Not all YouTubers are alike. Understanding engagement on YouTube starts with understanding YouTubers themselves, and the unique ways in which they use and interact with the platform. Simply counting views can create the false sense of a monolithic audience, with each viewer identical to one another. As with all media, demographics exist, and YouTube is redefining how we identify “viewers,” going far beyond the old “gender, income, and age” standard. While the following list is not meant to be exhaustive (an impossibility, considering new YouTube populations are being born as we type this), it should prove helpful in building and engaging the particular kind of audience you might be seeking.
Lurkers like to watch. They might be compelled to share from time to time but they rarely comment and certainly don’t create videos. Lurkers are passive. Interacting with them is difficult because they are hard to find and may not even login to YouTube to watch or subscribe to channels, leaving little evidence they were ever around, except for a view count.
These viewers comment and subscribe. Their engagement ranges from a handful of subscriptions and the occasional comment, to entire conversations crowding the comments section with their opinions and observations. They enter giveaways and respond to calls to action. Fans are the first to notice when something changes (about a video or channel) and the first to be vocal about it. They also follow their favorite YouTubers on other social media platforms. For them, YouTube is one part of their media routine. Fans share; they evangelize what they like, and enthusiastically respond to engagement.
This type of YouTuber is a beginner. To them, YouTube is still a hobby. They have not seen huge success, and may never move beyond the point of posting the occasional video. Hobbyists can include Fans but not all Fans are Hobbyists.
These users are starting to gain a presence on YouTube. They have a small following that is potentially growing each day. They are considering the idea of becoming a full-time YouTuber.
These are the up-and-coming YouTubers. They are probably making money through the platform and are pursuing a full-time career on YouTube.
Professionals are thought leaders in their categories. YouTube professionals make money on Youtube and are full-time YouTube personalities. These are the people that organize meet-ups and appear on panels at VidCon. This class of YouTuber posts regularly. They also run social media in other forums and engage with fans online and offline. YouTube professionals tend to generate money through brand integrations or alternative revenue streams. Many are looking at monetization strategies that extend beyond YouTube.
It is important to note that scoring one viral video does not make someone a professional. They may not be able to leverage that one-hit-wonder into a sustainable community. However, viral videos can serve as launch points to vibrant YouTube careers.
Celebrity YouTubers are known on and off of YouTube. They have gained fame and success through YouTube but have also branched off of the platform. A good example of this kind of YouTuber is Grace Helbig. Helbig has her own set of YouTube channels, and has appeared on other YouTube channels. She even had a contract with an Multi-Channel Network for a time before moving on with her own independently run channel. Helbig has been featured in several national commercial campaigns, appeared on Celebrity Apprentice, starred in the film Camp Takota, and been a guest multiple times on Chelsea Lately. Celebrity YouTubers are open to brand integration deals, but tend to be highly selective and protective of the following they have often spent years building.
Subscribers (1,000,000-no maximum)
Views (100,000,000-no maximum)
As the YouTube community continues to grow and evolve, it is necessary for your brand to keep pace with these new types of users. By understanding how these creators engage with and maintain their loyal communities, your brand can develop your own organic integration strategies that actually work for YouTubers and their carefully curated communities.
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