Four Takeaways on YouTube Culture from the Buffer Festival Industry Day

Focused on YouYube and Youtubers, the first Buffer Festival Industry Day took place in Toronto on October 16. If one key notion was to be taken away, passion is a common denominator for online video creators. They focus first on their creations and then much later think of the business aspect of what they are doing. Whether they make a living or not of their YouTube activities, Youtubers are driven by a contagious passion that explains their perseverance and their impressive (and fast growing) number overall.

Assembled here are the ideas I believe better describe the nature of YouTube culture and its new breed of superstars.

The general discourse about success on YouTube is moving away from “viral” to long-term commitment

“Viral” as an online content strategy is slowly but surely disappearing to the benefit of long-term commitment, consistency in the approach from one video to the next, and maintaining an ongoing conversation with fans. Led by the Youtubers, the shift from the “hit mentality” to slower yet more robust audience growth approach is now reaching brands that create content for YouTube as well—or at least reaching some of these brands.

YouTube is not a hit business. Sure, massive hits are born on the platform all the time, but the business of YouTube is all about growing an audience over time. Very rarely does success come overnight; today’s more successful Youtubers have been posting videos and nurturing their audience since years.

“I don’t approach brands. I start talking about them until they notice.”

— Corey Vidal

In the YouTube world, integrity and authenticity are key values; a majority of successful Youtubers don’t play a role, they act as themselves on camera. They are transparent with their audiences. If they integrate a brand or get an ad deal, they’ll announce it right away. Most of them tend to only accept to associate themselves with a brand if it makes sense for them and for their audience and only if they have a genuine appreciation for the brand.

As Corey Vidal (227 000 subscribers on YouTube) puts it: “I’ve realized that my online personality is focused on a few things I really like or that are important to me: that facts that I’m Canadian, I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I have an infinite love for chocolate milk seem to always come up naturally in my videos.” From time to time, Vidal mentions brands that he likes and that are associated with these aforementioned interests. Sometimes brands reach out. In the last year, he’s closed deals with Tim Horton’s and RW & Co., two Canadian brands he mentioned liking in his videos.

The concept of “selling out” does not appear to exist on YouTube; brand integration or partnerships with brands are not only accepted, but considered as a gage of success.

Led by its creators, the YouTube universe is expanding beyond YouTube. Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, Tumblr… Name it, they’re on it.

Youtubers are using many other platforms to interact with their fans and build their audiences. Here’s the golden rule: From platform to platform, keep the same authentic personality but adapt the content. There are different ways to create for every type of platform. For example, Travel vloger Nadine Sikora (171 000 subscribers) posts her main vlogs on YouTube, uses Pinterest to share various travel pictures and turns to Snapchat for more personal content pieces.

Using multiple platforms (and multiple formats) allows creators to be in constant contact with their audiences. For Youtubers who post videos once or twice a week, other platforms offer them the possibility of reaching their fans in less demanding ways (as a lot of hours can go into creating a single YouTube video). To quote PJ Liguori (597 000 subscribers): “You don’t just live on YouTube, you live on Twitter as well so that fans know that you’re alive!”

What can a new creator do to be the signal in the noise? Find a niche and dominate it!

Contrary to what many initially thought, the web may not be mass media after all. Success on YouTube is all about taping into a niche and addressing specific interests. Since there are no geographical restrictions whatsoever, a niche may represent 100,000, 500,000 or 1,000,000 interested people in the world. That’s a lot!

Whether it’s by focusing on inspiring travel adventures, epic fried food creations or a particular Star Wars fanaticism (see below), the key for creators is to find something they are genuinely passionate about—as specific as it may be—and concentrate on developing within that niche. Audiences will find their way to creators, and potential brand partners will come to them as well.

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