The Ultimate Guide to YouTube Influencers & Video Categories

GRIN also recommends this Quick Guide: Influencer Types: Which is best for your brand?

The ultimate guide to YouTube influencers & video categories grin influencer marketing

YouTube stands the test of time as one of the leading social media channels for influencer marketing. Many brands were running influencer campaigns on YouTube long before the creator economy became a formally established industry.

But just like the world of social commerce, the world of YouTube creators has morphed and grown in many ways. While classic video formats like product reviews and tutorials are still popular, the channel has expanded dramatically to include short-form videos, live streams, and so much more.

Influencer marketing on YouTube: A quick overview

“YouTube acts as the world’s second-largest search engine. It is also the second most visited site.” – Influencer Marketing Hub, 2021

YouTube is the world’s leading video social channel. It primarily offers long-form, horizontally-formatted videos. The platform is so popular, in fact, that it is one of the leading services behind the “cut-the-cord” movement and is responsible for major drops in TV viewership over the last 5-10 years.

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Image via eMarketer

YouTube influencers are arguably the most talented multi-media creators on social media. Unlike Instagram and TikTok, Youtubers are more proficient with video shooting and editing because there are very few video editing features within the app.

But YouTube is more than just a place to watch engaging videos for free. The channel’s subscribing and comment features allow creators and fans to build deeper connections with one another. These creator-follower relationships help YouTubers curate online communities and inspire ecommerce purchases.

“[Building direct brand-influencer relationships] results in authentic content and deeper trust with the consumer. Each relationship strengthens the overall influencer marketing program, creating a dynamic asset inside the organization and a rich network of authentic content creators to be used across the marketing mix.” – GRIN, Authentic Influencer Marketing

Full list of YouTube influencer types & categories

#1 – Vlogging

YouTube vloggers are a modern-day video diary. For those with a desire to blog but without the motivation or skills to write, vlogging provides endearing, visual content to tell a story about one’s life.

Many vloggers are lifestyle gurus or industry experts. Their unique, behind-the-scenes look inspires fans to make specific decisions, including what to buy or how to solve a particular problem.

Where does vlogging fit into your influencer marketing funnel?

While vlogs can drive sales, most of these videos drive brand awareness or inform audiences about a solution, product, or service.

Authentic YouTube vlogging campaigns require creators to work their product endorsements organically into their content. A disingenuous brand mention will quickly alienate viewers. As such, any endorsements should support the overall vlog message naturally rather than be the primary focus

#2 – Gaming

While YouTube influencer marketing is bigger than video games, gaming still remains one of the most popular types of YouTube content today. Gamers can easily live stream their play and reactions on the platform, as well as upload their live streams as standalone long-form content for fans to view at any time.

Where do gaming videos fit into your influencer marketing funnel?

Because of the “hands on” experience of gaming videos, these gamers can raise brand awareness, inform audiences on how to improve their gaming skills (or upgrade their equipment), and drive video game or app sales online.

The gaming brands with the most influencer marketing success actively engage fans in the comments of their creator videos.

#3 – Comedy & musical parodies

Viewers today gladly spend hours entertaining themselves with hilarious videos by talented comedians and musicians. Some creators, like the Holderness Family (above), begin by uploading pop song parodies, funny skits, etc. for fun. But many YouTubers are also actors trying to create engaged audiences online.

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Image via Think with Google

Where do musical parody videos fit into your influencer marketing funnel?

In most cases, YouTube comedy videos are great at building brand awareness. Similar to the classic hilarious Super Bowl commercial, humor can endear consumers to your brand, drive website traffic, and more.

#4 – Full tutorials

YouTube tutorials are among the best ways to engage audiences who want to learn new things or upgrade their skills. 

The selection of tutorial videos online spans everything from professional instruction to hobby hacks and DIY help. These creators typically serve niche audiences and demonstrate a high proficiency within their field or industry.

Where do tutorial videos fit into your influencer marketing funnel?

Depending on the tutorial, these videos primarily inform or nurture audiences in the middle of the marketing funnel. In some cases, YouTube creators can use a tutorial to help your brand drive sales.

#5 – Quick “how to” and FAQ videos

Similar to the tutorial video style, quick “how to” and FAQ videos address common questions or problems that audiences face. Creators in this category use these videos to supplement their primary content and engage fan feedback on specific topics and questions.

Where does vlogging fit into your influencer marketing funnel?

Many brands use creator FAQ videos to inform their audiences before and after their purchase. These videos can also raise brand awareness within specific audience segments.

#6 – Product unboxing and reviews

Outside of gaming and vlogging, YouTube product reviews are among the most popular videos to watch on YouTube. 

Product unboxing videos are especially favored among kids (toys) and collectors. But there are videos for nearly any kind of product or service that you could imagine, including electronics, software, kitchen utensils, outdoor products, and more.

Where do product review videos fit into your influencer marketing funnel?

Product unboxing and review YouTube videos are fantastic ways to drive sales. Creators can reach audiences “on the fence” about a particular product and with a well-done review, can guide audiences on their next purchase.

#7 – Short-form, vertical videos (YouTube Shorts)

As of July 2021, YouTube Shorts are brand new to the United States. Google performed beta tests in Asia earlier this year, but North American users have only recently gained access. 

Because this video category is so new, it’s not yet clear how creators plan to use it. That said, YouTube Shorts do support vertically-formatted videos and work much the same way as TikTok videos.

#8 – YouTube Live

YouTube allows users with at least 1,000 followers to create up to 12 hours of live streaming content. Creators can live stream video game play or host events.

Many creators also publish their live streams once the event is over for fans that weren’t able to join the live event.

