Focusing on volume and views paints by numbers but fails to give the full picture. Brands that are successfully engaging in YouTube videos are working with digital natives to extend their influence across the multichannel. Integrating video into communications plans and supporting activity with paid, planned distribution creates a virtuous, virtual marketing circle.

March 2015

"But can we make it go viral?" seems to be the enduring aim of marketers considering investing time and money in YouTube. Driven by the joint masters of online clicks and offline audience numbers, the sole aim would appear to be volume, volume, volume.

And yet understanding around how video acquires an audience seems to stop around the level of 'alchemy'. With such a laser focus on numbers, it could be that brand owners are failing to ask two important questions: What do I want the video to achieve and how do I expect it to achieve it?

"Views are important for advertisers but can be misleading for brands," warns Nick Cohen, vice president content, strategy and brand partnerships, Little Dot Studios at Adweek Europe 2015. "It's not the same as watching a TV show." Cohen adds that a customer service video has a far different purpose and volume of views are not as important.

Should views be required, marketers also seem to be under the impression that somehow word just spreads itself. They look to successful vloggers like Zoella and believe their audiences somehow materialised overnight - the aforementioned alchemy.

In fact, the vloggers have been working away cultivating their audience, engaging with commenters and tweaking their proposition - as much as any other brand. With brands - rightly - assuming that this avenue is not open to them, the most realistic alternative is to follow much more tried and tested techniques.

Cohen believes: "The main thing is to work with people who do have a following and plan your distribution strategy. The content needs to be primed with paid media."

Integrating YouTube with more traditional approaches not only creates a true multichannel experience for the customer, it can significantly amplify the brand's reach. ITB Worldwide recently combined a 'true' celebrity campaign with support from the more niche but increasingly influential vlogger network.

#MyCalvins featured a range of well-known celebrities endorsing the underwear brand to drive visibility, however "the peak in sales only came when social media influencers got involved", explained Emma Grede, CEO of ITB Worldwide at Adweek Europe 2015. "Sales rose five times," she adds, concluding: "Social media drives purchase intent."

Lucy Lendrem, group talent manager at Gleam Futures, a vlogger partnership agency, suggests that click-through rates can be as high as 48 per cent from engaging video content. However, Grede warns against too much reliance on metrics. Cohen (above) already warns against applying offline metrics to the rarified YouTube environment, calling them at best a "blunt instrument". Grede concurs: "You can look at metrics but no-one has really got it down. The metrics aren't proven solid at the moment but sales figures are foolproof."

YouTube's contribution to consumer brand engagement and tangible sales uplifts cannot be denied but it is also clear that it is impossible to entirely separate its contribution from the influence of the rest of the multichannel. As experts suggest that metrics are not always representative of video's impact and that, indeed, many metrics may not yet even be fit for purpose, there is a sense that marketers should step away from the microscope and absorb more of the bigger picture.