By Sahil Patel
A lot of media companies and brands are still trying to “figure out YouTube,” but here’s a quick way to get people to watch your content: Just pay a YouTuber to talk about it. That’s what The Chernin Group did for its recent social-media/reality series, “@SummerBreak.”
First, a little bit about the show: “@SummerBreak” was not your regular web series. The show, which followed the lives of nine LA-based teenagers in the weeks before heading off to college, lived exclusively on social media platforms like Twitter, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr. The program would follow these individuals’ day-to-day lives in real-time across their social media accounts. In terms of video, The Chernin Group had a professional crew on stand-by, which would shoot quick segments about whatever had transpired, and typically turn it around in a day or two for fans to watch on YouTube. On the weekends, the producers would repackage these clips into longer, more detailed episodes spanning 10–12 minutes.
So how did it do? According to Billy Parks, EVP of digital production and programming at The Chernin Group and co-creator of “@SummerBreak”, show clips generated over 15 million views across all platforms.
Parks was speaking at Realscreen’s BCon Expo in NY, and cited one big reason for why the show was able to pull in viewership.
“I would never run a content program on YouTube without tapping into its influencer community,” said Parks in his presentation. He specifically pointed to a video created by Grace Helbig as part of her “Daily Grace” show in which she talks about “@SummerBreak.” “We told her about the show, and told her to broadcast it to her audience,” he said.
As Parks quickly learned (and as brands continue to learn to this day), most YouTubers aren’t simply going to promote your content or brand because you’re paying them to. They are very protective of the relationship they have with their fans. Helbig’s video is several minutes of her trashing the “stars” of the show, but in a way that you see smart people trash reality TV. To her, “@SummerBreak” was a guilty pleasure.
Initially, Parks said he was hesitant to call attention to the clip. “But then I watched it over and over again, and realized enabling [Grace] to talk about it in her own voice” was going to help more than any sort of paid, promotional post.
And it certainly helped. According to Parks, Helbig drove an additional 500,000 views in less than two days — “almost twice our daily average.” “She brought in an older, snarky audience who loved to hate the show,” he added.
Over the course of the first season, Parks said his team used 11 “influencers.”
“YouTube was an amazing firehose of traffic,” he said. “I wouldn’t run a content program without it.”