How Brands Can Work with Niche Creators, as Told By Creators at Buffer Festival

Canada’s premier event spotlighting digital creators, Buffer Festival, wrapped up last week in Toronto. In keeping with its mission, the four-day festival festival showcases independent creators who embrace authentic storytelling and create high quality content.

Brands want safety, but they’re missing viewers.

If you follow the digital media industry, you’ve heard about a dramatic shift that’s happened over the past 18 months: demonization of ‘unsafe’ content categories. When social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook launched, they were eager to support a variety of creators and perspectives. However, in response to advertisers’ concerns about brand safety, social media sites have begun to prioritize family-friendly creators and traditional media content ahead of the diverse and, at times, controversial voices that have found a home on these platforms.

Buffer Fest addressed this issue head on through its Insight Series, a sidebar from the main festival where creators could speak freely to brands and agencies. Much of the discussion revolved around embracing creators whose content caters to niche audiences.

Edgy and niche creators can make viable branded content.

Several influencers demonstrated the power of unique voices to connect with these highly engaged online communities. For example, Stef Sanjati is a transgender YouTube creator who explained the diversity of her audience and her content. She spoke directly to brands about how to partner with a channel focused on LGBT issues. To gain the trust of her audience, brands need to show support all year long, not just during pride month.

Hannah Witton also shared her experiences as a lifestyle and sexual health influencer. She advocated her value as a trusted figure to young women who visit her channel to learn about their bodies and find a supportive community. Unlike traditional TV programs that offer broad content for a mass audience, creators like Hannah can provide more personalized recommendations to a specific audience niche.

And finally, intimacy expert and TV personality Shan Boodram shared her struggle to monetize the brand that she’s created. To highlight the challenges she has faced in attracting sponsors, Shan told a story about a technology hardware company that reached out to work with her, only to retract the offer after discovering that her brand was primarily centered around sexuality.

Embrace the voice of the creator and their audience will respond.

That said, Shan also offered several anecdotes about how brands have benefited from aligning with the brand she’s built. Those partnerships were successful when the brand accepted her content strategy and understood that her audience appreciates her brutal honesty when handling challenging subject matter. Brands that can harness a creator’s best elements end up doing the best rather than attempting to water down her content strategy to fit their sensibility.

All things considered, Buffer Festival’s message is powerful and consistent: whether you’re a viewer looking for good content or a brand hoping to reach an audience, search for authenticity and quality. Don’t be distracted by vanity metrics and glossy content. Looks for creators that build trust with their audience and engage a community to deliver a valuable partnership.

Once you find such influencers, make sure to support them! If that means becoming a donor on their Patreon account, tipping on Super Chat, or partnering with them to promote another brand it’s important to monetarily support the voices you believe in.


If you’d like to learn more about how Paladin Software can help you manage your creators and influencer marketing campaigns, contact us at [email protected].

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VidCon US 2018 – Top Takeaways From the World of Online Video

Last week marked my annual pilgrimage to the land of screaming tweens and selfie sticks: VidCon. This year 30,000+ creators, fans, and industry representatives descended on the Anaheim Convention Center to celebrate the world of online video. But just as the video ecosystem evolves with each passing year, this year’s 9th annual VidCon brought its fair share of changes too. Here are my top takeaways:

 

1. Platform Competition is Heating Up

Social media platforms are vying for IRL attention just as much as they compete for digital audiences’ clicks, views, and watchtime. YouTube, a longtime VidCon sponsor, delivered a keynote about building online communities and hosted one of the conference’s most popular parties. Amazon sponsored the industry lounge while Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitch hosted lavish creator lounges. Pinterest and Instagram offered seminars to help creators succeed on their platforms, and Musical.ly teamed up with UTA to host a Friday night happy hour for influencers and industry track attendees. Even LinkedIn put together a panel highlighting its emerging influencer community.

 

2. VidCon is now a Tentpole for Major Product Announcements

Not only did the social platforms have a major presence for the first time this year, but they’ve started leveraging the conference as an anchor for big product announcements. Just days before VidCon, Facebook announced its Brands Collab Manager to connect brands and influencers for sponsorship opportunities, and Instagram launched IGTV as a long-form video app for creators. Not to be outdone, YouTube took advantage of the event to introduce Premieres and other new revenue streams for creators, including channel memberships and merchandise.

 

3. Re-Investing in Upcoming Creators is Essential

During his annual keynote, VidCon founder Hank Green announced a new program to provide $2,000 grants to a different aspiring influencer each week for the next year. This VidCon Creator Grant Program will help emerging creators invest in better equipment and higher quality content.

 

4. Panel Diversity is on the Rise

There was noticeably more variety in session programming for all conference tracks this year, showcasing different voices and offering fresh perspectives. The speaker lineup included more representation from traditional Hollywood, large brand advertisers, and sports leagues. Session content ranged widely too, from key content verticals like children’s entertainment and esports to practical tips for creators and marketers like identifying fake followers and diversifying monetization streams. I was fortunate to moderate a particularly fascinating discussion about the psychology of digital media on adolescents with Dr. Jessica Taylor Piotrowski from the Center for Research on Children, Adolescents, where we dug into how youth are affected by media consumption.

 

5. TanaCon Succeeded (Kinda)

Sure, Tana Mongeau’s attempt to organize a competing fan event was ultimately canceled due to concerns over creator security. But the moral of TanaCon is the massive community response. It’s clear that some creators don’t feel as welcome at VidCon and that fans are eager for more personal ways to connect with their favorite influencers. The outcome here (overwhelming demand and overcrowding) proves the success of the model, so expect to see more satellite events offering a more direct-to-fan experience eat into the VidCon audience in the future, especially for more controversial influencers and niche communities.

All told, this year’s VidCon was bigger and more successful than ever, demonstrating the continued growth and potential of the online video industry. Social platforms are offering more tools to help influencers create and monetize content, fans are eager for more ways to interact with the creators they love, and traditional media companies are finally figuring out how to program for online audiences. Now, it’s up to marketers to understand how to best leverage these trends to build passion brands in the new age of the influencer.

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