As a marketer and video creator, let me assure you that you don’t have to feel guilty about wanting a video creator to pimp your product. It will make them happy, and provide your brand an important entry to “consumer generated media.”
So why aren’t you doing this already?
- You’re scared it will backfire… Don’t worry- just be transparent and pick your partners based on their videos.
- It’s too small of an audience… True you can reach more people with a stupid banner ad, but your typical YouTube viewer is going to be a “buzz agent” for you. So look beyond total views. Quality over quantity.
- Your agency isn’t recommending it… Of course not. It’s a lot easier for them to buy banners and provide reports on click thru’s and awareness. They’re not set up for this. The best brands (Coke and Mentos) are leading this from within.
- You don’t know how to start… That’s what this post is for.
Here’s how to conduct a grassroots promotion with YouTube creators.
- Identify a pool of creators. Select from the most subscribed, the most viewed (this week), the most viewed (this week) or any other rankings you trust. Recognize that these can be deceptive. Some of the individuals with high subscriptions are there because they started YouTube very early and their following has grown with the site. Others have “one-hit wonders” that yield a lot of subscriptions but they don’t do enough videos to be worth your time.
- Watch a few dozen of the creators to see if they meet your criteria. Are they accessible? Are they funny? Are they creating content where your brand could play a role? Do they have a lot of haters or controversial subjects? Ultimately if your brand is really cool, pick Nalts.
- Once you’ve identified a few potentials, create a YouTube account with your brand’s name. Then contact them via “send message,” and tell them you like their videos and be specific (mention a recent one). Send them free stuff with no strings attached. For example, send free product or branded merchandise.
- If they’re good to you (mentioning you favorably) then you’ve probably found a match. Watch the viewer comments on the videos to see how it’s received. Ask if they’re interested in an informal sponsorship. If they say yes, get on the phone with them.
- What will this look like? First, it will be totally transparent. They should acknowledge that you’re sponsoring them so they don’t look like “sell outs.” Second, you should never ask them to pimp your product or talk “on message.” Instead get them to weave your product into their videos — whether that’s wearing a Gap shirt or doing a funny video at Gap. This Mentos video is an example of how the product was part of a gag.
- The terms are up to you and your creators. Maybe you’re sending them $1-$5K for a well packaged video. Maybe you’re just sending them free product. Watch the feedback to see how people are reacting. Some YouTubers will be jealous and anti-corporate, so expect to see occasional slams. But dont’ be swayed by random data points. Look for a trend. Is it well received in the comments? Be sure your creator isn’t deleting negative comments, because you both need the learning. I committed to Mentos that I would not delete a single comment unless they asked me to or it was obscene.
- Keep in contact with these people. Don’t be a “fair weathered friend.” Drop them an occasional note letting them know you’re still watching and enjoying their work.
- Now for the tricky part. What do you do about other creators that express interest (but are talentless or have no audience)? That’s a case-by-case. Don’t ignore other creators that are interested, but let them know you’re still experimenting and learning and not ready to scale the program. Most of them will go away.
- Don’t forget there’s life beyond YouTube. If you create a nice viral video with your creator, seed it to other websites. Mentos, for example, bought space on Break.com where my “Sneaking Mentos into Movie Theater” was run as an advertisement. They also ran ZackScott’s Gremlins Mentos spoof.
- Measure the program like you would a public relations effort or “word of mouth” campaign. Look at it wholistically and not on a cost per impression model like online advertisers are using.