A smartphone, a Snapchat account and a penchant for solid storytelling is all it took for the “Damn Daniel” meme to dominate the Internet in a matter of days. One moment, Daniel Lara and Jason Holz are average teenagers capturing video of their friends in the halls of their high school, and the next, they’re on Ellen collecting a lifetime supply of Vans sneakers.
This example, in particular, portrays the unprecedented opportunities (and innate challenges) that the online video landscape presents to today’s marketers. This article will illustrate how online video has evolved and what marketers can do to make the most out of creator partnerships in an increasingly democratized media landscape.
The entertainment industry’s next great showrunners are everyday people
Going back 10 years ago, the most compelling and original content was often found during prime-time hours of television. Widely reaching original programming could only be afforded by already established media powerhouses—that is, until Netflix arrived and changed the game for everyone. The overwhelming reception of original programming by the HBO rival and the evolution of digital video consumption habits now outpacing all other mediums has sparked the creation of original content on video platforms like Vine, Snapchat and YouTube.
Fast-forward to today, many years and platforms later, and the game is still evolving. The most-watched pieces of content are no longer studio-owned but instead created by a new kind of —everyday people. Just last month, nearly 400 creators and more than 30,000 fans and marketers converged at the seventh annual VidCon to celebrate this burgeoning power of everyday voices. At VidCon, some of today’s leading online video platforms like YouTube, Netflix and Fullscreen announced grand initiatives that support these budding celebrities with original programming.
For marketers, these platforms and initiatives present a multitude of opportunities for new partnerships. That said, the ways in which these partnerships are formed have become increasingly complex as the industry evolves beyond traditional broadcast mediums.
Collaborative video content plays will help brands break through
Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report set the tone, stating that if there has “ever been a call to arms to create better ads, it’s now.” The report established that while many online ads, especially video ads, are generally ineffective (81 percent of users mute them and 93 percent block them entirely), they can work if they are authentic, entertaining, contextual and brief. In fact, we’re already seeing these trends play out across the entertainment industry.
NBC, for example, recently announced that it will have fewer ads on the next season of Saturday Night Live. Instead of traditional commercials, advertisers will have the option to create spots that tie their product into the program, creating a more seamless and organic experience for viewers.
For brands, this winning approach should include working with video creators who are experts in creating authentic content and attracting engaged audiences within specific interest categories, such as beauty, fashion or comedy. Collaborating with these types of influencers will help build relationships with consumers à la SNL. Because of the ways in which influencers inherently share their content, partnering with them offers brands additional distribution opportunities, as these influencers become more mainstream via the likes of YouTube, Netflix and even Hollywood.
These collaborative content plays not only benefit the brand–there are now more monetization opportunities for creators than ever before. For example, tools like Twitter Engage, among others, help creators to better understand their audience and effectively develop more rewarding business opportunities.
Some tips for getting started
So how does this new opportunity fit into your overall marketing strategy? Investing in influencers, in addition to traditional media buys, adds authenticity to your brand’s story and voice. Your marketing dollars will work harder and longer by partnering with content creators as the “ad” or content created resonates with evolving consumer preferences.
That said, it becomes more important than ever to work with the right creators. People will run away from creators who overtly turn their feed into a slew of product placements. For guidance, let’s look at a few of the findings from Crowdtap’s recent interview of nearly 60 creators around how they view brand-creator partnerships.
When selecting creators, look beyond their reach (e.g., follower count). While that number is significant, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. Instead, confirm that the creator’s area of expertise and values align with that of your brand. Creators favor this approach, too. Respondents said the No. 1 determining factor when vetting brand opportunities is relevance.
Second, it’s important to respect the craft. When asked about the most common misconception brands have about them, a majority of creators replied with a perceived lack of respect. So brands: Treat creators with the same level of professionalism as you would a celebrity partner or publisher. Offer up fair compensation and avoid shifting timelines around at the last minute.
Finally, and in that same vein, provide creators with the creative freedom they deserve. Give creators the necessary legal and brand guardrails, and then get out of the way. There’s a reason influencers command their communities of followers, and nobody knows those communities better than the creators themselves. 77 percent of respondents said that they are more inclined to partner with a brand multiple times when that brand grants them the creative freedom needed to produce authentic content.
Marketers are amid a consumer content revolution. Instead of seeking ways to push advertising through these channels in disruptive ways, brands should seek opportunities to align with relevant creators who have earned the trust and attention of consumers. Swimming with the current—not against it—will allow brands to seamlessly integrate into people’s everyday lives and thus spend their marketing dollars more effectively.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.