VidCon 2018: What I Learned From My First VidCon Experience

Manatt Digital

By Farnaz Zanjani, Digital Strategy Assistant, Manatt Digital

Last month, I attended VidCon, a conference focused on online video for industry executives, creators and fans alike. I headed to VidCon to check out the latest trends and next big things in digital video. This year’s VidCon had the highest number of attendees to date, bringing in over 20,000 people, including executives from all the major social platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. As someone who’s been a consumer of this content for years, I was excited to attend VidCon to learn more about the digital video landscape from an industry and overall marketplace perspective. Here are some of the key takeaways I learned while attending VidCon:

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1. Trust and authenticity make influencer marketing successful.

As more and more brands turn to influencer marketing, it’s easy for creators to get lost in contracts that script their content. While creating sponsored content is essential for creators to earn an income these days, it’s important that creators practice transparency and disclosure with their audiences. Influencers have built their networks of followers by earning and keeping their trust, primarily on the basis that they’re “regular people” with similar interests and passions as their audiences. In order to continue to grow their following while getting paid to do what they love, it only makes sense that their content should continue to maintain that level of trust and authenticity.

Brands also benefit from authentic and trustworthy influencers, as successful influencer marketing can be an effective way to create brand loyalty. Digital analyst Brian Solis took the stage at VidCon to discuss the latest trend in influencer marketing—a trend he refers to as Influencer 2.0. This is the idea that influencer marketing has surpassed a level of simply creating brand awareness and is now a method to create and maintain brand loyalty. Solis explained that consumers are looking for content to help them make decisions. “When you search ‘best toothbrush for me,’ you could likely find content from your favorite influencer or brand to help you make that decision,” he stated during his panel. During this process, consumers are finding content to help them make decisions, and influencers are helping them on that customer journey while building relationships along the way. When brands and influencers work together to deliver true value to people, consumers express their thanks in purchases and loyalty.

2. Quality > quantity when it comes to followers and engagement.

Successful influencer marketing campaigns aren’t always about reaching the largest volume of consumers. Instead, brands should look to influencers with the most engaged communities. Microinfluencers can sometimes be more effective than celebrities or macroinfluencers because they’re more personally invested in their accounts, content and followers. Microinfluencers are naturally building their communities through trust and authenticity, which is why their followers are more likely to trust their opinions and recommendations over those of celebrities and macroinfluencers.

According to Kyla Brennan, founder and CEO of HelloSociety, “When it comes to celebrity accounts, who have maybe millions of followers, nobody actually believes that a celebrity is a real fan of a product they’re trying to sell.” Celebrities and macroinfluencers can still be effective in creating brand awareness, but brands should look to invest in smaller influencers with more engaged, niche demographics to truly cultivate a loyal customer base.

Award-winning digital content marketing and social media expert Cassie Roma also discussed the power of different-sized audiences during her workshop on influencer marketing at VidCon. She explained that folks who are influential will help you build community, regardless of the size of their audience. The key is to understand the power of the big reach, medium reach and small reach.

3. Brands are still figuring out how to work with influencers.

As brands start spending more on influencer marketing and potentially less on high-profile celebrity endorsements, brands are also learning to adjust how they build and manage their relationships with influencers. Working with influencers shouldn’t be a transactional process in the way that a celebrity endorsement is—influencers are people, not ad campaigns, and brands are beginning to recognize them as such.

At VidCon, influencers Kandee Johnson, Stacyplays and Andreaschoice spoke to industry executives about exactly what they look for in brands and what they want brands to know about working with influencers. Johnson spoke about a marketing campaign she did with Gwen Stefani—she told the audience that when Stefani reached out to her, she thought, “Please, I’ll pay you to work with me.” Influencers should be excited to work with a brand in order to truly invest in the content and the brand. With that same token, brands should give influencers creative freedom in the content-creation process, without 20-page briefs dictating the nature of the content. Too much interference would break the unwritten trust and authenticity clause between the influencer and the consumer, which would ultimately result in a lack of conversions and loyalty for the brand. It’s easy for consumers of influencer content to tell when influencers are saying something they’ve been told to say about a product, rather than when they genuinely use and enjoy that product. Brands can be perceived as deceptive, too. To avoid generating that reaction from consumers, brands can provide influencers with general guidelines instead of dictating the nature of their content.

Brands should send influencers insights to give them the freedom to be themselves and be creative in the process. Not only will influencers work harder and better for brands that allow them to create in the way they want, but brands will see a greater ROI on their influencer marketing strategies.

4. Social platforms are diving into long-form video.

With Facebook Watch, IGTV and Snapchat’s Discover, it’s safe to say that the social platforms are diving into longer-form video content. At VidCon, Facebook announced that video on its platform will become more engaging in years to come by the company’s release of tools for the creation of interactive video. The goal is not only to create content that requires more audience participation, but also to help creators manage their presence, grow and engage their communities, and support their businesses on the platform.

Snapchat previewed its new series, Endless Summer, the first docuseries to air on Snapchat. The show follows the life of Summer Mckeen, YouTube star and social media personality, whose YouTube channel boasts over 1.4 million subscribers. Endless Summer will kick off the start of Snapchat’s docuseries genre with a whole slate of original content on the way; the company also announced its latest effort in embracing the creator community, creator Patrick Starr’s new Snapchat series. Starr began his career on Snapchat, grew his audience, created a 3D bitmoji and is now creating his own show on the app.

Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, took the stage to discuss IGTV and the overall approach behind the platform’s move to long-form video. While Instagram knew that Instagram Stories was working well, the company felt it was limiting the type of content creators were able to make by capping them at 15 seconds per video. It realized there was an opportunity for full-length vertical video and, ultimately, a way to provide creators with a new channel of creativity. Since this feature is completely new to the platform, it’ll be interesting to see how creators use it differently than YouTube, or if it will lessen creators’ use of YouTube to publish content entirely.

For questions on this article, please reach out to Manatt Digital’s managing director, Eunice Shin.

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