It's time to call it: Pulling the plug on Buyosphere

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It's time to call it: Pulling the plug on Buyosphere

We've been keeping Buyosphere on life support for almost 2 years now. It breaks my heart, but it's time to pull the plug.

We kept hoping that something would happen...someone would come along to save the day: we'd get an upswing in usage (from non-spammers), we'd get someone coming along that would want to buy it, we'd somehow find the way to keep building it. But none of that happened and the hosting bills kept coming in. It hasn't been an easy experience.

In the video, I give a few 'lessons' I learned, but all-in-all, I've come to realize that it wasn't one thing...it was a million things that led to this not turning out the way we wanted it to.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the adventure! I tried to list you in the video. xo

Here's our baby in her hey-day:

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Three Types of Insights That Will Help Shape Your Strategy

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Three Types of Insights That Will Help Shape Your Strategy

Ideas without insights - especially coming from a group of people who usually are very far removed from the audience - are akin to throwing darts in the dark. Even the best ideas, without direction, won’t hit their mark. These brain dumps are a waste of everybody’s valuable time. You need to start with research.

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Research is 75% of Strategy

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Research is 75% of Strategy

When most people think of marketing, they think of the ads and promotions - the visible stuff. But for the great campaigns, the real magic happens long before those ads and promotions are even dreamt up. The real magic happens in the research and insights.

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Know Your Audience: John Oliver Schools Edward Snowden

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Know Your Audience: John Oliver Schools Edward Snowden

Spotted Dick Pic by slgckgc on Flickr In a recent Last Week Tonight, John Oliver flies all the way to Russia to meet with Edward Snowden, whistleblower, for an exclusive interview. Only...the interview turns into a poignant lesson about audience development.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEVlyP4_11M

First off, I should reveal that I have a bias. I think that Snowden was heroic for exposing the truth. He took a huge risk and threw away his career and freedom to reveal the truth to the world. I was a fan when the news first came out and I became even a bigger fan after watching CitizenFour.

So, unlike the people who LWT interviewed during the segment, I DO know who Edward Snowden is and what he did.  But even though I know respect what Snowden did, I am in the audience of people who do nothing to change it. I don't even change my own behaviour!

That is why I found Oliver's advice to reframe the argument so incredibly brilliant. And one that Snowden should definitely heed.

Reframing is one of the most elegant tools in the Audience Development box. Your message not getting through? It's probably how you are framing it.

Global warming? That sounds too nice. Try climate change. Want to scare people away from public health care? Reframe the bureaucracy as a death panel. It's not a diet. That sounds awful. It's a lifestyle change. That sounds way more do-able. Need to sell some old stuff? Label it as retro.

You may think reframing is a fancy word for spin - and some of my examples toe the line - but the difference is that this isn't about tricking someone, it's about intentionally put the audience at the center of the argument.  John Oliver's suggestion that Edward Snowden reframe his arguments to focus in on something everyone can understand - in this case Dick Pics - is about simplifying and personalizing something very complex and foreign to the audience.

The more complex your message is, the more important it is to ground it with something your audience is familiar with. Don't lie. Don't spin. Just empathize. Put yourself in the shoes of the recipients and find common ground.

The next time you find your important message falling on deaf ears, reframe it in relation to something your audience cares about.

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2015 #Themeword: Create

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2015 #Themeword: Create

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10631241_10154565044325514_3081052538889921966_o

Welcome 2015. New year. New home. New job.

2014 was quite a year! It started out without too much fuss. Carlos and I spent our first NYE in Toronto, ringing in 2014. By February, I was offered a job at MSLGROUP Canada.

In July, Carlos and I went to Palm Springs where we joined 400 other Digital Utopians at Y&YY. This was a pivotal moment for me. Many of the attendees of Y&YY were old friends of mine from back when I lived in San Francisco. I realized, while reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones, that I had gotten really far away from who I am...who I really want to be.

When we returned home to Toronto after the trip, I took a big step back to look at where I was and where I would like to be. Though I loved working with many of my colleagues and was doing some really interesting work at MSLGROUP, I just didn't see myself settling in there long term. I made the plan to start looking for more suitable work in the next few years. This set the stage for what was to come in the next few months.

