Award season has arrived, and this year’s stars are in higher demand than ever. And no, we aren’t talking Hollywood - if you haven’t heard of the Streamy Awards, they honor work being done by creatives on social and digital platforms, like YouTube, Twitch, Instagram/Facebook, and TikTok. These are the modern stars of the new era - most video content is being consumed through these types of social platforms, and in fact, Oberlo reports that 54% of consumers want to see more video content from their favorite creators, brands and businesses.
We’ve given nods to top creators who have built an engaged audience off creating authentic, meaningful longform content in the past - you can check out our LGBTQ Creators Round-Up and our Creators of Color Showcase for more on that.
What with YouTube hitting more than 2 billion monthly users worldwide in 2020, this year has us really considering what it truly takes to build a following: and honestly, there isn’t one defined path to the Streamy. We’ve done a thorough analysis of each one of the top 10 nominees for Creator of the Year to show you their strategies to success and how their specifically curated content allows each creator to drive unique (and lucrative) brand relationships and make a real business out of their creative work.
And without further ado, presenting...
How much does age really matter?
One might think it takes years to build up a following and gain clout in your creative niche - but within our top 10 nominees we have a channel founded in 2008 going up against an absolute baby of a channel created just a few months ago in April 2020. The two newest channels to have graced the YouTube userdom are actually a sister pair, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, whose channels are each less than a year old but have amassed nearly 15 Million in combined subscribers. What might be more interesting to compare is that our “veteran” competitor, Marques Brownlee, maintains more subscribers at 13 Million, but that has very little to do with the views and likes of these channels.
Verdict? Whether new to the platform or a seasoned vet, any YouTube creator can rise in the ranks.
Subscribers, views, or likes?
This is where things get interesting: across all the nominees, there isn’t one consistent ratio of views to likes, which means that each channel has a unique style of engagement with their audiences.
For example, several channels scoop millions of views but don’t pick up likes. Why does this matter? Likes are different than views in the sense that the user has taken time to interact with the content, and may even have a YouTube account and be a subscriber to other channels, rather than a one-time, randomized visitor to the video. It may seem like a natural assumption that videos will always have more views than likes - but both Dixie and Charli are showing a higher proportion of likes to views than any other channels, indicating that their audiences are extremely engaged in giving feedback to the creators on their content. Compare to James Charles and David Dobrick, whose channels captivate audiences that are more engaged in the type of content or video format than the specific creator themselves.
Another example is Sarah Cooper’s channel, where her subscriber rate is far outpaced by the views her videos capture individually. The more we begin to understand the age, subscribership, views, and likes of a channel, we already can build a picture of the type of audience and relationship these creators are intent on developing: and some get more personal than others!
For instance, I’d venture a guess that creators similar to James Charles, in the beauty and cosmetics realm, also show the same trend of high view count and low likes.
Looking into our platform at all YouTube content mentioning “make-up” and “tutorial”, I found that the average views to average likes is a 10:1, or in some cases even 100:1, confirming our theory.
Translation: These creators are among the top in total audience engagement stats, whether looking at subscribers, views, or likes. But the unique interplay of those 3 variables tells a lot about the type of content they make, and why their channels work so well.
Does money really matter?
At the end of the day, simply put: No.
Creators are extremely cautious of oversaturating content with ads - consumers can very palpably tell when products or brands being featured are not really, authentically backed by the creator themselves, and the best creators are fiercely protective of their reputations for good reason. Ultimately, the value of their channel lies in the trust between the creator and the consumer, and the willingness of the audience to respond to a reasonable call to action from the creator.
Loyalty goes both ways, it seems. That’s why all of the Streamy nominees have kept their sponsored content to under 20% of their total video output.
It’s hard to balance monetizing your channel while growing your audience engagement if we take into consideration what these creators are leaving on the table: in an average year, partnering with brands in a paid sponsorship in just 10% more of their videos translates to - literally - millions of dollars left untapped.
So does that mean sponsored content does badly?
No, no, quite to the contrary! For a bit of backstory, sponsored content has been a tried and true method for building longer-term, genuinely loyal customers. Why? There are a few reasons:
- YouTube audiences still cannot fully distinguish which videos are sponsored vs. organic: according to a 2018 study, nearly 1 in 4 viewers were “unsure” if content was sponsored or not.
What does this mean? Influencers are doing a decent job at integrating promotional and marketing materials from their brand sponsor into the content of their videos.
- Audiences are equally divided on whether sponsored videos are more or less trustworthy than non-sponsored content. Just as many people reported that sponsored content is more trustworthy and has the consumers’ interests at heart as people that reported unsponsored content was more trustworthy.
What does this mean? YouTube audiences are evenly split on their likelihood to trust or distrust a sponsored YouTube channel or video.
Taking into consideration these key factors that build consumer trust and increase likelihood of a purchase, the integrations our Streamy nominees DO accept have incredible success, generally speaking. First, we can see that raw engagement rates for many creators can actually improve on content that is sponsored:
MrBeast has nearly double the views for his sponsored posts vs. unsponsored videos. This reflects that when the creator does accept a brand integration, they truly believe in the product and are able to create a video that pulls their audience to generate as much traffic for the brand as possible. In fact, creators will call on their followers to support brands that appear on their channel because “brands like ___ make it possible for me to bring you guys the best videos weekly”.
While this is most definitely true, it’s a very straightforward method of marketing compared to other methods brands traditionally use, such as display ads and other programmatic advertising. The creator is being very transparent about the fact that so-and-so brand paid to support the creation of their video, and in return the followers who are reaping the benefits are welcome to claim a discount, make a purchase, and “contribute to supporting” their favorite creators. It’s a win-win-win and a sure-fire way to build more trust and loyalty between the consumer and the creator as well as the new brand they’ve discovered.
So which brands are making bank alongside our Streamy nominees?
If our creators are so picky, it’s really interesting to see which brands made the final cut to a sponsored video with the Top 10. Even the brand with the most sponsored videos in the past year was only able to scoop 5 total videos from 4 of these creators, showing that these creators are extremely difficult to book with, even if you have the money as a brand. You’ll also notice there isn’t a huge amount of repetition, which we would consider unusual for “successful integrations” for brand trends under normal circumstances. But given that a single video on these channels can cost a brand hundreds of thousands, if not a few million dollars, it’s impressive to see one of these top sponsors has appeared 4 times in the past year on a Top 10 channel.
Want to take a guess at which channel that might be? Consider that a brand has shown up 4x there in a single year, so the number of videos made is probably higher than the average of 1 every 9ish days. Plus, check the average views/likes: they’re a fraction of the content the other sponsored content is receiving. That simply means that the creator makes videos more frequently and while all content is evergreen, the newer content eclipses the view/like rate on older content on channels that have higher output.
So, take a guess at who you think these brands are - and then click through to see if you’re right. Download the whole 25-slide report here - it’s pretty, it’s informative, and it’s basically a playbook for Creator Success, with all the specific data you need to plan your path to success as a content creator, agency, or brand.