What Instagram Influencers Can Learn From YouTubers About Authenticity

Let’s talk about changes in content strategies. It’s something all digital creators face, regardless of their social platform of choice, and it usually happens for the same reasons. Each platform has a common aesthetic or acceptable content model. YouTube in the late 2000s, for example, was full of home movies, pre-rehearsed skits, and candidly captured video.  These formats were acceptable at the time because the platform was just emerging, and a very young audience was able to both consume this form of unpolished content and participate in its production.

Fast forward to 2019, and we see a much more polished content strategy has become the standard.  Rather than simply recording your screen during a ‘Let’s Play’ game broadcast, creators are using professional cameras, green screens, and custom set pieces.  Beauty vloggers have become master grips, incorporating the best lighting and film technology to give their videos a professional look.

Instagram, the younger sibling in the family of influencer platforms, is in the middle of an aesthetic change at the moment, as beautifully described by Taylor Lornez in The Instagram Aesthetic Is Over. Taylor observed that the old method of attracting followers is giving way to a more unique and unpolished look.  Previously, Instagram creators obsessed over the look of every photo, aiming to make it as high-class as possible. But after being subjected to innumerable iterations of glamorous lifestyle images (and realizing just how fake most of these images really are) audiences are craving something new.

@tabaskosweet is a great example of someone leading the new aesthetic:

The new aesthetic is much more based in reality. It’s no longer necessary to project perfection because no one has a perfect life. Tacky outfits, weird sunglasses, and nerdy shoes have replaced the shots of expensive beach houses, artistic lattes, and Instagram museum tours. It may even go as far to poke fun at the artifice of the previous style.  

In light of these changes, how can Instagrammers learn from YouTube creators who have similarly overcome shifts in audience taste?  I teamed up with Matt Gielen, Founder of Little Monster Media Co. and a master of the YouTube algorithm, to get his thoughts on the issue.

We started with a discussion of four approaches to creating appealing content:

  • Fans Love Format: This model is not dependent on a single talent, but rather the way a particular show comes together.  Think of late night talk shows or sketch comedies like SNL.  The host or cast changes, but the show goes on.  Smosh is a great example of a format-driven channel with multiple talent, as the cast and programming tends to include a wide range of characters.


  • Fans Love Personalities: This is the most common element that digital creators embrace, but it can also be the most challenging to maintain the audience’s attention. Will Smith and Casey Niestat may have an easy time creating personality-driven content, but can you?   


  • Fans Love the Style: Marques Brownlee makes tech review videos that typically target viewers interested in certain products, but he gets massive views across all videos because he constantly pushes the limits of visual appeal and produces beautifully stylized content.


  • Fans are Interested in the Topic or Subject Matter: This is the most difficult for creators who wish to have mass appeal. Shane Dawson, the master of this model, takes an in-depth look at the topics that drive conversations within the YouTube community.

Thinking about these four elements and exploring how your content strategy plays into each, is a thoughtful exercise that could help revamp content.  The goal, when ideating and implementing your content strategy, is to understand what will appeal most to your target audience.

During our strategy session, Matt highlighted Shane Dawson as an example that Instagrammers can learn from. Throughout the course of his career, Dawson has demonstrated how to incorporate all of the elements listed above.   

If you’re interested in watching this evolution, head over to Dawson’s YouTube channel and watch some of his earlier content.  Eight years ago, he was making reaction, challenge, and commentary videos. Today, this is an incredibly common and arguably overdone content format, but at the time he was one of the only creators doing this and helped define the genre as we know it. This format relies only on his personality (the second element of creating engaging content listed above).  

As the years go on and audience taste evolved, you see Dawson work on more collaborations and put more planning into his content. This shows that he understood the growing competition in his genre and worked to reinvent himself. This content can be classified under the third element, as Dawson expanded the style of his videos to make them more interesting to a wider audience.

I’m confident that Dawson will continue to break the mold as he applies his current strategy;  veering away from weekly uploads in favor of deep dives into YouTube community controversies and investigative journalism. His series Inside the Mind of Jake Paul brought together his personality, a unique style, and a very controversial topic which appealed to the broad community of YouTube viewers.