In the meantime, we were really starting to settle into Toronto and loved it, so when Carlos suggested we think about buying a place, I only resisted for a few minutes. From August to October, we worked with our amazing real estate agent, Mike, until we found our dream home in our dream neighborhood. (We move in end of January)

totemlogo
totemlogo

In November, I received an email from Patrick Pittman of Totem, describing a reinvention and the need for "non-traditional thinkers who don’t necessarily come from the world of corporate business-as-usual." This sang to my heart. After meeting Patrick and then Louis-Jacques Darveau, I was convinced that I had found my people. On January 5th, I start my new position of Director of Audience Development at Totem.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 12.23.32 AM
Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 12.23.32 AM

#THEMEWORD

For anyone who has followed me for a while, you know that every year, I do a themeword for my goals for the upcoming year. This started back on NYE 2007/08 when Erica Douglas suggested it at a gathering of friends. Here is my history of themewords + how they played out:

2008: TRANSITION - came to represent more transitions than I planned for! 2009: THRIVE - great year with my book being released, a karaoke roadtrip + a move to Montreal! 2010: ACHIEVE - cofounded a startup, raised some money + built the first version of a social app! 2011: REAP - raised our seed round of money, got great press, built an amazing version of Buyosphere! 2012: GIVE'R - gave my heart and soul until the end of Buyosphere. 2013: TRIUMPH - helped lead Justin Trudeau to LPC victory, moved to Toronto, started Lime! 2014: PURPOSE - got back to me again. ------------------------------

creatingyourself
creatingyourself

2015: CREATE

This year, there was no real deliberating over what my themeword would be. I want to create again. My new role at Totem opens up all sorts of creative possibilities and I've already been talking about creating more content for Totem itself (and I have resources and support for it). Moving into our new home will also open up many creative possibilities. Now that we own, we can get more creative with the decor. I've already started gathering ideas on Pinterest!

As well, I've been meaning to do more video and our new place has amazing light and space for us to make this happen. We've already bought a new camera and some lighting, but I'm really looking forward to setting up a consistent set (our dining room will be doubling as the set) to film weekly videos. I'm also going to sign up for NaNoWriMo this year. I have an outline for my second book. This will give me the structure to do it.

I love strategy as much as the next guy, but I love making stuff even more! So that's what 2015 is all about. More video. More photography. More writing. More of everything that I can make!

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFqd6L-k4_4[/embed]

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Why YouTubers are Cashing In (hint: they are worth it)

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Why YouTubers are Cashing In (hint: they are worth it)

moneyteen I've read more than a few articles that sensationalize the large dollar amounts that Digital Influencers are making. I've also overheard many people having conversations about this that indicate they think this is frivolous. I want to tell you that when I hear anyone snicker at what Digital Influencers are making, I automatically think:

  1. That person is out of touch with the reality of marketing today - these kids in their bedrooms with their iPhones making videos are who people listen to (especially Millennials, who everyone seems to want to reach).
  2. That person is going to regret their dismissal of Digital Influencers when they are priced higher than the current market rates for other forms of advertising.

Just because you don't understand why this is happening doesn't mean it isn't happening. And it's only the beginning.

Doing The Basic Math

The simplest way to describe the value is by presenting the basic math. When you work with a Digital Influencer, you are getting more than someone sitting in their bedroom for a few hours recording and editing a video. You are getting video production/editing/direction, talent, natural amplification AND celebrity/influence.

If I was to conservatively price out a basic YouTube video looking for 100,000 views (equivalent views to a mid-range YouTube influencer with around 200,000 subscribers), it would look like this:

Scripting/production/shooting/editing - $5,000 (for really basic stuff) Hiring basic talent (with charisma) - Average $250/hr - ACTRA says you have to pay for a full 8-hour day - $2,000 Boosting - Assuming the CPV (Cost per View) is $0.05 = $5,000 for 100,000 views Influence/Celebrity - hard to price this, but Kim Kardashian makes $100,000/hr for appearances and Snooki makes $25,000. Neither of them show up on the most influential list. Let’s be conservative, though, and say $10,000 for the appearance.

