What Brands Can Learn From YouTubers
Jul 10, 2015
It’s official, I can die happy now.
A few weeks ago, I got the amazing opportunity (meaning through social stalking) to meet one of my favorite celebrities and she was more awesome than I could have ever imagined. Nope, it’s not Angelina Jolie or my all-time girl crush, Emma Watson, but one of my favorite YouTubers, Mamrie Hart.
Mamrie Hart is a YouTuber that I’ve been following for almost two years now. She has a hilarious YouTube series called You Deserve a Drink where she makes delicious cocktails based on something going on in pop culture.
Watching her as well as some other favorites (Hannah Hart– no relation to Mamrie- and Grace Helbig) has made me wonder why it’s so different to be a fan of a YouTuber as opposed to being a fan of a “traditional” celebrity (singer, athlete, TV or Movie actor).
For me, one word really sticks out: authenticity. Not to say that traditional celebrities are not authentic, it’s just rare to find one that creates as much original and genuine content that showcases how they are in their personal lives. It’s the reason Taylor Swift has such a loyal following – because she shows a side of herself that would normally be kept private. She breaks the norm by directly interacting with fans on tumblr and Twitter, putting her in this new category of a modern day social celebrity.
Yes, celebrities are just like us: they eat, sleep, and poop (everybody does it) but not everyone shows who they really are. Traditional actors are famous because of the characters they play; their fame comes from being someone else. They’re an aspirational character, we don’t expect to ever see them in person or have a conversation with them.
YouTubers are who they portray themselves as. Their videos are a representation of their humor, fashion sense and overall personality. Watching their videos gives a glimpse of how they are in their real life. It’s not a reality show that is heavily scripted and edited; there’s just something about YouTube that oozes authenticity and raw humanness (is that even a thing?). Add in their presence on other social media platforms and it almost feels like you are one of their friends. Some even refer to their followers as their family or as Internet friends.
Traditional celebrities are about staying private, but YouTubers and other social media celebrities have almost an obligation to their followers to be transparent and share. This is why we see so many popular YouTubers posting “coming out” or other very personal videos – not because they are not “out” in their personal lives, but because they haven’t yet shared it with their YouTube family. There’s something about them that is more obtainable than a traditional celebrity; you could imagine sitting down and having a conversation with them. Their use of live streams, Google hangouts, and Meet-Ups are great examples of the level of interaction they have with their fans.
Before, I was like any kid wanting to be a superstar—signing autographs, walking the red carpet, posing for pictures—but now, I don’t want to be that traditional Hollywood star – I’d much rather be a YouTuber. I want my content to be perceived as original and authentic rather than sponsored and heavily funded. I want to know that I have a direct impact on my followers as a role model, a thought leader, and an influencer. And I want to witness those moments interacting directly with my audience, whether it’s in the comment section, through other social media, or in person.
Varying Levels of Influence
The way content surrounding these two “types” of celebrities—traditional and YouTube celebrities— is structured has an effect on how they influence my decisions.
Traditional celebrities definitely spark my interest in a product. They significantly increase the awareness in my mind of that brand and of the product. However, I’m a millennial and as a millennial, I have a need to make a completely informed purchase. So instead of going straight to the website after watching an ad, I go to YouTube to watch unboxing and review videos to get the opinions of someone I trust and feel like I know. Unboxing and review videos are just as they sound, videos where the YouTuber unboxes a product and provides a review of the features. As much as I love the celebrity from the ad, I know that they were paid a ridiculous amount of money to be in it and to endorse the product.
YouTubers really make the final sale for me. I trust them to give me an honest review of the product. Rather than watching a commercial, I’m watching a real product being delivered in the packaging I would receive it in and witnessing a person opening it and using it the way that I would. YouTubers have the advantage of my loyalty from watching them for years and having seen them use a product, many times endorsing it without being sponsored or knowing much about the product. For example, I always am sure to watch Grace Helbig’s Monthly Favorite videos.
Make-up gurus are a great example of just how much influence a YouTuber can have on a final buying decision. They are sometimes not the first ones to call out a brand but, instead, are asked by their followers to tell them what brands they use. We’re seeing a reversal in roles: followers are asking to be influenced.
Fostering this kind of mentality in a community is not an easy task but a brand that can have the influence a YouTuber has over their followers will definitely have the competitive advantage. Here are three ways to have that same level of influence:
Companies often forget that at their core, they are made up of people. Being human is an important part of being relatable. It has to go beyond just being a buzzword, it takes action. The best part of social media is that people are able to interact with large corporations and brands at an individual level so don’t lose sight of the human aspect of marketing. Interact and respond, don’t just push out posts, actually be a part of conversation.
This means being up to date on current events and trends to get into the conversations you need to be a part of. This also means being active on the channels you need to be active on. Know where your audience is and make sure that you have visibility on that channel. The only way to be relevant is if you are informed on what is happening in the world and in your industry. Your audience needs to know that you can be a credible source for information.
Easier said than done, but being authentic is an integral part of building trust with an audience. Create content that means something and is useful to the consumer. We’re beyond the age of “As Seen on TV” ads that over exaggerate product capabilities. Give the information your audience wants and needs to know in an easily consumable format.
The disconnect between brands and consumers that may have existed before is quickly disappearing. Consumers have more access to information and channels of communication that require brands and companies to start behaving like a YouTuber. Like the old saying goes “adapt or be left behind” (I’m not sure if anyone has said that before, maybe in a Bruce Willis movie).