What YouTubers Can Teach Marketers about Building Community

What YouTubers Can Teach Marketers about Building Community
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In my last post, I discussed the context under which YouTube content “becomes both product and marketing vehicle.”  I said that “[having] a ‘consistent stream of’ relevant content [as opposed to quality content] is what drives forward positive results.” What follows are some of the observations that led me to this conclusion and what marketers can learn from this analysis and YouTubers about building community.

The difference

Quality content is content that is well-executed, both artistically and technically. Relevant content is that which succeeds in connecting with viewers. Quality – defined differently by different people – isn’t necessary for connection, but connection is necessary for viewership.

Why it matters

Viewers don’t necessarily need fancy equipment and great DPs and directors behind every shoot to continue watching. They are perfectly willing to accept videos shot on cameras many people could use in simple settings as long as they connect with something in the video. Take vlogger Tyler Oakley (featured in Frontline’s “Generation Like”); beauty guru Ingrid Nilsen, known on YouTube as Missglamorazzi; or musicians Megan and Liz and Alex G; who started with relatively simple setups and have developed the quality of their content as their audiences have grown.

When content creators cultivate their communities, they can gradually grow their audience and develop the resources, opportunities, and practice they need to improve the quality of their content. At this point, the improvement in quality is more worthwhile to the content creator and the fans who are connecting with it. Fans enjoy seeing – and now feeling like they are a part of – the rise of an artist or other content creator they connect with and want to see succeed. As relevant as a content creator might initially be to the people who connect with him or her, pretty soon that won’t be enough. That’s where the improvement in quality comes in. It’s a way to stay relevant with an audience who will not accept more of the same. By impressing upon the community that it is they who are making the development possible, the content creator can create even stronger – and more – connections.

One of the reasons I enjoy following musicians on YouTube is precisely what I just described: I can see their content develop from simple videos to professional, full productions of their own or collaborations with other accomplished artists (Lindsey Stirling with John Legend and Tyler Ward with the Plain White T’s, for example).  

From musicians to vloggers to beauty gurus to gamers, YouTube content creators are taking advantage of the fact that it’s now easier to share their content and personalities. Growing their audience is still a challenge but in a different way now.

What it means for content creators on YouTube

Start small. Content creators don’t need tons of money or fancy equipment to develop big viewership. They need to cultivate a connection and then build from there. It’s as though successful YouTube content creators have intuitively – or perhaps out of necessity – built their brands and businesses on the premise that you need to lead with a minimum viable product and the development of your community of customers, culled from the audience you attract, to have a better chance of being sustainable. What that usually means is communicating a personality and something to offer – music or advice, for instance – that people connect with and enjoy.

What all of this means for marketers

Businesses and brands seeking exposure might want to look to YouTube content creators for sponsorships and other deals. They already have, actually. Smaller businesses might want to look to them more seriously, however, and work to forge new types of partnerships. Even if these businesses decide to create their own content instead of trying to agree on partnerships with existing content creators, they can learn from how successful content creators created relevant content and gained a following.

What has your experience been marketing with YouTube? Tweet @rockonink or e-mail if you’d like to talk about it.

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