For online video creators, social media is no minor part of marketing. In a space where fan relationships fostered by various social media channels can make or break viewership, creators large and small have to find time for social.
Take, for instance, YouTube music/comedy duo Rhett & Link, who go as far as to say social media “feeds into everything we do.” Or consider Felicia Day’s digital production company Geek & Sundry, whose head of marketing, Kathleen Barth, says social media “has made a huge difference in how we’re perceived as a company and our overall visibility.”
To successfully run an independent, consumer-facing digital company, which needs to handle everything from producing original content and branded entertainment to audience development, social media is vital.
One reason is because social is indispensable to driving viewers to a video. “It is the number-one way we can spread our message directly about our upcoming shows and events to our fans,” says Barth. “The root of our success is that we create YouTube videos that people like,” adds Rhett McLaughlin, “but many people have proven that any social media platform can be your primary way of growing an audience.”
But social media’s value also goes beyond simply being a vehicle for generating viewership — it allows the talent to directly connect with their biggest fans. “The most valuable communication over social media is a two-way street,” says Barth, “where our fans feel free to tell us their feelings about our shows, talent, etc. and we amplify their enthusiasm.”
That said, there are a few strategies to “do social media right.”
“Facebook is a platform that’s less timely but reaches more people per post, so we try to minimize how many times a day we post there,” says Barth. “Twitter is very timely and can be posted to often — it’s also where we respond to fans the most, because it’s simple and direct. Tumblr is useful for graphic heavy posts and GIFs.”
“We’ve found that none of the platforms are great at driving viewership to YouTube videos if we’re not doing other engaging content there,” says McLaughlin. One example that he points to are Rhett & Link’s “Facebook exclusive videos.” By offering content that’s only meant for the fans who follow them on Facebook, the duo have been able to build a highly engaged following that’s now sharing more of their YouTube videos on the social network. “Our social media presence has grown significantly in every place where we’ve rolled out these platform-specific strategies,” McLaughlin explains.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it is. As any YouTube creator would tell you, creating videos while also
consistently interacting with fans on the site is a full-time gig all by itself. But when marketing and engagement via other social channels is equally important, sometimes additional help is required.
“Because sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr are each unique platforms with distinctly different ways of engaging with fans, the time required to effectively use them can easily be a full-time job,” says McLaughlin. “For us, that meant needing someone other than us personally to develop and execute strategies that are specific to each platform.”
So the duo hired Jen Matichuk last year, a “recent college grad” with a “great sense of how to use social media.” For Rhett & Link, Matichuk is responsible for strategizing and implementing “fun and interesting content” on all of their social channels. “We have the Facebook exclusive videos, Twitter stories where our fans tell a communal story through tweets, and special days on Instagram like MiniatureHorseMonday and WaffleWednesday,” says McLaughlin. “These are things that simply wouldn’t happen if Jen wasn’t devoting her attention and talents to them.”
For Geek & Sundry, Sarah Rodriguez fills this role. Social media is her full-time job, and “for a good reason, because it’s a lot of work,” according to Barth. “It’s hard to understand why social media, something most people do for fun every day, needs a dedicated professional to handle it,” she says, “but for brands it’s a very different game that requires a lot of strategic thinking.”
The point being, if you’re a content creator on the web, you’re also a brand. Video might be central to building a content brand, but social media is what solidifies it.