Instagrammers can learn so much from how Dawson and other pioneering creators have changed their content strategy over time to best serve changing audience tastes. As we’ve seen, you can find success by shifting the focus away from your own personality and pursuing a different style or leading the conversation around a specific topic. This makes for more compelling content and prevents the creator from complete burnout.  

Ultimately, building an audience is hard and it’s even more difficult to consistently produce content that your viewers enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with a content strategy that works today, but keep in mind that interests are constantly changing, so it’s best to keep these four elements in mind and experiment with new ways to engage your fanbase.

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    Just Authorize Already!

    Most people working in established industries rarely see the rulebook change. In the years I’ve been working with social media influencers, I’ve seen the rulebook change about every 6 months. That’s what you get when you’re defining a new medium, I guess!

    Let’s talk about data permission through the lens of influencer marketing. In order to bring creators and advertisers together, the content needs to fit the sponsors’ identity, and there needs to be some true synergies between each party. But most importantly, advertisers need to check that the creator’s account reaches their target audience demographics and geography, and verify the authenticity of that audience. It’s easy to see if an influencer aligns with your brand message, identity, and values but much harder to understand audience and performance data by simply looking at an influencer’s social profile.

    The best way for advertisers to access private audience data for an influencer’s social profile is by providing authorized data access to a trusted, secure third party.

    The authorization process allows an influencer to grant permission to a third-party platform to access private data about his or her social account. For example, you’ve probably encountered a social authorization when logging into a tool like Spotify using Google or Facebook. At Paladin, our platform allows influencers to provide authorized data access to their trusted agents and managers in order to help identify ways to grow their audience and work with advertisers on branded content campaigns.

    Providing an authorization offers valuable insight beyond publicly available metrics like followers, views, and engagements into meaningful data like audience demographics, impressions, and watch time. Such data points are essential for helping advertisers make an informed decision about which influencers to work with on a given marketing campaign.

    Influencers, I know you’re worried about your account security and data privacy, but this system gives you complete control, unlike past relationships with MCNs. Let’s examine why this approach is also better for your needs :

    • Provide data access without sharing login credentials – Sharing your social media passwords, even with someone you trust, can lead to accidents or data breaches. Authorizing a third party to access your data is a much better alternative because it allows you to grant or remove data access at any time via your social account settings. Further, you can choose to only grant authorization to apps requesting ‘read only’ permissions (like Paladin), preventing others from posting, deleting, or changing your content.
    • Demonstrate your value to potential advertisers – There’s a ton of money up for grabs at the moment. By providing your agent or manager with real-time data, they can work on your behalf much faster and share your story with potential sponsors.
    • Ditch the Screenshots – Tired of sending screenshots? Agents and managers are sick of asking for them too. The faster your representation can report on a campaign, the faster you get paid, and they can start working on the next one.
    • Be a Market Leader – The more you know about what sponsors expect and how agencies operate, the more likely you’ll be frequently approached with offers.

    Influencer agencies, there’s a ton of you popping up, seemingly overnight. I’m not the only one who’s noticed; brands have picked up on it too. Claiming that “influencers just won’t authorize” is the equivalent of trying to sell TV inventory without a Neilson report. Let’s think more about the advantages of authorizing:

    • Outshine the competition – With a complete roster of authorized social accounts, you can crank out RFPs at light speed, rather than individually sourcing data from creators and manually building presentations.
    • Get REAL data – Unfortunately, some influencers exaggerate their reach or even photoshop screenshots of their data, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and false reporting. Authorized data doesn’t lie. It gives you a direct line to real-time data to make sure you’re working with the right partners every time.
    • Streamline your communication workflow – Continuous access to authorized data allows your team to move much faster. Build RFPs that demonstrate your trusted relationship with the influencers you’re recommending to help shorten the sales cycle and inspire confidence in your client.
    • Be a greater asset – With the right data permissions, your team can offer more complete support to creators. Channel optimization and audience growth are established services that have been offered for years. *Prediction* The first influencer agency that can offer effective channel management at scale will break the model and move onto the next level of industry recognition.

    As the changing nature of this industry has forced me to do, I’m always anticipating what’s coming next. But what isn’t changing is the basic data points on which we buy and sell media. Therefore pushing for 100% authorization within your stable of influencers is a safe goal to aim for.

    Need some help getting that strategy off of the ground? Shoot me a message. I’m happy to help!

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