Troye Sivan, a 13-year-old from Perth, started posting videos to YouTube in 2007. Most were video diary entries; many included him singing. Today, Troye’s YouTube channel has 2.6 million subscribers and his videos average 1 million views.

His YouTube channel caught the eye of Universal Music, who gave him a record deal and released his first single Happy Little Pill, smashing top 100 charts across the world.

Troye is not an anomaly. He is one of thousands of YouTube celebrities with large online audiences garnered by posting videos about their life. Many of these YouTube celebrities are in your backyard.

A recent study by Variety magazine found that the most influential figures among US teens were YouTube stars. The world’s biggest vloggers – SmoshFine Bro’s and PewDiePie – were ranked more popular than Katy Perry, Steve Carell and Jennifer Lawrence.

 

I saw the power of YouTube celebrity first-hand when in 2010 I launched World Vision Vloggers, the world’s first charity vlogger program. As I took vloggers Meekakitty, Frezned, Nanalew and Nerimon to film their version of World Vision’s work, I was able to witness how they’ve built their media entities.

They are genuine and interesting; their content is creative and spontaneous. Many create content based on feedback from comments in their videos. It’s no surprise that they have more clout than celebrities – vloggers do more than just perform.

They are genuinely and intimately engaged with their audience. They understand their demographic more than any television producer can – they are their demographic. They are as much consumers as they are a medium to consume.

While a celebrity endorsement remains central to most marketing strategies, very few Australian brands have ventured into partnerships with vloggers even though online partnerships are far cheaper and more measurable.

Vloggers are not distant figureheads – the way their audience relates to them sits between TV star and friend. These more relatable stars have stronger power to influence and offer a truly creative approach to engaging with brands.

GET THE RIGHT FIT

Is a vlogger partnership a fit for you? If your target audience is under the age of 30, the most effective approach is partnering directly and co-creating content around your brand. If the vlogger genuinely believes in your brand, so will their audience (they’re friends remember?).

You’ll first need to assess which vlogger is the right fit. For World Vision we analysed hours of content, found values which aligned and then approached vloggers directly.

We then worked together: we posed a problem of explaining poverty alleviation and, in turn, they crafted a solution. Their videos garnered millions of video views, more than 11,000 comments and, most importantly, child sponsorships. But what surprised me the most was they made the journey entertaining and allowed audiences to see World Vision in a completely new and unique light.

 

If your target demographic is over 30, an advertising-based strategy may be more relevant.

The most common approach is laying banner advertising over videos and/or playing a “pre-roll” brand video before the vlogger video starts. Placements should be strategic, just as Maybelline is using their “pre-roll” video on popular beauty vlogger Lauren Curtis’s tutorials.

Video placements are broadly targeted through the Google ad network. If there is a particular vlogger you want to work with you will need to connect with their agent.

Brands can also insert product placements in YouTube videos, in a similar way to television. Make-up vlogger Brittney Lee Saunders trials products listing the brands she uses (and often links to where to buy them) on her YouTube channel. Transparency is key here – unlike TV celebrities, most vloggers will disclose if they are paid to promote a product.

Working with vloggers is not a one-size-fits-all solution and there are many small ways of testing the waters that will expose your brand to risk.

If you are a marketing leader I challenge you to think outside the celebrity box, as the most valuable influencers may be in your backyard, not on television.

Read this article at The Australian Financial Review.