Almost all brands can benefit from working with creators, but not every brand should work with them in the same way. Due to differences in creator budgets, promotion strategies, and experience in working with creators, different strategies and approaches should be taken at different stages – and further adapted as experience and budgets grow and needs change.
In this blog, I cover some of the most common lifecycle stages of working with YouTube creators, and how your brand can successfully navigate each scenario.
- Scenario 1: You’ve never worked with YouTube creators before
- Scenario 2: You have experience from creators already and want to scale the medium up
- Scenario 3: You have a big one-time push coming up and want a lot of reach with creators
UPDATE: Lucas and I also sat down and recorded a longer conversation about this topic. You can watch the video discussion of this article below.
Scenario 1: You’ve never worked with YouTube creators before
When starting with any new marketing medium or channel, you first need to establish if it has potential for you. If you’ve never worked with YouTube creators before, you need to establish this in three main ways:
- Do the viewers (your potential customers) find your offering attractive?
- Do the creators (your potential promoters) find your offering attractive?
If the answer to either of these questions is no, you will most likely have issues in the future because you’ll have problems with either the demand (viewers) or the supply (creators).
If the answer to both questions is yes, it means there is a lot of potential for making YouTube creators a meaningful marketing medium.
Once you confirm that both demand and supply are there, you also need to establish if the unit economics make sense. In other words, is the lifetime value of the customers you get from this medium high enough to justify the marketing spend?
As with any new marketing medium, reaching optimal performance from your campaigns will take some time, so you should not expect to get the full picture of the ROI-potential from your first campaign. This is why you should mainly focus on viewer and and creator engagement metrics in the beginning, and work on revenue optimization in the following campaigns.
Reliable findings require a broad range of creators
When you are at this stage, most agencies would probably offer you a couple of creators that have a hefty price tag and are an “extremely good fit” for your product. However, you need to avoid hiring only one or a few big creators at this stage, because that would not tell you what you need to know.
Hiring a single big creator would only tell you if that specific creator works for promoting your offering, but whether that applies to the medium as a whole is basically a matter of luck. It will also tell you very little about how interested the broader creator pool is in promoting your offering. This is why hiring one or a few big creators is not the best strategy if you want to eventually do creator marketing at a meaningful scale.
To confidently answer questions 1 and 2, you will need to hire a broad enough range of creators. We’d recommend hiring at least 20 creators for this test (the more creators, the more robust the findings).
This will tell you if the broader range of YouTube viewers are interested in your offering and if the broader pool of creators are interested in promoting it. This results in better quality of promotional content and ensures creator supply as budgets grow.
20+ creators might sound expensive, but if you start with small and medium sized creators you can do this cost effectively without breaking the bank. Working with a partner like Matchmade can also make this process highly automated and effective so you don’t need to spend time on manually negotiating with 20+ different people.
A partner can also help you create a great influencer brief if you are unsure about what to include in it. For more on creator brief best-practices, see our previous blog post here.
Scenario 2: You have experience from creators already and want to scale the medium up
Once you’ve built up experience by working with creators (either directly or through an agency) and understand that creators can work for you, it’s time to start scaling the medium up. This is where many people make the mistake of only hiring big creators. This usually happens because managing a larger number of creators manually would be far too time-intensive without automation.
While it does indeed make sense to include bigger creators into your creator strategy at this point (especially if you have meaningful budgets available), your aim should be to hire creators across the full spectrum – from the very small to the very large.
Graph: Estimated total monthly active creator count by subscriber size per platform.
Working with creators of all sizes provides wider reach, better engagement, and better scalability. Roughly 99% of all creators are midsize or smaller and they generate 65% of all social media views, so the only way to make your creator marketing efforts scalable and have the ability to run campaigns on a recurring basis is to leverage them in your campaigns.
99% of all creators are midsize or smaller and they generate 65% of all social media views
Big creators can be very valuable for establishing credibility for your brand (and generating conversions) so once you are at this stage, you should definitely look at using them. However, the best results are typically achieved if you hire a meaningful number of small and medium size creators in addition to big creators.
Once you are able to hire creators of all sizes at scale, you can then optimize your creator campaigns further month to month. For example, you can rehire the best-performing creators from one month to the next while dropping the bad performers and continuously hiring new creators to discover new star performers and topics.
Scenario 3: You have a big one-time push coming up and want a lot of reach with creators
While somewhat related to scenario 2 where you want to scale up the recurring activities, a one-time big push is a special case. Examples of these kinds of scenarios include a large brand campaign, event promotion, game release or update, or a product launch.
What you need in these situations is cost-effectively maximizing reach so you can effectively communicate your unique selling points to an interested audience. This will help generate brand awareness, traffic, and consideration, which will, especially when supported by other marketing actions, eventually turn into sales.
This is where hiring a full spectrum of creators is extremely important. While a big creator reaches many people, small creators are much more engaging to their audience on average. When combined, you can get the biggest possible reach and engagement, at the best possible CPM price.
Another key thing to do when you have a big push coming up is to start hiring creators early. Especially if you have top-performers from past campaigns, reaching out to them well ahead of time ensures that you won’t miss out on having them as part of the campaign.
Furthermore, solutions like Matchmade Launch can help you hire a large volume of creators with zero manual work to run cost-effective creator campaigns, leaving you more time to focus on the broader promotional push.
The three scenarios outlined above are the most typical ones when working with creators. By following the best practices, based on the stage your creator marketing efforts are at, you can ensure that you make the most of the medium.
No matter which stage you are at, there are a couple of rules of thumb to remember:
- Leverage the right kind of automation to reduce the time-intensive manual tasks – this allows you to focus on strategies, analysis, and other more valuable activities.
- Hire creators on a broad spectrum of different sizes: this makes validating and scaling creator marketing much easier, no matter your scale or experience level.