By Lewis Ball
I’m often asked how brands can better promote themselves on YouTube in a way that works for the audience. More and more often, the best approach to reaching your target demographic is by collaborating with one of the countless YouTube creators generating huge viewership on their channels. Crafting a relationship that is effective and mutually beneficial boils down to three main criteria.
1. Respect the medium.
YouTube is unique in how audiences consume information. It’s interactive, immediate, and unfiltered. As such, there is a distinctiveness in the personalities it’s producing. They themselves, and their content, are relatable in a way that their audiences value. Being entrepreneurial in nature, creators understand their unique positioning and the importance in protecting their subscription bases. Brands need to respect this in crafting their approach and pitch.
2. Find a natural fit.
Find someone who is already producing content that fits with your brand strategy. The market for big names on YouTube is massive, with influential creators owning every niche. Finding a match that works with your brand shouldn’t be difficult. Start with the basics, survey their content quality and subscription and viewership counts. Then, after you’ve found viable candidates, look deeper. Find out if they’ve collaborated with brands previously, or if they’ve defined their channel vision. Research the kind of engagement they’re generating with user comments and ratios of likes to dislikes. This will better inform your understanding of the audience and level of authority the creator holds with them.
3. Map out long-term strategies.
Find a balance that is complementary for both parties by focusing on the importance of creating trust, transparency, and constant communication. And get feedback whenever you can. These creators are the ones uncovering the growth formula online, and their insight can be invaluable to your brand’s digital strategy moving forward.
How to build relationships to hit your target markets:
The first thing to consider is that YouTube creators have an authenticity audiences often value. Videos are most often self-made, with DIY production tools. This translates to content that viewers find relatable, giving creators an approachability that mainstream stars don’t have.
Use this to your advantage. Audiences are savvy, and will often spot when a creator incorporates product placements into their video. So instead of subverting this, it’s best to simply acknowledge the sponsorship from the outset and move on. By giving a shout-out to the brand, audiences won’t feel duped and the trust between creators and viewers is protected. People get that YouTube is a business for a lot of these big names, and for the most part won’t walk away from a creator for simply acknowledging they’re trying to make a living. Keeping it transparent and authentic is the best policy to avoid backlash.
In line with this, it’s important to speak the YouTube language when you’re looking to integrate your product. The audience here is different, skewing much lower, and their consumption behaviour has been changed by the digital space. Tailor your strategy to fit within the YouTube format by allowing the creators freedom in their promotion. Don’t push corporate language that isn’t right for the content. Let them find a way to organically tie your product into what they’re doing without distracting from the content.
Overall, brands should always consider that working with creators and reaching their target audience is a process and something as an industry we continue to look at ways to improve and adapt. It’s not a one-size-fits all formula and a successful collaboration requires a lot of give and take between the two parties before finding a balance that sticks. Take stock of the unique nature of the platform and the ways creators are reaching audiences and allow them to help you by promoting your brand their way.
Lewis Ball is the executive vice president of professional services at BroadbandTV Corp., a digital media company and multi-channel network operator based out of Vancouver, Canada.