Data-driven audience development strategies are becoming the cornerstone of successful online video campaigns. But how do you know what audiences you need to develop, and how do you start to build out this kind of strategy?

In July 2017, Tubular Labs held an exclusive panel at YouTube Space LA that explored how the leading Audience Development experts in the industry defined their campaigns through data and insights. Joining Allison Stern, CMO and Co-founder of Tubular Labs was: Yuval Rechter (GM of First Media – publisher of most shared Facebook video of all time), Gwen Miller (VP of Audience and Platforms at Kin Community), Trevor McNeal (Head of Audience Development at UNINTERRUPTED) and Matthew Labate (Fine Brothers Entertainment). You can listen to an exclusive podcast recording of the panel by clicking the blue link, or read the full transcript. You can also catch up on this post about insights from the discussion.

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Online Strategies for Audience Development

Here’s the full transcript of the ‘Online Strategies for Audience Development, held at YouTube Space LA. We first asked the panelists to introduce themselves:

Hey guys, my name is Gwen Miller. I am the VP of audience and platforms at Kin Community. We are a digital media and entertainment company that focuses on millennial women aged 18 to 34 across the lifestyle space. We work with about 120 creators, and we have our own Kin Community brand, which focuses more on what I call the “home space” or you could also think of it as creative projects that don’t require you to leave the house. We’re really the channel for homebodies, people who like to stay home, and that’s us and what we do.

Trevor McNeal, and I am the head of audience development at UNINTERRUPTED. We are a digital first platform that works with pro athletes to tell their stories, creating short form documentaries, and podcast series across all social platforms and our owned and operated website.

I’m Matt Lebate. I’m with FBE, which stands for Fine Brothers Entertainment. We are a media company that started as a YouTube channel, but now we’re on YouTube and Facebook, and we also have a TV development side. We also do our own brands sales. I sit over the channel strategy and audience, so I’m probably the least qualified audience development person up here, but audience development does fall underneath sort of a third of what I do.

I’m Yuval Rechter, GM of First Media Digital. We’re a content and distribution company for millennial moms and women. We have 32 million followers on Facebook, and Instagram, and YouTube, and we’re behind the most shared and watched video in the history of Facebook, 365 five million views and 11.7 million shares! (at time of recording).

What Does Audience Development Mean to You?

Tubular: I wanted to zoom out for a second and ask Gwen what is Audience Development. Like what is it? What does it mean to you?

Gwen: I think it is a kind of reflection of how our industry has really put audience first. Not that you can say that TV world or film world also doesn’t think about their audience, but we have so much data about our audience. So then you get people like me and my colleagues who go in there, and we’re really passionate about the audiences. And you gotta put the audience first. I know it sounds like the most simple, like, “No. Duh, of course, you have to put the audience first.”

But one of the biggest issues I see is that corporate channels don’t always respect their audience. Like every time I work on a channel, doesn’t matter what channel I work on, eventually, someone’s gonna come to me and often, many people over the lifespan and be like, “Urgh, our audience sucks, can’t we just change them?” And usually, this happens because they have put their blood, sweat, and tears into some really piece of content they think is brilliant and then their audience is like, “Meh,” right?
And they’re really disappointed that their audience is not…our audience is not exactly like them.

If I let every person who works on our channel make content just for them, it would be a mess. It would be a mash up of all sorts of different perspectives. If you wanna do that if you wanna make content for you, go make your own personal channel. Hopefully, there’s enough people exactly like you that are gonna make you build a big audience. But when you have a single corporate channel, the single unifying theme has to be your audience. Otherwise, it’s just gonna be this morass. The biggest thing that I find with corporate channels is they change who’s doing what and you don’t have a single point of view. Your single point of view needs to be your audience. So, learn how to use your data to spend quality time with them, hear what they’re saying, and if you optimize around what your audience loves, you can grow really quickly. If you don’t do that, that’s when you stagnate.

Tubular: And just a follow up on that, how does the content relate to the strategies around developing the audience? Can you divide the actual programming and production separately from commenting, sharing, talking to your audience or do those two parts go together?

Gwen: I have found the most effective is the set up that we have currently at Kin Community, which is that we all sit in the same group. I have underneath me the producers, I have underneath me the people who are actually commenting and talking to the audience. So we meet every single day. So in that case, someone sees something come up in the comments, and the data people are on the same team, and they can be like, “Oh yeah, we saw this reflected in the data.” The producer gets that immediately and they can actually optimize the content to that feedback need. If you have producers in their own white towers and pillars, the communication is not as smooth, and you have to be able to pivot quickly in digital.

Tubular: Trevor, do you have any quick advice around audience development? And also, you work with a lot of celebrity personalities, so how does that fit into the mix? Are you able to aggregate the audience of all these people or do you have to speak separately to each personality’s audience or how do you think about that?

Trevor: I think from what we’re doing at UNINTERRUPTED, our main focus is obviously establishing the voice of the athlete, and making sure that our fans understand that that’s the position that we’re taking when we’re delivering content to their feeds and when we’re promoting our shows or promoting our content across the board. As to how we work with athletes, it’s tough, to be honest. I think… I’m a bit envious of some of the folks on the panel with me. A lot of brands work with content creators where creating content is their job, and that’s like their main objective to, kind of, gain views and gain engagement and to get their name out there.

