In the world of digital marketing, video content has clearly become essential. In an industry report by Social Media Examiner it's shown that a significant 60% of marketers already use video in their marketing and that 73% plan on increasing their use of video (Stelzner, 2016:5). That’s clearly a majority of marketers, implementing video content to further reach and to strengthen brand loyalties.
Comparatively, marketers plan to increase their use of videos over other mediums - video (73%), visuals (71%), blogging (66%), live video (39%), and podcasting (26%) (Stelzner, 2016:45). That’s exactly why I decided to learn as much as I could about it by becoming a YouTuber.
After a successful run of working as tech op, producer and all round dogsbody within commercial radio for over three years, it took me a while to settle on a career and industry that was a good fit. As previously blogged, I do have the attention span of a sparrow and so finding a role which is varied and dynamic enough takes a good hard search.
I floated about in promotional and experiential marketing for a couple of years - working on behalf of companies and brands like Tennent’s Larger, Colgate (toothpaste sample anyone?) and Google. The latter being one of the best experiences in my career. That'll be a blog for another time though.
Once my time within promotional work had ran its course, I decided to narrow in on something that could hold my attention, allow me to express myself creatively and utilise my people skills, flair for logistics and channel my reignited passion in all things digital - working with cloud computing, augmented reality and passionate people clearly sparked something in me.
“So digital it is then!”, I thought to myself.
It was always going to be digital marketing, if I really reflect on things. Ever since my early days of listening to that terrifying Matrix noise that dial-up internet made and pouring hours into absorbing the BBC’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer website. My life has always revolves around the internet and online communities. Flash-forward fifteen years and I'd be writing my honours dissertation on female identity within American Cult TV and the online communities that cherished them.
Digital marketing-wise, I knew my stuff already. Having used social media marketing all through community, hospital and commercial radio. However, when it came to finding a job role or a company to snap me up, I knew I had to prove myself further. At the time I was working within a call centre to pay the bills and was creatively pretty unfulfilled so I knew I needed a project to focus on. Something to develop my skills further and also showcase my abilities for digital marketing and online community generation.
This is where YouTube came in. Having noticed the trend of video content generation becoming ever more prominent and vital to digital marketing, I knew it was time to step from behind the microphone to in front of the camera. A prospect which I wasn't entirely comfortable with if I'm honest.
Again, as I had an attention span of a sparrow, I knew whatever subject I chose to focus on for my video content needed to be something I wouldn't grow tired of. So it seemed a natural idea to select video games and Lady Lara Croft/Tomb Raider as a loose theme. This then lead swiftly to the adoption of Twitch in addition to YouTube as platforms. As I thought having knowledge of a niche platform could also give me the edge.
What proceeded was a burst of video content generation spanning the course of about three months. There were Let's Play live streams two to three times a week on Twitch and a new piece of YouTube content every Sunday. Additionally I fully utilised Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram with scheduled content that was completely unashamedly targeted and strategic. But also engaging and fun.
Themes and subject matters varied for the YouTube videos but there were such gems as, “Why Lara Croft Should Be Your Girlfriend” and a personal favourite of mine, “Dating Advice From A Single Guy”. Plus, there was the YouTube Christmas staple of Vlogmas - a new video each day on the run-up to Christmas. I baked, made cocktails and even made a bloody Lara Croft Baba Yagga gingerbread house! It was fun, rewarding and EXHAUSTING!!!
My strategy worked as well. I gained 70+ YouTube subscribers, 100 Twitch followers and hundreds more followers on Twitter. I also gained the attention of a major PR firm who snapped me up as they saw potential.
Since then I have fully rebooted - and in some cases restarted - social network profiles for a fresh start. Although I'm no longer a YouTuber, I definitely look back at that time fondly. I met some amazing people from all over the world and was again impressed with the power of the internet to draw like minded people together. What then, have I learned? Well, without further ado, here's four things I learned from being a YouTuber.
The Internet Can Be a Fickle Beast
This one goes without saying really, doesn’t it?
“The Internet is a significant community with a membership numbering in the millions, probably including you.” (Hanlon, 2006: 112)
A mass of people - essentially the general public - shifting and changing their opinions at the drop of a hat? But of course! I’ll never forget during the Olympic task of Vlogmas - talk about ENDURANCE! Vlogmas is a YouTube trend whereby a YouTuber makes a brand new video, everyday on the run-up to Christmas day. Now technically, as I was a video game streamer I was kinda busy doing that for the most part but I still did do at least half of Vlogmas. That meant almost 14 videos! Each between 8 - 10 minutes long, often scripted and planned out. All shot, edited and uploaded by me. Whilst I was working full-time! It was...intense.
