Although the biggest YouTube star in the world raked in more than 800 million views on the site – and over $1 million in related earnings – during the month of April alone, you’ve probably never heard of him.

But your toddler has.

The undisputed king of online video is Ryan, a seven-year-old boy whose parents launched the YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview when he was just three. In every ‘unboxing’ video, Ryan opens toys from their packaging and plays with them for a few minutes. His YouTube channel was the second most watched in the world last month, outranked only by the channel for India’s largest movie and music studio, T-Series.

While Ryan is incredibly well known online (one of his videos has 677 million views and counting), no one knows much about him. His parents will not disclose their last name, and go to extreme lengths to guard their privacy.

This video on the Ryan ToysReview YouTube channel carries an on-screen disclosure that it is sponsored by Walmart. (Image: YouTube)

Despite that, enterprising brands and advertisers have clearly found a way to contact Ryan’s mom and dad. Companies like Walmart are now sponsoring an increasing number of Ryan’s videos, eager to promote their toys, games and other products on his YouTube channel.

“The growth of sponsored video has been very dramatic,” said Allison Stern, co-founder and CMO of Tubular Labs, a San Francisco Bay-area firm that tracks analytics from over 2.5 billion videos across various devices and more than 30 platforms.

Sponsored video content now generates more than 40 billion online views per month worldwide, said Stern, one of the presenters at the InfluenceThis conference in Toronto on Wednesday.

Crafting a video marketing plan for your brand, however, requires more than pairing up with influencers like Ryan or generating a million views, Stern said.

“It’s not just about people making videos, it’s about driving consumers to action. It’s not just about measurement, it’s about influencing (consumer) behaviour,” said Stern, who worked at YouTube in sales, marketing and business development before launching Tubular Labs.

Courtesy of Stern, here are the tips and trends you need to know if you want to use online video in a ‘sticky’ yet strategic way for your business.

Let creators call the shots

Should your company create its own video content – and thus have total control over every aspect of it – or partner with an established ‘creator’ who already has a massive following? It depends on many factors, such as your company’s product offerings and target market. One powerful stat to keep in mind, though: content made by creators like Ryan has 10 times the engagement level as videos made by other types of distributors such as advertisers, Stern noted.

Allison Stern of Tubular Labs.

So if your company decides to sponsor content made by an established influencer, Stern has some advice: keep it real. Let the influencer/creator dictate the style of the video so that it’s consistent with the look, feel and tone their fans love. If you try to change the influencer or their video to suit your brand’s needs, viewers will turn away, she warned.

On the other hand, Stern said many brands like Red Bull are opting to launch their own entire video channels, “creating not just callouts to (their) product but co-producing content entertainment … and becoming media studios themselves.”

Program for each platform

Don’t make one-size-fits all videos. Know which video platform attracts certain kinds of viewers and tailor your content and messaging to that specific audience niche. Stern said YouTube is the place to be for kids’ content and music, Facebook is the best milieu for food and news, and Instagram is known for sports and celebrity stuff.

Spend on promotion, not production

Stern recounted how a global, multi-billion dollar cosmetics brand spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a slick video with professional models to promote its hair styling products. It got only 3,000 views. But a homemade DIY video of a girl using a toothbrush to style her hair in her own bathroom drew 2.7 million views.

The lesson, said Stern, is to throw resources into promoting your videos rather than making them. With over 50 million videos uploaded to the Internet every month, “it’s very hard to get found and hard to stand out in that mix,” she said.

If you promote your videos well enough, they stand a better chance of getting traction in the enormous online video pool.

Find your trend

Finding a specific trend that video viewers are already going bonkers for is easier than trying to manufacture your own buzzworthy trend from scratch.

According to Stern, Mattel noticed that owners of its American Girl dolls were creating their own stop motion video vignettes featuring the dolls, then posting them online where they attracted tens of thousands of views. To tap into that existing online audience, the toymaker launched its own series of stop motion videos to fuel the trend even further.

“This content was three times more engaging than the regular (Mattel) video content,” Stern said.

Go evergreen, not viral

Don’t create a video or campaign that’s a one-hit wonder. Stern said content that grows a loyal, long-term audience is better than one flash-in-the-pan viral video that drops off the radar as quickly as it hit the Internet.

“It’s about creating that sustained audience and really creating that consistent programmed schedule as opposed to dropping that one-off video.”

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