Youtube has evolved substantially from when it was first incepted in 2005 and then subsequently purchased by Google in 2006. According to new analysis from investment banking firm Jefferies, the platform is valued at an estimated $40 billion – more even than social heavy-weight Twitter, which is valued at $30 billion.

But why? AdWeek breaks out the numbers from Jefferies’ analysis: In one year, their video ad sales have grown by 48% and they are projected to go from 5.9 billion this year to $8.9 billion in 2016. And as the clear leader in online video, they’re projected to take the largest chunk from the $60 billion in television ad sales compared to other competitors.

Outside of monetary projections though, what is causing the Youtube boom in our culture and why should all brands and publishers be taking notice? There are three key factors: endless content, influential creators, and authentic brand relationships.

1. Endless Content

As every brand knows by now, content matters. And what’s truly powerful about Youtube is that it is a seemingly endless sea of a huge variety of content. There are thousands of creators with their own highly devoted audiences – both large and small, along with broad and niche.

Plus, with few barriers to publish videos and the incentive of monetization, new creators are joining daily and uploading even more content – from simple (but wonderful) cat videos to full films. Want a full narrative series? Emerging group Pemberley Digital is re-creating literary classics like Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein for tens of thousands of fans. Craving some comedy? Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen series has amassed more than 1.5 million subscribers and lead to her recently becoming a New York Times bestselling author. From these examples to book reviews, fashion advice, educational programming, breaking news and everything in-between, there is no fear of running out of quality media to watch on Youtube.

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2. Influential Creators

According to Variety, the top five most influential figures for 13-18 year-old Americans are all Youtube stars and not traditional celebrities. What is causing this shift in favor of online creators?

They’re relatable. For the most part, they lack the PR polishing and veil of mystique that typical celebrities hold dear. And if we know anything, it’s that millennials and the rising Generation Z respond best to authenticity. That wall between fan and creator is much lower on Youtube where creators let viewers into their daily lives through vlogs and by engaging directly on platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram – something many mainstream celebrities are still figuring out.

See the full list of influential Youtubers on Variety

By spending so much time following a person on social media, consumers begin to feel like they know these Youtube stars personally, even if on a small scale. This level of transparency and interaction creates an audience who aren’t just watching, but are trusting and fully vested in the creator.

And this doesn’t just pertain to the top five influencers. As Klout co-founder Joe Fernandez put it, everybody has influence. So while there is a massive amount of media for people to watch, there is also now a massive amount of new influencers brands can partner with to reach these engaged audiences.

3. Authentic Brand Relationships

While Youtube offers pre-roll ads that are typically more like standard commercials, where the real advertising gems lay are in the partnerships between creators and brands. More than the creators on any other platform, Youtubers have figured out how to monetize – both through the Youtube Partner program and by partnering directly with brands. This type of advertising is powerful because it’s native to the platform and still created by the fan/influencer.

youtube influencer marketing

“[Millennials] love brands, and they talk about them more than anything else, but they hate the interruptive model of advertising,” Carol Phillips, founder of Brand Amplitude, a market research firm that specializes in millennial studies, told AdAge. “[Millennials] like to see ads tailored to them. It’s not that they don’t want to see ads, they just don’t want to see ads for Cialis.”

These visual conversations are becoming what matter most to the current and future demographics – what was once niche is very much so mainstream. Now, just like with Instagram and Twitter, it’s vital that brands know and promote the typically positive conversations consumers are having around them on Youtube.

Want to learn more about the emergence of web video and the importance of influencers? Join us for the 2014 Visual Revolution Summit where you’ll hear from brands like Expedia, Sony, Chobani, and Adobe. Request an invite!

About The Author

Monica is a book hoarder and gets overexcited about community-driven marketing. She lives in New York City and dreams of a day when a landlord will let her have a cat.

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