July 23, 2015

5 Things Content Creators Can Learn From YouTubers


I’m not the target age to be loving YouTubers. I’m 26, and I’m not that into beauty tutorials (actually I’m not into them at all), or watching people dare each other to spray whipped cream into their mouths. I don’t like listening to someone tell me about everything they’ve bought that day either via a “haul”. I get a bit bored after five minutes of even my best friend’s or family telling me what clothes they bought tbh, let along a stranger.

But, I am huge fans of YouTubers and the industry they’ve created for themselves. The reason I am pro-YouTubers isn’t necessarily just because of the content they create – although I can totally understand why younger viewers enjoy it – it’s more because I admire their entrepreneurial mindset and the way they have been in charge of their own editorial and made a name for themselves in a new, exciting way. Anyone that does something that bypasses “the old way of doing it” totally gets my vote. So many companies are becoming stale because they refuse to wake up to how quickly the Internet changes month on month and how people consume things.

They have single-handedly created a new phenomenon, a new way of being away to build huge personal brands and be able appeal across platforms, from YouTube, to mainstream mags, to book deals. It’s not weird for Oh My Vlog to exist because these personal brands don’t just live online anymore, they just started off there and it continues to be the main platform. We don’t find printed TV guides weird when they talk about what’s on TV, and we don’t find the Radio Times weird when it talks about the radio. A mag about YouTube is no different to this. It’s just another way of letting teenagers keep up with what their favourite online celebs are doing (and who doesn’t love a poster).

I find it quite frustrating seeing so many journalists poo-poo these YouTube careers, when ironically these journalists are constantly (and often desperately) trying to build their own profiles on Twitter (and other networks) which is the same sort of thing. Most people are using a social platform to build a personal profile in order to get more career opportunities.

That is just how it works. You cannot hide the fact that having a bigger personal brand is a good thing, if this is the industry you want to be in. 

YouTubers are the kings and queens of personal online branding. They have bothered to create content for years on end, building up a community of people who enjoy watching their videos and blog posts and tweets. People that slag off YouTubers are often not bothering to look at why this has all happened and kicked off. Instead they are too busy focusing on how “silly” and juvenile it is that they vlog from their bedrooms, instead of understanding the reason why the format is addictive and interesting to viewers. You might not like the content, but it’s important to understand the shift in digital content and how people consume stuff. You cannot control the fact that young kids like watching YouTube over TV. You cannot ignore that people that have a fanbase will get noticed. It’s not rocket science and yet people keep thinking YouTubers will just one day go away. They won’t go away. People use platforms (and it’s not just YouTube) to CREATE things. Bigger companies who don’t bother experimenting are automatically  behind.

Instead of “feeling old” and “not getting it” I think it’s best to understand why they are getting more clicks, more views, more followers and frankly more online LOVE. They are filming, writing, editing, recording, creating assets, coming up with ideas, working with brands,  publishing their own material. I think that’s more impressive than working for an establishment that is stuck in their ways and frightened of change, quite frankly.

So here are some things that content creators can learn from YouTubers:

1. The amount of content produced

These YouTubers release their content extremely regularly and they let their viewers know when it’s coming and how they can view it. They keep people in the loop at all times, instead of just randomly firing out content whenever it suits them. They are very good at teasing out something, whether it’s an announcement video about something they’ve been keeping a secret, or something they’ve been talking about all week. We all know the “press release” is dead – and they use their video channel as the main way of “announcing” big news. They have such a personal relationship with readers that people know that on Sunday at 6pm (for example) they can settle down with their laptop and catch up on a video. They have regular slots – for example Zoe and Joe’s #SuggSunday. You know, every Sunday without fail that they will have uploaded a new video. They get their viewers into a routine.

2. Native Advertising

This is what everyone’s interested at the moment and it’s clear why: it actually works. Brands now want to work with a publisher in a way that capitalises on the form/function in which that platform is built. Facebook has been “natively advertising” things in our newsfeed for years (we all know some are better targeted than others) and online magazines are starting to build some brilliantly editorially-led ideas where the reader will enjoy the feature and the advert will be weaved in naturally and authentically. The piece will still highlight that it is an “ad” but the way it is presented means it’s more likely to be read and consumed. These editorial collaborations are better for both the publisher and the brand because they get to create something they are both proud of, and it will often perform better (in terms of engagement) than a big banner shouting ‘PLEASE CLICK ME I’M A BIG ANNOYING ADVERT’ that we’ve all learned to ignore, or click the ‘x’ on.

3. Cross-promotion

These big personal brands all collaborate with each other. This is the oldest and best trick in the book for making sure viewers cross over and they each gain new followings. YouTubers do this extremely well. They will film a video where both YouTubers appear in it, then one of them will put a video on their channel, and the other person will upload the “bloopers” version to their channel, for example. It means they both get a piece of content that will work really well, but it will drive followers from one channel to another, or just capitalise on their combined following meaning the video is more likely to get more views. Individual brands or company brands should team up with like-minded people more often so instead of competing your collaborating. Win win situation.

4. Authenticity 

The other day I overheard a small child say that she would be “more excited about meeting Zoella than Taylor Swift” when asked why she replied “because I feel more connected to Zoella”. This means that the fact that they are SO personable means people feel closer to them online and thus will follow their every move religiously. Gone are the days that you follow a random celebrity just because they’ve got a film out, young people now what to follow someone who is constantly available on social media, who’s oversharing their lives, and replies every so often to tweets so that you feel involved and part of the gang.

5. Crowd-sourcing ideas

It’s not new, but these guys ask their viewers opinions on stuff all the time. Whether it’s a simple #Ask[Enter name] hashtag that people use to ask loads of questions, or whether they ask “what type of stuff do you like seeing on my channel?” “what’s your favourite type of video?” “who shall I collaborate with next?” – all these questions are vital to knowing what people want, without having to guess and get stuff wrong. Obviously they can see from their analytics too what does well and what doesn’t – but the idea that they talk directly to people is a winning situation. Being too far removed from the people reading/watching you can mean you will never know if people are dropping off, or becoming uninterested in the stuff you’re producing.

I think YouTubers are extremely clever and impressive people, and to ignore what they are doing (even if you don’t directly enjoy the videos yourselves) is the worst thing you can do.

Image source: We Heart It



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