Your Guide to Leveraging YouTube Influencer Marketing

Your Guide to Leveraging YouTube Influencer Marketing

Your Guide to Leveraging YouTube Influencer Marketing

If you’re like most brands these days, chances are that you’ve at least thought about influencer marketing. But have you thought of using YouTube for this purpose? There are many reasons that brands, and influencers, have favored other platforms. For instance, Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter (not to mention TikTok and Pinterest) provide great opportunities to showcase products and services. If you are already investing in influencer marketing, YouTube influencer marketing is a natural extension which might prove to be the most powerful.

That’s because in spite of the dominance of other platforms, the use of YouTube is massive and continues to grow. The lifespan of YouTube content is also longer than any social network. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this, and then talk about the practical concerns behind YouTube-based influencer marketing campaigns.

Why Use YouTube for Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing in some ways is something old that’s new again. Celebrity endorsements have long been used to sell products and services. However, celebrity marketing is different from influencer marketing, because influencers are everyday people that just happen to sell things as well. Not only that, but influencers create their own content, and interact with other people in an authentic way.

As Sanjay Nazerali points out, influencers get people “on the bandwagon” when it comes to a particular product. Influencers enable people to build a real connection to a brand that can last for a long time. By contrast, a celebrity tries to sell something by making it fashionable. Once something is “out of fashion” people are less likely to keep buying.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive look at how your business can leverage influencer marketing, check out my book The Age of Influence on Amazon or grab a free preview here.

Unfortunately, YouTube is one of those less appreciated platforms for influencer marketing. There are several reasons for this. First, it is difficult to measure ROI from YouTube campaigns, because you can’t just click through the content to reach a website and make a purchase. For sure there are ways around this problem, such as affiliate links, but they aren’t as easy to use.

Another problem is the time involved in video production, and with it, the higher cost.

Nonetheless, YouTube is a great place to do influencer marketing when trying to sell products that require an explanation or would benefit from tutorials.

In spite of the fact that YouTube is somewhat underrated by marketing professionals, it remains an effective platform for influencer marketing. For instance, 27 percent of customers surveyed said that YouTube influencers have led them to purchase a product or service. While this might seem like a low number, it’s actually higher than the buyer rate on Instagram (25%) and newcomer TikTok (15%).

Arguably, this may have something to do with the maturity of YouTube as a platform. For instance, Instagram has been around for significantly less time and was initially still photos only. And, TikTok is a newcomer to the overall social media marketplace. When choosing between these options, consider that YouTube allows creators more flexibility in the creative sphere than either of the other platforms. Plus, TikTok is limited to very short videos and has far fewer members.

Ideally, your brand should be doing influencer marketing with a variety of platforms, because each offers different formats and strengths. Plus, not everyone hangs out in the same places. Gamers love YouTube, and so do beauty enthusiasts. At the same time, a lot of fashion and cars are done on Instagram. Even so, many brands can benefit from YouTube influencer marketing. This video format tends to be evergreen because tutorials and other types of explanations are useful over time. Plus, the YouTube algorithm will recommend videos or return them in search even when very old.

Now that you’ve bought into the potential for YouTube influencer marketing, let’s dig a little deeper…

How Does YouTube Influencer Marketing Work

No matter where you choose to do influencer marketing, some aspects of the process are the same. For instance, any time you want to use an influencer for the first time you have to find the right one. Then, you’ll need to get the influencer excited about your product or service, which is done similarly for most platforms. However, for YouTube the influencer may need a deeper understanding of how it works in order to make an effective video. Of course, finding someone with a loyal following that buys stuff is almost as important as locating an influencer with the type of creative flair you want to associate with your brand.

Naturally, you’ll want to start by developing a strategy. Social Bakers has a great tutorial on influencer discovery for YouTube, but also gives some other practical advice. For instance, as with all influencer marketing campaigns you’ll want to have a specific goal in mind. Sometimes you want to sell immediately, and in other cases it’s enough to build brand awareness. In fact, building brand awareness is a special strength of YouTube campaigns. For sponsorships, there is an increasingly well-defined going rate for fixed payments, and also an idea on how to pay for results. Remember, strategies for YouTube campaigns tend to be more long-term. Finally, keep in mind that one of YouTube’s unique features is that it’s a search engine as well as a social media platform. In fact, the platform is second only to Google in size. With almost a third of Internet users on YouTube, this provides a huge opportunity for growth.

Types of YouTube Influencer Marketing Campaigns

One of the great things about YouTube is its overall versatility, both for marketing videos and other genres. As a result, the options for influencer marketing are plentiful, and with the right influencer (and some creativity) your brand can find the perfect approach. Among the more common options is product placements. In this situation, the influencer will discuss your product as part of a video but won’t really center the entire video around it. Followers of vintage television may remember that this was one of the earliest form of commercials in this media.