The influencers that we work with have a day job too – to win championships, and to make millions of dollars, and to build their brand, You know, kind of like on the court or field. So, when we’re working with them, we’re really trying to be respectful of that and making sure that we’re not taking their time to do anything that’s not going to be as good for them as it is for us. So making sure that they are passionate about the stories that we’re working with them to tell, making sure that what we’re creating with them, it’s created in their mind and the voice that they wanna get across. And hopefully, that connects with consumers. And we’ve seen some nice return so far. So that’s the road we were hoping to continue on down.

Tubular: Re Fine Bros, you know, it’s a very different sort of celebrity, an organic homegrown online video celebrity. What is it like to develop an audience across that spectrum?

Matthew: So, I guess for us, audience development is not a separate department. I’ve worked at other places before, where it’s a separate department and yes, there’s a lot of value in data science. And God, I wish I had five data scientists working because we would get so much more out of everything. And yes, it’s marketing and yes, it’s creative, but for us, it’s really just like any producer, you wanna know where your camera is. That’s part of the DNA of you being a producer. And you also wanna know what your audience development strategies are. It’s just another component of creating content.

But for us, to go to your question on celebrity, you know, our celebrity is YouTubers, and yes, we do work with traditional celebrity, musicians, and others. And we don’t aggregate all of their audiences necessarily to our content. For us, the value has been the strength of the format. We created a format and started with Kids React, and that format is basically what we’ve stuck to as we expanded our franchise from kids to teens to elders to parents to YouTubers. And so the format itself is what is the strength of what we do. Is a compelling enough piece of content that brings you the news of the day where we’ve switched to a very topical kind of DNA.

And so, there’s a two-way street with YouTube and celebrities, to answer your question. We do bring some of their audiences to us, of course, but we end up driving a lot of audience to them as well. And certainly when people come on to ‘YouTubers React’, they come to us later and they’re like, “Wow, that was… I had never seen that type of subscriber bump. It was really great, can I come back, you know?” And of course, we’d love to have everybody back. So, it’s a two-way street process and that’s, I think, ultimately the main sort of goal for us is not to be, you know, trying to bring celebrities in to hopefully use them to grow our audience, but to just collab, so we all can grow together.

Listen to the ‘Online Strategies for Audience Development’ podcast now

Tubular: Everything’s about audience, programming for that audience, and being able to integrate and create what they want and move fast. So because you do audience development with so many other things, is that what you see as the future of that department? Or how do you think people in LA are thinking about that role and that group?

Matthew: Oh I think people are thinking about a lot of different ways and doing a lot of great stuff. For us, we integrate it into everything we do. We have started creating separate producer/engagement teams that are more focused on the DNA of engaging the audience rather than just serving the strength of, what we’ve been lucky to have, which is this format that grew on YouTube and really solidified. You know, the position of the brand was, over time, over 10 years, we grew really well. And so now what do we do next?

So yes, there is a team now that’s separate, where they are producers of preserving content. They’re doing it in all the different platforms, and they’re using some of the format tricks that we have but they’re also using their own content, but their DNA is to engage the audience. And that idea is something we’re developing that we think is true for every brand out there, every TV studio, every film, every network, which is taking the concept of influencers but moving it to a company rather than just a single influencer. And part of that is audience development integrating into your DNA in order to drive that.

Tubular: So you’ve recently started publishing on Facebook and you’ve developed a huge following on YouTube, you started in TV. In each of these steps, how do you think about audience development? On each of these platforms, how do you think about migrating audience or not? Are they different audiences? Are they the same? How do you think about that sort of cross-platform aspect?

Yuval: So if I go to Facebook, so we have a few pages right now. Blossom was aimed at millennial women, millennial moms. Then we opened So Yummy. And it took us about two to three months to understand it’s not the same audience. It takes time and you’re like, “Oh those aren’t the same ones. They just like So Yummy and now they’re gonna watch food recipes,” but no. Surprisingly, you’ll suddenly go to analytics. We talk about data, so we do data in two ways, we use data in two ways. One is for production. So we’re very, very data driven. So everything in production is data driven. We build an algorithm in order to plan, to estimate if a video will go viral or not, and that helps us in so many ways. One is we can forecast before how well the video will do, and how many views we will get. That’s one.

The second one is we optimize the production process. So if we know that a paper cup works better than a plastic cup, then for a DIY project, we can go back to the production and help them. So the data really drills down to the production. A lot of the people come as creators, you give them creative freedom, but it’s very important that people will also have ownership on the amount of use that they’re generating. And it’s very measurable. So production is done data driven.

The other part that we use data is to know who our audience is. So every platform is different, every channel is different. So Blossom is different than So Yummy and Blusher, and YouTube is completely different than Facebook.  When you ask people about your Facebook brand, some people know, some people don’t. On YouTube, you actually have much more brand importance and brand awareness. So every platform is very different. Do we migrate? I wish. I think you should be the strongest possible in every platform. Migrating from one to the other one, I wouldn’t recommend in terms of algorithm, first of all. That’s the number one.

There are four very important people in the world: Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. And you don’t wanna piss anyone off by taking someone from the pool. So you know, don’t use external links, don’t abuse the system, be nice to the platform, develop the audience that you have in a specific platform. We don’t believe in migrating between the platforms, it’s very tough. So that’s us.

Listen to the ‘Online Strategies for Audience Development’ podcast now