A Beginner’s Guide to YouTube Influencer Marketing

As social media platforms become increasingly ubiquitous sources of information and communication, they also become fertile ground for marketing prospects. YouTube, in particular, has become prime real estate for advertisements and has created a new wave of opportunities in the form of influencer marketing.

What is “influencer marketing?”

To understand how influencer marketing works, you must first identify YouTube influencers. Influencers are individuals that generate content on social media platforms, have a large following, and whose viewers actively engage with their material.

Michelle Phan, for example, began posting makeup tutorials on YouTube in May 2007 and has built an avid following, with more than 8 million subscribers. As a result of this success, Phan became a brand representative for Lancôme, co-found a beauty product subscription service called ipsy, and launch her own cosmetics line. While not every YouTuber achieves similar success, marketers can team up with those who do to advertise products effectively.

Some YouTubers, referred to as micro-influencers, have fewer subscribers and views overall but appeal to niche audiences. These micro-influencers can be invaluable to marketers because their viewers tend to engage strongly with their content, which means any recommendations for products can easily produce conversions. This is especially true if your brand or product is fairly specific to a target market.

Why YouTube?

With all the social media platforms available, why invest in YouTube specifically? The Huffington Post reported YouTube reaches 100% of 16 to 34 year-olds, and 98% of 34 to 44 year-olds, which is more than enough reason to perk up your ears. Visibility without conversions is essentially meaningless, and so the most significant figure is that YouTube demonstrated higher returns on investment than television advertising in 77% of cases. When your dollars are working harder, your job is that much easier.

According to YouTube’s own data, 72% of car buyers indicated YouTube-influenced their purchase decisions in some way, as well as 66% of beauty product users, and 62% of smartphone users. This means a vast majority of consumers use YouTube for information about, recommendations for, and examples of products before they buy.

Furthermore, marketing through YouTube is still in its development, giving you some room for negotiation and innovation. The price per ad varies widely – between $0.02 and $0.20 per view, averaging about $0.10 to $0.15 – meaning you can plan your budget accordingly. If you invest in up and coming talent (that is, micro-influencers), you may be able to spend less for the same number of views. The relative newness of YouTube gives you some creative license as you plan your marketing campaign, in addition to being a little easier on your wallet.

Finally, YouTube provides analytical resources for marketers to help you strategize efficiently and monitor your progress. For example, YouTube gathers information about times of day various age groups tend to view and which devices they view from, giving you valuable data about when and how to advertise your brand. Google Brand Lift Solutions also gathers statistics directly relevant to marketers, such as brand recall stats. This provides a significant resource to plan your marketing campaigns and to measure their success.

Strategizing for Influence Marketing

The first step toward launching an effective marketing campaign is to identify specific goals. Who are you trying to reach? How much are you willing to spend? Are you trying to increase brand visibility by achieving a certain number of views, or are you more interested in scoring sales? Specifying your goals helps you measure your progress, which means you’ll be able to tweak your strategy as needed for optimal results.

As mentioned in the description of YouTube influencers, choosing your talent depends on a number of factors beyond the number of subscribers. It is critical to choose a YouTube channel that is relevant to your brand because their audience will be more interested in hearing about it. A YouTuber’s reach evaluates the number of views per video, which may not directly correlate to their number of subscribers. Even more important is the viewer engagement with the material, which includes views, comments, likes, and dislikes. Influence measures the activity inspired by the YouTuber’s content, as well as audience growth (whether viewers become subscribers). Lastly, you want to choose a consistent user, who generates regularly scheduled material, provides meaningful content and has relatively stable viewership.

Collaboration requires aligned values, beliefs, and interests. This means you’ll want to choose a YouTuber who will be able to genuinely get behind your brand, understand your goals, and display sincere enthusiasm to their subscribers. Focus on someone who has expertise in a relevant area, who is credible on the subject matter, and who has a strong relationship with her followers, even if that means foregoing a YouTuber with more subscribers overall.

Executing an Effective Campaign

Utilizing YouTube influencer marketing requires giving the influencer the reins. Remember, they have built an audience from scratch, and they know best how to get a positive response from viewers through natural interaction with the product. You may even decide to offer discounts, giveaways, or free products to viewers for an even bigger response. Keep in mind, though, you want to do this thoughtfully, so you appear to be a generous company offering value to a specific audience, rather than a desperate business hoping to take advantage of viewers to generate revenue.

Over-controlled, cookie-cutter campaigns tend to be fairly obvious to viewers, and can actually garner a negative response. This is crucial to keep in mind, because ultimately, it’s not only the influencer who will buy your product, it’s also (and more importantly) their viewers. Scott Cook, the founder and CEO of Intuit, remarked, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is–it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

With this in mind: put your efforts towards identifying and choosing talent, negotiating a fair deal, and developing some general talking points for the YouTuber to work with. This may include basic knowledge of your product, describing how your product can help them, and what makes your product different from (and better than) the competitors. Specify your goals and how you’ll measure them, and work collaboratively with YouTubers to develop organic, effective marketing campaigns.