GoPro is the fifth biggest brand on YouTube according to The Touchstorm Video Index and as only 2% of the top 5,000 YouTube channels are from brands, this is a considerable achievement.
With 1.7m subscribers to GoPro's YouTube channel, how does this California-based digital camera manufacturer keep its audience entertained and engaged, on a social video platform notoriously difficult for brands to achieve success on?
If your answer is "because GoPro makes the kind of exhilarating, extreme sports videos that make you lose control of your bodily functions while sat at your desk” you’ll be half right.
Here I’ll be taking a look at GoPro’s YouTube strategy, using the best practice tips I laid out in my article from last year: YouTube strategy for brands.
Regular content + Engagement = Subscribers
YouTube is a social network, something that many brands forget.
It’s not about throwing money at an expensive production, uploading it and letting it sit there in the assumption it will become a viral smash.
Commenting and participating is the only way to get the full benefit, something that’s much easier to do now that YouTube has improved its comments system.
Here’s GoPro’s most popular video, with almost 29m views.
There are 20,125 comments underneath it, but it’s not difficult to find examples of GoPro wading into the conversation.
It’s in the 'Discussion' section that GoPro makes the most valuable contributions to the conversation. Here, posting from its sister channel GoPro Slow Motion, is some helpful advice for a user.
Why are subscribers important?
Subscribers provide velocity. YouTube loves velocity. The more subscribers you have, the easier it is to market a video as it’s guaranteed to appear in their newsfeeds.
They’ll watch it, they'll share it and your video will end up in more places. Your videos will pick up velocity and, as I said, YouTube loves velocity.
GoPro doesn’t bombard the viewer with constant annotations and thumbnails within videos, screaming “subscribe now” or “check out my videos for more LOLS”, instead it keeps the viewing experience pure (a necessity for this sort of footage) and saves the message till the very end. Check out this call-to-action:
Anyway, I would imagine half the reason why you’re here is see some ‘totally awesome’ extreme sports videos. Well as your reward for making it through the opening 300 words of text, here’s one of my favourites:
I nearly threw up a bit there. Totally worth it though.
Make content that your audience wants to see
Keeping the brand message in the background, GoPro creates content that’s entertaining, unique and quite honestly containing some of the most exciting (or terrifying) footage I’ve ever seen in an online video.
GoPro’s audience primarily consists of photography fans (both hobbyist and expert), sports fans (both extreme and armchair) and any followers of innovative online video in general.
Videos like the one above, and this one involving a nerve-shredding flight through Heaven’s Gate in Tianmen Mountain…
… show how perfectly GoPro is making content to appeal to all of those specialist demographics. Of course I’m going to subscribe to this channel, I wouldn’t want to miss a thing.
The major success in GoPro’s content marketing strategy is the way it so naturally and effortlessly marries its content to its product. It’s an obvious fit. The rigorous testing of GoPro’s technology through the most breath-taking displays of human bravery, captured by the very camera that’s being marketed.
Users who respond to a brand’s content will naturally gravitate to that brand in other channels and areas of commerce. I for one will definitely purchase a GoPro camera to film my next flaming motorcycle bus-jump.
I talked to professional photographer and creative director of Shot By Sodium Rob Booker about the appeal of GoPro as a brand.
GoPros are the personal CCTV cameras of the extreme sports world. Who the hell wouldn't want to share their latest skydive or jackass jape on social media? GoPros winning move (apart from making the best waterproof futureproof 4K UltraHD slow motion wearable cameras) was making them ahead of the curve and sponsoring the whole world they were designed to be shot in.
Now GoPro has deservedly earned the ultimate acclaim of replacing our everyday vocabulary with its brand name. On set, the director of photography doesn't ask for a small underwater wide-angle camera. He says "hand me a GoPro.
Publish content regularly, in a rhythm, via the right channel
The most successful channels publish videos once or twice a week, usually on the same days of the week. Videos are most cost-effective when produced in one batch, but staggered, well-timed uploads gain maximum velocity.
GoPro follows this rhythm, never uploading more than five times a week, never less than once a week. There is obviously a demand for content here, as reflected in its subscriber numbers, but there is also not so much content to appear overwhelming.
GoPro also spreads out its more specialist content to other channels, thus preserving the integrity of its main channel.
For instance, the GoProMX channel regularly uploads footage of the AMA Motocross & Supercross, sometimes on a thrice-daily basis.
For the 107,051 subscribers to this channel this is invaluable content, but if it was all uploaded to a single GoPro channel, diluting the more popular content, then some subscribers will likely be turned off.
Well, that doesn’t exist. Nobody can ever predict which videos will go viral let alone strategise for it, there are far too many variables. However, GoPro does seem to have a knack for uploading a particular video that has cross publisher/news outlet appeal, thereby increasing exposure.
Remember last week, when GoPro uploaded this video of a camera falling from a plane, landing in a farm and eventually being eaten by a pig?
It was everywhere; you couldn’t help but see it. In fact it amassed 11.2m views in just 10 days. The genius of GoPro was taking this obvious accident and realising that there was a very marketable piece of footage here; combining dazzling visuals with cutesy humour whilst also showing off the indestructibility of its product.
Finally, just to prove that GoPro’s YouTube channel isn’t all about jumping out of planes and skateboarding off mountains, here’s GoPro’s viral sensation that spread its brand awareness and increased brand perception across all demographics to the tune of 20m views.
Fireman saves kitty:
Read my interview with the SVP of marketing and production at Touchstorm, Sean Womack for further YouTube strategy for brands.