YouTube is where culture is being born. It is the future of social media because it is home to more compelling content, and it’s where active fan communities engage with this content unlike anywhere else. It is more efficient at helping brands target audiences because of its targeting capabilities around those fan communities. Ultimately, YouTube is the right place to reach the right people at the right time.
Why Target Audiences and Communities At All?
As a brand, successfully reaching your target audiences is the most efficient route to sales. Loyalists, evangelists, and fans are authentic voices in the YouTube ecosystem already singing your praises, expressing connections with your products, and reaching audiences that your brand should engage with. Intelligent interaction with communities on YouTube provides data that goes beyond the usual demographics (age, gender, location, etc.) and allows you to advertise (or even integrate with your brand’s fans) with unprecedented precision.
First Steps for Targeting: Assess Your Knowledge
In order to find and interact with the right audience, you need to educate yourself about the relevant fan communities. When you first sit down to develop a targeting strategy, ask yourself some questions about who you want to reach.
Are you looking to target audiences already talking about you? Your competitors? Your vertical? How about reaching viewers by looking for a specific emotion, moment in time, or experience, like “calm” or “babies eating lemons” or “telling people you are pregnant“? YouTube makes it possible to engage, and associate with, these different targeted video sets.
Then, assess your knowledge by learning the language of the fan community, finding the center of their universe, and following their top influencers.
Learn the Language
Knowing the right language to use to search YouTube is essential. Simply typing your brand name into the YouTube search bar won’t get you very far. Do you know if your fan community has a specific name for itself, like Whovians, Sneakerheads, or Beliebers? What about the language your fans use to talk amongst themselves? What kind of language do they use to talk about you? Do they use words like empties, pickups, canon, fanon, Finnchel, acronyms like DFTBA, or phrases like “all the feels”?
Find the Center of Their Universe
Where do your fans congregate? Where are the central hubs of information? Where are the historical records kept?
All of these questions will help you in your quest for understanding how your brand’s message is being re-imagined, or even reinterpreted, without your direct influence.
Fan centers and knowledge bases have moved online and evolved to include a variety of places, such as: r/MakeupAddiction, everywhere on Tumblr, wookiepedia, and dedicated fan sites like Mugglenet or Nerdfighteria. And then there is YouTube, the most active and effective hub for fan-generated content.
How are fans using these hubs to communicate with each other? How do they store information? These things provide essential clues to help understand a community’s preference for fan-made versus “professional” and whether or not they might resist engaging in “official” content generated by your brand. Often, brands find it more effective to participate with fans, inside their own space, rather than trying to direct their attention elsewhere.
Follow the Influencers
Influencers tend to know other influencers. What distinguishes influencers from other fans is their reach. Influencers, in addition to being fans, have fans of their own. They socialize with experts of similar taste and knowledge. Let the experts lead you down the rabbit hole and reveal the leaders of your fan community to you.
On YouTube, these rabbit holes present themselves in the related videos column, as well as in the content of the videos themselves. An effective way to figure out who knows whom is through a kind of video called the “TAG.” Similar to the childhood game, or a chain letter, vloggers will post a video that shows them answering questions or performing a task. That vlogger will “tag” a group of friends who will then post videos of their own, with a unique perspective that jibes with their own vlog style.
How to Target and Engage on YouTube
After learning about the communities your target audience belongs to, it is time to contribute to the conversation.
Watch and Explore
It is important to watch what the community is making to get a feel for the YouTube landscape, the influencers you want to associate with, and the communities where you want to anchor your ads. Read the comments. Determine if the video (or channel) viewers are focussed primarily on the video’s creator, or if the influencer fosters more community engagement where the viewers are interacting with each other.
Using “trend tools” (YouTube Trends or Google Trends) should also be a priority, to help get a better quantitative sense of what words are being used. Learning a community’s “language” is the most effective way to learn how to speak with them, not at them.
Crafting or Licensing Content for the Platform
This can be anything from high production value, like Pepsi MAX’s test drive series, to something easier and less expensive to execute, like a vlogger talking about a product. Growing your own audience out of these existing communities becomes more viable once you’ve been able to recognize the language, visual style, and the content they like to watch. The 30-second-spot format begins to feel old and obsolete, demanding a rethinking of how you want to engage an audience once you’ve taken the necessary steps to fully understand them. Better ads in front of better audiences builds stronger recall, and higher conversion rates.
Optimize Your YouTube Presence
Your brand’s presence on YouTube can only be improved by understanding the right language, the ways in which your fans are searching for you, and how these communities are already interacting without you. Proper SEO of your owned media on YouTube will be better organized, precisely targeted, and, most importantly, actually interesting and valuable to the people whose attention you seek.
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