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YouTube Influencer Marketing 101

If you’re investing in influencers this year and not including YouTube influencer marketing as part of your digital strategy, you could be missing out.

by Ariana Newhouse

YouTube influencer marketing. If you’re wondering, what it is, how to do it, or whether it’s worth it, you’re in the right place. We’ve assembled this in-depth guide to answer all your burning questions and help you knock your next YouTube influencer campaign out of the park.


What Is YouTube Influencer Marketing?

So, you probably know what an influencer is, but to make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s go over a few key terms.

An influencer is a content creator who has built a reputation for being knowledgeable about something. Influencers create compelling content around the topic they’re known for in a way that gets other people to take a specific action. But that’s not the whole story. In order to be an influencer, they also use their hard-won reputations with their loyal followings (which they worked their butts off to build), to essentially introduce audiences to brands and products that are likely of interest to them. And they get paid to do it.

Influencer marketing is all about brands using the right strategies and techniques, in partnership with the influencers, to uniquely market their brand and products across different channels.

YouTube influencer marketing is an influencer marketing strategy that is specific to marketing on YouTube. That means working with YouTubers who already have the attention of members of your target audience and allowing them to create content with your brand, product, or message contextually embedded in a way that resonates with YouTube watchers.

What Is a YouTube Influencer?

YouTube influencers are content creators who specialize in crafting video content. Once upon a time, that was mostly limited to long-form video. But the average YouTuber now consumes content on the platform in 15 different formats, including long-form videos, Shorts, clips, live streams, comments, static image posts, and text posts.

YouTube Influencers Wear Many Hats

According to the 2023 YouTube Culture and Trends Report, 67% of YouTube watchers between the ages of 18 and 24 like it when their favorite creators are creating in different formats. So, YouTube influencers tend to be good at producing content in multiple formats. They wear many hats, often serving as the writer, director, producer, talent, and editor of the content they create (lots of diligent, deliberate time investment – respect).

YouTube Influencers Establish Themselves in a Specific Niche

YouTube influencers often have an established niche in which they create content. Niches can help attract audiences with similar interests and keep their followers engaged with relevant content.

You can discover YouTube influencers that may be a good fit for your brand by searching relevant keywords or hashtags. Or you can always team up with a YouTube influencer marketing agency, like The Shelf, to find influencers you’d love to work with. It’s important to remember that YouTube influencers are creatives at heart, with the unique ability to resonate with large audiences based on their character, charisma, and experiences.

YouTube Influencers Focus on Audience Growth

We want to just drive home a really important distinction – that all influencers are content creators, but not all content creators are influencers. There are far more content creators than influencers, as content creators represent about 23 percent of the global population while influencers – specifically, influencers who have amassed at least 5,000 followers on their main platform – represent about 3 percent of the population. That said, YouTube influencers are the face of their own influencer brand and consistently working to grow their following.


Why Choose YouTube for Influencer Marketing Campaigns?

When you think of influencer marketing, it’s easy to call to mind the Instagrams and TikToks of the world, forgetting OG social platforms like Facebook and YouTube. We’re here to tell you YouTube is alive and well and here to stay. If you’re investing in creator marketing and not including YouTube influencer marketing as part of your influencer marketing strategy, you could be sorely missing out.

Most Social Media Users  – Regardless of Age – Use YouTube

YouTube is the one platform that has the attention of social media users, regardless of their age. When it comes to YouTube watchers, there’s very little variance from age group to age group in the percentage of them who are using the platform. Here are a few YouTube audience stats from Statista:

  • 94% of US internet users 13-14 years old are on the platform (this is a Pew Research stat)
  • 77% of US internet users 15 to 35 are on the platform
  • 73% of 36 to 45-year-olds watch YouTube
  • 70% of 46 to 55-year-olds watch YouTube
  • 67% of those 56 and older watch YouTube, and
  • 80% of parents say their children under 11 watch YouTube

But if you look at TikTok usage, the variance is much more pronounced between younger users and older users:

  • 62% of Gen Zers use TikTok
  • 46% of Millennials use TikTok
  • 32% of Gen X use TikTok
  • And only 14% of Baby Boomers use the platform

YouTube Is a Full-Funnel Sales Tool

Right? Not only do most social media users consume content on the platform, but YouTube content successfully nudges prospects from discovery to brand awareness to inspiration to click.

