YouTube influencer marketing is an often-overlooked, but highly valuable component, of a strong marketing automation strategy. But it shouldn’t be discounted or ignored, because earned media from third party advocates has proven to be very influential on consumers who are making a buying decision. And the process has established best practices which can be repeated for ongoing success.
YouTube is just one platform where you can execute your influencer marketing strategy. But because of its high discoverability, authenticity, long-form potential and long-tail durability, YouTube is ideal for information-based lead generation. And if inbound traffic is properly tracked and segmented using your marketing automation platform, YouTube influencer marketing can be an essential pillar in your overall success.
According to studies by the influencer marketing company Octoly, videos made by the YouTube community about your products can often get nine times as many views that the videos your own company will make – and that includes paid views. This percentage will vary from industry to industry, but it means that on YouTube you are just one of many voices about your product or service or industry, and, given your vested interests, often not perceived as the most trustworthy voice.
But you can turn your minority share of voice to your advantage.
YouTube is different from video distribution on other types of social media platforms, which each have their own strengths. Facebook can get more organic “day 1” views, while Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and the various new live streaming apps can each have more bite-sized immediacy and up-front influence in the short term.
But because of its integration into Google search and its own powerful search engine (No. 2 worldwide after Google), YouTube has a significant edge in long-tail discoverability – which is where most of the action happens when people research products or services on the path to making a buying decision.
The Real McCoy
And while poorly targeted, non-contextual YouTube pre-rolls can quickly get users hovering over the Skip Ad button, the exact opposite is true for those searching for services they are thinking about buying. Instead of going out of their way to avoid ads, users will go out of their way to seek out unofficial voices talking about your products. And the more authentic and less polished those YouTubers are, the more we trust them in their claims of which products are best, and how to use them.
Influencers for All
You may have heard stories of YouTubers with huge followings making big bucks talking about video games and cosmetics industries. But there is also a vast ocean of unsung YouTubers who just happen to love talking about products of all kinds, including, quite possibly, yours. There is a YouTuber for almost every taste, interest group, age group, economic strata, and product.
Don’t believe it? Here are some examples:
What to find someone talking about Oracle SQL? You got it.
Surprising uses of floor wax? Yep.
Savvy women demonstrating power tools? Of course!
Bilingual, award-winning, musician moms demonstrating vocal effects pedals? Absolutely.
A 30-minute, closely observed walk-through of all 20 Louis Vuitton bags in an affluent woman’s closet? Are you kidding me?
Why Do They Do It?
Why do these YouTubers like talking about these products, even if the vast majority make little or no money from advertising or sponsors? Because they are enthusiasts, just as bloggers or Instagram users are. They love using these products, and want to share their expertise and interests with like-minded ad hoc communities. Of course, everyone likes making a little cha-ching along the way, when possible.
So here are 11 tips for an effective YouTube influencer marketing strategy that can be dovetailed into your overall marketing mix:
1) Amazing is Boring, But How-To is Hot
What should your strategy be? It’s a big question, but let’s try to make it simple.
When people are making a buying decision, they often go to YouTube to get information. Usually they want to know what a product feature looks like, or how to do a task which may involve that product feature. So the two most popular kinds of videos are 1) unboxing videos that walk people through the features of a new product as they unwrap it, and 2) how-to videos that show how products can solve a problem. Your potential customers, it turns out, are very happy to watch a long video that shows them something useful about how to use your product. So instead of paying a YouTuber to read some short script that says how amazing your products are, instead have them help the customer by teaching them how to use it. On YouTube, nobody believes the hype unless they see it for themselves.
2) What to Budget?
The cost of working with YouTubers is highly variable. Sometimes the more modest channels are happy with $100 or less per video, and the price could go as high as $100,000 or so for the most popular channels. But most small- to medium-sized businesses can do very well working with a number of smaller channels, if the right strategy is executed. Additionally, many small product review channels are just happy to get products sent to them, and aren’t expecting to be paid. Reviewing cool products gets them more views and grows their audience. (But money doesn’t hurt.)
Start by asking them how much they charge. Average the views of the last few videos uploaded by that channel. That’s about how many views you’re likely to get.
3) Be Relevant
Select YouTube creators because they know about products like yours and are already talking about them on their channels. If you put your product on a channel where it’s irrelevant, the product will be at best ignored, and at worst antagonized by the channel’s loyal viewers in the comment section. Moreover, the YouTuber herself will be criticized as a sell-out, and lose some of her audience. Make the experience a win-win-win for you, the YouTuber and the customer, not a lose-lose-lose.
