When it comes to influencer marketing on social media, no platform delivers a better return on investment (ROI) than YouTube. And with an audience of more than 1 billion viewers, the stars of these online videos are beginning to outshine mainstream celebrities—proving more influential with younger audiences.
If a brand wants to sell a product, tapping into a YouTube influencer’s loyal following is an effective and increasingly common marketing strategy. But where does your brand find these people and what does a successful partnership look like? For those answers we turn to a real-live YouTube influencer: Laura Reid.
Reid launched her fashion and lifestyle channel a few years back while she was in university, but it wasn’t until six months ago that she started to take it seriously. Her well-produced videos soon caught the eye of Garnier, and in November 2015 she appeared in an 80-second spot for their line of hair coloring products. It was her first sponsorship deal.
Since then she’s done YouTube promos for about a dozen other major brands including Target, Schick, and HP. Her channel has well over 63,000 subscribes (a number that continues to swell) and influencer marketing is now her full-time job.
We sat down with Reid to learn more about how brands might best approach working with influencers so that all parties—the audience included—can get the most out of the deal.
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals the exact steps one entrepreneur took to gain more than 23,000,000 views on YouTube with no budget and no expensive gear.
Q&A with YouTube influencer Laura Reid
How does a brand+YouTube influencer partnership begin? How do you find each other and who pitches whom?
Most of the time the brand approaches the influencer. There are websites out there like Reelio.com and Revfluence.com that will connect brands with influencers and influencers with brands. Some people have a lot more success getting brand deals than other people. It has a lot to do with your ability to be seen on the internet.
From an influencer standpoint you have to be on some sort of list, or you have to come up in the search results. So say a brand is looking for Canadian fashion influencers—if that’s your niche and you don’t come up on Google then you’re going to have a hard time getting sponsorships. You need to be searchable.
Two years ago ElleCanada.com ran an article on Canadian beauty influencers on YouTube and I was on that list. So when you search Canadian fashion YouTubers I’m one of the first people that shows up. The best way for brands to find the right influencer starts with a Google search.
I appreciate it when brands come to me because it makes my job easier. And it also means they’ve done some research and figure it would be a good fit. For brands, It’s really important to do research before reaching out—and don’t use a generic email. Show the influencer that you know who they are, what their channel is about, and who their audience is.
Besides payment, what does an influencer need from a brand to do their job well?
Creative control. Brands need to trust that the influencer is going to be able to deliver their audience. A brand can offer guidelines, but they should let the influencer develop the idea for the video. Influencers spend countless hours building up their own personal brand and learning what their audience likes.
The brand obviously also needs to give the YouTube influencer a peer package—the material that explains what the product is about. If a brand gives the influencer all the information and then lets them take it from there, a good influencer will be able to come up with an innovative way to promote the product.
One of my favorite YouTube-brand partnerships was Casey Neistat’s collab with Nike. They gave him a budget and he took it and literally ran with it. Instead of making the movie they asked for he blew the entire budget traveling around the world with his friend Max. With 18 million views and counting that video could not have been more successful.
When I’m given information about a product, whether it’s an app or a clothing line, immediately a bunch of video ideas pop into my head—all with different ways I could integrate the product into the video.
If a brand were to come to me and say “The product needs to be presented this way,” and right off the bat blew off all my ideas… I’d say that is not a positive start to the relationship. It’s better if the influencer presents a number of ideas to the brand and then they can sift through those and decide which direction they’d like to go in. That way the ball is in the influencer’s court.
How would a brand know if an influencer is the right fit for the product they’re marketing?
By doing good research beforehand. Watch the influencer’s videos and read the comments. Get to know what the channel is about and who their audience is.
So say you come across someone who has a really active lifestyle channel and they’re doing a lot of fitness videos. They might be a good fit if you’re selling a fitness product. But if you’re selling makeup, they’re probably not the person you want.
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What’s the secret ingredient to a great YouTube influencer campaign?
Again, it’s about finding the right fit. Unless you’re going after one of those influencers who has a really huge following—with an audience so loyal that they’ll eat up almost anything that’s put in front of them.
