“Brands you don’t seem to understand social media at all.”

That’s according to English YouTuber, Doddleoddle, and a sentiment shared by thousands of other creators who make their livings by working with brands.

It’s easy to nod in agreement and think “Yeah, brands suck!”

I know I’ve felt that way countless times.

But… is this sentiment, part of the problem?

It’s easy to take potshots at brands for not understanding YouTube. But, it’s not as if the marketers and agencies that work on (most) brands are idiots.

Apple, GE, Unilever and countless other brands work with YouTubers. More and more frequently these brands are spending millions of dollars on influencer created content. These companies have thousands (if not tens of thousands) of employees and are among the most successful companies on the planet. Before labeling them idiots, let’s first consider the bigger picture–

First of all, expecting the marketers and their agencies to understand every nuance of YouTube is unrealistic and unfair. Is it expected that creators understand all the bureaucratic nuances of a 10000-employee strong company? Of course not, that’s for the brands to know. Likewise, it’s the creator’s job to know their own YouTube business inside out.

Furthermore, a lot of brands and marketers understand that YouTube influencers are effective, but have a number of challenges to overcome in order to work with them.

Everyone has a boss that they’re accountable to. Marketers often have millions of dollars to spend and they will be held responsible for how they spend it. Saying something works and being able to prove it to their boss are often two separate things.

And, while social media may be very effective, it’s also risky.

There’s the old saying ‘no one ever got fired for buying IBM’ – meaning no one ever got fired for going with the safe choice. In marketing, you could say ‘no one ever got fired for buying TV or banner ads’ – those are the safe choices.

The risk that marketers take on by collaborating with YouTubers, or even just posting a stupid Tweet, is high. In the trigger happy world we live in you risk being sued, getting bad PR or being the subject of outrage porn – and the individual at the helm is risking their job.

TV commercials, print ads, and radio don’t talk back.

When YouTubers make a stupid video their fans don’t like, they apologize, learn from their mistakes and move on. When a marketer makes a bad call and a campaign flops or the company gets bad PR, they could lose their job.

Why should a marketer risk doing a campaign with a YouTuber/influencer? What’s the benefit for the individual marketer?

They, the marketer, is selling through something that’s difficult to communicate to their boss – all they have are the words of the creators that essentially boil down to “Trust me, I have a lot of subscribers and they love my videos!”. Once a project is sold through, they’re often dealing with individuals who are flakey, non-responsive, don’t incorporate feedback, and often lack an understanding of what is ‘brand safe’.

In the 10 years, I’ve been working in this space I’ve probably received one report recapping the work that a creator did on a campaign. I’ve definitely never seen any creator provide any type of analysis on how their work was more effective than TV (or any other medium).

Contrast this with any traditional media buy.

You want to run a banner ad campaign? Professionals at most any publication you’d be doing a media buy with will arm you with  reports, metrics, status updates, insights, etc.  Account managers at these publications are dedicated to arming their clients with everything they need to make their lives easier and provide insight into how the campaign performed. There’s a great deal of client service.

To the creators out there reading – what do you provide the brands and agencies you work with to show that what you created was successful? Do you provide recap reports? Do you compare the cost per view with your channel to that of trueview or comparable media outlets? Are you addressing client feedback thoughtfully and when you want to reject something are you providing rationale as to why? What are you doing to understand the brand’s needs and point of view? What are you doing to ensure that they’re armed with the information they need to validate their decisions to their bosses?

The YouTube creators have a point that brands often don’t ‘get it’.

For creators, their biggest asset is their audience.

They can’t risk alienating their fans – brand deals will come and go, but their fanbase is their meal ticket. If they lose their audience they lose their source of income.

No brand deal is worth alienating their audience over.

As a result, anything that seems out of character, like giving the creator a specific script that isn’t in their own tone of voice, runs the risk of having them lose fans. Due to the intimate relationship the fans have with creators they’re acutely aware of when they’re selling out.

One other thing brands need to understand is the need to move quickly in providing feedback on creator’s content. Oftentimes creators have a strict editorial calendar. They tell their fans to show up the same time every day or week. Shifting this to accommodate changes on a branded video is absolutely not worth it. It’s like changing Monday Night Football to Tuesday morning because Budweiser asked for a change to its commercial.

It just can’t happen. Fans would freak out.

Brands could do more to understand YouTube, but the YouTubers themselves could do a better job educating the brands.

At the end of the day a win is when brands, audience, and creator gets all get what they want. This is easier said than done.

Communication tends to be the biggest obstacle in helping both brands and creators do great work. And it’s tough to openly say what really bothers you in communicating with your boss or client, because you might lose them.

In an effort to help provide perspective and educate both sides of the story, I’ve launched a Q&A series with anonymous marketers, agencies, managers, and creators. I’m hoping by keeping this anonymous so that each interviewee, whether they’re a brand, marketer or a creator, can be as honest as possible – we will all learn the most when the individuals who actively work within this ecosystem can be candid in sharing the issues they face.

Checkout my first two interviews here–

The Confessional #1: Ad Agency Executive

The Confessional #2: MCN Vice President