4 Marketing Lessons from YouTube Giants

Modern Marketing


Did you catch the video about the crazy guys snowboarding through New York that went viral just hours after it was posted on YouTube? New York filmmaker Casey Neistat created it with his friends, and its 2 minutes and 41 seconds are pure perfection. The video marries the simple story of friends having fun in the snow, with an underlying theme of it being a love letter to New York, where anything is possible (including skiing down Broadway)! It is closing in on 10 million views in just 3 days.

I have actually been following the work of Casey for the last year, and through Casey’s content, I was introduced to another New York-based entrepreneur and YouTube personality, Gary Vaynerchuk. Both Casey and Gary are unique innovators who have built and are continuing to build great businesses. Despite coming from different backgrounds and disciplines, they have created incredible marketing machines around their businesses.

Let’s see what marketing lessons we can learn from these master storytellers:

1. You are a media company first, [insert your business type] second

What does your company or the company you work for actually do? Does it create accounting software for large enterprises? Or maybe you run an organic farm producing the finest dairy products? Whatever you do, the products you create or the services you provide are only part of the key to success in today’s economy. Without telling your story well, whether it’s through your voice or your customer’s, your chances of success are greatly reduced. Maybe you do make the best, most user-friendly, and powerful software in the market, but if no one ever hears that story, you will not succeed in the long run. So as important as building your company is, the way in which you tell your story is equally important.

Gary, who runs one of New York’s largest social media and digital agencies VaynerMedia, put it this way: “It literally doesn’t matter what business you’re in, what industry you operate in, if you’re not producing content, you basically don’t exist.” He’s demonstrated this in his own business, by building an entire team of people around him to help him create content every day.

Take for example the Ask GaryVee show, a regular Q&A show on YouTube and Facebook where Gary answers questions about business (marketing/social/sales) from his audience. The rationale for this program is simple. By providing value to his audience, he has a platform which exposes VaynerMedia to more and more people every week. So the return on his investment to create this great content on a daily basis is a growing audience of potential customers.

2. Your storytelling and content quality is a journey, not a destination

Before Casey launched video-sharing platform Beme in 2015, he produced his own show for HBO, worked in advertising with some of the world’s biggest brands, and has produced some of the most watched videos YouTube has ever seen. Early last year, Casey started daily “vlogging”, video blogging,  a little ahead of the launch of Beme. Casey was clear that he was going to use his daily “vlogs” to talk about his company, which was also a way of forcing himself to make more films. Fans of Casey’s work will have noticed a progression in the quality of these daily videos. As he got to grips with the routine of creating a new movie every single day, he has honed his ability to tell a story in every episode. (Sidenote: Ponder for a moment the work involved in creating a new movie, every single day! The commitment is staggering.)

The takeaway for marketers here is that your content marketing should evolve over time, and you should always be looking to improve the quality of your work. If you plot the quality of your content against time, there should be an upwards trend as you improve your content marketing mix and processes. Another takeaway for marketers is that you should always be questioning and self-auditing your content marketing approach. Are there new platforms where you should be sharing content and telling your story?

 3. Be yourself to truly engage your audience

This point is obvious and yet so often neglected by marketers. In the content they create, both Casey and Gary are undeniably themselves. Whether it is Gary’s bullishness about his strengths or Casey’s love for exploring and adventure, their personalities shine through and ultimately drive the success of the content. The same should go for your business and the content you create.

Embrace what makes you different. If you work for a start-up and you are up against larger, more established competitors, play on the fact that because you are smaller, you’re more nimble and innovative. This is critical in a time when authenticity is a hugely valued characteristic. So take a look at your content or your voice on social media, and ask whether it reflects who you are or sounds very generic.

4. Great content can grow great businesses

If the success of Gary and Casey is proof of one thing, it’s that great content can effectively power a company’s growth. In fact, it was at a family business called Wine Library where Gary’s entrepreneurial spirit first brought radical growth and where his content marketing prowess was really honed. When Gary launched WineLibrary TV, a YouTube channel where he reviewed wines for a number of years, the companies growth and his profile gathered momentum and the company’s revenue grew over tenfold.

We know this well ourselves at Marketo–our blog was launched before we had a product to ship. This fact is incredibly powerful–before we had a product to sell, we were telling a story about modern marketing. 10 years later and we are still telling the story. It has evolved over time naturally, but content remains as important today as it was a decade ago.

These are just a few key marketing lessons from the work of Gary and Casey. If you haven’t already, check out their work and I am sure you will discover more about what truly links them to their fans: their passion for storytelling, their absolute conviction in their approach to their craft, and their ability to value every single follower/fan/customer.

What other marketing lessons have your favorite YouTube stars brought to light? I’d love to hear in the comments below.