Where do YouTube Live streams fit into your influencer marketing funnel?

Similar to how brands might use Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok Live, you can use YouTube live streaming in conjunction with an experiential marketing campaign.

Your creator can host or join the event and demonstrate use cases, announce a contest, release a new product line, and so much more. These live events work great for audience nurturing, driving sales, or building brand communities of loyal customers.

#9 – Classic ads

An often overlooked YouTube video category is the classic ad. Countless brands are taking the opportunity to post their ads on YouTube for the organic, viral reach. This approach is far more affordable than TV advertising, and brands can decide later on if they want to sponsor their ad through Google or simply keep it on their homepage to increase followers.

Additionally, your creative team can partner with influencers to make these ads more compelling. Not only will these influencers bring an incredible amount of YouTube talent, but they will also bring their own engaged audiences to your YouTube channel.

Where do YouTube video ads fit into your influencer marketing funnel?

It’s not necessary for brands to pay to promote their video ads on YouTube. If your creative team knows how to create great video content, you can publish your commercial as a stand alone video to drive organic traffic.

From this vantage point, you can use this video style for every stage of your marketing funnel. If you plan to partner with a creator to build your ad, make sure to establish your goals and let that creator know so that they can help you make your ad as effective as possible.

Creator trends on YouTube to keep in mind in 2021

1. Experts predict increased creator cross-over among Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

“With each major social platform (save Twitter) now boasting their own short-form video features, it’s becoming clear that straight-up TikTok clones won’t cut it. Though the features themselves may look the same, each plays a different role in their respective platform’s longer-term strategy—and marketers should pay close attention.” – eMarketer: Insider Intelligence, 2021 

The rise of vertically-formatted, short-form videos has been a digital marketing phenomena since the outbreak of COVID-19. It signals the dominance of smartphones as the chief medium for consuming online content.

As such, many video creators are looking for ways to integrate and differentiate their personal brands on each of these channels. For some, that means expanding their reach onto another platform. But for others, it means refining their personal brand on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube to take advantage of the unique benefits of each.

2. Repurposed creator ad content on YouTube is shifting budgets away from traditional TV advertising.

digital channels that will benefit from ad dollars shifting away from tv grin influencer marketing youtube
Image via eMarketer

YouTube isn’t just a social media platform, it is also a popular streaming service with over 3 million paying viewers (as of 2020). Between free viewers and YouTube TV subscribers, brands have access to countless audience segments with which to target their video ads.

That means that reusing high-performing influencer content for paid ads opens up more opportunities to expand your reach.

3. Twitch and YouTube continue to challenge each other on long-form video content.

Twitch used to be the dominant social platform for live streaming, but that could soon change since YouTube Live is gaining momentum.

Twitch is still a growing medium with nearly 45 million active users in the U.S. (compared to YouTube’s 126 million). And as such, many creators are looking for ways to reach audiences on both channels. 

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But Twitch and YouTube don’t just live stream, they also store long-form videos for fans (which is where YouTube has a distinct advantage). These two channels – while unique in their own way – provide easy cross-platform promotion for creators and brands.

4. YouTube creators are leveraging search engine optimization to increase online visibility.

While operating on the leading search engine for video and audio, many YouTubers are becoming accomplished SEO experts. To improve their discoverability, they are learning to include SEO best practices into their video titles, descriptions, tags, and hashtags.

If rumors are true that some social channels plan to index post content on Google, these SEO skills could come in handy.

5. A creator’s reach is in their video views, but the “money metrics” lie in the comments.

One of the greatest benefits of YouTube creators is gaining access to their online communities. These influencers carry on robust discussions with their fans in their video comments, including tips for product purchases and best practices.

As brands develop closer relationships with their best YouTubers, marketers are actively engaging fans within creator comments. These YouTube conversations add a whole new dimension to YouTube influencer marketing campaigns.

How to know which YouTuber is right for your brand

Not every great YouTuber is going to help you achieve your goals. But a little bit of due diligence can help you pinpoint that perfect fit.

What do you want your creators to accomplish?

Depending on the creator and video category, some will be better than others at helping you reach certain marketing goals. For example, product reviews are usually best for driving sales, while vloggers are better for raising brand awareness.

Who is your audience?

Your influencers should represent your ideal customer. When recruiting YouTube influencers, it’s always a good idea to read comment threads under that influencer’s top posts. These conversations will show you the kind of fans that that creator has and how well they align with your target audience.

How will you track campaign performance on YouTube?

Because YouTube allows you to include links in video descriptions, affiliate links and UTMs are great ways to attribute sales and web traffic to your influencers.

You can also assign engagement metrics to your marketing KPIs, such as views, likes, comments, and subscribers.

After deciding how you will track campaign performance, you can use many of those same metrics to help you find the right YouTubers for your upcoming campaigns.

Which YouTube influencer type, voice, & style will best help you achieve success?

The final thing to consider when recruiting YouTube influencers is how their style and personality match your brand. You want your creator team to embody the spirit of your brand without them having to compromise their natural voice and tone.

Conclusion: YouTube influencers can help you target engaged, niche audiences online using compelling visual content.

Second only to Facebook, YouTube is the oldest social media platform in existence. And despite its age, it remains one of the most popular channels for audiences of all ages.

Similarly, YouTubers possess video shooting and editing skills that many creators lack. For these reasons, YouTube influencer marketing is a great way to engage audiences online with professional-quality video content.

To make the most of your YouTube influencer campaigns, it’s critical that you know the difference between different creator types. When used properly, each video category on YouTube can help you achieve and exceed your influencer marketing goals.

Recruiting top-performing YouTubers has never been easier. Use GRIN today to find your brand champions.

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