Here’s another idea: unboxing videos. Here, an influencer will unbox something and share the discovery with their viewers. Or, consider having a tutorial made. This idea is a mixture of influencer and content marketing. Similarly, video logs show something being used, and this option is popular with travel and other service companies.

Going into a product launch? YouTube influencers can help you promote the new product in a variety of ways, such as modeling or throwing a sponsored promotion. Giveaways are popular, no matter what platform or format is being used. Sponsored reviews allow an influencer to talk about how cool a product is, and if done correctly you might also get customer feedback. Also, product tests are a great way to increase sales through brand awareness, and they are fun due at the same time. Lastly, brand ambassadors are often quite successful with YouTube campaigns, and tend to drive a lot of website traffic. In short, YouTube allows for a wide variety of influencer videos. Options are limited primarily by the imaginations of a brand and its influencer partners.

How to Find the Right Influencer

Influencer discovery, no matter what platform you’re looking at, can be a challenge. Arguably it’s hardest on Instagram where the competition is highest, but YouTube also has a huge number of people to choose from. So, here are some tips to help you launch an effective search for your brand’s next marketing partner.

First, you’ll need to identify people in your niche that have a decent following on YouTube. Unlike most influencer-heavy platforms, YouTube doesn’t really have dedicated forums for finding influencers. Therefore, you’ll have to do it the hard way. Essentially, there are two lines of attack. The first one is a general Google search for terms like “YouTube Influencer XXX(product type).” Often you will run into blog posts and other compilations of famous influencers in a particular niche. While they’re helpful, many of the people mentioned will have an especially large following. The other approach is to do YouTube searches for specific videos or profile names. In the case of videos, you’re looking to see who does stuff in this area, and for profiles you want to dig deeper.

Like so many other things in marketing, your first concern is finding the right “fit.” In order to ensure success in this area, experts recommend looking for influencers whose followers are made up of the demographic you are following. Sometimes this is obvious: gaming channels are followed by people of all walks of life who like to play computer games. However, it is also more subtle because seeing what kind of games are played or touted will tell you a lot about the particular gaming segment. Channels promoting war games probably won’t attract people who prefer Candy Crush Saga. Likewise, in the beauty industry you can see the demographics of a channel largely based on what kind of products are discussed. Of course, demographic information is often available through YouTube analytics information, as well.

Another factor to consider is their track record for engaging audiences. On YouTube, you can tell a lot about an influencer through the comments section on their videos. Are viewers talking about how cool an item is? Do they “like” the vid or pass it on to others? While YouTube videos are somewhat harder to share, you can still get an idea of how far they travel through the number of views: if a video gets a lot more views than the creator has subscribers, there’s a good chance that the video is doing well. Whether it’s through the algorithm recommending the video, its turning up as a search result, or by other means, the content is being favorably judged by the community.

Speaking of quality, you’ll want to check out a number of videos from your short list. Watch them through and see how products are portrayed. Do you like the creator’s esthetic? Is it consistent with your brand voice? What kind of promotional video do they like to put together? All of these questions factor into deciding which influencers might be suitable for your next campaign.

Tips for Success

So you have found the right influencer and reached an agreement on compensation. Congratulations! Now the hard work of making your new partnership a success begins. Influencer marketing is much more than making a deal and letting your marketing partner have some fun. Rather, there are things you can do to help make the campaign successful. Then, when the campaign is over you’ll be able to measure success and adjust your approach for next time.

First off, while experts recommend that you not make influencer marketing a “hands off” activity, micromanaging is just as bad. This is true because one of the reasons you are hiring an influencer is for his or her creativity. Get in the way too much, and you risk losing the authenticity that makes influencer marketing so powerful. Influencers who do “spammy” sponsored content often end up getting tuned out by their followers, and as a result become much less effective.

Another thing we recommend is engaging with the influencer’s followers. This one is easier on some platforms than others. For instance, on YouTube you will need to keep track of the videos that are posted, rather than just waiting for Mentions. Also, make sure that the content complies with FTC rules on sponsored content. Failure to do so can get both you and the influencer in trouble.

Once the promotion is over, it’s time to look at the results. On YouTube it can be a bit more difficult to measure, but with the proper planning you can still name a campaign a success based on the data. For instance, affiliate links placed in the comments or description can be used to identify campaign-related traffic and purchases. Or, try a promo code. Customers love these, because it lets them save a little money or get something extra for their purchase. Finally, try surveys. In this case, the survey would be centered on “how did you hear about us” and maybe some demographic info. However, it’s possible to go a little bit overboard with surveys. You’ll want to make sure that any measurements involving the customer are either beneficial to them or subtle.

Hopefully this guide to YouTube influencer marketing has made you excited to get started! If you have any questions or experiences to share, please drop them in the comments below!

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Photo by Rachit Tank on Unsplash

When people talk about influencer marketing, they usually only talk about Instagram or TikTok. YouTube influencer marketing is a hidden gem that awaits you!

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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