tools including bespoke analytics).
The key benefit that these kinds of brand partnerships offer is authenticity. It’s obvious when a brand is being shoehorned in, and in any case (smart) creators won’t collaborate with someone who’s not right for them in case it damages their credibility. This is as an opportunity to find new spokespeople for your brand who has a ready-made community – if the match is good, then this community will let others know, and create positive association for you.
Benefits of partnering with creators
Reach: YouTube has 1 billion users and more than one million creators from over 30 countries around the world earning money from videos
Youth: reaches more US adults aged 18-34 than any cable network (Nielsen), and 170% of millennials visit YouTube at least monthly
Targeting: YouTube is localised in 61 countries and across 61 languages
Engagement: fanbases like, comment on and share content purely on its own merit, and actively subscribe to channels they enjoy. Partnering with a creator means increasing awareness of your brand to an audience that’s already highly-engaged
How to use it
Take advantage of the opportunity for a spokesperson. Things like product placement, testers and reviews feel natural to the viewer, particularly if that’s what the creator is known for. Patricia Bright’s product review for Braun’s epilator is a perfect example of this as it was a seamless addition to her beauty tips and tricks video series. Similarly, when Fridge Raiders set up an action adventure for Syndicate, he reviewed it in the same way he reviews video games for his fanbase.
What the experts think...
Catherine Bayfield, Co-Founder, Shout! Communications
A successful brand ambassador can help you increase your visibility, make your brand more trustworthy and increase sales. So what makes a successful brand ambassador? They don’t have to be a celebrity but ideally the audience needs to relate to them. They must enthuse about their subject and should be identical to the image of the customer, because most likely their following will share those characteristics as well. In our experience what people like is funny, shocking , thought provoking but approachable the sort of person you’d like to be your mate. YouTube is the perfect forum for ‘Creators’ like Lauren Luke with her make up tutorials, Jack Munroe, low budget recipes and Jenna Marbles low-production-value "no-holds-barred, profanity-laced" videos that she shoots in her home, often after downing a few too many cocktails.
What they all share is a natural inclination to appear on camera and build an audience. An enthusiastic performance is key. YouTube audiences are critical and would soon switch off if the ‘creator’ is flat or disinterested. There is a narrow window for success – if they’re good they’ll be poached by a rival brand.
There is one key challenge – at the moment tutorials, reviews and vlogs are a novelty, but ride the wave it could soon become a fad. Low production values, over long video content and obvious brand association could mean low audiences and the demise of the ‘creator’