I have an embarrassing habit to admit: I spend a sizable amount of time watching vloggers on YouTube.
What do I watch? I can’t get enough of the daily vlogs of people doing things, reviewing things and talking about things that, I too, am interested in. And I'm not alone. Millions of people are turning away from traditional media and consuming content through "internet famous" vloggers who have amassed shockingly large viewerships.
And it's not just the stuff they make or do that I'm interested in. I'm just as intrigued in how these vloggers create their content. Today's best vloggers create really great, compelling stuff–often with some fantastic production value that in my opinion, rivals what you see in traditional film or tv programming.
Most of what I watch is tech/lifestyle-oriented stuff, produced by one, maybe two people. Meaning, one person is both operating and speaking to the camera (often holding it in hand) at the same time. I don’t know about you, but sitting in a room alone talking to myself—err—a camera, is hard to do. And it's even more awkward in public. There is no audience interaction, no director or producer offering advice or visual cues. It’s just you and a camera, action cam, drone and your thoughts.
Furthermore, it’s up to you to edit footage of yourself that you make into a video about you doing something that your audience will hopefully be interested in you doing. Whew.
The other thing that fascinates me about vloggers is the way their content is consumed. It’s akin to how print media is ingested, far more than it is related to radio or TV media. Here’s why: you sometimes listen to the radio or watch TV with other people, and radio or TV material is usually presented in such a way to address a mass audience. But with books, newspapers, or magazines if you will, the author speaks to directly to you. When was the last time you read a book or magazine aloud or alongside someone at the same time? (Children’s books don’t count!)
When you watch a video on YouTube, odds are you’re watching it alone on your computer or more likely, on your phone–just as you would reading a book or magazine. There are instances where videos are shared and group viewings take place (this will likely grow as over-the-top programming expands into more homes), but for the most part, vlog-style content is viewed by one person at a time. It’s an incredibly personal experience and among the most successful vloggers around are the ones that make their videos seem intimately personal.
Take Casey Neistat.
If you know who he is and what he does, then you already get it. Skip to the next paragraph or so. If you don’t know Casey– he’s a 30-something dude in NYC who kinda works for CNN, and who films himself taking plane rides, riding an electronic skateboard, opening cardboard boxes and sometimes does updates on his life with a toddler at home, son in college and his wife's business. Sounds fairly ordinary, right?
Would you care about him based on that description? Probably not.
But guess what? Almost eight million people care. And that number continues to grow. Every time he posts something (he did a daily vlog for over a year, which is a monumental achievement when you also look at the quality of his work), he garners millions of views.
To put it into deeper perspective, check this out. The top-rated news shows on cable, in primetime, average 2.5-2.7 million viewers. Casey's daily views hover in the 1.7 million range–sometimes doubling or tripling that figure based on what he does. He also averages almost 50 million views a month. Amazing.
Why is this? How has he become successful? There's lots of reasons, actually. But the one that matters most, in my opinion, is the connection he has with the viewer in every episode. Casey Neistat’s brilliance isn’t only in his nifty edits, great music, his product reviews or his penchant for trashing expensive things —it’s the connection his viewers have with him and his life—or in a pragmatists view, think they have. You really feel as though he's talking directly to you and that you're alone with him in his NYC loft/studio. That's what makes his stuff so remarkably compelling.
It’s this dynamic, this personal connection, that's changing the way we should look at how to craft messages through online video marketing. We’ve all heard that story is king and paramount to making an impact with your audience (Casey even has a video about that). I agree with that, but sometimes the story is less important than the connection. Some of Casey’s videos have pretty weak stories, but it doesn't stop his fans from watching because he’s so good at making connections with his audience. Just watch a few of his videos and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.
(In fairness, Casey Neistat produces all sorts of videos and like many pundits already have, we could spend hours discussing who, why, and what he's all about. I'm not doing that–just check out a small sampling of his work and let me know what you think–good or bad.)
I hope you take a hint from Casey and build a connection with your audiences by speaking as though you’re having a conversation with one customer at a time—especially if you’re marketing towards an audience of people who consume most of their media online and/or via their phone.
Consider not speaking in generalities, skip the long drawn out explanations—instead, be a friend and someone your clients or customers want to learn more about. For example, if you have a service—don’t just say what the service is and how great it is—produce some testimonials about how that service helped your already existing customers. If you have a product, don’t simply extol the virtues of what you’re selling, rather highlight the changes it will have on the lives of the people who buy it.
That’s how you develop connections with your audience. Make them feel like they know and care for you and your product or service, as well as what you have to say—before they really do.
That's precisely what Casey Neistat does.