Over 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute to YouTube, and it should be no surprise that the video giant is a major source of emerging culture, both online and in the real world.

To explore and explain the interplay between YouTube and culture in general, YouTube held a session at its Mountain View HQ a few months ago, which I was fortunate enough to attend as part of the AUNZ YouTube All Stars.

Titled “Culture and Trends, and YouTube’s relevance in Culture” and hosted by Ernest Pettie, a video trends analyst for the platform, the session identified three key trends: the rise of traditional celebrities across the platform and the redefining of celebritydom by new media stars, the increasing popularity of live streaming cultural moments, and how niches are becoming the new mainstream.

For many brands, the prospect of advertising on YouTube, let alone working out how to capitalise on these cultural shifts, is quite difficult.

So how do brands make themselves relevant to YouTube and harness the cultural impact it’s having?

To answer this question, the trends outlined by Mr. Pettie are a great place to start.

1. Celebrity has been redefined

Fresh Prince and Hollywood leading man Will Smith joined the platform in Dec 2017, and quickly amassed 4.7M subscribers. His channel is a sort of reality TV show involving his family (who all have their own channels) and almost acts as a way for Will to remain culturally relevant to a new generation. He launched his YT career through a video with new media star Lilly Singh (IISuperWomanII) who was recently announced as the new replacement for Carson Daly on NBC’s late-night show, Last Call.

Brands should think about their audience and format – do traditional celebrity endorsements appeal, or should you be harnessing the power of new media stars?

In the past, Emirates paid for celebrities like Jennifer Aniston to appear in ads to promote their new first class suites. As a trial, they upgraded Casey Neistat (a YouTuber with 11 million subscribers) to first class on a trip from Dubai to NYC; he subsequently vlogged the whole experience, and his video amassed over 64 million views.

Other brands are using popular video formats such as tutorials with traditional celebrities as the star to promote products, like Rihanna’s Fenty make up tutorial video for example.

2. Do it live

The Space-X Falcon Test Launch was the most viewed live-stream event of 2018. The Space-X YT channel does a great job at keeping users involved at every stage of the journey. One of its most popular videos is a compilation of landing fails.

Use live video to appeal to brand audiences. 80% of people would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video compared to social posts (Survey, 2017).

Rather than writing a blog on site or a social post, Nintendo now launches new games via live-streaming events and also holds live-streamed gaming tournaments.

Major fashion brands have also been quick to adopt live-streaming as an opportunity to promote important brand moments such as new seasonal launches.

One such brand is Carolina Herrera, which has been live-streaming its seasonal launches for over three years. “If you don’t livestream your show, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity that your competitors are going to pick up on,” the label’s Digital Manager said.

3. Niche is the new mainstream

“Study With Me” videos are essentially just videos of someone else studying alone that can be put on in the background while you’re studying. There are videos from all over the world in both pre-recorded and live-stream format.

Brands should ensure they are exploring their niche. YouTube is continuing to prove that there is an audience for everything; brands that perhaps would have been considered boring in the past could now capitalise on niche trends.

For example, cleaning brand Lysol created a cleaning series starring mommy bloggers to capitalise on the niche trend of “Clean With Me” videos, by providing bloggers with their cleaning products and asking them to film themselves cleaning. The series was a runaway success.

YouTube plays a significant role in people’s lives, and this trend is only going to continue growing. Brands are already saturating the platform’s advertising placements, but few have made the leap into content creation of their own.

To keep pace with the trends shaping YouTube and the culture around it, brands should focus on harnessing the unique features of this microcosm – and a great way to start would be to look at YT celebrities, livestreaming, and owning their niche.

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Isobel Taylor

Isobel Taylor is a Digital Director at iProspect Melbourne. With 8 years' digital performance experience, Isobel enjoys forming detailed paid media strategies across her current Education and Energy clients. Her favourite activities include search account audits, bid strategies and talking about retention. She recently attended the YouTube Allstars Summit in Mountain View California.