That nets out to a very conservative estimate of value for a YouTuber with 200,000 subscribers (and ~100k views/video on average) to $22,000 per video.

And when I say that I was being conservative about this estimate, think about the costs of a 30-second TV spot - which is reaching fewer and fewer people (and, in my opinion will continue to decline in relevance...if there ever was much anyway). According to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the average cost of a 30-second spot on television in 2011 was $354,000. That's a pretty penny.

So, when Jerome Jarre, who has 7.2 million followers (and rapidly growing) on Vine is reported to make $35,000/vine, I say those brands get a helluva deal! Don't tell Jerome, but he should be making $500,000+ if he was charging for just the boosting capability (his vines see >10million unique views)!

I guess the $1,000,000 offer he turned down was a good move after all:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIuJOYceU3o?wmode=transparent]

The Bottom Line

When you hire a Digital Influencer, you aren't paying for the few hours they take to record the video or the quality of the camera or editing work. You are paying for their SOCIAL CAPITAL, which in their world is VERY tangible.

You can see their subscriber numbers and the way their audience is deeply engaged in everything they do (from what they are wearing to who they listen to and beyond). They've spent years building deep trust with their audience by investing in them and being open and transparent. According to a study by Variety, Digital Influencers rate higher than Hollywood celebrities in influencing purchases.

To dismiss them for being too young or their work being too fun/easy or their content being too casual is to completely miss the reality of the situation: your brand should have invested in digital content years ago. Just one 30-second spot would fund anywhere from 1-10 YouTube stations for a full year (depending on your production investment + complexity). That sort of investment would mean a smaller long-term investment, bringing that efficiency that many companies look for today.

The building your own audience ship hasn't sailed quite yet, though. Condé Nast, under the amazing leadership of Dawn Ostroff, is investing in a better digital content strategy on YouTube and it's really paying off. Their audience is growing rapidly as are their organic views. Much of their content is modelled on the types of videos the audience enjoys: entertaining, funny and authentic.

I still believe that working with Digital Influencers is one of the strongest short term marketing tactics you can deploy today and going forward, but it's also important you learn from them and invest in becoming an influencer yourself.

Let me know how you are investing in an audience below.

[title image credit: Thinkstock]

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More Than Hauls + How-to's: The YouTube Tropes

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More Than Hauls + How-to's: The YouTube Tropes

tropes_header.png

So now that you understand that working with Digital Influencers is important and you are starting to recognize who they are and what makes them tick, it's important to understand HOW you work with them. One dimension of this is understanding the types of content that they are producing on a regular basis. Part of my job is to watch hours and hours of YouTube videos, discovering emerging talents and trends. Over this period, I've discovered that, barring a few outliers and pioneers, there are a list of tropes that the majority of YouTubers follow.

A trope is a commonly recurring motif - a type of video in this case - that you see across multiple channels. Not quite a meme, not quite a format, these tropes recur between groups of YouTubers to help connect their content.

Different vlogging communities have different tropes and will make fun of tropes that exist in other communities. For instance, the Makeup Tutorial Trope has been used as a comedic vehicle in videos like this one by Megan Mackay:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyNa9kqq8mk?wmode=transparent]

Many people recognize the Makeup Tutorial trope, but there are many others. Just producing Makeup Tutorials on a channel isn't enough to connect with your audience. In the How-To & Style category, there are many tropes that YouTubers use to connect with their audience. The most popular are the following:

  1. The Makeup Tutorial Trope
  2. The What's-in-my... Trope
  3. The Haul Trope
  4. The Lookbook Trope
  5. The Tag or Challenge Trope
  6. The What I Am Wearing Trope
  7. The Routine Trope
  8. The Review Trope
  9. The DIY Trope
  10. The Q&A Trope

All of these motifs recur frequently under the How-to & Style category and are the go-to video for most beauty and style YouTubers. For any company that is looking to collaborate or hire a YouTuber, you can use these to think beyond the product review.