A really popular beauty influencer who has 5 million subscribers, for example, has people watching their every single move. If they were to promote a hammer, then their audience would buy that hammer. The more established the influencer, the more they can stray from what they would normally promote.
Where it gets more difficult is when you’re talking about a smaller channel. In that case the product and the brand has to really align with the influencer and their audience.
Would you say more brands are embracing influencer marketing?
Definitely. I was on Revfluence.com today and I saw that Wal-Mart is looking for people to advertise their new online grocery pick-up service. I think if a brand is not using influencer marketing they may be falling behind.
People are watching less TV and a lot more YouTube. Brands need to reach this massive online audience.
What has been one of your favorite brands to work with and why?
Working with Garnier was the coolest thing because I got sent out to Montreal. It was the first time when I sort of felt like I had made it. Here I was working with such a huge brand, and I’m featured on their website as one of their people. That was really cool.
Before influencer marketing became popular you would have had to have been a professional model for years to get that kind of opportunity. But now it’s the YouTube influencer who’s getting on the front of magazines and in commercials.
What would make you say no to a sponsorship opportunity?
Sometimes brands ask for way too much. A very reputable brand wanted to work with me but their ask was something like 15 Instagram posts, five Tweets, and a YouTube video. But if you do too much sponsored content it can make your channel and personal brand seem inauthentic. As an influencer you need to keep the dignity of your social channels and not do too much for money.
Your followers are coming to you because they like your personal brand but if you’re just spewing out sponsored content for every single post, or every other post even, that’s going to backfire. You’ll turn people off.
So if a brand demands too much from an influencer that can work against them. Even if their budget is crazy high, the influencer still has to keep in mind the dignity of their personal brand. It’s about balancing sponsored content with non-sponsored content.
If one of every five or 10 of your videos is sponsored that’s fine. But it shouldn’t be half. And the bigger the influencer the less sponsored content they’ll do because they can potentially earn $20,000 for one sponsored piece of content.
Have you had any really strange requests?
Oh yeah. Someone asked me to review sex toys. I was offended. But I also thought it was hilarious because… I mean, why? How would I even review something like that? It doesn’t fit with my channel at all. Maybe if my channel was sex advice geared toward adults… But I do beauty, fashion, and lifestyle videos for an audience that is mostly young girls.
Someone didn’t do their research. They probably just saw a girl and they’re like, “Oh, she’d probably like that.” Yeah, no.
How do you decide what to charge a brand for a sponsored video?
I like to put it in the brand’s court by asking what sort of budget they have. Rarely does a brand start a campaign without having some sort of idea of what they’re going to pay the influencer.
As an influencer you never want to lowball yourself, but you also don’t want to say too high a number and risk annoying the client. They could just blow you off and say “Okay, this person is ridiculous.”
A lot of the times when I ask for a budget the number I get back is more than what I was going to ask for anyway. And for me personally, I’m flexible with rates. If I’m working with a less established brand that has a smaller budget, I would take less pay if I thought their products were really awesome. So price depends on the brand, product, campaign budget, and the influencer.
What does a winning brand/YouTube influencer collaboration look like?
Whenever the product or service aligns with an influencer’s personal brand and appeals to their audience. Whether it be beauty, fashion, lifestyle, fitness, cooking—the product must speak to the influencer’s audience.
Choosing a YouTube influencer is the same as hiring a spokesperson. That person should reflect the kind of customer your product is targeting. And it should also be fun to watch. Another one of my favorite brand/influencer collabs is by the hilarious and upbeat YouTube personality Gigi Gorgeous. She partnered with TooFaced cosmetics to show off a new mascara in an awesome bit that played with the mascara’s name “Better Than Sex.” The video hit the nail on the head in terms of a great partnership and it made me want to try the mascara.
Any other advice for brands who want to work with YouTube influencers?
Customize the pitch email you send to influencers. Show them that you’ve done your research, that you know who they are and what they can do for your product.
And don’t be afraid to follow up. Especially with the big influencers—these people are very busy and messages can be missed. And even if an influencer at first says no to a sponsorship, don’t be afraid to check in with another opportunity six months or a year down the road.
Brand or influencer, you can use Hootsuite to schedule, share, and manage your YouTube videos from one platform.