Friday, May 8th, 2015 | 8 min read
VentureBeat recently declared the end of Hollywood. So what’s taking its place (or, in this case, who)? It turns out that social media celebrities now rival mainstream celebrities when it comes to boasting massive, highly devoted fan bases. Last year, a study conducted by Variety found that American teens favor YouTube stars over film, TV, and music personalities:
“A survey Variety commissioned in July found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen. The highest-ranking figures were Smosh, the online comedy team of Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla, both 26.”
YouTube has traditionally spawned the most powerful social media celebrities, but other social media platforms aren’t far behind. Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter are all home to self-made stars with massive audiences, and in many cases their celebrity has even begun to extend beyond the social space. Take, for example, Baddie Winkle, an eighty-something Drake-endorsed Instagram star with almost one million followers who recently garnered even more attention as the face of LA streetwear label Dimepiece.
Brands have been partnering with social media stars for years, particularly with famous bloggers and YouTubers. As new social platforms emerge, each spawning their own crop of celebrities, brand-influencer partnerships have become increasingly dynamic (launching reality web shows, mini Snapchat series, and so on), and more and more brands are latching on to social stars in order to reach the highly coveted millennial audience, particularly the younger set.
From Fanta to GoPro and Interjet, major brands around the globe recognize partnerships with social media celebrities as a unique opportunity to connect with this audience and create compelling, original content in a hyper-saturated space. Here are three recent campaigns where brands enlisted young social media celebrities with the hopes of drawing the attention of their massive audiences.
The plot goes like this: the Snapchatters develop super powers, which are crowd-sourced from the collective fan bases of the five stars. Other aspects of the show, such as identities, enemies, storylines, and costumes, are also suggested by fans. SnapperHero consists of 12 episodes that all disappear within 24 hours, and, as The Verge points out, “AT&T’s hope is that the short-lived nature of Snapchat videos will make people feel compelled to watch them, rather than planning to stream them at a later date.”
The telecommunications company is no stranger to tapping social media in order to connect with young millennials. Last summer AT&T sponsored a reality series titled @SummerBreak that played out on YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Vine. It followed a group of teenagers during their last summer together before heading off to college. The campaign was a huge success, earning more than 60 million views, 30 million social engagements, and 1.6 billion impressions.
Fanta for the Funny, a campaign that launched in August of last year, gives teenagers an opportunity to create their own Vine comedy series. Fanta partnered with three influential young Vine comedians – Alli Cattt, Jason Mendez, and Mighty Duck – to cast the program’s main comedy team. With a collective following that exceeds three million, these Viners were ideal ambassadors for the show.
The premise of each episode focuses on typical coming of age topics like dating and music, while inciting some laughs along the way. In addition, fans have the opportunity to become part of the show by submitting their own Vine clips using the hashtag #FantaForTheFunny.
Raquel Mason, AVP Fanta and Flavors, explains how the show empowers teens: “Fanta For The Funny unites teens around their shared desire for fame and their shared passion for humor, while allowing them to be themselves and to connect their way.”
Fanta didn’t come up with this campaign completely out of the blue. Using online listening, the Coca-Cola brand discovered how American teens from various ethnic backgrounds use media and their devices to “engage in playful experiences,” and the idea of Fanta for the Funny was born.
Jazz Jennings, YouTube star and influential transgender teen, was named the face of Clean & Clear’s #SeeTheRealMe campaign this past March.
Jennings emerged as a LGBTQ trailblazer and a symbol of self-acceptance after years of struggling with her identity. With over 50,000 YouTube subscribers, Jazz posts a mix of DIY tutorials and personal videos in which she talks about gender identity, the LGBQT community, and accepting one another as we are.
In the Clean & Clear advertisement, Jennings proclaims:
“Growing up has been quite a struggle, being transgender… I basically kept to myself. But this year I decided to make a change and put myself out there and make new friends.”
The beauty brand, which mostly targets teens, wanted to encourage young women to feel comfortable in their own skin. The brand told Time: “The campaign is about girls having the courage to show who they really are, and what makes them unique.” Jennings’s #SeeTheRealMe YouTube video has been watched over 4.2 million times since March 2015.
Social media celebrities are so compelling to brands because they’ve mastered the art of nurturing their tribes. As Sprinklr Global Evangelist Ekaterina Walter points out, “Successful celebrities don’t have customers, they have fans. And that is their secret. They don’t aspire to conquer the ‘biggest share of the market’; they aspire to ‘ignite the movement and inspire their tribes.’”
And social media celebrities, particularly the teenage ones, have some pretty powerful tribes. The vlogging supergroup Our 2nd Life, a collection of six male teens with enormous YouTube followings, sold 25,000 tickets to their U.S. tour last summer, which was sponsored by Invisalign and Tattify. A girl reportedly sobbed as she had her photo taken with the group at one show.
Larry Shapiro, who is head of talent at Fullscreen, which manages O2L, speculates that social stars’ focus on regularly engaging with fans online is what creates such a strong fan connection. They are authentic, relatable, and accessible, which isn’t the type of image that most mainstream celebrities project.
And that type of connection, especially with a millennial audience, is an incredibly intriguing value proposition for brands.
Over to you: what’s your favorite brand/social celebrity collaboration you’ve seen to date?
About the Author: Originally from a green and pleasant land called New Jersey, Genna AlTai is the content manager for Sprinklr London. A ginormous music fan, she has previously written for publications like CMJ and Baeblemusic. When she’s not copywriting, you’ll find her hunting for adequate pizza in London.