How to build a valuable audience on YouTube

Jo Harland / November 2015

There is a revolution going on in the nation’s living rooms. People may still gather there to be entertained or stimulated but media consumption habits are changing dramatically, especially among 16-34-year olds.

The change is driven by two trends that go hand-in-hand; increasingly viewers are seeking out content on the internet and mobile is becoming the key device for accessing this content. More than half of YouTube views now take place on smartphones.

Viewers want content that resonates with their particular passions and is presented by people who radiate a human warmth and believability. These innovative content creators are growing in number and delivering concepts that tap into every kind of interest from music to comedy and sport to cookery.

There is a growing opportunity for media businesses and their advertiser partners to utilise YouTube and collaborate with this new breed of presenter/creator to increase reach and engage with the hard-to-target younger demographic.

Talent that first emerged on YouTube can bring sizeable fan bases to the mainstream and also attract a whole new audience. For instance, comedian and author Grace Helbig has nearly 3 million subscribers on her own YouTube channel after enjoying success with her web series My Damn Channel. She is now working with the E! television network to host The Grace Helbig Show and attributes her influence to the “incredibly powerful” connection she has with her audience.

At a more strategic level media brands such as Radio 1 and Buzzfeed are finding a payoff in putting YouTube at the core of operations. They are taking advantage of the opportunities the platform offers for creativity, distribution and audience insight to build robust audiences.

Buzzfeed Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Creative Officer Frank Cooper sums up its strategy as “create, distribute, learn and iterate”. One of the key benefits of YouTube is fast feedback from the target audience and media companies need to establish a culture where learnings are quickly incorporated into the creative process and audience expectations are met.

Radio 1 is the most successful radio station on YouTube with two million subscribers. While placing radio on a video platform sounds like an oxymoron, the station has assessed where and how its target demographic is now spending its time – and as expected they are on mobile devices and consuming video.

To help businesses avoid wasting budget and resource here are my recommendations when devising a YouTube strategy:

  • Listen to your audience, make sure you monitor feedback and act on it.
  • Ensure production values match audience expectations – not too low quality or too high quality.
  • Plan for consistent output of content rather than indulging in sporadic random acts of digital.
  • Gather and use audience data – there is a huge mass of relevant information that can be accessed, including when and how people watch content and on which device.
  • Make sure you place the right content in the right place at the right time.

Buzzfeed’s Cooper says that “art and science can now play an equal role in creating great content”. Businesses that can bring together creative talent, researchers, developers, data analysts and marketers to work on video creation and distribution will have a head start in staying relevant and growing revenue.

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