Your Guide to Leveraging YouTube Influencer Marketing

YouTube Influencer Marketing: The Definitive Guide of 9 Campaign Types [with case studies]

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.

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. Here is a great tutorial on influencer discovery for YouTube that has 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.

9 Types of YouTube Influencer Marketing Campaigns to Consider

Now that you understand the potential for YouTube influencer marketing, let’s break it down further into what types of campaigns you can run with YouTubers.

1. Brand Awareness Campaigns

As its name suggests, a brand awareness campaign differs from standard marketing campaigns, in that the marketing goals of this campaign center around awareness rather than sales. Although the type of content you are publishing in this particular type of marketing will likely have some amount of product placement, the campaign goal is to set yourself apart from the competition and increase the awareness of your brand, service, or product. This can be accomplished by utilizing influencers’ reach on a given social media channel, through paid ads, or through video content posted directly on your website. In all of its iterations, though, a brand awareness initiative is designed to boost familiarity with your brand and products. 

2. Product Unboxing and Reviews

Product unboxing and reviews are essentially product endorsements conducted by lifestyle influencers and other influencers in a given niche. During an unboxing video, an influencer or customer will open up and unbox your products and give a sneak peak into your company’s products, packaging, and general service. Unboxing videos may include reviews, or product reviews may be done as a separate entity entirely. The purpose of product reviews is similar to that of unboxing, however; the goal is to introduce the target audience to a new company or product, and demonstrate why that product has value for the social media influencers heading influencer campaigns. 

3. Sponsored Videos

Sponsored videos can take on a virtually limitless number of applications. They can offer a quick overview of a new product or service, or they can create an in-depth look into a company’s goings-on and offerings. They can offer complete creative control to the influencer partner in question, or they can be delivered with a step-by-step set of rules provided by the company. Sponsored videos are essentially any type of video that has been paid for by a company, and may be overt in their inclusion of a product or service (i.e. the video is primarily about the product or service), or may be featured as a minor component in the video. The latter is the most popular type of sponsored video, as it allows the content creator more freedom in their approach to development. 

4. Product Introductory/Placement

Product placement ads are arguably some of the most recognizable types of ads, as they can be seen splashed in most major television shows and movies. From people using a specific type of computer, to people wearing recognizable brands, product placement is useful, because it features products or services being used casually and easily, and essentially “normalizes” their use. 

5. How-To / Tutorial videos

How-To/Tutorial videos are among the more successful influencer marketing techniques out there, because they provide immense value to the target audience. From micro – influencers to the more substantial-sized influencers out there, these types of videos offer value to your target audience while familiarizing them with your product, brand, or service. 

6. Day-in-the-Life Vlogs

Vlogs typically involve closer relationships with influencers, and closer relationships between influencers and their audiences. These types of vlogs can be great ways to showcase product endorsements, as these are popular videos and do not read as staunch sales pitches the way many marketing campaigns do. Through vlogs, millions of followers may be inconspicuously introduced to your products or brand, creating an excellent marketing funnel. 

7. Contest/Giveaway Campaigns

Contest/giveaway campaigns are also popular types of content, as they introduce an item, while teasing the possibility of receiving free products. Because many people are hesitant to part with their hard-earned money without being swayed, it can be useful to offer an item for free. In exchange, those who may have become convinced they need your product may turn to the “purchase” button when they are not selected for the giveaway. 

8. Behind-the-Scene

Behind-the-scene content is a useful type of sales content, as it allows audiences to get a feel for a company’s mission, practices, and environment. It is the personability and direct reach that has so many potential customers swooning over modern advertising practices, and behind-the-scenes videos and photos can help establish close relationships between new and existing customers and your company or brand. 

9. YouTube Live

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.

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 YouTube 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, it 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.

3 Successful YouTube Influencer Marketing Case Studies

What does YouTube influencer marketing look like in action?


YouTube video

NordVPN is a Virtual Private Network provider that also is very active in YouTube influencer marketing. As a result, 85.3% of their 11.8 million website visits came from YouTube over a 6-month period. They were actually at one point the top advertiser on YouTube working with 138 total influencers in a 3-month period that generated 874 YouTube videos worth an approximate $50 million in Influencer Media Value. In addition to the sheer web traffic, these videos generated more than 300 million views and 50 million likes, comments, and shares. It is said that NordVPN actually enjoyed a 5X to 10X ROI on their YouTube influencer marketing spend.


YouTube video

Honey had a similarly positive experience using YouTube to leverage influencer marketing. Honey comes right behind NordVPN in terms of total ad spend on YouTube, but with excellent results: Honey utilized over 50 influencers on the platform, including the famous Mr.Beast, and brought in over $9 million in IMV as a result. Due to the unique nature of Honey’s product, its YouTube campaign was able to stretch across numerous niches, and one video alone garnered almost 60 million views. YouTube is the primary focus of Honey’s influencer marketing campaigns, and has even provided a venue for Honey to cultivate their own YouTube channel and videos. 

AFK Arena

YouTube video

AFK Arena is a mobile RPG game. Because there are countless mobile games available for download on cell phones, this particular company was eager to break into the market quickly and effectively. They achieved this by focusing all of their attention and energy on their YouTube marketing strategy, in order to provide a simple way to demonstrate the appearance and gameplay of the game. With only 6 influencers involved in the campaign, AFK Arena has garnered approximately 30 million views, and is said to have brought in $40 million since its YouTube launch in 2019.

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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Neal Schaffer
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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