With the rise of platforms like TikTok and Instagram, YouTube influencers have fallen by the wayside and are no longer a “sexy” source of profitable growth for Direct-to-Consumer and eCommerce brands. However, no platform is more effective for direct-response influencer partnerships than YouTube.
In this blog post I will outline why that is, the types of brands YouTube influencers are a good fit for, and how to profitably scale your influencer program at a low upfront cost.
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How does YouTube influencer marketing differ from other types of influencer marketing?
YouTube influencers are typically more effective than other types of influencers for two main reasons:
- The average duration of each video.
- The close proximity of the video description to the content itself.
Unlike Instagram or TikTok, YouTube videos are long enough that the sponsored content does not need to be the entire subject of the post. Instead, it is integrated somewhere within the video. This makes the sponsorship real estate inherently less valuable to the influencer and allows you to partner with larger influencers for cheaper prices than Instagram or TikTok.
The second point I mentioned, description location, means that your brand's website link is much more accessible to the viewer. There is no need to navigate to the profile page of the influencer. Instead, the viewer can click directly beneath the content to visit your site. This leads to higher clickthrough rates and more directly attributable conversions with YouTube influencers than other types of creators.
You can see this in the below screenshot, where MrBeast’s new chocolate bar brand is visibly linked directly below the video:
How do I know if YouTube influencers are right for my brand?
Before diving into the world of YouTube, make sure the platform is the right fit for your customer. YouTube skews male and is most popular among those 35 and under. Certain topics such as makeup, gaming, sports, and food/beverage have massive organic followings on YouTube and can be easily tapped into by brands.
Other demographics and product categories, however, do not have complementary content or robust communities on YouTube. For example, if you are trying to reach middle-aged women, or if you sell a gender-neutral commodity good, these audiences might be more difficult to reach on YouTube. Try to picture the types of content that your product would fit into contextually as an advertisement.
How to pick the right YouTube influencers
When reaching out to influencers, it can often feel like you are throwing spaghetti against the wall aimlessly given the sheer volume of content creators out there. Randomly picking influencers that you think will work well is a sure way to lose money out of the gate when testing YouTube influencers.
An effective alternative strategy that I have found is letting the YouTube algorithm do the work for you by running ads to determine which content categories your audience over-indexes in. Below is a simple exercise that should cost no more than a few hundred dollars and will give you data-driven starting points to begin your outreach:
- First, set up a simple YouTube TrueView campaign following these instructions. You will need a video ad, approx. 30 seconds in duration and in 16:9 dimensions, to describe your product. I would recommend repurposing one of your existing Facebook ads. For targeting, use whatever audience is most relevant to your product—if you have a large enough customer list for a lookalike audience (called “Similar Audiences” on Google), I would recommend this. Targeting in-market or affinity audiences is an acceptable alternative. The goal of this campaign is simply to understand what channels the YouTube algorithm allocates your ad budget to.
- Once you have the campaign set up, set a $50 a day budget and run for at least 3 days. I would recommend spending at least $500 on the platform. Don't worry about your actual campaign results, you are not running this to drive profitable YouTube ads. You are only looking to collect data.
- At the conclusion of your campaign, look at the “Where ads showed" report on the left side of your Google ads dashboard. You may notice that your ad spend was allocated across an extremely high number of different YouTube channels. This is totally normal. Scan through your results and observe any commonalities in content types across your top-spending channels, looking at the amount spent and CTR as your indicators of success. Any channels that actually drove conversions for you should also be noted. Below is an example of test results:
- In the above example, a large number of placements where my ad showed were channels related to family life vlogs (Hapa Family, This Crazy Life, The East Family, etc). What do you do with this information? Use it to inform your influencer outreach. Create a shortlist of every channel in your most commonly displayed categories. Then, find additional channels on YouTube that also fall into those categories.
Criteria When Selecting Influencers To Test
Once you have a robust list of influencers in each of your target categories, how do you whittle them down? Three factors will determine the success of your early influencer placements more than anything else: video view consistency, demographics, and engagement.
- Video View Consistency - A relatively consistent view count across each video is crucial to improving your odds of success with an influencer. You don’t want the one video that happens to feature your sponsorship to be a complete dud. Look at the influencer’s last 10 videos that are more than 30 days old: if each one doesn’t have relatively consistent view counts (I use a ±25% deviation as my guideline here), I consider that channel to be too risky to sponsor.
- Demographics - The channel you're evaluating should have demographics similar to your own customer base. If most of your customers are men ages 25-34, you would want to see that reflected in the channel that you were considering working with. The more aligned the age/gender split, the more likely your sponsorship of that channel is to be a success. Geographic and device breakdowns are also important factors. This isn’t always the case, but often, channels with more of an iOS heavy viewership have a more affluent audience that will convert at a higher rate. Similarly, if you only advertise in the US, you’re going to want the channel you work with to skew extremely heavily towards a US audience.
- Engagement - Take a look at the engagement rate of each video (likes + comments / view count), as well as the views-to-subscribers ratio. The higher these ratios, the more engaged the audience, and the higher your CTR should be. If both of these ratios are low on a particular channel, you might do well to avoid partnering with them.
You can leverage paid tools like Upfluence or #paid to get this data, or you can leverage a free tool like NoxInfluencer, which provides useful visualizations like the one below to inform your strategy:
Ultimately, you’ll want to establish your own personal benchmarks of what predicts a successful influencer partnership. This will take lots of trial and error, but generally, once you have benchmarks, you can predict performance and scale to larger and larger influencer partnerships with confidence. To summarize, you’ll want to check these leading indicators before moving forward with a partnership:
- Video View Consistency
- Average Video Views
- Demographic Split (highest % age bracket and gender split)
- Geographic breakdown (what % of viewers are in your target market?)
- Device breakdown (iOS vs Android)
- View: Subscriber ratio
- Engagement Rate
Every brand has different benchmarks for success, so it’s up to you to diligently track this information and recognize the patterns in your successful partnerships to inform future growth. Once you’ve proven out the channel, it’s likely that you’ll see a halo effect across all of your acquisition channels thanks to the statistically-proven efficacy of YouTube creators in driving brand recall and familiarity.