Most of the content YouTubers watch on the platform is fed to them by the YouTube algorithm. According to YouTube,  the platform’s “recommendation system actually finds videos for viewers, rather than viewers for videos.” That means a viewer is only presented with content the algo determines that specific viewer will find useful or interesting. And it works. YouTube is the most popular video-first platform in the world.

chart: Top Video Mobile Apps chart - Data Reportal

Discovery and Purchase on YouTube

A few more YouTube stats for you…

  • 56% of Gen Z, 54% of Millennials, 48% of Gen X, and 26% of Boomers say they discover new products most often on YouTube. (HubSpot)
  • 53% of respondents ages 18–29 say that they’ve purchased a product after watching an influencer’s YouTube video. (Gen Video)
  • 70% of YouTube viewers bought from a brand after seeing content on YouTube. (Google Ads)
  • Among surveyed YouTube users, 64% agree that they pay more attention to ads on YouTube compared to other platforms, according to a survey conducted by Material a firm that conducts market research. (Google Ads Blog)

YouTube’s diverse user base and its effectiveness as a full-funnel sales tool make it an essential platform for influencer marketing campaigns.


How Does YouTube Influencer Marketing Work?

YouTube influencer marketing infuses organic-feeling advertising and product placement into video content that users are already watching. For example, an influencer who shares an audience with your brand could post a day-in-the-life video in which they are wearing your new product. This shows consumers that your product is seamlessly integrated into the life of the influencer they follow (and likely trust). YouTube influencer marketing capitalizes on the relationship between influencers and followers, the niche they represent, and the trust they’ve garnered.

Let’s Talk About the Different Types of YouTube Influencer Campaigns

Influencer marketing can be complicated, which is why partnering with the right influencer marketing agency is so important. It’s their job to sort out the complexities and create a smooth and streamlined marketing plan for your brand. Marketers will create a campaign based on your goal. For example, there are introductory campaigns meant for introducing a new product to the market. For this type of campaign, the influencer will create exciting, eye-catching videos that integrate your brand image.

Then there are what’s known as maintenance campaigns. These are refreshers that help people remember a product long-term. Most well-established brands participate in maintenance campaigns for continuity of brand awareness and generating new sales. It is the most common type of influencer campaign out there.

Choosing the right influencer marketing campaign for a brand depends entirely on the specific needs of the brand itself. Finding the right influencers who pair well with a brand’s goal is key. Working with the right YouTube influencer marketing company is essential to this entire process. They are the experts who know how to create a customized plan for you and your business.

YouTube Influencer Marketing Examples

Traditionally, YouTube influencers have promoted products by incorporating them into long-form video posts. With the advent of YouTube Shorts, influencers now may create or repurpose short-form content on the platform as well. Although it should be noted, long-form video still reigns supreme on YouTube. Long-form videos consistently earn the strongest ROI on the platform. If you’re building a cross-functional campaign using YouTube in addition to other social channels, we recommend a mix of long and short-form content.

Youtube influencers may work with an influencer marketing agency or independently to feature products. Common tactics include unboxings, contests, tutorials, daily vlogs, and reviews. It’s always a good idea to give your influencers the freedom to get creative with the content they create. Their superpower lies in the way they uniquely and creatively engage with their audience. Don’t be afraid to let them create outside the box. Check out our Guide to YouTube Features to learn more about the YouTube features and video types that might work best for your campaign.


We teamed up with KIDZ BOP to roll out a YouTube influencer marketing campaign to celebrate and generate excitement for the 2018 holiday tour. The Shelf selected lifestyle, family, and parenting influencers with school-aged kiddos to create content for the campaign. The YouTube videos had to fall within one of these five themes: My First CD, Fangirl/Fanboy Confessional, Carpool Karaoke, KIDZ BOP Surprise, and DIY Fan Art + Night With the Band. The results were cute and compelling. The campaign reached over 3.6 million people across all platforms, and video content was the star!

Dallin, proud father of The Dashleys, helped facilitate (or should we say choreograph?) this hilarious family dance battle to KIDZ BOP tunes. Their 10-month-old son busted some moves on the countertop with dad’s help, and you could tell it was fun for the whole family.

