Variety found that the eight out of the top 10 influential figures among Americans aged 13-18 are all YouTube creators. The only two celebrities from other media channels to make the cut are Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift.
YouTube's ability to create stars is no longer a surprise, especially after seeing their impact on huge YouTube-focused events like VidCon. After ten years, the video platform is entrenched in the minds of today's youth that what someone says on the world's second largest search engine gains not only respect, but also tons of engagement in comment threads.
Rather than using mass marketing, these influencers hone in on the needs of a particular demographic with content focused around niche interests. YouTubers learn from what their fan's needs, meaning they know exactly how to market to that particular demographic.
But, just like celebrities, these masters of social video can use their powers for good. In fact, some take their influence outside of YouTube's 16:9 borders and expand upon their time in the spotlight. Or, more importantly, can partner with brands to create a mutual influence with targeted audiences.
That powerful knowledge and the established loyalty provided by the channel means advertiser who work with the YouTuber can target large audiences in a way that will not disrupt the way they watch and engage with videos.
The value that comes with having the resources to develop a video market on top of public speaking skills can be valuable in order to court future buyers. Here are three examples of YouTubers that use their influence to affect purchasing patterns.
Arguably, Michelle Phan has done the most for her personal DIY beauty brand in the business world. Though she started with makeup tutorials on YouTube, Phan never felt completely tied down to one channel to connect with her fans. What she does that's unique is integrate YouTube into her own business ventures.
She reaches audiences interested in learning more about fashion or trying on new makeup styles for certain occasions. With her makeup tutorial videos, Phan showcases a lot of different makeup and fashion brands and what kinds of secondary occasions to use them for.
She fills up her videos with fashion tips, and along the way adds reasons to purchase and use the products she promotes. These DIY beauty tips provide value for girls who think a stylist is wasteful, or just would like to learn new techniques. It's an opportunity for girls to get expert recommendations on what kinds of makeup to buy together and how to use it from a trusted source.
Phan has started two businesses: ipsy, originally titled MyGlam, is a makeup subscription service. Phan received countless questions asking "what kind of makeup should I use?" ipsy is the answer. Phan and her team of stylists package different makeup combinations into a box, giving fashion brands an opportunity to be sent right into the hands of consumers.
Icon integrates brands into lifestyle videos across many different video platforms, not just YouTube. Icon boasts high-profile talent practiced in reaching audiences interested in travel, food, DIY beauty, health and fashion, providing marketing opportunities for social amplification. It's an example of the kind of power that can come with the resources available to YouTube and it's extended reach beyond digital.
Ranking number 2 in the Variety study, up second is Let's Play gamer Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg. PewDiePie plays a variety of games ranging from indie horror games to triple A games. He separates his playthroughs into digestible segments for fans to watch at their own leisure.
For the most part, PewDiePie takes a different approach than Michelle Phan: He brings the outside world to his channel. He's had a lot of press coverage lately because basically, he sits around and talks about video games on YouTube and makes $2.2 million.
PewDiePie's special sauce comes from how he plays games. His bios just about everywhere note that his videos are dotted with profanity. While critics in the media dislike this, that's exactly what his fans come to his channel for. It's Let's Play style, which basically means he treats his audience like a friend and they watch him react to key gaming moments.
There's a lot of trial and error in video games, and gamers benefit from him failing first before trying out the games themselves. It's easy to watch his videos because it's a get a taste of how the games will make people feel or react before actually purchasing the game. Let's Play style videos capitalize on the interest.
The controversial figure is ranked number 1 on YouTube based on subscribers alone, meaning every video published is guaranteed to get a lot of views. Videos involving horror and/or indie games prove especially reactive to his fans.
The power of popularity has been likened to the Oprah's book club, where anything he touches gets a boost in sales. If he talks about an upcoming game release, the influence triggers games like "Surgeon Simulator" and the subsequent "Goat Simulator" to receive a notable amount of coverage and increase game purchases.
Interestingly, despite all of the power PewDiePie brings to the table, he assures fans that he will leverage it for charities and small game companies. Yet, he's partnered with Mountain Dew to launch fanfiction contests and promoted the horror film "As Above, So Below" by exploring the catacombs featured in that movie, so marketing promotions are not completely out of the question.
Justine Ezarik boasts 2.2 million subscribers and has been YouTube famous for 8 years. She's a veteran, and had her 300-page iPhone bill video, which created ripples across blogs and tech experts because the much-awaited Apple product release came with unexpected billing issues. Just ten days after viewing, the video had 2 million views, which was unheard of in 2007.
To say she went viral would be valid. But calling her a one-hit wonder wouldn't. What she's done with her influence is leverage her Internet fame to flourish the marketing plans of many established brands.
iJustine turned viral videos into a career by leveraging her fanbase for brands like Mattel, Nikon, Ford, GE, Gillette, Taco Bell, Doritos, Skittles, Sharpie, Carls Jr., and Microsoft. In 2007, iJustine worked with Intel (and their PR agency, Ogilvy & Mather) on a social media advisory board.
iJustine's own channel specializes in lifecasting. This exemplifies itself with cooking videos, new equipment demonstrations, first impressions, travel, reaction videos and new games she's trying out.
Ever since the iPhone situation, she has developed an audience for unboxing new electronics and taking them for a test drive. These are people who care about new technology but want to see it in action first, whether they succeed or fail.
Honorary Mention: Tyler Oakley
Just in 2014, Tyler Oakley hosted a Grammy livestream, a Barbie launch for Fifth Harmony, represented Pepsi at the Super Bowl, Met Obama, Interviewed Michelle Obama, worked the red carpet at the MTV awards, hosted a live listening of the soundtrack of The Fault in Our Stars, raised $500,000 for the Trevor Project on his birthday, became a Taco Bell ambassador, and started his own personal tour. Not too shabby for a 26 year old with a webcam.
Tyler Oakley's audience and hosting expertise has turned him into a bridge between live events and the millennials that many large brands want to target. While this YouTube star has risen past many of his peers, this brand ambassador is working his way into pop culture brands.
The Importance Of Video Influence
The strengths of all three influencers can be seen with their average view counts on their videos and with their subscription base. Investing in developing a relationship with YouTube celebrities can pay off in the long run as their subscriptions continue to grow and they continue to learn more about their video demographics.
YouTube as a platform will keep evolving, and new users will enter the spotlight every year, so it's best to have a community manager keep a pulse on growing trends on the world's second largest search engine.
But the best way to judge a rising star comes with the comment section. YouTubers develop their influence best with an engaged audience likely to share their content. This is what influencers have to offer brands: Each video released is guaranteed to get high views and has the potential go viral.