One of the videos I was proudest of was a festive cocktail making tutorial - bare with me now! It took about 6 hours to shoot, what with all the cooking and preparing of the frosty-looking sugared cranberries and general continuity logistics. It was pretty funny too! I had shot a whole bit where I did a voice-over during close-up shorts of cooking in an overly sexual Nigella Lawson/Marks and Spencer voice.
Then there was the editing which took a couple of hours to get right. That’s the part I probably enjoyed the most actually. Probably as it’s reminiscent of my radio production experience of editing. So after all this hard work, I uploaded my video and waited. Eager to see that view counter number rise and rise! I waited....and kept on waiting. After having amassed 500+ views on one of my videos I was hopeful that people would enjoy it. Enjoy it they did, all 50 of them!
Needless to say I was frazzled and disappointed. Clearly on this one occasion I had missed the mark. In reflection, by diversifying my content to reach a new broader audience, I had started to marginalise my core video gamer audience. Lesson learned!
At least I had made a braw cocktail, eh?
Planning and Strategy is Your Friend
Whether you’re doing YouTube to extend your corporate brand or just doing it as a personal creative project, you’ll need to be strategic. It may feel cold and calculated but it’s actually vital. As I just showed you on that last example, it’s easy to miss the mark with some content. Creating video content can be such a time absorbing activity so you’ve gotta get those spreadsheets out! Okay, maybe not spreadsheets necessarily but you’ve got to at least think about who your audience are, what kind of content they like and then plan out a content calendar. From here the next natural step is a filming and editing schedule. All this is really just a framework to get the work done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I also enjoy the tried and tested SCRUM method of post-its - “still to do”, “doing” and “done”. There, that doesn’t sound so boring, eh? Colourful post-its and everything! I’m actually lucky enough to be one of those weirdos who finds planning and organising to be therapeutic and even perhaps a tad gratifying.
But I digress.
That being said, don't be afraid to make some stuff up as you go. Being adaptive is key as you learn what your audience enjoy. Plus, it'll keep the content fresh.
Have Power Naps, All of the Power Naps
I can’t quite stress this one enough: making YouTube content can be exhausting. Most YouTubers have other full-time jobs or careers and the lucky few whose advertising revenues are enough to support them as an livable income usually aren’t shy of expressing that at times it can be an exhausting venture.
Vlogmas really is a good example for this too actually. Picture it: working full-time on the run-up to Christmas, planning and executing video content, filming, editing, uploading on a daily basis for 14 days in a row! Even with making some content in advance I ended up chasing my tail towards the end. It was madness!
However, whilst it is exhausting, it can also be wholly energising having return viewers spurring you on! In my case, I was lucky enough to gain some supporters who helped finance me to buy equipment to make a podcast! Now THAT’S online community generation and brand loyalty at it’s best, right?
The Battle for Legitimacy
I feel in some ways this is an obvious point but I think it’s important to highlight it. There’s still a bit of a stigma within classic media, design and PR. People just don’t take YouTubers seriously. I feel the E! TV network’s sassy tweet about uber famous YouTuber and all round nice person Grace Hellbig is a prime example. After only a few months had passed from the end of the TV series they filmed with Grace, they tweeted this:
Needless to say, The Internet didn’t react favourably towards E!
Another classic example is the garbage truck on fire that is the relationship between Pewdiepie and the wider press and classic media. I would write thoughts on that...but...I just can’t.
Personally speaking my time working within The Death Star...I mean, my time working within corporate PR was an interesting experience. I kinda felt I was viewed a bit like a performing monkey due to having made YouTube content. This battle for legitimacy is something that I think a lot of bigger YouTubers would relate to. Even if you have hundreds of views, thousands of subscribers and a whole online brand, the big guns will actually probably react like:
“You do YouTube? CUTE!”
But then again, successes like YouTuber Colleen Ballenger are too busy making hit shows for Netflix to care. To quote her character Miranda…
At the end of the day, YouTube and video content in general is a great tool for digital marketing and online community nurturing. Utilising it for your brand really isn’t a matter of if you should, it’s a matter of when are you going to do it? Afterall, brands that don’t shift and adapt to trends drift into irrelevance or, quite simply, die.
For those looking to harness the power of video content for their brands, I say do it but be aware. Not “beware”. Be aware. Craft together a team of people who have the skills and passion to make engaging content but who simultaneously truly understand how to harness the medium to generate communities. Otherwise all you’re doing is burning budget and wasting resources.
For those who are dipping their toes in the water for fun, I say do it! Do you and do you well! Have fun, be prepared to learn, refine and grind. It can be exhausting but it’s totally worth it!
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Hanlon, Patrick, (2006), Primal Branding - Create Zealots For Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future, Free Press, New York: Page 112
Stelzner, Michael A., (2016), 2016 SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING INDUSTRY REPORT - How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses, Social Media Examiner: page 5 and 45.