How to Turbocharge Growth & Influencer Marketing with Sam Betesh
Sam Betesh once ran a Top 100 YouTube channel. He’s built marketing strategies for a range of high-growth companies, including Uber, Patreon, Fabletics, and OnlyFans, to name a few. Today, he’s running Fanatical, a startup studio for influencer-driven businesses.
If you have a question about influencer marketing, Sam’s your guy. He sat down with the Tydo team to chat about his time as a YouTuber, growth marketing tactics, and live shopping trends.
Designing a High-Growth YouTube Channel
In the very early days of Sam’s YouTube channel, he benefited from simply being one of the only Call of Duty YouTubers on the platform. Anytime someone searched certain Call of Duty terms, he was always one of the top results. That’s what blew up Sam’s channel.
In his words, it was a slow grind with no inflection point. Just repetition after repetition. Today, when he advises brands on their YouTube growth strategies, he notes that the biggest change he’s seen is that it’s all about keeping people on your video for as long as possible.
Like TikTok and every social network, YouTube is aggressively calculating the retention rate of videos, the conversion rate of thumbnails, and a bunch of other metrics to rank and de-rank videos. For example, YouTube will favor a 60 minute video with a 20% retention rate over a four minute video with a 40% retention rate. Their end goal is to keep more people on the platform.
For brands looking to expand their presence on YouTube, Sam suggests paying attention to CTR and thumbnail conversion rate. It’s hard to give exact metrics because there are all sorts of reasons why people click on and off a video, but those are two critical data points to track.
“You can use data to do this, but if you’re truly a subject matter expert, you can intuit what trends are interesting that not enough people are talking about yet. Then, you’ll benefit from people typing in those keywords.”
Relationship-Driven Influencer Partnerships
Influencer partnerships all boil down to relationships. When approaching influencers, you want to be very human and treat influencers like people you respect. Then, you say, “Hey, we really love what you do. We would love to share some of our products with you, if you’re interested.”
Sam recommends not obliging influencers to post an exchange for product. Instead, brands can simply note, “We would appreciate it so much if you did share the product with your followers,” which he’s seen result in a warmer reception and a higher conversion rate overall.
Regardless of the product, the unboxing experience should be colorful, eye-catching, and clearly unique from the rest of the market niche. Brands need to create memorable experiences that get influencers to pause and think, “What is this?” and in turn, help them tell engaging stories.
“You need to actively create digital experiences that inspire influencers to post something that gets their followers to stop scrolling. That’s the magic.”
Influencer 101: How to Measure Success
With regard to paid partnerships, Sam adds that it’s mostly one-time payments. Brands like Fashion Nova and Gymshark use retainer models, but it’s rare for a brand to reach the point where they’re always working with influencers over an extended period of time.
When choosing influencers, Sam encourages brands to cast a wide net. He recommends starting with understanding the brand’s psychographic niche and then nailing down the payment method, whether it’s free product or capital. That choice depends on the influencer’s viewership.
In terms of metrics, before launching a campaign, it’s helpful to note the percentage of an audience that’s male vs. female and U.S. vs. international. As far as success metrics, Sam recommends actively tracking views, impressions, and followers across accounts.
For startups scaling through influencers (Fashion Nova, Gymshark, Fabletics, etc), they mostly focus on measuring conversions to purchase. As it relates to attribution, most companies base success off of direct sales that come from an influencer’s discount code or a tracked link.
“It’s okay to work with influencers who others may not want to work with. I’ve dealt with too many founders who are overly particular about their brand. Fashion Nova and Gymshark didn’t get to where they are by being picky.”
Social Commerce & Live Shopping
Sam has spent the last few years leveraging influencers for Facebook ads and paid creative.
He believes it’s becoming the largest trend in user acquisition and is a clear strategy that results in higher retention rates for one of two reasons. Influencer content can look so incredibly organic that for two seconds the viewer doesn’t even realize they’re looking at an ad. In other cases, content can reach a high retention rate just because it’s just an eye-catching video (for example, maybe because the influencer has bright pink hair or their tone is incredibly excited).
That increased retention rate on paid social creatives can then mean the brand pays as little as half the CPM they were paying with their old creatives.
Right now, Sam’s most interested in social commerce and live shopping. He advises Popshop Live, where retailers treat the app like Shopify but for live video. Only physical retailers are on the platform at the moment, but they’re already tripling or quadrupling their revenue.
Sam notes that the app will eventually turn into mostly influencers streaming. Live shopping has already seen a ton of growth in China, and it already has a huge market in the U.S. with QVC.
“The fundamentals of live shopping translate directly to the U.S. market, but we just need to make a strong push in that direction. That’ll be a massive unlock for brands and for influencer marketing as an ecosystem.”
The TLDR on Fanatical
While advising companies like Popshop Live, Sam also runs his own startup studio, where he launches brands that are primed for an influencer-first distribution strategy.
Some of those ideas are physical DTC products that have the potential to be the next Gymshark, while others are software platforms that are more analogous to the next Patreon or OnlyFans.
He prefers this dual portfolio construction approach because he sees values in tinkering in a space that he’s super familiar with and then pattern matching based on years of working and building in the influencer ecosystem. In his opinion, it’s the best way to arrive at a killer idea.
“I’m not building tools for creators. I’m building both brands that resonate with their audiences and software platforms that either help brands make money or help them develop a new style of engaging with their fans.”
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