Andrew Graham currently works as Fullscreen Inc.’s Network Development Manager, where he develops and builds YouTube networks with brands and established online communities. Prior to joining Fullscreen, he developed and produced reality TV series with FremantleMedia North America and Bogner Entertainment, Inc. He is a Syracuse University alumni, media nerd and absolutely in love with cheese. In addition to his cheese romance, he is also in love with Twitter (don’t tell the cheese that, it may get jealous). Feel free to hit him up @MistaGraham.
9 out of 10 times before pitching a brand – particularly in entertainment – I find a well-tended Twitter presence, an active Facebook footprint, a lot of pinning going on – by and large a good digital plan – save one thing…YouTube. Whether it’s because traditional entertainment brands still view YouTube as a nascent platform or simply a good repository for all of their second run content, they consistently miss the mark when it comes to YouTube. Putting an old full-length episode of a late night TV show on its corresponding branded YouTube channel makes about as much sense as putting the entire New York Times’ Monday business section in The Economist. While the audiences may be similar, their expectation of the format is completely different. It’s guaranteed to fail. Digital platforms necessitate digital content.
That said, whenever our team begins having a frank conversation with a brand and discussing the statistics around YouTube, I find that it usually sinks in quickly. With 72 hours of content uploaded every minute and 3 billion hours of video consumed every month, the world’s largest video sharing platform is a space that brands should be taking more seriously. It’s a 24/7 digital dialogue producing a never ending flow of brand adjacent content, and at the center of it all is the YouTube Network. Here’s a simplified “brand 101? on what YouTube networks look like and why brands should be taking notice:
Structurally speaking, YouTube networks are nothing more than a simple wheel. Think a “hub and spoke” model. The wheel is the brand’s “hub channel,” where content is curated and featured. Attached to it are groups of brand-adjacent affiliate channels. In the diagram below, the brand-adjacent channels are vloggers (video bloggers) but they could be anything; from sketch comedy to musical cover artists, it’s all fair game. A smart brand will find existing YouTube creators to attach to the hub channel, that way they’re bringing an established audience, leveraging existing credibility and joining an authentic conversation that is brand agnostic but still “content” centric. The hub channel will start small but as more content is featured on it and audiences are shared between affiliate channels, it will eventually become bigger than the sum of its parts. Just ask Machinima: starting out as just a website, they’ve leveraged their clout onto YouTube very successfully. They now operate multiple powerful hub channels on which they distribute original programming and curated content. Additionally, they fill a great deal of their ad inventory across their hub and affiliate channels. But perhaps the clearest indication of their success is the fact that they’ve become the go-to destination for specific brands, particularly gaming and action movies. The network often receives exclusive trailers before they even appear on TV (or ever appear on TV at all).
As a brand, what you get out of a network is an authentic advocate community, the ability to participate in the conversations that are already occurring around your products (that up to this point you have only been partially involved in) and the ability to scale very quickly. There is nothing stopping a brand from adding affiliate channels, bumping up the production on the content that surrounds their products and faciliating natural branded integrations within a community that is already actively watching, listening and participating. Brands must be content creators now that all consumers are content producers; the first step to effectively doing that is jumping into where the conversation is happening and adding to it in an authentic, meaningful way. Whether the medium is the message or the other way around, what matters is that more and more both lead to YouTube’s front door.