When it comes to launching the careers of creatives, helping individuals make a living off of a social-media network, and building a community of loyal customers for brands of all sizes, it's hard to imagine any social-media platform holding a candle to YouTube.
Yet, in recent years, the video giant has received push-back from many creators and brands due to the demonetization of certain channels, and seemingly inconsistent censorship in what was later dubbed, the "Ad-pocalypse".
This past week, though, YouTube unveiled a handful of new features that'll enable publishers to monetize in ways other than ads. Piggybacking off the success of live-streaming platforms like Twitch, where creators make a large portion of their revenue from in-stream tips, YouTube rolled out Super Chat and Super Stickers, where subscribers can pay to have their comments and badges displayed on a creator's live stream. In fact, some creators, like Nick Eh 30, are now making close to 50 percent of their monthly YouTube revenue from features like Super Chat, as reported by The Verge.
Because of the success of merchandising companies like Fanjoy and Creator Ink, YouTube has also created more seamless ways for creators to make money off branded merchandise. Lastly, due to the rise of subscription platforms like Patreon, YouTube engineered easier ways for creators to implement tiered subscription models, where loyalists pay monthly fees in exchange for perks and premium content.
Here's what these changes mean for brands and influencers alike, why you should care about the new features, and how to fully capitalize on them.
1. Use YouTube to build community.
While these updates are certainly targeted at smaller companies or "solopreneurs," even the largest of businesses should leverage YouTube to turn their customers from a bunch of indifferent buyers to a community of die-hard super fans. By easily creating branded merchandise for your viewers to buy and wear, you'll naturally increase their loyalty to your company, for those who choose to purchase them.
You can also use YouTube's subscription models to connect with devoted fans on a much deeper, intimate level. This will not only allow you to increase the likelihood they'll continue to buy your products, it'll also enable you to zero in and refine (or discover altogether) who exactly your target audience is -- which can then be used to sharpen your social ads, paid search ads, and more.
2. Don't go "all-in" on any one platform.
As social-media platforms -- from Facebook to Instagram to YouTube -- continue to get more robust with the new features they add, it can become tempting to go "all-in" on a single app. Don't do it.
Remember, as quickly as these features are added, they can get altered or deleted just as fast. Platforms can update their algorithm, slash organic reach, censor content based on arbitrary rules, or go out of business altogether. Instead of investing wholeheartedly into any one platform, repurpose your content across a large number of them: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more. This can be done easily with prescheduling tools like Hootsuite or Buffer.
Also, never stop beefing up your email list and website. This way, you'll build your house on your own land as opposed to building it on rented land.
3. Invest in video, prioritizing YouTube.
As tumultuous and unpredictable as the social-media landscape has become, one thing that's ironclad is that video is on the rise and here to stay. A medium as visual as video is bound to foster closer, trusting relationships between a brand and its audience relative to written content or still photography.
Because of this, don't be cheap when it comes to video. Whether you decide to start by hiring a talented freelancer off Upwork or Thumbtack or take it a step further by bringing on an in-house specialist, it will be worth the money in the long run. To put it in perspective, some of the clear "winners" in the YouTube business space are social-media moguls like Gary Vaynerchuk and Dan Lok, who actually hire full-time, individual specialists dedicated to growing the figure's presence on a specific social-media platform.
If you want your brand to have longevity in the marketplace, you'll almost certainly need to invest in video -- and prioritizing YouTube is a terrific place to start.
YouTube has continually put its creators at the forefront of the features it rolls out, at least compared to ad-centric networks like Facebook or Instagram. Hopefully other networks will recognize how YouTube has been able to encourage creators and brands to continue publishing content on its platform. If they do, social media will be a much more effective place for entrepreneurs of all sizes and industries.