Is YouTube the planet’s most powerful brand platform?
For some time, YouTube seemed like it would never grow beyond being a bastion for kitty videos and Family Guy clips, shot poorly from someone’s iPhone. From a marketing perspective, many brands didn’t take the platform seriously either—treating it as a sort of online dumpster for their old commercials, product how-to videos, or CEO messages.
But that’s all changing, faster than you can click play. Check out these stats, culled from various sources, but all indicating a pretty astonishing trend:
- YouTube recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. In 2005, the first YouTube upload was an 18-second video of an elephant at the San Diego Zoo. Today, it hosts hundreds of millions of hours of videos and is the largest platform of its type on the web.
- In June, according to Quantcast, YouTube had more than 184 million visitors.
- Google Chief Business Officer Omid Kordestani said in a recent shareholder call that YouTube now attracts more of much-coveted 18-49 year-old viewers than any single U.S. cable network.
- People are spending more time than EVER on the platform—up 60% in a year. Most of that growth is attributed to mobile viewing, where the average watcher spends about 40 minutes per session.
- Subscribership to YouTube channels is up 47% in the past year, with many consumers subscribing to brand channels. Brand channels, by the way, receive 10 times more likes than dislikes.
- Although the platform’s profitability is still in question and a well-guarded secret, the number of advertisers has risen 40% in the last year—with many of its top advertisers spending 60% more.
The big message here: YouTube is taking over! There are a lot of theories as to why, of course. Some say the genius Google elves worked their magic on the site over the last year or two—making it much more user friendly by adding such features as autoplaying one video after another, recommendations for viewers, and nicely designed channels. The site is stickier than a toddler with a Blow Pop®.
Others say that social media platforms really drove interest and engagement, because people can’t help but share their favorite YouTube videos.
I think part of YouTube’s explosive growth—and appeal—is its massive library of stuff. The platform is second only to its owner, Google, as a search engine. You can find anything on there. I’ve searched for everything from powerwashing a deck to playing paradiddles on a snare drum—and I had a choice of dozens of videos to watch.
YouTube is also home to its own crop of celebrities. According to Ad Age, adults in the United States think that “stars” on YouTube are more credible than Hollywood celebrities—five times as much, in fact. People like the Vlog Brothers (Hank and John Greene), Jenna Marbles, Bethany Mota and PewDiePie have honest, real-world influence with tens of millions of faithful viewers on a regular basis. That’s serious clout, and it attracts brands like moths to a porch light.
Hundreds of smaller “niche” YouTube celebrities—people who often specialize in a skill or showcase a special talent or humor—have many thousands of followers, too. These folks may also woo smaller brands because of their sway. For example, a lesser known, but high-quality guitar company may sponsor the videos of an independent musician who gives free YouTube lessons, featuring the manufacturer’s latest instrument. You’d be surprised how many sales something like this can generate.
Yes, our little YouTube is finally growing up! People are figuring it out—from the growing masses visiting the site every day, to the global citizenry uploading a gazillion hours of stuff.
As a marketer, if you haven’t tuned into the YouTube phenomenon, now’s a ideal time to do it. And with so many mastering the platform, it’s easier than ever to find a bunch of smart kids in the class, sit next to them, and cheat off their work. Here are just a few tips and insights to start:
- People get engaged on YouTube, if you do it right. While people zap through commercials and ignore or block banner ads, they actually subscribe to brand channels on YouTube. But, here’s the catch: You have to make something worth watching. Famed art director Alex Bogusky, in my view, put it perfectly… make content that’s beautiful, useful, and/or entertaining.
- Depending on your category, there may be a celebrity for you. I’m always amazed when I start exploring various subjects on YouTube. My wife bakes, and there’s a small army of video experts teaching everything from piping to fondant. Many of them are connected with baking brands ranging from behemoth Wilton to smaller confectioners. So do some exploring in your category, too. There may be somebody you can sponsor or feature in a video of your own, and you’ll connect with viewers already interested in what you have to offer.
- Think holistically with your YouTube channel. The smartest brands, I’ve noticed, load them up with quality content so they’ll get found by the greatest number of people. Consider all facets of your audience: Those not aware of you yet, those just getting to know you, and current customers.
- What are your competitors doing? It would be AWESOME if your company was the first kid on the YouTube block in your category, but that’s not likely. The platform is a great way to keep tabs on your industry, your enemies, and your frenemies.
- Use it for insight and inspiration, too. Feeling a little dated? Out of touch? For an immediate injection of cultural enlightenment, go to YouTube’s home page and click on “Popular on YouTube.” You’ll be hip in minutes.
I admit, YouTube has crossed the obsession line with me. I particularly enjoy my early weekend ritual of catching up on all the channels I subscribe to. What other place can you go and choose, at will, from a worldwide stage of musicians, artists, brands, comedians, scientists, teachers, goofballs, philosophers, activists, historians, cats, kids, dorks, geniuses, and people showing you how to play one mean paradiddle?
– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group