If I say “YouTuber creator”, what do you think? The archetypal image is probably someone who looks like Zoella — a young, chirpy person vlogging away from the privacy of their bedroom, chatting to a teen audience about makeup and day to day details of their life. If that’s indeed what pops into your mind, then now’s a good time to check back in with the YouTube creator community.

YouTubers have been at the heart of influencer marketing for years now, and much has changed since those early days. Sure, there are still kids in their bedrooms chatting to cameras, but the community is larger, more diverse, and more professional than ever. These influencers are becoming an increasing must-have for marketers across product verticals — not just the beauty and gaming brands who have relied on them for some time.

At Flying Object we’ve worked with creators since the beginning, and last year we brought 75 leading lights of the UK community together for the annual Stand Up To Cancer YouTube live show. So what have we discovered about working with this unique group of people — and what do marketers need to know, now?

Find your place in the creators' community

That YouTube has always had an almost ludicrous range of content is well known. But the assumption is still that creators fall into a handful of limited categories — the teen vlogger, the gamer, the beauty vlogger, the prankster. This simply isn’t true any more.

The YouTube community is rich and nuanced, with both defined sub-groupings (study YouTube, bookish YouTube) and networks of creators who refuse to sit neatly into categorisation, often flexing their own content approach regularly. There are both qualitative and quantitative methods to understand these creators’ audiences.

Think how, not just who

Influencer marketing has come in for a lot of flack recently, and much of this comes from the nature of the influencer-brand connection. ASA compliance — making the paid-for nature of the content clear — is one thing, but a more important question is how to work with the influencer to make branded content that genuinely engages their audience. This requires a delicate balance between creative freedom for the YouTuber and clear briefing and support from the brand, which (in our opinion) needs to be done carefully and through a relationship with the creator.

How to use a creator to reach your target audience is as important as whose viewer base overlaps with your target audience in the first place. Get this right, and the audience will be more than forgiving of any ASA compliance (#Ad, etc) that’s required.

Keep up with the rapid pace of change

The creator community evolves quickly. They are individuals with changing creative desires, just as their (often young) audiences are similarly changing in their content demands. Don’t be fooled that a large subscriber count means significant views; it could be that many of these subscribers have moved on, but not clicked unsubscribe. We tend to look at momentum, as a ratio between subscribers and recent views, to get a sense of what’s really happening. It’s through this that we decided Niko Omilana was deserving of a host role on Stand Up To Cancer.

Bear in mind also that creators can reinvent themselves. Louise Pentland is a good example, moving from her initial incarnation as Sprinkles Of Glitter — beauty/lifestyle for younger girls — to a more mature parenting/mum lifestyle channel. While Pentland’s overall subscriber base has decreased, her refreshed channel is more representative of a personal brand that encompasses her novels and event appearances.

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Patricia Bright

Further their goals as well as yours

Being a YouTuber is a profession nowadays, not just a passion with the occasional breakthrough millionaire. Generations of professional influencers mean that those starting out now have a good idea of what’s at stake. Creators understand YouTube’s monetisation policies and have a fair idea of how the algorithm works.

But that professional instinct will likely not end at being merely a successful YouTuber. A large and growing list have moved into writing books, TV appearances or hosting, or working in new content genres. Teaming up with a brand could be a chance not just to earn a bit of dough, but to advance these goals. What can you bring to this deal? A unique experience could be as valuable as a higher fee.

Consider creators’ roles in your strategy

For the reasons here, we don’t advocate buying creators as just another line item on your media plan. Indeed, reach shouldn’t be your end goal at all when thinking about creator engagement (even if creators can reach audiences that traditional media struggles to). Creators aren’t celebrities, and they don’t have celebrities’ widespread fame. Instead they boast a strong and trusted audience connection that means they can advance consideration. Clever use of paid media can amplify this. Ask yourself also — is your tracking set up to understand the effect this spend is having?

Get in touch via our contact page to chat more about what YouTubers can bring to your brand.