In the past decade, YouTube stars have gone from story tellers, to stars, to major market influencers. Being a celebrity and producing a number one record or appearing in blockbuster movies are no longer a requirement. Having a substantial following on social media, or in this case YouTube, is all that one needs.
PR agencies and in-house PR practitioners are constantly looking for the next fresh thing that will launch their client and brand into the stratosphere. Everybody is done with the traditional advertisement practices.
So they decided to move videos from T.V. and billboards and on to their own YouTube channel. They quickly come to realize that it’s not easy to garner viewers and create a buzz. That failed, what’s the next best option? YouTube stars.
The likes of PewDiePie, Superwoman, Zoella, Jenn Im, and duo Rhett & Link. With a combined total of 91 million subscribers, they have established a large and strong network that cannot compare to any company’s.
You might wonder, how do these everyday people compare to the public recognition that celebrities have? It is all in what they represent.
Celebrities represent a goal that can only be achieved by the one percent of the world’s wealthiest, while YouTubers represent the majority of the world. These entertainers are not in blockbuster movies or chart topping music, they are just normal people like you and me. They go out with friends, have families, and go through relationship troubles like the regular person. The only difference, is that their job is to tell us all about this life they live.
Brands like Toyota, Lionsgate, Proactive, and Macy’s have all used YouTubers to further their brand. For example, Lionsgate recruited five YouTubers and challenged them to create videos based on The Hunger Games movie series. Each person was assigned a District (cities in The Hunger Games) and asked to create a video related to it. The five videos garnered a total of two and half million views. Not only likes, but people who watch these YouTube videos are very active and will also post comments.
These partnerships can also go badly wrong. Disney and PewDiePie teamed up to create content for Disney’s multi-network channel, Revelmode. In February of 2017 Disney announced that they will be terminating their contract with the Swedish born game commentator, over accusations of anti semetic jokes in some of his videos.
When PR agencies or companies choose to partner up with YouTubers, they are taking a risk. Companies want the influencer to take on the essence of the company and inject it into the videos, but not to change the content they create. The content may not always align itself with the company’s values.
This trend of using YouTube influencers has been gaining traction and we will see more of it in the future. It is fresh and relatable, but PR practitioners should be cautious and understand the risk that they might be taking.