The Makeup Tutorial Trope

The Makeup Tutorial seems to be the most commonly used and popular trope of all. Michelle Phan has made an empire from makeup tutorials - doing everything from a smokey eye to celebrity makeup:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFMaLuI1uxc?wmode=transparent]

Makeup tutorials are great because many women are searching for tips on how to recreate looks on YouTube all of the time. I, myself, have watched Kandee Johnson's Jem Tutorial multiple times (as it's my fallback costume).

These tutorials have a consistent pattern of:

a. show the finished look b. go to bare face c. go step-by-step to create the look (usually speeding through unimportant details) d. show finished look again

The What's-in-my... Trope

Even before it hit YouTube, What's In My Bag/Laptop Bag/Camera Bag/etc was a commonly used on blogs and photo sharing sites like Flickr:

[searching the tag 'whatsinmybag' on Flickr]

The What's-in-my... videos are exactly what they sound like: the vlogger pulls items out of her bag and talks about them one-by-one. Her electronics, her cosmetics, her essentials...she usually talks about the bag itself as well:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y60mTWaizsE?wmode=transparent]

These are incredibly popular and are a mix of personal information and product reviews. It's not just a beauty vlogger phenomenon either. You'll find the What's-in-my... trope in other categories as well.

Other variations include: What's on my Phone (apps), What's in my Fridge, What's in my Drawer, What's in my Locker, etc. Audiences love these videos because it helps introduce them to new products that they may have not heard of before and getting the validation from their favourite YouTuber will go a long way to driving interest.

The Haul Trope

Hauls are, in basic terms, a showing off of what you just bought. Whether it was going down to the mall and buying a bunch of new clothes or makeup or ordering a bunch of stuff online, the format of a haul is to pull out new products one-by-one and talk about:

a. what you bought b. why you bought it c. what you paid for it (sometimes...and especially when it was a deal)

Some focus on specific shops (Sephora, Lush, Forever 21, etc), some focus on times of year (back to school, summer, holiday, etc.) and some are just big splurges.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtpFYJNue9E?wmode=transparent]

Hauls have been the subject of much derision by the non-beauty community, but they are consistently popular for the YouTubers that use these tropes, though they tend to only do them a few times per year. Hauls, very much like the What's In My... Trope, drive interest for audiences.

The Lookbook Trope

Lookbooks summarize the wardrobe trends - usually for the season - for each of the YouTubers. They are usually done to music in various poses with closeups on details of the clothing and makeup. In these videos, the YouTubers usually point their audience to where they can buy these looks themselves:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJY7tmyXffM?wmode=transparent]

Modelling themselves after fashion house lookbooks, these videos are highly stylized and have a funky beat for a soundtrack. There is usually no voice over for this type of video.

Lookbooks are loved by fans if they are done right - beginning of a season, etc - because they give them ideas on how to pull together outfits for that season.

The Tag or Challenge Trope

Tags on YouTube are very different than tags as we know them on other platforms. Tags on YouTube are more "Tag, You're It!" than #hashtag (though they are tied together with tags/hashtags).

The way Tag Videos work is that the initial Tagger will create a series of questions and answer them in their video, then 'tag' a group of other YouTubers to answer these same questions. There are hundreds of Tag videos on YouTube under almost every personal topic including: Boyfriend Tag, Best Friend Tag, Sister Tag, Twin Tag, TMI Tag...and many many more.

Here is a great example of how a brand worked in their core message to start a Tag (disclosure: I worked on this campaign):

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK64nPN-I_A?wmode=transparent]

Challenges are a bit different and are participated in more by men than women (women tend to do Tags on YouTube, while men do the Challenges). They usually involve something physical (ie. The Cinnamon Challenge, where participants are challenged to eat a spoonful of cinnamon on camera) and are more silly/fun than personal:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McLnCBacJCY?wmode=transparent]

Both Tags and Challenges are great ways for YouTubers to collaborate at a distance and create a sense of community on YouTube.

