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  • Larry Stevens

An Insider’s Guide to MCNs: what they are and how they can help build brand awareness

An Insider's Guide to MCNs

There’s been a lot of buzz in the digital marketplace about MCNs, but because it’s a relatively young media outlet, there isn’t much info out there on them. I’ve been working in the MCN space for more than a year now, and wanted to share some insights and info on this exciting — and potentially confusing — marketing opportunity.

An MCN (AKA multi-channel network) is defined on Wikipedia as an organization that works with video platforms such as YouTube, to offer assistance in areas such as "product, programming, funding, cross-promotion, partner management, digital rights management, monetization/sales, and/or audience development" in exchange for a percentage of the ad revenue from the channel.

Although MCNs have only been around for a handful of years, they are already making huge waves in the industry. YouTube really originated the idea so they could take advantage of some of the premium video content that was being produced and/or would be created for brands. They enlisted companies to create premium video networks in specific key categories like food, fashion, beauty, parenting and entertainment, and paid them handsomely in return. Many others followed suit and started up on their own. Each one was established to vie for the top spot in each vertical. These companies aligned themselves with content creators in their category and tagged them under their umbrellas. They would then develop premium, broadcast quality shows that would air on their networks. Some very smart MCNs didn’t want to be tied to one category and developed multiple channels under their company.

These companies instantly created two revenue streams: 1.) Ad Revenue for media that runs throughout their network and 2.) Custom Content Creation utilizing these top influencers as content creators in their respective categories.

One amazing side-effect has been the rise to stardom status of these content creators. Some of these creators (or influencers) have huge followings — many in the multi-millions. The top ones even go on tour and perform all over the world to millions of adoring fans. They have developed huge followings by showcasing their talent across all their social media platforms, creating what we like to call a “social media footprint”. This footprint is what defines them and lands them huge endorsement deals. I might add that some of these talented individuals are still kids (14-15 year-olds that created a huge following – like Justin Bieber, who, I’m guessing may have really started this whole crazy thing to begin with).

With this kind of ready-made platform and audience, a brand can easily enlist a handful of influencers in their category to help promote their product. The MCN is evolving as this extremely authentic marketing approach that also provides huge scale. Think about it: all these influencers in social media outlets are out there endorsing a client’s brand to their community of followers. Clients can also catch stars who are on the rise, which can easily be tracked — just look at their rising social media numbers.

Now, how does a brand pick the best, most relevant, MCN for its promotion? There are so many to choose from, but it’s fairly easy to dial down and get all the information you need to make an informed choice. Do a bit of research and you’ll find the right one for your brand. It’s easy to check out profiles of these influencers online. All their content, social reach and “likeability” is on display. Be careful, however, as there is a sea of great content you can get lost in and hours can go by before you realized you’ve gone off course from your task at hand. It’s that engaging!

When leveraged properly, an MCN can be a great marketing asset and it should be utilized much more by brands and advertisers.

So, with the rise of MCNs, are the days numbered where a brand signs on a “traditional” star to endorse their brand? I doubt it, but this is definitely another alternative to a Michael Jordan and Hanes, William Shatner and Priceline, and Roger Federer and Rolex.

What do you think? Send me a message. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this bold new way to help brands connect with their consumers.

This article was originally published on Linkedin 2/1/2016

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