For many Canadian retailers and small businesses, the popular YouTube platform has been a port in the storm that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year and half.
And more of those businesses are turning to YouTube to help them generate exposure in the marketplace and revenue.
Small businesses like Little King Goods in Morriston, ON, use YouTube to increase visibility for their brands. Owner Ryan Savin learned how to make his first leather camera strap on YouTube, and within a few years was able to scale his hobby into a successful online shop. Hoping to reach new audiences with his crafts, Savin started his own YouTube channel.
Today, he has amassed an online community with over 380,000 subscribers. Savin started the company in 2016.
“I started it as really just a tiny company as a hobby but I wanted to turn it into something bigger,” he said.
“The reason why I started YouTube for this company was because I needed to show my audience or my customers how I make my items and why they were paying the prices they were. A lot of people just kind of go online and not really know the process of how their items that they purchase are made. So I made a video showing that all my products are handmade and I just left it on YouTube for a long time. Maybe a year or two before I started actually making content for YouTube regularly.
“I only started recently about two years ago really starting to use my YouTube channel. I found I had a really great product but my sales just weren’t reflecting what I wanted.”
Savin went to school for film and videography and with that background he filmed how his products were being made. He also filmed the videos in a different style than most people would do. He came from a cinematic approach to his YouTube videos.
“I was ready to pack in my business actually just because I wasn’t making enough money to support my family and so I thought I would give it one last kick at the can and try YouTube. I made two, three, maybe four videos and one day I woke up and I checked my YouTube stats and I noticed I had 200,000 or 300,000 views on this one video. I thought there was a mistake. YouTube was glitching out on me. My followers, my subscribers, were jumping by the thousands,” said Savin.
“I realized at that moment that this YouTube thing could actually be a thing. It could actually be a viable part of my business that would help me grow but also produce revenue along the way.”
Savin said he uses YouTube to inform and to be informed. He said popular YouTuber Peter McKinnon, with millions of subscribers, found him because one of Savin’s videos was trending as a creator on the rise. He wanted to collaborate with Savin.
“I could see my sales starting to grow because of my YouTube following and the interest around it. This YouTuber showed me the ropes behind the scenes of YouTube and how to grow the YouTube channel. He came to my workshop and shot a vlog there and then showed it to his audience and then my following started jumping by the tens of thousands. After three months of being on YouTube we hit 100,000 subscribers,” he said.
“YouTube has been the biggest engine for my business. It just drives the business forward. Without YouTube I don’t think I would be where I am today and I’m just thankful there’s a platform where I can learn and where I can also inform.”
A report by Oxford Economics showed that 74 per cent of YouTube users agree that the platform has been helpful to them since the start of the pandemic. In addition to being a reliable source of information, 58 per cent of users agree that YouTube has had a positive impact on their mental health or physical wellbeing.
The report estimated that in 2020, YouTube’s creative ecosystem contributed approximately $923 million to Canada’s GDP. In that same period, YouTube supported the equivalent of 34,100 full-time employment jobs across Canada.
Canadian YouTube channels making six figures in revenue (CAD) increased 30 per cent year over year. These creative small businesses continue to flourish and find audiences at home and abroad. As of December 2020, more than 450 Canadian channels had over 1 million subscribers, and 3,500 channels had over 100,000 subscribers.
According to YouTube, the majority (64 per cent) of small and medium businesses (SMBs) with a YouTube channel consider the platform to be a strategic partner in their business operations. Over 70 per cent say the platform has helped them grow their customer base and 79 per cent of SMBs with a YouTube channel agreed their YouTube presence helped customers find them.
Andrew Peterson, Head of Content Partnerships, YouTube Canada, said that over the past 13 years through the YouTube Partner Program the platform has created a multitude of ways for creators to make money and the program allows creators to earn a majority revenue share of any of that monetized content.
“While many people are familiar with advertising being a revenue stream on YouTube, we actually announced that there are now 10 ways for creators to earn money on the platform. The results are pretty incredible from the YouTube Partner Program. These different revenue streams have been critical to help us pay out over $30 billion US over the past three years to creators, artists and media companies,” he said.
Recently Google had a blog post on 10 ways to earn money on YouTube. It can be found here.
“I think the thing that’s really exciting for me is that all these monetization streams have really enabled a thriving creator economy in Canada where a large number of Canadians can build and monetize a sizeable audience both here in Canada at home as well as around the world,” said Anderson.
“We’re not only seeing a really sizeable number of creators thriving on the platform but we’re seeing them generate really meaningful revenue and have a really meaningful impact on the Canadian economy.
“One of the things that excites me most about working with YouTube is how the platform has leveled the playing field for creators and businesses alike. For creators it no longer matters if you have the right connections or you fit the mold or you’re making a specific type of content that some companies find very attractive. If you have a great idea, you can publish a video on YouTube and reach an audience of up to two billion monthly users. The same applies to businesses.”
According to YouTube, over 60 per cent of Canadian YouTube viewers say they bought a brand after seeing an ad on YouTube, and viewers say they are twice as likely to go-in-store or online to buy something they saw on YouTube.
With the continued shift towards e-commerce, merchandise is emerging as a strong supplementary revenue stream for entrepreneurs. Creators with established brands can drive their audiences directly from their channel to retail sites using YouTube’s Merch shelf feature.