Thirty-six percent of brands utilize YouTube for influencer marketing. That figure is low when you consider 79 percent of brands predominantly use Instagram for influencer activations. Instagram influencers might be in popular demand, but brands looking to convey a message or promote a product and have it linger in consumers’ minds would be wise to test the YouTube waters. On the Google-owned video platform, influencers have more time to genuinely connect with consumers and actually have their messages be heard—unlike on Instagram, one could argue, where just 60 percent of stories are viewed with the sound on.
With no centralized YouTube influencer marketplace in place, however, marketers are often unsure how to manage successful influencer activations. For a better understanding of the best practices for YouTube influencer marketing, we spoke with Alex Gross, SVP of Audience development and digital Strategy at Mars Reel. Ahead, Gross sheds light on when to use YouTube for influencer marketing and how to get the most return on investment (ROI).
What kind of influencer activations should marketers leverage on the platform and what purpose does each activation play in the marketing funnel?
Two popular types of influencer activation are direct response (DR) and brand awareness. My campaigns are generally a mixture of the two.
It’s a rite of passage for many YouTubers to start producing direct response campaigns. YouTube makes these campaigns especially easy due to the handy inclusion of the “Link in Description.” Creators can ask their audience to click on the link to achieve the brand’s conversion goal. These DR campaigns can be placed further up the marketing funnel when used to generate leads or newsletter sign-ups. They can also be bottom of funnel when the influencer specifically asks the viewer to buy the sponsor’s product/service.
Brand awareness campaigns get new fans to enter the top of your funnel. Brand awareness campaigns can be great as fans have a personal connection with their favorite creators. Aside from the influencer being required to disclose the sponsorship, the creator’s brand awareness ad can feel more like one friend recommending something to another.
Which influencer activation are marketers having most success with on the platform?
I’ve had the most success with campaigns that blend direct response and brand awareness. Some best practices for sponsorships include:
- Tailor the idea and video creative to fit the influencer’s channel
- Make sure the influencer’s audience is a fit for your product/brand
- Do your research on the influencer to help understand his or her audience
- Get the creator passionate about the project
While I was Crypt TV’s SVP of audience development and distribution, my most successful sponsorship was a five-video series with Dead Meat, a popular horror YouTuber who counts the kills in horror films. My goal in the sponsorship was to grow Crypt TV’s YouTube audience.
There was great synergy as Crypt TV films are famous for their kills and Dead Meat is famous for counting them. When Dead Meat’s first video was released, Crypt gained over 25K subscribers in a single day. Subscribers and views nearly doubled upon campaign completion.
Beyond subscriber growth, I’ve also seen huge success in direct response while consulting for Algebra Media. They’re a brand-to-creator agency that builds out direct response and social sponsorships for brand clients.
How do you scout influencers or determine which ones have pull on the platform?
I scout influencers using a plethora of YouTube tools and search strategies that I’ve developed over the years. I first identify the sponsor’s target audience and decide on which channel niches to mine.
I like to mine out a genre on YouTube before making offers or beginning outreach. By mining niches, I mean finding as many influencers as possible that fit within the niche. You need to throw a wide net when planning. Not all cold calls turn warm.
When assessing influencers, I recommend:
- Watch their content to see how I would categorize it and what niche it best represents
- Assess their brand fit and brand safety
- Note their expected view performance
- Identify creative collaboration/sponsorship opportunities
How do you measure the success of the activation or campaign on this platform?
At the end of the day, check if the value generated was worth the budget, time and effort spent. Essentially, based on the cost per conversion, would my time and money have been better spent elsewhere? Could I have gotten more conversions by spending the resources elsewhere?
Success can be defined very differently depending on the goal and objective one is striving to achieve. Brand awareness is more intangible and difficult to measure than direct response.
I always suggest setting expectations before launching campaigns. You should have an idea of what results would make you ecstatic, depressed or just merely content. Some basic metrics to track include:
- Views on video
- Number of promo codes used
- Number of clicks on branded link
- Subscribers gained
- Sales and visitor uplift
Should the activation be cross-promoted on the brand’s other channels or social platforms?
It doesn’t hurt to have your brand promoted on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other social platforms in addition to YouTube. I generally see these posts as added value. I’m most concerned with YouTube performance as that’s where I see the most ROI.
The value of cross-promotion will likely fluctuate hugely depending on what the sponsor is promoting. The sponsor’s niche and the engagement on the influencer’s other social channels will also be a huge factor. I don’t work in retail or beauty, but I imagine an influencer manager in that field would see huge value in Instagram posts/stories.
Where’s the most growth potential for influencer marketing?
In my opinion, influencer marketing has a much more difficult learning curve than other forms of media because it’s so disjointed. Having a central, organized marketplace for YouTube influencers would be very helpful. Many companies are trying to do this, but I’ve yet to find one that adds enough value to justify their high costs. I think Google creating its own ads platform for influencers is the most likely scenario.
Getting started in influencer marketing can be too daunting for marketers unfamiliar with YouTube and influencers. Influencer marketing on YouTube is still very much the Wild West. Many business owners have yet to run influencer marketing campaigns because it’s too complicated or they simply don’t know where to begin. There’s no set process in setting up influencer sponsorships. This can make it very inefficient for marketers and business owners compared to when they run Facebook and Google ads. If you want to run paid media on those platforms, the set-up process is guided and relatively straight-forward.
How does influencer marketing on YouTube compare with influencer marketing on TikTok or Instagram Stories?
TikTok and Instagram are much more ephemeral than YouTube. YouTube videos are significantly longer. YouTube creators have significantly more time to genuinely and authentically relay to their audience why their fans should buy/use the sponsor’s product/brand. With Instagram, you can’t guarantee that videos will even be watched with sound.
Another big benefit of YouTube is that creators can tell their fans to click the link in description which allows for immediate action to be taken. Also, YouTube videos have evergreen value as they continue to accumulate views over time. To give an example, a sponsorship I ran with Bat in the Sun while at Crypt TV had only 1 million views after its first 30 days of release. One year later, it’s gained an additional 2.5 million views worth of added value.