In this new age, the approach of Christmas is marked out by two events - in the UK at least. The first screening of a certain department store’s festive advert. And the announcement of the celebrities going into the jungle to be tortured by Ant and Dec.
Yes, the I’m A Celebrity line-up has been revealed. And it features the show’s first ever YouTuber Jack Maynard. Cue the cries of “never heard of him” and moans from the general public that he’s hardly a celebrity.
But what is more important in this digital age: fame or influence?
Fame is all about being widely known or recognised. There are footballer’s wives and politician’s families who have enjoyed time in the jungle. They are well known. They have fame by association. But influence is far more bankable. Influence is not just about the size of your network or how many people hear what you say. It’s your capacity to impact the actions and opinions of others. This is where 22-year-old Jack becomes important, and just as relevant to younger viewers as your soap actress and former girl band member – perhaps even more so.
Jack’s self-titled YouTube channel sees him post vlogs, challenges and occasional comedy skits for his 1.2 million subscribers. Of course he’s got a long way to go to match the likes of Zoella, who reached the milestone of 10 million last year or mega influencer PewDiePie who has passed 42 million. But as a relatable figure to reach out to a younger audience, the TV producers couldn’t have picked anyone better.
A study by the entertainment magazine Variety in 2015 suggested that teenagers’ emotional attachment to YouTube stars is “as much as seven times greater than toward a traditional celebrity”.
But for what reason?
Teens enjoy an intimate and authentic experience with YouTube celebrities, who aren’t subject to image strategies carefully orchestrated by PR pros. They also appreciate YouTube stars’ more candid sense of humour, lack of filter and risk-taking spirit, behaviours often curbed by Hollywood handlers. That’s one of the key things to understand about the popularity of YouTubers, if you’re struggling to see it in their content – for their fans, the contrast with stars from the world of music, film and television has been a big factor in their rise.
Still don’t get it? Well, perhaps you’re not supposed to.
Music industry analyst Mark Mulligan has studied why YouTubers are becoming even more popular than musicians. He explained: “For those not in the target demographic, it can sometimes be difficult to grasp exactly what the creative value is of many YouTubers. “But that generational inability to grasp the essence of YouTube talent is exactly the same dynamic music always had when it was the spearhead for youth rebellion.
“A kid trying to explain to his mum why “Stampy Does Minecraft” is worth watching for hours on end is simply a 21st century rerun of kids trying to convince their parents of the musical worth of Elvis, the Beatles, the Sex Pistols and so on. That is the entire point of a youth culture – older generations aren’t meant to get it.”
Their very ordinariness – their relatability – is what makes YouTubers so appealing. The “girl or boy next door” who is “just like us” is not an unusual trope in the entertainment world but on YouTube, it’s heightened. From the point of view of a brand looking to find a face for its marketing campaign, fame isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Katy Perry became the first person on Twitter to amass an incredible 100 million followers BUT.... ...after a quick look at her account her stats show an average interaction rate of 0.003% - around 3,000 retweets per tweet.
Out of 100 million that is astonishingly low, and shows that in many ways the number of followers just don’t matter any more. This is why many brands recognise the value of the micro-influencer with ‘only’ 50K followers but high interaction levels. Emirates Airline is a great example of influencer versus famous name. When it launched a campaign to show off the airline’s luxurious amenities, the company invested $5 million to hire Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston to play the part of a world traveller. A series of short ads for YouTube did quite well, with one getting more than six million views. But then a smart person within the Emirates marketing team decided to give YouTuber Casey Neistat free premiere status on the airline – in the hope that he’d share his enjoyment of the flight with fans.
And he did. Twice in fact.
Between them, his two videos got 60 million views. Ten times the reach of the Hollywood star. Casey caters to a younger audience and is also a technology startup founder, followed by many entrepreneurs aspiring to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Emirates had its brand featured in best-in-class media outlets such as GQ, Maxim, Adweek, Mashable and the Huffington Post. The brand was also amplified on social media through Casey’s posts which received thousands of likes and retweets. Not only did Emirates raise awareness among a new demographic and receive lots of free PR, it positioned its brand as forward-thinking and digital-first.
Now that's the power of the digital influencer.
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