Editor’s note: Polina Haryacha is a Senior Brand Manager at My.com, where she focuses on strategic brand development for video games.
Earned media is stealing the show. According to Nielsen, 84 percent of consumers say they trust peer recommendations above all other sources of advertising. According to McKinsey and Deloitte, marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising, while people referred by loyal customers have a 37 percent higher retention rate.
So what does earned media have to do with YouTube? It’s all about the Influencers. YouTube Influencers are more popular among U.S. teens than mainstream celebrities. And with 100 hours of video uploaded per minute and 6 billion hours of viewership per month, that means YouTube is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to marketing your message.
The secret is certainly out. Companies around the world are recognizing the advantages of leveraging YouTube Influencers and their marketing power. For example, Activision, a major video game publisher, decided to lean in to YouTube Influencers and gained outstanding results. Influencers’ videos about “Call of Duty” have been viewed 9.7 billion times to date, which is nearly 20 times the number of views for videos on the brand’s own media platforms.
Here are a few ways you can identify and connect with YouTube Influencers to partner on your next brand campaign.
There are talent management agencies that will recruit YouTube Influencers and help set up a brand campaign. The most popular networks are Maker Studios, Fullscreen and Machinima. These companies reach out to their network of YouTube channels, find available talent, help to target the best Influencers for your brand, and make deals on your behalf.
They come back to you with a list of Influencers and proposed campaign concepts and project costs, which include the talent compensation and agency fees. Sometimes you will find that agencies are the only way to connect with desirable talent, as channel owners won’t get back to you directly (this is especially true for larger channels). The drawback is that often agencies do not deeply understand the nature and specific needs of your brand and simply offer partnerships with popular channels, which are not always your best bet.
Influencer Exchange Platforms
Another solution for reaching out to Influencers is using platforms that act as a virtual marketplace for connecting brands and Influencers. They are very similar to outsourcing platforms like Elance or oDesk, where people can submit projects and get proposals from freelancers. For example, self-service tool FameBit allows brands to outline their expectations for campaigns and receive proposals directly from YouTubers.
FameBit’s limitation is that there is no way to filter talent from one long list of proposals to easily find the channel with the best focus and momentum for your brand. They also have brands sign a six-month exclusivity agreement, restricting a company from entering into any deal with the Influencer to create promotional media content.
On the plus side, FameBit includes each channel’s audience age and geographic coverage data, which is critical data when trying to find the right channel for your brand.
There are other similar platforms, such as Reelio, Grapevine and Influicity but most are still in beta.
Reaching Out Directly
Brands can also connect with Influencers directly on YouTube. The majority of YouTube talents publish their business email in the channel’s “About” section. The default “Send Message” is also available. Here are some general recommendations for an intro email:
- Demonstrate sincere interest and understanding of the channel and its audience.
- Explain why you feel that your brand would be a good fit for the channel and how it will benefit the channel’s audience.
- Do your research and offer something valuable to the Influencer. Depending on the stage and focus of the channel, talent may seek quality exclusive content; more exposure outside their channel (i.e. cross-promotion on your brand`s channels); consistent content updates (i.e. a series of video content), which can lead to a mutually beneficial long-term partnership; and deeper audience engagement (i.e. any interactive campaigns, contests, giveaways etc.).
If you don’t hear back from the channel owner, make sure you follow up and reach out via other sources, such as Facebook or Twitter. YouTube talents receive a ton of emails daily, and an email can easily go unnoticed or get lost in a spam folder.
Identifying the Right Talent
The most challenging element of any of these methods is to correctly identify the talent that best suits your brand and campaign goals. Studying Influencers on YouTube is extremely time-consuming and provides limited insight into the channels. Vital data like demographics, content popularity outside the channel, etc. is inaccessible. Further, there’s no convenient way to measure potential for conversion. However, there are tools that can make the selection process faster and more efficient.
OpenSlate analyzes YouTube API, social media, and media campaigns’ performance data to measure a channel’s performance. They compute all of this data and calculate scores for the following categories:
- Engagement — how actively an audience interacts with channel’s content;
- Consistency — how consistently is the channel delivering meaningful content;
- Influence — whether a channel stimulates action and audience growth; how content is shared outside the channel; and whether viewers turning into subscribers;
- Slate Score — calculated based on momentum and all the above scores.
OpenSlate also allows you to filter channels by category, geography, subject matter and level of brand safety. They reveal a channel’s demographic data and offer a keyword search and side-by-side channel comparison. As of today, OpenSlate stores data on more than 220,000 channels. However one drawback is that they do not allow you to export data outside of the platform.
Tubular is similar to OpenSlate. However they differ in the following ways: they operate with data from more than 2 million YouTube Influencers; allow data to be exported; provide a channel’s contact details and network affiliation; and provide additional info about channel’s other social media engagement.
Tubular calculates and assigns an “Influencer Score” based on a custom formula using APIs from YouTube, Twitter, web crawls and other publicly available data sources. Tubular also features another useful score called Engagement per View, similar to OpenSlate’s Engagement score.
Once you find the right YouTube Influencers, you need to plan performance evaluations, set KPIs and put tracking in place. Here are some tips on which metrics you should you be measuring and how.
Campaign CPA and CPC. To measure clicks and conversions, you need to first generate tracking links. Next, you should ask the Influencer to use your tracking link within video descriptions and video annotations. For the video description, you want the link to look clean, so it is recommended to short branded links that can be generated with Bit.ly or similar tools.
Share and Share Rate. Tools like Tubular or VideoIQ can give you an idea of how popular a video is outside of YouTube itself. You can also measure the efficiency of each social media network by dividing the number of shares by the total engaged views and then multiply by 100.
Velocity. Besides the number of views, you can find more insight about video performance on a YouTube video page. Click “More – Statistics” beneath the video. There, you will find data about the video’s popularity and trending, how many times the video was shared, and how many viewers subscribed to the channel. All of these stats will help you understand how strongly your brand resonates with the channel’s audience and whether you should run more campaigns with this particular Influencer.
By strategically selecting and connecting with the right YouTube Influencer, brands have the opportunity to tap into an engaged fan base that’s growing at an unprecedented rate. Stay on top of emerging industry trends and tools to ensure you are able to leverage new marketing opportunities like this one before your competition does.