In the digital brand strategy game today you could be forgiven if you want to focus entirely on Instagram. The platform has ballooned into its own planet, and is peeling eyeballs away from other social networks like Facebook. If attention is what you’re looking for, you will win a lot of arguments by trying to find it on Instagram.

Dig a little deeper though, and Instagram’s attention is not exactly what I would call qualitative. Stand behind an 18 year-old-girl at Starbucks who is scrolling through Instagram and you will be thoroughly amazed at the speed at which she is consuming content. Not only is her thumb a blur of swiping up and double tapping, there is no physical way that she can be seeing each image. So what she does is she operates ahead of the feed. It’s sort of like a musician who is reading sheet music a few bars ahead of the notes that she is playing. There is a delay that happens. When girl in line at Starbucks realizes that she saw something she likes, she has to go back up her feed to like it.

So when we try to compare impressions, either with sponsored posts or when using influencers, we need to take into account that the impression is getting more and more shallow in terms of its impact. This is simply the world we live in today, and if you’re focusing entirely on Instagram, your brand might get blurred into oblivion.

But there is one place in the social landscape where true attention exists, and it’s YouTube.

Go where the eyeballs stay

If you’ve never perused the YouTube Statistics Press page, I encourage you to do so. You’ve never seen the word billion thrown around so casually. Like the fact that YouTube has 1.9 billion monthly active users – nearly double Instagram. YouTube’s longterm strategy of letting creators and webmasters embed their videos across the web has turned it into true platform – in the sense that is one of the layers upon which the Internet’s content is built.

That content strategy continues to accelerate. YouTubers upload 400 hours of video every minute. And it’s not just people spamming the web with content that no one will see. People are following creators on YouTube at an incredible rate. For example, YouTube itself points out on that stats page that the number of channels with over 1 million subscribers grew 70% year over year.

YouTube has certainly benefitted from being mobile focused since the beginning, and now as consumption patterns change, people are finding YouTube to be much more convenient than watching TV. 70% of YouTube views come from mobile devices, meaning that not only do people like the different types of content being created from original creators, they like the convenience of watching it whenever and wherever they want. 

YouTube reaches over 95% of millenials in the US and about half of them watch over 5 hours of online video per week. Unlike the Instagram scrolling effect that turns everything into a blur, YouTube captivates real attention. People set down their phones, plug in their headphones and consume content for real.

The type of content is important. For younger audiences things like e-sports are becoming very popular (where people watch other people play videos games like the cultural phenomenon Fortnite). The other area that is exploding in popularity are How to videos, particularly in the beauty space. How to videos grew by 70% over the last year.

So as a brand, isn’t this where you need to be as a part of your digital strategy?

Why brands need to be on YouTube

You understand the argument about attention. You might also know that YouTube is the world’s second most popular search engine, and so YouTube (considering its Alphabetical family) is crucial to any sort of SEO strategy. You might have also seen stats about brand uplift and the different types of ads that you can run across YouTube.

But more than anything, a brand needs to have its own channel and a consistent video strategy to build up a solid community. Unlike Facebook or Instagram where brands are getting choked out until they cough up cash to boost their posts, YouTube doesn’t do the same thing to publishers. Subscribers get notifications from each channel they subscribe to. They also offer extra functionality like Cards and links to make it easier to integrate YouTube into your digital sales funnel.

Of course I am sensitive to arguments about budget and the fact that making video content is much trickier and expensive than shooting still life content for Instagram. But look at it qualitatively and I think you will see that you can make engaging video content to post once or twice per month for the same cost as making 3 pieces of content to share per week on Instagram.

Plus YouTube makes it easy to categorize your videos into playlists, so you can clearly mark when you are using UGC or creating content from events that wont have the same type of sheen as your brand content. This is especially true for the brands out there who obsess about what their profile looks like.

The most popular brand channel on YouTube is LEGO. Yes, it helps that they have an animation studio and they produce feature films about LEGOs so video content is easier to come by, but scroll down a bit and you’ll see content about kids playing with LEGOs, building special sets, and playlists based on the different product lines. There are also spin off channels for kids of all different ages. They’ve essentially taken every part of their world and packaged it into YouTube sized bits that all of their fans can enjoy. 

Combine with YouTube Advertising

YouTube rolls out new advertising solutions all the time, and in fact they have started to consolidate formats as things were starting to get a little bit too out of control. There are two main approaches you can take to advertising on YouTube: short 6 second unskippable ads (bumpers) or longer ads that people can skip after 5 seconds. In the first case, you pay per person you reach since you are guaranteed to reach them. In the second you only pay when people watch 30 seconds or more of your ad. You might have seen entire movie trailers that last 3 minutes used as YouTube ads which might sound outrageous to a social media marketer who is tasked with chipping mere seconds out of their target customers’ lives. But it makes a lot of sense. If you catch me with something interesting, even an ad, it doesn’t really matter how long it is because I can control how much of it I want to watch.

YouTube advertising is an entire world unto itself that I won’t go further on for this post, but you should know that combining an organic strategy with an advertising strategy enables you to reach new targets who – in addition to clicking on your ad – will also come and check out your channel. If they see interesting content, they will subscribe, and the virtuous circle of community building will have begun!

Instagram is copying YouTube

Speaking of coming full circle, I think that it’s telling that the “it” platform today, Instagram, is copying YouTube’s video content angle with IGTV. By implementing a long-form approach to video content they are designing a place to swipe users away from YouTube just like Stories swiped users away from Snapchat. I wrongly predicted that Instagram would suffer in experience by adding stories, so I will not make any predictions here, but just note that YouTube is still the dominant one in the web’s battle for eyeballs.

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