YouTube: The Host Platform for the New Celebrity
The evolution of social platforms has vastly changed marketing strategies for brands. For years, advertisers primarily relied on television to showcase their products. More often than not these commercials would feature A-list celebrities with perfect physiques telling you your life would be infinitely better if you purchased whatever they were selling. This was the trend until 2005 when YouTube hit the scenes. In the last decade, YouTube has become the second most visited site in the world and has surpassed television in terms of popularity with 96% of 18-24-year-old Americans using the site regularly. Now, the boy or girl next door (or countries away) can share their entire lives with you from personal experiences, travels, and perhaps most importantly the products and brands they love the most. When it comes to advertising, what makes these ‘stars’ so much more effective than their Hollywood counterparts?
One of the major components of what makes a YouTube influencer so compelling to their audience, or “subscribers,” is the appearance of authenticity. They create the perception that they are just like you and me, a regular person with opinions belonging only to them. The more we watch someone, the more real they become, the more we trust them. When we’re given information or told to do something by an influencer it doesn’t feel as if we’re being sold to, it feels like genuine advice. In some situations this can be helpful, particularly if you’re watching someone give a demonstration on how to build something. However, in many cases these influencers profit from their product pushes through commision links, paid ads and brand sponsorships just like a paid actor would.
Formatting is key in order for a YouTuber to captivate their audience more than television stars. The overall lack of video production and simplicity creates a very intimate feel for the viewer. Often YouTubers use a webcam or simple camera to film in their bedroom or some other smaller area of their home. This setup, coupled with a constant direct address makes the viewer feel like they are being spoken to personally. YouTubers also leave in a vast majority of idiosyncrasies that would otherwise be edited out by television producers. Behaving candidly and making “mistakes” makes an influencer more relatable and sets the groundwork for audience naming, catch phrases and other habitual quirks audiences can look forward to enjoying and even replicating themselves. Viewers feel like the lifestyle of the influencer is realistically attainable, so long as they have every item recommended to them.
A large driving motivator as a species is a sense of belonging. Watching your favorite YouTuber creates a community. In a world where there’s never enough time, checking in on your favorite YouTuber’s latest video on a mobile device can provide the connection you are lacking elsewhere. Not only do you feel connected to the person you avidly watch, you’ve joined a vast community of subscribers from all over the world with similar interests. YouTube gives the subscriber the ability to comment on videos, to include what they liked, didn’t like or make requests for future content. This contribution gives the viewer an active role in creating content furthering the feeling they are participating in a real life friendship. In turn, the element of exclusivity makes following a YouTube influencer that much more appealing. Older demographics don’t subscribe to influencers the way younger ones do. This enables kids to feel like they belong to something that’s theirs and theirs alone, relishing in the age old complaint “Mom, Dad, you just don’t get it.”
The lines between celebrity and YouTube influencer continue to intersect and blur. As the staggering YouTube figures continue to grow, more and more brands are choosing to work with influencers over celebrities. By forging connections with viewers through authenticity, a no-frills filming approach and a sense of community, YouTube influencers will continue to dominate the platforms in which we consume products and entertainment.