Are You(Tube) Talking To Me?


While YouTube is not a new platform for me, it isn’t one that I use often personally. Most of the people I followed on YouTube have integrated Instagram videos into their online activity, which I prefer. Nevertheless, to the ‘Tube I went in search of new social media content and to do a bit of research for an upcoming project.

YouTubers, also called vloggers in many circles, have massive audience sway. One survey look at teen audience sway and found that compared to traditional celebrities, “YouTubers were judged to be more engaging, extraordinary and relatable than mainstream stars.”

YouTubers are not a one-size-fits-all—in fact the opposite. The audiences they attract are diverse and divisive. Each star has their own idiosyncrasies, and each channel its own topical appeal. The Guardian survey also examined the linguistic characteristics of popular YouTubers noting “how over-stressed and long vowels; extra vowels inserted into words – “terr-a-ping” instead of “trapping” for example – and aspiration (audible breaths) are common to many popular YouTubers. To non-fans, these tics can be irritating. The linguist Mark Liberman described them as an “intellectual used-car-salesman voice” akin to “high-energy sales pitches” or even a “carnival barker”. But that’s another point about the popularity of YouTube’s stars: the way they divide fans from non-fans is a big part of their appeal too.”

YouTubers upload 300 hours of video every minute. That’s a lot of content, but Digiday notes that the content patterns for various audiences are pretty predictable. “If you’re looking for stereotypes to bust, YouTube isn’t the place. Women are into makeup and skin care; men are into sports and gaming. What bridges the gender divide: dogs — well, and East Asian music.” But the audience it attracts is huge—81% of US internet users use YouTube. 98.3% of the 18-24 age bracket uses it and spend over 10 hours per month online video/tutorial watching.

Advertising is real, and almost every video has pre-roll ads now (think the “skip this ad in 5 seconds” countdown)—the platform earned $1.55 BILLION in ad revenue in 2015 in the USA alone. Despite this, only 9% of US small businesses report running ads. Not for lack of cheap options or availability however. My gut says lack of video resources and know-how to implement in-house. Because YouTube is owned by Google, they require you to use the AdWords platform to run ads, which for those not familiar with it can feel intimidating. It’s also not exactly intuitive.

Big brands are all over YouTube. Many even run YouTube-specific campaigns geared towards specific channels, or sponsor content from popular vloggers. This adds audience appeal as it seems more authentic and gets right in front of the users who are most likely to act on their ads.

Video quality ranges. Most successful/professional vloggers shoot through a DSLR, edit and upload. However, video quality varies a ton based on channel and content. There are also home video-style, iPhone first-person videos, as well as professionally staged and shot clips. Most of the beauty/fashion channels that I watch are shot through a DSLR and have staged backdrops. View videos, regardless of channel, have accessible captions, which I thought was interesting.

I know some people who swear by YouTube, who could literally spend hours on it. I’m just more partial to Instagram for video. But don’t think I won’t YouTube a good cat vid.

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