The What Am I Wearing Trope

OOTD or Outfit Of The Day videos are similar to the lookbook videos, but they tend to cover only one outfit (thus OOD). Like Lookbooks, they tend to be highly stylized and without commentary and point their viewers to wear they can recreate the look. These videos are an evolution from Fashion Blogging, where the fashion bloggers would take a series of photos - close-up details and full length shots - to demonstrate their daily fashion look.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnDMelbfgf0?wmode=transparent]

GRWM or Get Ready With Me videos are a combination of OOTD and makeup and hair tutorials. In one video, you get a full routine. They usually revolve around an event (prom, back to school, wedding, date night, etc) so you can, literally, follow along to create the same look head to toe:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFEzEXlZaZo?wmode=transparent]

I call this category, in general, the What Am I Wearing Trope as they both deconstruct a specific look to try at home.

The Routine Trope

The Routine Trope brings you even closer to learning a day-in-the-life of a vlogger. Some of these routines are more instructional, such as My Workout Routine, but many of them are intimate like Morning or After-School Routines that take you a little bit behind the scenes of their lives:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzu1Bc9WWFs?wmode=transparent]

In these videos, you get to learn a little more about who the person is and what makes her tick. And many viewers feel that they can relate deeply to these very normal, very mundane lives.

The Review Trope

The Review Trope is also where many brands enter the conversation. There are a few ways that How-to & Style YouTubers approach reviews and it is very rarely a straight-up review of a product.

One of these approaches is to talk in general about the list of products and services that they are currently enjoying as in [insert month here] faves:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKHlVwORB9M?wmode=transparent]

Many brands want exclusive review posts, but what they fail to understand is that being included in these round-ups can actually be MORE beneficial as it comes across as more genuine. If a vlogger talks about loving a brand's face cream, then talks about the competitor's cleanser, it comes across organically vs an entire post dedicated to a single brand. The consumer audience is highly suspicious of sponsored content.

They will also do the negative side of the review in monthly round-ups of products they advise their audiences NOT to buy. If your brand ends up in this round-up, don't panic. This presents a great opportunity to reach out to the vlogger and say, "Sorry that product didn't work for you. Is there any others you are willing to try?"

The DIY Trope

Millennials and their Gen Z little sisters are very DIY. I chalk it up to them having gone through a long and arduous recession, compiled with the desire to actually create rather than be passive.

How-to & Style YouTubers with DIY just about anything from Halloween costumes to prom dresses to room decor. Anything that can be created with supplies from an arts & crafts store and a glue gun or some thread is free game:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2U3sLbxWvg?wmode=transparent]

What this trope teaches us is that this group loves hands-on.

The Q&A Trope

The last major trope I want to cover is the Q&A. This Trope usually emerges as a vlogger gains popularity and starts to get fans that are dying to know even more intimate details about her life:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6qw1uW-w14?wmode=transparent]

Usually the vlogger will ask her fans one week ahead of time to send in questions under a hashtag or in the comments. During the video, she will choose the best questions and answer them openly. Even taboo subjects get covered like Zoella's example above. And the more taboo, the more views these videos get.

The Importance of Tropes To Your Brand

As video blogging and YouTubers have grown in popularity, they've had to evolve to continue to entertain their hungry audiences. Their audiences are demanding to connect on a deeper level, to learn more and to be entertained. You don't just throw up a channel with a bunch of makeup tutorials any longer. For whatever look there is to create, a makeup or hair tutorial has already been done. There are only so many "recreate this celebrity look" videos you can do before people become saturated.

These may be common tropes today, but they have emerged organically with the demands of the audience and the inventiveness of the YouTubers. Within the next few months, different ones will emerge and within the next few years everything will look completely different.

Brands need to understand the evolving landscape and be up-to-date with what is happening now as well as recognize what is emerging in order to work well with this new influencer.

And if you happen to be looking to start your own channel, learn from these tropes, but understand what sort of audience needs they fulfill rather than just copying them outright.

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Hey there! I'm Tara Hunt, I lead the Social Digital team at MSLGROUP (Canada). I've been doing this internetty stuff for a loooong time (since Mosaic was the browser to use!). I wrote one of the first books on how the social web is changing business (so old, you can get it for $0.01!). I'm better at typing, but I'm trying out that YouTube thing. I like to brag that I'm influential in business circles, which means I don't get much for free stuff except books. That's a-ok with me! ;)

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If you haven't already, go back and start from the beginning:

Building a Strong Influencer Program: Part I: WHY Building a Strong Influencer Program: Part II: WHO

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