The superstars of online video understand personal branding, consistent content and working within a limited budget as well as anyone — companies in search of viral video marketing success should take note.
These days, the path to superstardom requires just three basic ingredients: a webcam, a defined personal brand and a touch of narcissism. With the rise of platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, individual vloggers have taken control over their content, growing enormous organic audiences and, in many cases, reaping the financial rewards of sponsored content and ad revenue.
Unfortunately for aspiring vloggers, going viral once isn’t a golden ticket to the internet A-list. What does it take to become an online sensation, and how does one go from racking up the views to raking in the dollars? Most importantly, what lessons can brands learn from the success of these YouTube unicorns?
The First Steps to Internet Stardom
Unless you somehow succeed in breaking the internet à la Beyonce’s surprise Lemonade album release or Sean Spicer’s red-faced PR blunders, video content creators are up against some pretty daunting odds. Even if a video does achieve instant virality, there’s no guarantee of sustained success. Personality, talent and a gift for gabbing may be enough to maintain a steady stream of views, but ascendence to the ranks of the internet’s chosen few takes smart long-term strategy as well.
Just a few years ago, there were only five YouTube channels with a million or more subscribers; in 2016, that number had risen to 2,500. With that rapid growth and danger of saturation in mind, online celebs-in-waiting have to think like the entrepreneurs.
Patience while an audience grows and low overhead costs are essential to success as a rookie vlogger — but there’s even more to it than that. While the final product may seem an effortless display of charisma, truly transcendent video stars are constantly working behind the scenes.
What Brands Can Learn
Thanks to the leveling effect of the internet, brands have a lot to learn from how individuals grow their, well, brands.
Diligent study of what established stars are doing is a prerequisite. Take note of their successes and failures, but don’t blindly follow the prevailing trends — the most successful channels are the ones that hone their own voices.
Having a basic understanding of video editing, lighting and other production principles is also key — videos that look good, shockingly, almost always perform better, especially over the long term. At Casual Films, we’re pretty confident that our videos always look good – but we achieve that using small filming teams, sometimes of just two or three — which streamlines the production and allows the shoot to be done efficiently and with a smaller investment of time and money.
Because corporations are more likely to bring in professionals (like us!) to produce their video campaigns, expertise in the technical aspects of the shoot is all but guaranteed. The next step, then, is ensuring that these videos are effectively distributed and promoted. Consistency is huge in the audience accumulation business — a steady stream of videos means more exposure, and therefore more opportunities to develop a loyal viewership.
GoPro and Red Bull are two great examples of brands who absolutely understand their audience and tailor their video content accordingly.
In GoPro’s case, they appeal directly to an adventurous, no-holds-barred viewer, while at the same time showcasing their camera’s capacity to capture all the action from a unique perspective.
Meanwhile, RedBull has cornered the market on extreme sports media, pulling off elaborate stunts that speak to their target audience’s aspirations to live boldly.
While a corporate marketing team and an individual vlogger may be driven by different goals, brands should certainly take a cue from the scrappy work ethic and audience engagement methods employed to great effect by Youtube celebrities. At the same time, individuals can strive to make their personal quirks and interests into a sustainable brand — not just a one-hit wonder.