Marina Abayev, YouTube’s content partnerships manager, entertainment, talked about how brands can use their content to attract successful, sustainable audiences on the video platform. She used a montage of some of YouTube’s biggest forces in fashion and beauty, including Michelle Phan, Zoella, Velvetgh0st, Tanya Burr and Pixie Woo.
This story first appeared in the July 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Beauty and fashion is a huge category on YouTube,” said Abayev. “There’s a lot of engagement, there’s a lot of fandom. As you can see from the number of subscribers to some of these channels, they rival broadcast television shows on a week-over-week basis.”
YouTube’s in-house development teams analyzed all of the top creators on the platform and tried to pull out common themes within their content. Those key creators added their insights to the analysis, which led to Abayev’s 10 fundamentals.
Shareability was first. Citing the Dove beauty sketches campaign as particularly strong examples of shareable content, she explained that viewers share video content when they want to say something about themselves. “[If it is] smart or informative, [we share] because we want to be perceived as smart or informative, and we share because we want to transfer the emotional connection that we feel to a piece of content to an audience.”
Conversation was another dictum, and Abayev said speaking directly to the audience is “hugely important” for many of the most successful content creators, who break the “fourth wall” through this technique. She said this makes viewers feel like a part of a community, “like a friend.” She acknowledged that for some brands, who are used to well-produced, polished, episodic content, this may seem “scary,” but suggested thinking about ways to introduce this approach, citing beauty vlogger Phan as a prime example.
She talked about interactivity as being different from conversation by allowing audience suggestions to inform content. She referenced U.K. vlogger Velvetgh0st, and the celebrity makeup tutorials she creates based on her users’ requests. The upside, said Abayev, is that audience members feel flattered — and a part of a brand’s content.
Consistent, strong, recurring elements — whether they be scheduling, tone, format or personality — are also important, as is the value of targeting a specific audience.
On sustainability, she said brands should be asking themselves, “If the audience loves it, can I make more of it?” She said brands should not be in a position where they have a single piece of content into which they’ve sunk their entire budget. If the show is a huge success, they need to be in a position to build on it.
Taking advantage of topical events and trending searches is also important. Abayev said YouTube is the second-biggest search engine after Google, and that celebrity “How-to” videos are a successful way to capitalize on trending searches in a series. She said timeless content — how to tie a tie, for example — was also popular.
Making sure every piece of video content has a context that makes it accessible to new viewers — in order to avoid alienating them — was another key point, especially when that content can be consumed on a social stream, or is suggested by a friend.
“I can’t emphasize enough how hugely important collaboration is on YouTube,” Abayev stressed. “The best way to build your own subscriber base and fans is to partner with someone who already has a fan base, collaborate on content with them, and share audiences with them.”
While still recommending experimentation on the platform, she asked brands to consider authenticity as her last fundamental point. “Are you creating content that resonates with your audience, that makes sense, are you being true to your [brand] and the things that you stand for?”