Influencer partnerships are the most cost-effective way to begin building your brand on YouTube. Through product integrations, shoutouts, and sponsorships, YouTube Creators will showcase your brand to their army of highly engaged followers. As there are thousands of creators to work with, it can be hard to figure out who the right influencers are for you. Here are four things to keep in mind to simplify the process.

Find the right niche

This may seem obvious, but sadly most brands that attempt to connect with influencers fail miserably because they don’t put their audience first. In a world ruled by “Why She Buys” and other b-school texts, your immediate reaction is probably to seek out huge female-led channels and media juggernauts like Buzzfeed. Don’t trust your gut here. Huge channels like those tend to have more generic audiences that are not fully engaged.

You’ll need to do your homework, but it’ll pay off. Engage in social conversations with your current audience. Get into the data. Read as many articles as you can about what your specific demos are watching (stick around and you’ll find some here).

Once you’ve found your niche, it’s time to decide the size and the type of partnership you want to enter.  

Size matters (and not in the way you think)

Big viewer and subscriber numbers don’t necessarily mean big returns for your brand. Channels with tens of millions of subscribers may seem like goldmines, but the actual return is not worth the cost. In fact, the price tag that comes with many big channel partnerships is enough to create, grow, and maintain your own brand channel. Additionally, these channels are inundated with so many partnerships that the audience starts to tune them out leaving you with a lot of “impressions” and very few conversions.

Unless your industry falls completely in-line with a larger channel, start with channels in the 500k-6M range. These channels still have highly targeted demographics and will typically offer to go above and beyond your request. We’ve found that working with channels in this range, with the right niche, show returns that are 3 to 5 time large that just working with a big channel because it's big.

Finding channels that are growing quickly is also a great way to continue successful partnerships over time. Getting in at a couple hundred thousands of subscribers will help you negotiate much lower prices once they get into the couple million subscriber game.

Proposing the right partnership

When finding the right creators to work with, it’s up to you to convey how much promotion you want. Product placements and integrated ads go much further on this platform than they would on others. If you are attempting to build your own audience on the platform, a shoutout with a push to the channel will be your best bet for conversions. If you’re looking to own content, look into video or series sponsorship.

Recognize that you are not the creative director

Everything you’ve been trained to do as your brand’s advocate is going to tell you to work with an influencer to create an ad that positively impacts brand awareness and gets you a ton of impressions. Doing this will make your partnership fail. You HAVE to trust your partner. The creators you work with got where they are because they understand their craft and their audience. They are going to ensure you get the best return possible. It’s absolutely fine to lay out some basic brand building. But it’s important to know that every review, correction, and critique you give is a blow to the audience you are attempting to build.

- Lindsey Hughes


Lindsey Hughes is the Director of Client Services at Made In Network and the biggest Harry Potter and Game of Thrones fan we know.