The Rise of YouTubers in the UK

In the past several months, there’s been a lot of promotion about YouTubers, in both the digital space and in traditional media. We even took a bunch of key brands to Lisbon to chat about YouTube content creation. Let’s take a quick look at who the key players are, why they’re so popular and how/if brands should engage with them.

Who are they?

A couple of years ago it was quite rare to be a YouTube partner in the UK, with the vast majority based in the US. But things are changing and will continue to do so as London is now home to one of only fourYouTube spaces (state of the art video production studios) in the world.

Unsurprisingly then, there’s far greater mainstream acknowledgement of the popularity and success of YouTubers in the States than in Britain, where even someone as massive as Zoella is dubbed, “the most famous girl you’ve probably never heard of.”

Zoella, (real name, Zoe Sugg), is the UK’s biggest YouTuber with her two YouTube channels reaching 8.5 million subscribers, more than One Direction and Coldplay combined and 2 million more than Beyoncé. Her channel consists of fashion, beauty and lifestyle videos and her successes can be summarised here.

It obviously runs in the family, Sugg’s younger brother Joe is a star in his own right, with over 3.5 million subscribers and over 200millions views on his channel. His videos mainly consist of challenges, pranks and impressions.

YouTube has also been promoting the hugely popular ‘Slow Mo Guys’ whose channel features all sorts of creative videos in…you’ve guessed it, slow motion.

Why so popular?

The psychology behind YouTubers’ success and popularity is down to their authenticity, inclusiveness and how relatable they are. YouTube offers ‘real’ opinions, houses a community of people sharing interests and views, there are few restrictions, and anyone can be part of it. Also, youth, and evenmillennial audiences, are used to consuming content through bite-sized chunks and YouTube is a great environment for this.

With their masses of views, many YouTube stars are given the opportunity to break into the traditional media space, but a lot of YouTubers are thinking twice about these opportunities and see YouTube as the current space rather than a stepping stone to better things. This thought is backed up well by Lilly Singh aka iisuperwomanii in her vlog (skip to 7.36mins-9.03mins).

Opportunities for brands

If brands decide to venture into partnerships with YouTubers, they need to maintain authenticity. To do this requires giving the YouTuber a degree of freedom and the confidence that they not only know what the audience would like (a given for any self-respecting YouTuber), but also understand the values of the brand. It’s a delicate balancing act and not one all brands will wish to engage with.

When trust is broken things can go very wrong, very quickly. For example, Microsoft hired a popular gaming YouTuber for an Xbox event unaware of his growing reputation for sexist behaviour. A social media storm ensued and Microsoft ended up banning him from all future campaigns.

However, most YouTubers are very careful about whom they chose to partner with as well. As iisuperwomanii mentioned, it’s hard to gain fans and a lot easier to lose them. Why risk long-term influence for short-term reward? Authenticity and the ability to create content that the audience will love should always be priorities for both sides.

For example, we recently took 42 YouTubers from across Europe to the 2014 Gamescom convention as part of the Call of Duty, Advanced Warfare launch. The YouTubers that were asked to participate were already fans of the Call of Duty series, with huge fan reach and influence. Rather than just provide lots of glitzy opportunities to see the sites of Cologne, we also made sure that the content came first. In short, developer interviews, hands on gaming experiences and behind the scenes access were prioritised. Feedback from the YouTubers was fantastic and their passion translated into social content with over 5.5million views on YouTube and a reach of over 4.5 million on Twitter and Facebook.

So, despite the potential risks, the rewards can make working with YouTubers incredibly worthwhile. Just remember, research potential YouTubers well, join the dots and make meaningful connections! And if you have any questions, just get in touch, we’re always happy to help.