YouTube is ten this year. Yet, over the past 12 months, many in the marketing world started looking at it in a new light. The rise of Zoella and co – charismatic vloggers with enormous followings – has shown a YouTube beyond one-off viral hits. A behaviour has emerged that depends on the connection between audience and creator more than individual pieces of content.
Succeeding on YouTube is about understanding how the audience works, how they behave. And I would suggest this is true of technology and the web as a whole – we should follow the audience, not just the technology. Which has some implications for the things we’re doing.
Technology and the web is a world of innovation, firsts and next big things. We’re obsessed with the new – and that’s great. Technology enables amazing things and new platforms lead to previously undreamt-of ideas.
But until a behaviour establishes itself on these new platforms, we’re at risk of spending time and research on something instantly outdated or, worse, simply importing how we behave elsewhere wholesale into new formats. The desire to turn community-based platforms into yet another place to put advertising is commonplace. Look at all the brand-run Facebook streams of product shots, which earn little real engagement. No-one is engaging because they don’t go to Facebook to be advertised to.
And what happens if the product itself doesn’t turn out as expected? In Campaign, there has been plenty of chatter in the past year about Google Glass, which is going off sale soon. But how many search results over that period for PewDiePie, who, with 34 million YouTube subscribers, has one of the largest audiences of any UK-based media channel? Four.
The desire to turn community-based platforms into yet another place to put advertising is commonplace
Understanding this shouldn’t limit our creativity. There’s nothing bad about developing a great idea for a platform that has had a chance to bed in. Take Nike+. It learns from how people use apps – often for utility, mostly for things that are done regularly – and develops around that with a powerful message about the brand.
And if we do want to play with new technology? Go for it: but consider your approach. Prototype, iterate, be sceptical and set realistic expectations. Consider finding someone who is already succeeding to partner up – learn from them, borrow their audience. Understand how this new technology fits into your existing customer journey.
It’s important that strategy and creative are tightly integrated for any kind of technological or web work. And hold back on the ads: don’t shout and interrupt; talk, listen, discuss and react.
I love technology and I would have a 3D printer if I could justify it to myself. But I also love the fact that podcasts seem to be more popular than they have been for ages and that I can rent a flat in five minutes on my phone. It’s a brave old world.
Tom Pursey is the co-founder of Flying Object