Why Social Media and YouTube Creators Want More Diverse, Authentic Content

Opinion: Brands should not be afraid to embrace the imperfect, messy imagery that reflects our everyday lives

Consumers respond best to YouTube videos that reflect a life with which they are familiar hocus-focus/iStock
Headshot of TJ Leonard

There is a strange thing happening with content creation on the internet. From giants like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to the social media flavor of the moment, content creators are maturing and becoming more aware of the diversity of their audiences.

There was a time when a content creator could rely on a new platform and a novel gag to generate 1 million views. Now, viewers crave something more authentic, something real, and creatives are looking to meet that demand.

While certain YouTube stars struggle with the concept of diversity, we at Storyblocks see strong trends indicating that content creators are gravitating toward imagery that matches our day-to-day lives.

Reflecting back on 2017 in order to create a more comprehensive look forward, we wanted to get inside the minds of digital storytellers to gain insight into how they were approaching their work. What we found—through analyzing hundreds of millions of searches, downloads and uploads to our content libraries—is that creators on the whole were looking inward for inspiration. Meaning, they were gravitating toward the simple, fulfilling moments that fill our lives every single day, and trying to replicate that imagery and emotion through their work.

As your mother used to say, it’s the little things. Consumers increasingly respond best to YouTube videos and content marketing broadly that reflects a life with which they are familiar. They expect YouTubers to promote brands that touch on the life of the consumer, creating compelling and relatable stories along the way.

Today’s consumer lives in an increasingly connected and diverse world and views himself or herself first and foremost as a human being who has unique and interactions with other humans every day. Storytelling must reflect this.

When analyzing trends for 2018, we have noted massive increases in the demand for diverse (“LGBT” searches up 782 percent year over year), urban (“cities” up 1,285 percent, “street photography” up 162 percent) and realistic (“authentic” up 134 percent, “real people” up 58 percent) content year over year. This clearly tells us that content creators are looking to connect with their audiences on a more personal level.

In this age where our social media stars are as well-known as Hollywood celebrities and YouTube marks one of our first stops for our daily content, it’s imperative that creators are able to make those connections with the consumer if they want to successfully build an audience.

During a stop on the Television Critics Association press tour, YouTube global head of original content Susanne Daniels pointed out that diversity and community are a huge part of the future of the social video channel.

Daniels announced three new scripted series for YouTube, of which 70 percent of the episodes are being directed by women, evidencing YouTube’s move to diversity in front of and behind the camera, at least in content it produces.

Trends for the coming year are not only showing that content creators are searching for diverse content that matches the lifestyles of their audience, but that they are searching for playful, energetic content that might reflect a shift in overall attitude of the consumer. We have noticed that searches for “playful+ (up 34 percent) and “vibrant” (up 24 percent) informed the “Playful Duotones” trend, and searches for “junk food” also grew 9 percent, including “fries” (8 percent) and “ice cream” (5 percent). We’re trying to have fun out here in the world, and content creators want to make sure that’s reflected in their work.

Creatives now look to social feeds as their primary muse for the content they are producing, in contrast to the glossy magazine pages of yesteryear. As our trends indicate, there is a need for more authentic storytelling that comes from a place of inward reflection. Inspiration is coming from the happiness, sadness, excitement and invigorating creativity and artistry found in the world around us every day.

Brands that acknowledge this introspective movement will become the ones that cut through the noise and reach their audience on a more personal level. It all starts with selecting the right content, and brands should not be afraid to embrace the imperfect, messy imagery that reflects our everyday lives.

T.J. Leonard is CEO of Storyblocks (formerly VideoBlocks), which empowers the creative community by providing premium stock media at prices all creators can afford.

TJ Leonard is the CEO of Storyblocks.