Long form video content on YouTube is evolving. As influence marketers, here’s what you need to know
In the war that pits short form vs long form video content, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat have all introduced various options to entice the best content creators to make and upload short video content to their platforms.
But this only tells half the story of video content on social media. Bubbling away in the background, the world’s best content creators — often in partnership with brands —are investing heavily in making high quality, long form video content for YouTube.
Why? The answer is in the stats. As of January 2023, YouTube ranks first ahead of TikTok as the top video entertainment app by global number of active users and by total time spent in the app.
And with 2.514bn global active users, YouTube is the world’s second most used social platform after Facebook, ahead of Instagram in fourth place with 2bn users, and TikTok in sixth place with 1.051bn users.
- YouTube is the world’s top video entertainment app
- Top content creators are increasingly investing in making high quality, long form video content
- More time spent making and watching content, and its durability over the long term are YouTube’s calling cards
- Young generations watch YouTube videos the way previous generations watched TV
Top content creators betting on long format video
In 2023, long form influencer videos on YouTube stand out for their high production value. If one didn’t know better, one would think YouTube’s top content creators were locked in competition to see who can spend the most money to produce the most outlandish video.
But there’s more to it than that. The desire of top YouTubers to create elaborate long form video content stems from a willingness to evolve as creators and to push the boundaries in the quest to reward loyal audiences.
“Content creators are on a trend of trying to get their audience back. There is a certain freedom from the platforms and methods of communicating or broadcasting, versus finding the most original and engaging format,” comments founder of heavy metal music video streaming platform The Pit, Jean Vilgrain.
Some experts believe short video fatigue will drive audiences back to more qualitative formats. Vilgrain agrees. He argues that the drive to develop snackable, short form content over the past decade is slowing as recognition of the format’s limits grows.
“[Short video led to] a race for ‘content’ that perhaps lacked a bit of depth or transversality in its quest for absolute digital performance. GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Mirosoft) understood that as well and tweaked the algorithm a bit to favor long formats,” Vilgrain comments.
“Short formats are good for a certain type of message, but if you want to develop an idea, an editorial angle, a positioning, you need the time to do it.”
Emotional connections power effective influencer marketing on YouTube
Time, in fact, is YouTube’s superpower.
While the world’s top content creators are all present on multiple platforms, the best and most enduring have almost all started out as YouTubers. The platform offered them the time and space to gradually build their cultural clout and fan loyalty in a way others don’t.
Audiences, meanwhile, invest a lot of watch time on their favorite YouTube channels, getting to know the creators on a more intimate level.
“Influencers on YouTube have an emotional attachment which is seven times higher than on any other platform,” comments Fo-llow Agency director of influence casting Alexandre Saillard. “With long format, vlogs, we’re initiated into the life of the person we’re following, compared to TikToks which might be 15 or 30 seconds long but don’t give us the time to become immersed, to get to know the person by heart.”
The point about time on YouTube is two-fold. Thanks to YouTube’s clout as a search engine, well-made, educational and useful videos can resurface months, if not years after posting. This contrasts to other platforms where content tends to disappear into the algorithm shortly after posting.
“Ten years ago, YouTubers would just put themselves in front of their webcam but that is pretty much finished, or at least a lot less,” comments detachable roller skates brand Flaneurz communication officer Tracy Pakoua.
“Now it is a real production. These videos are going to last, tutorials which are filmed well, explained well with subtitles, we want them to be good and that takes more time. We can see that these videos grow in the months afterwards, so we trust the influencers and their promo codes also benefit them over the long term.”
Long form video adapts well to YouTube as a search engine
Long form video content that leverages YouTubers remains effective because it allows brands to expand key messages and educate consumers, while capitalizing on audiences’ faith in the content creator.
YouTube’s position as the second largest search engine after Google makes educational content classic bottom-of-the-funnel stuff for brands, often providing the final push consumers need to purchase.
Pakoua says Flaneurz uses long form content on YouTube primarily to drive purchase intentions. The brand’s strategy is to work in affiliation with influencers who are usually paid a flat fee along with their promo code commission.
“Our approach to long videos on YouTube with our influencers is mainly unboxing, videos which are more descriptive and explicative,” comments Pakoua.
“We give them quite a lot of information [about the product]. We don’t want to restrict them, the only thing is that the product should be used correctly [in the video]. After that they say what they really think. It’s their choice. A review video has to be honest.”
YouTube videos might be more expensive to make, but according to Kolsquare data, micro influencers (5,000 to 20,000 followers) on YouTube generate a whopping €3,455.09 average EMV, compared to €451.41 on Instagram and €389.71 on TikTok.
Nearly half the world’s internet users watch video content for educational purposes, meaning that long format content offers brands a massive opportunity to capture consumers who are ready to be engaged.
“When the audience comes to YouTube, they are looking for a long format. So we’re targeting a panel of people who want to and are ready to watch long format, which is not the case on Instagram,” comments Saillard.
Measuring performance of influencer marketing on YouTube
The long-term aspect of content on YouTube throws up the thorny question of measuring results. High quality, long form video content takes more time and significantly more funds to develop than other social media content. Brands investing in this type of influencer content necessarily want to see results.
Saillard notes that while affiliate links and promo codes can be used to measure performance, brands with quick-win conversion objectives would be better served by formats like Instagram Stories.
“[with YouTube] ROI is difficult to measure on a timeframe of A to B, it’s really over the long term,” comments Saillard. “As a general rule, we work with YouTube not necessarily for the conversion, but more for consideration, so that audiences get to know the brand more and come to prefer it over another.”
He says YouTubers will almost always leverage stories, short videos or posts on other platforms to advertise and drive audiences to their latest video on YouTube.
“It’s hyper important to activate influencers on other social networks which are also present on YouTube because it is always those who are the most powerful and who will have the best engagement rates, the best visibility,” comments Saillard.
Pakoua agrees that working with KOLs present on multiple platforms is a strategy that pays. She points to a KOL partner who is in the brand’s top two in terms of affiliate sales who “does not have a great engagement rate on Instagram, but given she is on YouTube and TikTok, it works. She is also regarded as a top reference in roller skates, so there is also the prescriptive side which is something you can’t put a number on”.
TV: the future of video
The increasingly elaborate production value of YouTube long form content also aligns with the evolution of the way audiences are consuming video content.
Increasingly, audiences are watching long form video on smart TVs, projector screens or PCs, devices which offer a more qualitative viewing experience than mobile phones. According to Google, TV is YouTube’s fastest growing screen with viewers watching some 700 million hours of YouTube on television daily.
“We don’t have a lot of data behind it but it’s true that it’s often the concept videos that people like to watch on TV. We can see in the stories posted by the communities, kind of like UGC, that they are watching the content on a TV or a projector,” comments Saillard.
“For certain videos by certain creators, the audience will wait until they are comfortable at home, or on the weekend, to watch videos which are qualitative and sought after.”
It’s a trend that is set to grow as streaming services detach more people from linear TV, and social media platforms like YouTube and Twitch ramp up efforts to obtain broadcast rights to major sporting events.
“Today, YouTube is the TV of 15-20 years ago for young people. They take the time to watch a constructed, longer format content,” comments Madi Stream Agency founder Jérémy Chabrier. “It’s going to continue to evolve in that direction because there are more and more resources going to make bigger productions on YouTube. We will see more YouTubers specializing in longer formats.”
So there you have it. The future of video content is perhaps not as clear cut as TikTok enthusiasts would have us believe. And as usual, influence marketers will need to have their wits about them to manage the complexities of this evolving landscape.