What I Learned this year: 2018 By Chin Lu, Senior Strategist, Portal A

By thesanfranciscoegotist / /

Our next “What I Learned This Year” comes from Chin LuSenior Strategist at Portal A. She’s got a ton of great thoughts – especially about brands, creators and YouTube – that are totally worth your time. Enjoy.


  • First and foremost, stay grounded. We take pride in our work, but it’s been a tough year. Tragedies really put things into perspective, and it’s important to take the time for mental health and self-care. It always makes me feel better to get involved through volunteering, donating, and even contributing through work— One of my favorite projects this year was “Change the Game” with Google Play to celebrate and empower girls and women in gaming.

  • The YouTube creator space has not finished evolving. This year was my third time going to VidCon, and the general consensus I got from all the sessions I attended is that we’re all still learning, adapting, and optimizing as we go. In the face of complex content business models, it might be tempting to go for one-size-fits-all and fork over money for product placement in vlogs, but sponsored creator content that’s actually relevant in a timely way, meaningful, and authentically integrates the product or brand is well worth the extra effort.

  • More and more celebrities are coming onto YouTube. Digital is no longer a testing ground for new talent, or simply a place for talent to exist before they really “make it.” Traditional celebrities like actors and athletes are coming onto YouTube to make sure they stay relevant with young people, and we are here for it! We’re getting more and more interest from A-listers’ teams to discuss partnerships. And helping Stephen Curry launch his first YouTube series 5 Minutes from Home a few months ago was an unique opportunity for us to share our knowledge about digital videos with his team, but also for us to learn the factors at play working with professional athletes which are very different from working with professional YouTubers.

  • When it’s the right partnership done well, fans LOVE seeing their favorites in paid sponsorships. Young people appreciate transparency, and that includes honest disclosures about paid partnerships. Since we always read the comments, this year we’re seeing more viewer responses like “Yes you go get your coin, girl!” Especially for creators who are emerging or at the mid-tier level, it’s rewarding for their fans to see the people they choose to follow sign brand deals.

  • Ask not what a creator can do for you—ask what you can do for the creator. What can you offer besides money, that will make a difference and lead to content they WANT to share? Do you have an exclusive opportunity or incentive, like VIP treatment and tickets to the World Series or a chance to collaborate with Stephen Curry? Are you going to be a good partner and make their jobs as content creators easier and more enjoyable, by playing to their strengths and preferences or building a set customized just for them? When creators are genuinely very proud of the content we work on together, they often post extra promotional content on top of their contracted amount.

  • The latest may not always be the greatest With content platforms copying each other (Hi Snapchat/Instagram/Facebook/YouTube/LinkedIn Stories), it truly is a battle of “Who Does It Best” rather than “Who Did It First”—Don’t feel pressured to use the newly added player in the game. Think about if a new feature makes sense for your audience, what you’re trying to accomplish, and how you want to reach them.

  • Don’t be afraid of long form videos. Some clients have expressed concerns about their brand messaging getting lost or viewers dropping after a video runs longer than 5-7 minutes. But quality creative videos that happen to be long will still do well, because people do take the time to watch long videos about topics they care about. There’s been a lot of research that the YouTube algorithm has been favoring longer videos, and we definitely see many videos longer than 7 minutes do well.

  • Diversity is a must at every single possible level, because it makes for better results. This is not something I learned recently but something worth repeating again. From the team you hire (and I mean every department, including freelancers and contractors), both on- and off-camera talent, to even the placeholder characters you put in pitch decks, it is crucial to have diversity. The more varied the kinds of perspectives working together, the better end result, because the content would be able to engage a wider audience on a more personal level.




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