This has been a “cruel summer” (either of the Taylor Swift or Bananarama variety) for almost all forms of media consumption. Sporting events were canceled until recently, and while there is some hope the playoffs for major professional sports will continue, an outbreak could send players back to the bench; movie theaters have largely been shuttered and major TV shows haven’t resumed production.
As a result box office numbers are down and TV ratings have also been considerably lower boosted only by the recent political conventions.
Social media has been the one exception where audiences have grown considerably.
“YouTube subscriber numbers increased by over 20% during lockdown and views increased by over 15%,” explained Jennifer Quigley-Jones, founder of London-based YouTube influencer agency Digital Voices.
“Surprisingly, the pandemic has given a lot of creators, like myself, the opportunity to really hone in on their craft and not be distracted by other aspects of the industry,” said Valeria Lipovetsky, whose has been a popular influencer on social media platforms.
“I have seen such amazing direction being taken by influencers who are using this time to connect with their audience on a deeper level,” Lipovetsky added. “Those who have pivoted to creating content that is relevant and sensitive to the time while still providing value to their audience have blossomed and thankfully we are one of those creators.”
The New YouTubers
With cooler weather approaching, now could be a time for others who have something to say to turn to social media and grow that audience.
“I rank in Google for a number of YouTube-related keywords, including keywords that people search for when they’re just starting out – like ‘how to name your YouTube channel,'” added Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko and the popular Backlinko YouTube channel.
“I’ve seen firsthand that the pandemic led to 50% plus more of these types of searches,” Dean noted. “Which is a sign that more folks are starting a YouTube channel for the first time.”
The longer the pandemic lasts, the longer this will remain true.
Under lockdown, YouTube searches for ‘how to edit videos’ more than doubled, as people with more time on their hands turned to developing new skills,” said Quigley-Jones. “We are going to see far more viewer demand after lockdown and far more aspiring content creators developing their skills and online presence.”
This also applies to the consumption side, suggested Dean.
“People today want an escape; a distraction,” he noted. “And gritty scripted TV doesn’t fit the bill. But there are plenty of channels on YouTube that are perfect for zoning out and forgetting the outside world. Importantly, the YouTube platform makes it easy to quickly find this sort of content thanks to its hyper-personalized recommendation engine.”
One of the notable things on social media platforms including YouTube and Instagram is that the audiences can be what mainstream media might consider extremely niche, but it can still resonate and grow a following quickly.
“Categories like People & Blogs and Gaming continue to see vast increases in viewership, even as we come out of lockdown,” said Quigley-Jones. “These viewing habits are not going to change, which means huge potential for more creators.
Make It Big
Of course not everyone can become the next YouTube or Instagram star, but many like Lipovetsky have used social media as a platform to spread a message, and in turn make it a career in the process.
“At the time when I was starting on YouTube I didn’t realize the potential that it had, for me it was a personal journey to break away from my own limitations,” Lipovetsky explained. “I always knew that I wanted to share information to a larger audience but at the time I wasn’t as immersed into social media to know the extent that I could grow my brand.”
Content can’t be more of the same however, and being relevant while standing out remains crucial. Right now more of the same isn’t going to work. Creators need to think about what is working today and how to change it up for tomorrow.
“Because we work in such a dynamic industry, today’s strategy won’t always be tomorrow’s strategy so I think the most important thing for us is to continue to keep our ears and eyes open to our audience and to not let ourselves get too comfortable,” added Lipovetsky.
“We are always looking for new ways to engage the audience by looking at our metrics but also by leaving space to come up with new content that can revitalize our brand,” she added. “Our strategy is to be in tune with our audience and to keep our brand DNA while evolving with the industry.”