What is a vlogger?
Many of these people are video bloggers (or vloggers), who talk directly to the camera in a conversational style, discussing their opinions with their audience and generally sharing content on YouTube. This includes anything from diarising their day on video, showcasing how they do their makeup, playing their favourite video games, or reviewing their children’s toys. As a result, viewers often feel they have a personal bond with the vlogger.
How do they make money?
Despite this close audience relationship, vloggers have a particularly difficult time monetising their channels because they are selling themselves, not an idea or product. Options include the YouTube partner program (advertising before videos), merchandise, payment for social media posts, editorials and appearances. One area where vloggers are finding particular success monetising is sponsored videos, where a company pays a vlogger to talk about their product, or provides them with product in kind. Product placement is not a new marketing strategy, and both content creators and companies have found this to be effective with vloggers.
Potential downsides to sponsored videos
Sponsored videos may affect the relationship between a vlogger and their audience; the paid endorsement may not resonate in the same way as the personal evangelism the viewers are used to. Product placement creates personification of the brand, with the viewers developing their opinion based on the person who is promoting or endorsing it. Savvy YouTubers have realised the importance of this association and are therefore particularly selective with the products they choose to promote.
A cautionary tale
While the YouTube community is extremely embracing and forgiving of faults around video characteristics such as quality production, and vlogger characteristics such as lack of product knowledge, it reacts negatively when members feel taken advantage of, or deceived.
Some veteran vloggers have made mistakes in this area and learnt from them. One prominent example of poor sponsorship execution was from Blair Fowler, a vlogger with over 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube. Fowler posted one particular sponsored video which received 240,000 views, and has a 24% thumbs down rating. Her audience did not believe the sponsorship was genuine or objective as Fowler had not previously mentioned the brand nor given any other sign that linked her to the product in her prior videos.
This compares to other sponsored videos by Fowler, one of which had 270,000 views and only a 10% thumbs down rating. This video was linked to a product that was a more natural fit for her audience as Fowler had always associated herself with activities related to that product. This indicates her audience is not opposed to sponsored videos per se, but to how they are presented.
4 tips for up-and-coming vloggers
- Be yourself. Successful vloggers are authentic and audiences bond with them because they feel that.
- Consider all monetisation options. Not all options suit all YouTubers.
- Know your audience. Make sure any potential commercial agreements are a natural fit for what your audience knows you for.
- Be honest. Tell your audience when you are creating sponsored content. Not only does it get them onside, it is the ethical (and in some countries, legal) thin