Advertising revenue appears to form the backbone of YouTube. The company continues to invest in various ad programs, and revenues keep growing year over year. However, what also keeps growing is engagement. This goes a long way to explaining why YouTube creators are better at building and maintaining brands than actual brands are on the site.
According to Brendan Gahan, contributor to the Observer‘s Innovation blog, not a single brand channel is in the top 100 most subscribed YouTube channels. Gahan notes that this is because YouTube’s native talent — those who populate the top 100 — are so good at building audiences and managing their personal brand. John Green, author and Vlogbrother, is a prime example of YouTube’s native talent doing it so much better than advertisers.
Green shares his life and work with his audience through YouTube videos and has managed to cultivate an almost rabid fanbase that will follow him anywhere. Whether it’s raising money for charity, or pushing his book to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list, Green’s fans are with him.
The rapport YouTube creators generate with their audiences is surely the major mark of their success, and viewers are more than willing to support creators across different projects.
This is engagement and loyalty that brands and advertisers could only dream of. And the problem with marketers’ current approach to YouTube is that they try to get between audiences and creators, rather than cultivating audiences of their own. Advertising only accounts for 20 percent of Vlogbrothers revenue, according to Gahan.
How much time is left for advertisers to help brands make a meaningful connection with their customers before creators have become totally self-reliant?
Advertisers are in danger of being left behind on YouTube, and elsewhere on the internet as creators refine their ability to generate revenue and grow their personal brands. Independent creators have figured out better ways to promote their projects, products, and themselves than marketers have. Personalization is key.
Advertisers need to learn from the creators: the way they test ideas, follow audience reactions daily, tweak their actions based on feedback from audiences while maintaining the core of their brand. We, in advertising, need to do the same, because this is what works today.
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