On Saturday 13th July, we headed down to the second day of the UK’s biggest annual YouTube event, Summer In The City (SitC). Starting out as a small three-day gathering in London’s parks, SitC is now a huge convention, held every year at ExCel Centre, with thousands in attendance; not only to meet their favourite YouTubers, but to catch a range of panels and performances from an extensive programme covering everything from popularity, integrity and the creative process to mental health, fandom and LGBTQ+.
As an agency that uses social talent for a range of our clients and which values being hot on the pulse of how social platforms, their users and their content are always changing, we thought we’d head down on Saturday to lend an ear to some of the discussions.
Seeing so many people walking around with their arm outstretched, walking and talking to a camera is a strange experience- there were a few near collisions of camera-holding arms, which was bizarre to say the least. Some of those were snapping selfies with Jedward, who seemed ever-present and around every corner. The crowd was certainly young- most were under 21, and many had waited in snaking queues for hours to meet their favourite social stars- testament that the YouTube celebrity is not dead.
Apart from vowing never to get on a fairground ride whilst hungover, especially a ride like the Waltzers where ride assistants are actively trying to make you feel dizzy and nauseous, we put together some key SitC takeaways from our experience:
More than ever, YouTubers are using their platform to open up discussions about issues on LGBT, mental health and internet safety. The weekend offered a whole host of panels on these types of issues, as did the stalls at the event. The YouTube For Good panel discussed how working with charities, organisations and brands on causes can be mutually beneficial, because they can signpost their audience to resources. However, YouTubers also mentioned how working with partners on videos that discuss specific causes can come up against similar tensions to regular sponsored videos, with a lack of creative control; it remains important that the cause matches the channel brand
On the ‘What is the point of YouTube’ panel (yes, that’s right), all the panellists agreed that a trusting audience is key to not feeling pressured to compromise their content with things they aren’t really passionate about when working with brands. They explained that viewers must be seen as individuals, and is of utmost importance that the YouTuber retains an element of creative control in a sponsored post, to give their audience what they respect and admire and what keeps them watching their videos. If brands don’t respect this, they’re also compromising their own reputation as well as the creator's
Discussing popularity vs integrity, YouTuber Sammy Paul explained that working with YouTubers who have a smaller, more engaged subscriber base can offer better quality content that they have worked much longer on, and that ‘there is something to be said about getting hundreds of thousands of views on every video- who is watching that? It’s most likely a younger crowd. Instead, people are saying ‘Hm, that’s interesting’.’ Depending of course on the purpose and content of the video, for some YouTubers, creating content that doesn’t rack up millions of views but has taken longer to produce is better for their integrity as a creator
So, there we have it. Creator diversity is growing evermore, with different approaches to channels, content and working with brands and organisations.
What remains as important as ever, is that clients looking to work with YouTubers must consider their approach more carefully than ever, with a well-considered approach ending up mutually beneficial.