YouTube is increasingly becoming the most influential social network, and the place where pop culture is born. In fact, according to Cisco’s new Visual Networking Index forecast, video usage is projected to outperform Facebook and Twitter by 2017. With the proliferation of video, we are seeing a transformation in how consumers interact with brands. Consumers are no longer just a passive audience; they are now passionate fans who are actively participating in driving value for brands.
And while there’s been lots of talk about brands acting as publishers, we’re increasingly finding that fans drive more value by creating videos about the brands and products that they love. Take CoverGirl, for example.
Of CoverGirl’s 251 million total views on YouTube, 249 million (or 99 percent) are from fan-created videos, according to data compiled by Zefr. We see a similar trend with other leading brands: 92 percent of Oreo’s views and 99 percent of Revlon’s views come from fan content. Sometimes, original fan videos go viral, causing lots of other fans to create their own version of the original video. Swiffer’s commercial of a woman mopping her kitchen floor and breaking out into dance inspired a trend on YouTube. More than 150 people uploaded their own rendition of the “Swiffer dance.”
Swiffer fan views don’t just outnumber the actual brand views (10,451,334 vs. 225,220); they indicate a larger shift in the way consumers are interacting with brands and using YouTube.
We’re seeing fans take action in four distinct ways on a platform where they not only upload videos, but also comment live and experience instant shareability. First, fans tend to upload commercials that resonated with them. Examples range from a funny commercial like Old Spice to an exciting product release like an iPad or iPhone. These fans don’t just watch a commercial; they engage.
Another big trend we’ve seen is brand fans expressing themselves through the “unboxing” of items they love. What is unboxing? Think of videos of fans literally opening up the boxes of products they’ve just purchased. From high-tech consumer products to cars to toys, these videos serve as instant reviews, where instead of going to Amazon to read feedback, people now search YouTube to get even more.
YouTube is also the place consumers turn to find out how to use a product. Basically, YouTube has become the place for pre- and postpurchase conversations.
Some fans take things even further, creating original content based on brand enthusiasm. Whether it’s a Lego stop-motion animation or painting with a can of Coke, fans are showing their love for brands in unique ways.
Lastly, we see some brand fans capitalize on a pop culture moment. A recent example of this is when Charles Ramsey, who saved a captured Amanda Berry, mentioned McDonald’s during his press interview. Posts of the Ramsey video received more than 11 million views in less than 24 hours. Eighty percent of those views came from fan uploads (many of which specifically mentioned McDonald’s in the title of the video), and McDonald’s was mentioned in user comments more than 6,000 times across those videos.
McDonald’s reacted to the buzz by tweeting out support to Ramsey and giving him free burgers for a year, but imagine what else they could have done had they reached out to the super-fans that created the content that generated millions of views for them.
In order to best harness the fans and leverage these opportunities on YouTube, brands need to listen and respond. Listening means digging in to all of the real-time data associated with your brand on YouTube, and making sense of the noise. This will allow brands to discover who their superfans are, understand their global footprint and compare performance to their competitors.
Brands can use this intelligence to respond and better influence future marketing spends or work with fans to amplify messaging. These marketers can empower the fan base that was otherwise invisible by building relationships with them and teaming up with them and their respective networks. For example, Skittles did this by bringing on superfan Nathan Barnatt to create official Skittles videos. Barnatt’s work tallied more than 5 million views and 190,000 subscribers—more than the official Skittles channel itself.
YouTube is a platform that is ripe with data, passion and fans of brands. And it is now 1 billion people strong. Now, more than ever, is the time for brands to capture all that value.