VidCon London 2020: influencers descend upon the city!

VidCon London has been the best social media event I’ve ever attended.

For UK readers of this blog not familiar with the event, VidCon connects social media creators, fans, and brands, together.

In the U.S. 75,000 people recently attended VidCon’s 10th anniversary, including over 100 brands.

It’s no secret that working agency side in the public relations industry can be intense. The requirements of business-as-usual, constant flow of email traffic, and balancing multiple responsibilities comes with another challenge; keeping skills up to date.

At VidCon London I walked past crowds of teens screaming after @Jacksepticeye, a social influencer with 5.8 million followers on Twitter and 23 million subscribers on YouTube. Heard talks from creators such as the Zac and Jay Show, 540,000 subscribers on YouTube. These internet famous creators have honed their craft by bringing together niche, but enormous communities together.

The Zac and Jay Show’s most popular upload to date features them faking a model to the top of London Fashion Week. Highlighting how skin deep the fashion industry really is. The video has over 16 million views and has become a key revenue driver for the entire YouTube channel.

Introducing the Passion Economy

Creators refer to their art as a Passion Economy. The best creators foremost focus on their audience. They delve into the niche they represent and build from there. Social channels such as Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube are particularly powerful for bringing people together.

In PR, this is often called an audience-led approach. The art of picturing who audiences are, what they care about, and where they visit for news and content. The best social media creators live and breathe for their audiences.

It’s an intense way of life, causing numerous social media stars to experience burnout. The dedication to content creation makes many traditional journalists look out of touch and small in comparison.  

Influencer marketing is serious business

Influencer marketing isn’t new, I’ve been involved in the space for eight years. But the pace is intensifying. Eight years ago in Rotterdam I joined dozens of travel bloggers, as an agency representative, for a series of travel brands. This feels old school in the age of TikTok.

The popularity of influencers has led to the growth of the influencer economy. Instagram is launching its own ‘influencer dashboard’. Yesterday TikTok announced a similar feature. It’s expected that the influencer marketing industry will be worth up to $15 billion by 2022.

With this, naturally comes the introduction of new regulation. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) alongside the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), are continuing to clamp down on unclear advertising and sponsorships in influencer content. It’s for consumer protection but guidelines don’t translate well for every social media channel (this is a blog post for another day).

PR practitioners are super creators

PR has really been the industry discipline at the forefront of influencer marketing. Except we call it something else, engaging with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). Whether these are employees, healthcare professionals or shareholders – the list is endless. Perhaps as an industry we were once too focused on writing media releases to notice that the entire communications landscape was shifting. There is a natural skill alignment between working with KOLs and social media stars.  

Creators may manage their own brand, but I can’t help but feel PR practitioners are the super creators. Often managing handfuls of brands at any one time, understanding the intricacies of their audiences, and creating campaigns that unify for business purpose. 

This is just a little informal blog post from VidCon London. Over the next few weeks I’ll be publishing further thoughts about the social media industry, how to approach content, and working with influencers.

What do you think?