4) Audience Size
Contrary to our tendency to gawk over high viewcounts, they don’t matter much and can be easily fudged with paid views to untargeted audiences. Rather, it’s the relevant audience that matters. Would you rather have 2,000 targeted views of people searching for your products, or 2 million views of people who hate your product and would never buy it?
Smaller, more relevant channels are secret gold, and you can cobble together a group of these niche influencers to provide, in total, as much audience as the larger influencers, potentially at a lower overall cost.
5) Let the YouTuber Decide
YouTubers know best what their audience will like and what type of discussion about your product fits in the context of their channel. Instead of telling them what to do, offer some suggestions, but say that you’ll be supportive of any ideas they come up with. You think you know what works best for your product on YouTube, but you don’t. This is a new medium. The YouTuber knows best, and when given control will work very hard to make it work because they will want you to have the best results, and because it’s a reflection of their skill and creativity, it’s personal.
6) Expose Yourself
Transparency is key for YouTube influencer marketing. Encourage the YouTuber to tell their audience up front and in the description that you are sponsoring that episode, and that you sent them the product to talk about. If it’s relevant to the channel, the audience will enjoy it. If it’s not, they won’t like your product or the YouTuber anyway – so you shouldn’t go with that channel in the first place. And telling the audience about your sponsorship isn’t just good manners, it’s the law. Depending on the product or jurisdiction, it could be the FTC or FDA (Kim Kardashian – this means you) that may be offended.
7) Nobody’s Perfect
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s perfectly all right, even encouraged, for YouTube creators to say what little things they don’t like about your product – if it’s said in a polite way. So if this happens, don’t fret – it’s actually a good thing. In a fully authentic medium like YouTube, people don’t believe others who say everything is perfect, because in the real world, nothing is perfect. Including side references to features they don’t like give credence to the more important features they do like. If you don’t have a good product, or can’t properly explain how it works to a YouTuber, you should not use YouTube influencer marketing.
8) Production Quality: Who Cares?
Sorry tell you that the $20,000 you spent making an awesome commercial for YouTube was wasted, but it was. Videos with bad lighting and poor camerawork can do very well, because it’s the message that matters. Poor audio, however, is unacceptable, because it tends to be less convincing.
9) Reuse, Promote, License
What happens if you’re starting to get some videos on YouTubers’ own channels, but they don’t have as many views as you’d like? What can you do? Well, you can start by embedding them on your company’s web page. It’s perfectly acceptable to do this with any YouTube video – whether you’ve worked with the creator or not, and takes just a few minutes (as per YouTube’s terms of service, you can embed or link to any public YouTube video on the platform, whether you have a business relationship with them or not). Also you can add the YouTuber’s video to a playlist in your own YouTube channel under “Fan Videos of Brand XYZ.” Or why not link to the video from your email drip campaign (“Check out this video one of our friends made about us…”)? And you can tweet about those videos, too, or post on Facebook. The only thing you can’t do, unless it’s negotiated in advance or afterwards, is download the video for use off of the creator’s own channel. You’ll need to pay extra for that – ask them how much they’d like to charge for an all-purpose perennial license of their video.
10) Track it, Baby!
Much like any content marketing piece, or tweet, or email, you can and should track incoming leads whenever possible using your current tracking codes, UTM codes, Bitly or whatever system you’re using. Thus marketing automation helps make visible the attract process that begins the customer funnel.
But where to put the tracking codes? The most effective place is the first couple of lines of the YouTube video description. Use a different tracking code for each video and each creator. Add text with the link such as “Get 20% off of X” or “for your free Y click here.” This way you can segment your inbound audience while also determining which videos, creators and offers are your biggest winners, and come back for more.
11) Comment is King
Great, the video is uploaded, so it’s all over, right? Wrong; your involvement is just beginning. YouTubers love to comment on videos and ask questions in the comment section. Make sure your social media team leader posts first in the comment section and says “we’re happy to answer questions here in the comments” so people know you’re accessible. By creating an ad hoc forum in the comments section, the video will get more views and rank higher in Google and YouTube search. Respond to every question or comment (except the jerks – just ignore them).
Customize your settings so you get notified of each response to your comments via email and/or over the top-right “bell” icon on your YouTube page, and, if possible, just keep the conversation going with continued responses to comments so that other viewers will know you’re accessible. Make sure that if you add a link to a part of your website, you track that link as well.
You Can Do It
So hopefully we’ve demystified the YouTube influencer marketing process a little bit, and shown that it’s not just for huge companies with huge budgets who want to work with the biggest channels. Products can do very well by working with niche channels, if the best practices are followed. Go get ’em!
Ready to start creating your own videos for YouTube? Learn all of the tips and tricks you’ll need to get started by checking out our free webinar, Video Marketing: 3 Building Blocks to Get You Started.