This is a great example of content that fits the brief in a creative and exciting way. Family Dance Battle wasn’t listed as one of the five themes, but it clearly gets to the spirit of the KIDZ BOP campaign, and fits under the KIDZ BOP Surprise umbrella. So remember, let your influencers pitch their own spin on your campaign ideas. Great campaigns happen when influencers get creative.

On YouTube, this video raked in an engagement rate of 21 percent. Not too shabby! It wasn’t until the YouTube video was reposted on Facebook that it went truly viral. The video amassed more than 350,000 views on Facebook (compared to almost 10,000 on YouTube). Let this be a reminder to cross-promote your content! Repurpose videos across platforms to get the most bang for your buck.

Source: THE DASHLEYS on YouTube

Diana, the momfluencer of With The Blinks, put a twist on the brief’s Carpool Karaoke option as well. She piled her girls in the car for a roadtrip with KIDZ BOP as their soundtrack. Her thoughtful content was all about encouraging parents to connect with their kids by creating fun memories together. And what’s more fun than KIDZ BOP Karaoke?

Source: With The Blinks on YouTube


How Much Does YouTube Influencer Marketing Cost?

😬 (teeth clinched)

It depends. It depends. IT DEPENDS!

But depending on the scope of work you want done – whether it’s an exclusive video (with no other products mentioned), and how much has to go into making it (is this Mr. Beast-level cinema or is it just an unboxing video?).

A variety of factors will influence the rate a creator charges for a YouTube video, so we’re not dropping any numbers in here because it’s very likely that by the time you get around to reading this post, the formula we provide you will be outdated. Things are changing fast in this space.

Although, mega influencers (those with more than 1 million followers) are less likely to adhere to this pay scale. But keep in mind that rates will be affected by:

  • Audience size and engagement rates
  • Whether the creator has an agent
  • The type of video you want – whether it will be a dedicated video or a haul
  • Content rights – how you plan to reuse the content once it’s created
  • Whether you plan to whitelist the content once it’s created.
  • Whether the content will be repurposed for print ads


Because YouTube influencers are often tasked with creating long-form content that requires additional editing software and editing skills, they tend to be pricier than their Instagram and TikTok influencer counterparts. It makes sense. Longer content takes more work to create. It’s important to remember when hiring influencers that influencer marketing is a job, often a full-time one for larger creators, and they should always be paid for their work. YouTube influencer marketing costs money, but it can also make you a ton.

Word to the wise, don’t let the price tag on YouTube influencer marketing deter you. The average earned media value for YouTube influencer marketing last year was $21,632. And the platform generated $28.8 billion in 2021 in ad revenue alone. Like any good thing, it takes some upfront investment but is well worth it in the long run.

Create Genuine Connections with YouTube Influencer Marketing

I hope the wild world of Youtube Influencer Marketing feels a little less daunting after reading this post. Remember, YouTube is worth investing in, especially if your campaign is geared toward long-form content. The longer the audience watches, the more likely they are to form a genuine connection with the influencer and, by extension, your brand. Even in a world of ever-shrinking attention spans, don’t sleep on YouTube’s long-form potential.

Use strategic YouTube influencer marketing to create genuine connections with your target audience. Those connections can help deliver the results your brand deserves, and keep your customers coming back for more. If you’d like assistance constructing your next YouTube influencer marketing campaign, set up a strategy call at the link below.

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👀 Pssst! There’s More YouTube Influencer Marketing Content Where That Came From!

We pulled together a nice, tidy rabbit hole for you on related topics that will make you an expert at this whole YouTube Influencer Marketing thing. #yw

Struggling to come up with creative concepts for your influencer campaign?

We have strategists for that sorta thing.

Let’s avoid those basic-looking product placement posts. They generally don't convert anyway. Our campaign strategists work with our sales team + your in-house team to dream up multiple creative, fun, on-brand concepts for your influencer campaign. This way, your campaign not only reaches a bunch of people and gets engagement, you also end up with a catalog of really, REALLy great visuals to reuse across your own branded channels. (And you can download those suckers right from your campaign dashboard on our platform.)

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