Left to right: Bob Jennings, David Jones, Matt Martin, Nadine Sykora, and panel moderator Shira Lazar.  (Image: Buffer Festival Industry Day).
Left to right: Bob Jennings, David Jones, Matt Martin, Nadine Sykora, and panel moderator Shira Lazar. (Image: Buffer Festival Industry Day).

Published: October 16th, 2014

When YouTube exploded onto the Internet in 2005, most people couldn’t have predicted it’d be as ubiquitous a social platform as it is now.

But at this year’s Buffer Festival Industry Day, held earlier today in Toronto by the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab, it seemed like a lot of content creators have made their mark due to both their creativity and to YouTube, which brought their work to online audiences. Now, however, it may be worth turning to other platforms to try to reach more people and to build bigger, stronger communities, according to a panel.

Its speakers touched on how brands and marketers can get the most out of other social platforms, beyond just YouTube. Here’s a quick roundup of some of their thoughts.

 

1. When you first start sharing content, be patient – growth may not happen overnight.

When Bob Jennings first began working on Annoying Orange, a web comedy series featuring an orange with a humanoid face and a roster of off-beat jokes, he knew it would be hard to get Hollywood executives interested in the project. But when he and his team put up their first video on YouTube in 2009, it was a revelation, he said.

“We didn’t get paid in the beginning. It wasn’t because we were trying to create a subscriber base, that wasn’t our strategy. It was, I like making content,” he said. “It was like, I have an audience, holy crap.”

Today, the first Annoying Orange video has more than 156 million views, and that’s since morphed into a whole YouTube channel with almost four million subscribers. But it took time to keep developing content and to keep people coming back.

A big part of developing an audience is accepting that at first, you may not see any big returns, said David Jones, principal and creative strategist at Social Lab Inc.

“It’s one of those things that with a lot of brands, they want to see that number. I’ve always said the worst thing that happened in social media is they put the numbers on the front, not on the back, so every brand can compare itself to another brand and say, how come they got 5,000 views and we got 500?” he said.

“So there’s been all these sorts of ways to goose your views … But it takes away from the real importance, which is building that community, build fans, build brands. This whole idea of engaging people over time and adding that cumulative effect – no one has a lot of patience for that.”

 

2. Be platform agnostic.

While it might be tempting to stay within the comfort zone of the platform you know best, you should avoid relying on just one platform to draw in viewers or followers.

For Nadine Sykora, creator of YouTube travel channel Hey Nadine, one of the other benefits to this approach is being able to tap into your creative side.

“If you’re a creative person, there’s nothing better than to try everything you can. Because you don’t know what you’re going to like, and you don’t know what’s going to work for you until you try it. Then you’ll find out, and you’ll find if it creatively speaks to you,” she said. “Because being excited about a new platform, that’s going to make all the world of difference.”

While it is definitely a lot of work to create content for multiple platforms, her approach has been to create a travel video, but then write a blog post featuring travel tips, rather than rehashing the same information from the video. Then for visually rich platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, she’s taken photos for them in real time. Those are less about information and more about inspiring people to travel with beautiful imagery, she says.

 

3. That being said, for some brands, it may be better to figure out where you should be concentrating your efforts.

While experimentation is always going to be part of creating good content, one of the worst things a brand can do is start an account on a platform and then leave it high and dry, Jones said.

That’s one reason why Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC’s digital content team isn’t present on Pinterest, even though that’d be a great fit for diehard Star Wars fans, added Matt Martin, the company’s manager of digital content and community relations. As great as it would be to feature Star Wars clothing, recipes, and so on, that just involves more work than his team can currently handle, he said.

“We’re not even on Snapchat or Pinterest yet, and it really comes down to, we try to treat each of our channels differently, and we only have so much bandwidth for our team. And if we can’t put the right content that’s good and fits that specific channel, it’s probably better for us just not to be on it,” he said.

“[Pinterest] would be killer. That’s the number one on my list … Once it gets to a point where we just can’t avoid it anymore, then I’ll have to start pushing to try to get somebody to come in and help.”

He added that’s one reason Lucasfilm is pretty quiet on Vine, because it’s a very unique platform. When his team does release Vine content, it usually comes from a freelancer.

If brands are looking to choose the next new platform, Jennings said he would still advise them to be on new platforms as soon as they hear about them, because that’s a great way to get featured as some of the top brands and to grow audiences as the platform takes off.

On the other hand, it’s worth being choosy, Jones said.

“My litmus test has always been, how developed is the ecosystem? Does it connect well with others?” he said, pointing to how a brand using Twitter may also use Vine, as pairing them makes sense. He added he also looks for a paid layer, ensuring his brand will be able to amplify its content.

 

4. Be passionate about the work you’re doing – if you’re not, it’ll definitely show.

While it may sound cliché to tell people to be passionate about their work, it’s still worth keeping in mind. Ultimately, audiences can tell when content is half-hearted, Sykora said.

“If you’re sticking with a platform because you think it’s going to be big, but you’re not fully in it, then you’re wasting your time,” she said.

“I started YouTube not because I thought it was going to blow up and all that stuff, but I loved the platform … I think you have to take that mentality and put that toward all of the different social networks. You have to really like how the content that you’re creating comes out, and how it’s presented, and really enjoy doing it.”

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