Video Vanguards: Marketing With the Web’s Elite Entertainers

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Finding the Right YouTuber, Viner, or Instagramer

With that many YouTubers and Viners with sizable audiences, how does a brand go about finding the right one? Ad tech is the answer.

Influicity is an influencer exchanger. Its software allows brands, agencies, media companies, and publishers to connect with and engage social media influencers, including creators from YouTube, Vine, and Twitter. The service crawls the influencers' profiles and work and makes them searchable. Influicity's software only indexes the "influencer class"-or those with more than 5,000 subscribers to their channels. The influencers are in many fields, including comedy and fashion.

The agency or brand can be quite specific in its search. "You can do a search if you're looking to reach females, 18-34, English-speaking, etc., and find the influencers you need," Davids says. Once the client has found the right influencer, Influicity's fulfillment team presents the person with an offer to determine his or her level of interest.

Davids says the ROI of engaging an influencer versus a traditional star is a good deal greater as the influencers work for less. Advertisers sometimes wonder if the right customers will watch their videos. They shouldn't, Davids says. "The world exists, and the shift has already happened, and the answer is a resounding yes," he says. "We've seen a huge conversion. When you take a look at a YouTube campaign versus a linear television campaign, the numbers don't lie."

Many creators have "crossed over" and become partners with companies that wouldn't have given them a thought a few years ago. Two successful combinations that Gahan cites are Aéropostale, Inc. and Bethany Mota and L'Oréal and Michelle Phan.

The 19-year-old fashion vlogger Mota has more than 8 million subscribers to her YouTube channel and an Aéropostale clothing line, while Phan has her own cosmetics line with L'Oréal and more than 7 million YouTube subscribers.

Gahan says that the best brand/creator partnerships leverage the creators' popularity in their area of expertise, so the creator can "kind of speak to their audience and be honest about what this product means to them."

Hero, Hub, and Hygiene

While producing a viral video may allow a brand or agency to create buzz in the advertising community ("Our XYZ video has 3 million views!"), one viral video does not a successful YouTube strategy make. Experts say that only a disciplined approach will succeed on YouTube, as depending on viral videos is akin to playing the lottery: Losses are much more likely than wins.

Brands and agencies need to capture viewers through search; regularly posted, good quality content; and content that is actively being pushed out via advertising and social media. YouTube calls this strategy "hero, hub, and hygiene." Gahan thinks the concept is solid and even "evangelizes it a bit."

"I think the concept is great; it makes sense for a lot of reasons," he says. "Probably one of the biggest ones is that it gets brands to think beyond the viral video. It forces them to think about and be strategic about the content they're creating.

"YouTube is the second largest search engine; brands should capitalize on this. It kind of creates a framework and gets brands to think beyond what's making a lot of press within the advertising community and instead think about what are your goals and what is the best way to get there."

While designed to make a splash, hero content should only be a small part of a brand's YouTube strategy. A major new product launch calls for hero-worthy content. Gahan says that brands are likely to only have a few hero videos per year. Hero content is actively pushed out to the appropriate audience.

If hero content means swinging for the fences, hub content is all about getting base hits. A brand that wants to build a community of subscribers would create hub content by frequently posting new videos. "Hub content is engaging your existing community," says Gahan. It provides "regularly scheduled programming" and is the reason channel subscribers decide to return.

Hygiene content is the attempt to corral an audience via search. Similar to hub content, it's the workaday, need-to-be-there videos that customers expect from a brand, such as product tutorials or customer service advice, according to Gahan.

"If you're bringing somebody home, the house has to be in order," Ciampa says of a brand's YouTube content. The channel needs to be "well-engineered." He adds, "What we mean by that, is the channel set up appropriately? Is it the right content on the channel? Are there areas that you can subscribe to the channel, and are there logical organizations of videos into playlists so the interested parties can have a much more pleasant YouTube experience?"

LEGO is a brand that has employed the hero, hub, and hygiene strategy to great effect. According to Gahan's white paper, LEGO grew its subscriber base from 6,000 in 2012 to more than 600,000 in early 2015.

The company's hero content included the trailer for The Lego Movie, which the company drove traffic to by advertising. Its hub content featured a highly successful LEGO blocumentary web series that highlighted amazing LEGO creations worldwide, while the company's hygiene content included how-to's hosted by LEGO designers.

LEGO's successful use of the hero, hub, and hygiene strategy has helped its videos generate more than 760 million views.

Managing YouTube Ad Buys

With the massive--almost intimidating--amount of content on YouTube, how can brands or agencies reach their target audience? Here again, ad tech rides to the rescue.

Once agencies or brands determine whether they're trying to drive web traffic, drive brand awareness, or increase sales, software such as Pixability can guide them. Ciampa says that a surprising amount of companies "just want to be on YouTube," but that it's such a metrics-driven platform that agencies can and need to be more specific.

One of the best possible outcomes of a well-placed YouTube ad is that the viewer visits the brand's channel, watches a few videos, and subscribes, according to Ciampa.

"If we look at the past 5 years, we've totally changed the dynamics of advertising, content production, and how actual customers deal with brands," Ciampa says. "This is just an exciting, exciting time." For agencies and brands, it's even more exciting than a new viral cat video.   

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