By Al Cadena
The popularity of this year’s fifth-annual VidCon, which saw 18,000 people swarming Anaheim to meet their favorite YouTube stars, is just the latest piece of evidence proving that YouTube is the new Hollywood. And with their built-in, engaged fan base, digital media influencers can be extremely valuable for brands.
While celebrity endorsement is a tried and true formula, a social influencer can take a brand brief and explore it in their own voice and own way that their audience has come to love and consume. This adds an additional layer of credibility to a brand endorsement. Additionally, a YouTube influencer can be more efficient for your budget. Not only will you save in hiring a social influencer, but they are better able to activate their audience and engage with fans in a way that most celebrities can’t or won’t. With skin in the game, a social influencer works harder and is able to take things to a personal level.
But how do you make sure that a social influencer is the right person to represent your brand?
First, decide what your brand’s business objectives are and figure out the media consumption habits of the target market (e.g, if your target is increasing sales among millennial women, this group is likely to be social, mobile and “cutting the cord,” doing more entertainment viewing on the phone and computer than on TV sets.)
Then, do research on the world of social influencers and examine these influencers’ reach, relevance, frequency of publishing, and whether they’ve previously advocated for your brand organically (bonus!) or if they have been aligned with other brands. If they have advocated for brands in the past, were they transparent in their advertising?
Be sure to closely examine the comments on a social influencer’s past videos to see what their fans are saying about them and how responsive they are to their fans. You want to make sure your brand endorser is someone who does a good job of engaging with commenters in a positive way.
Once you’re done with this preliminary research, make a short list of your top choices and begin outreach. You may do this either with their management or directly with the influencers themselves. Some digital media stars are managed by multichannel networks (MCNS), which handle groups of stars—sort of like a Hollywood agency for the YouTube world.
After selecting the right endorser for your brand, make sure to brief them properly to ensure that they’re sticking to the key brand message and following through with their promise. Give them leeway to be creative, but within parameters: for example, be sure to mention X, Y, Z about Brand A’s product attributes. If you are an agency, be sure to set realistic expectations for your brand and act as a brand steward to supervise the criteria.Once your creative effort is underway, let it live organically and then begin to experiment with paid media when the time is right.
Of course, working with YouTube influencers does not always make sense for every brand. You must look at the media consumption habits of your audience and determine whether YouTube is an appropriate medium to reach out to them. This type of advertising is also difficult for highly regulated industries such as alcohol, pharma or, of course, anything targeting children. Some of the verticals that see the best results with digital influencers are health and beauty, entertainment and video games. These are all sectors where people seek advice and ideas for how to do things better, whether it’s the right way to apply eyeliner or tips on how to beat a level in a video game. It’s also naturally more engaging to follow these tips in a digital video format than it is to read them.
Digital and social media advertising have found success among millennials in particular because the Internet is where they are consuming video. Additionally, the buying habits of millennials are significantly more influenced by their friends’ social media activities.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with tapping YouTube influencers to sell to Gen X and Boomers, too. Take a risk and do something different with your brand. It might just pay off.
Al Cadena is senior account director at Beeby Clark+Meyler.