A YouTube exec explains its relaunched program to play matchmaker between brands and influencers and why she thinks proprietary data will be its competitive edge



  • YouTube is rebranding FameBit, the influencer-marketing platform that it acquired in 2016, as YouTube BrandConnect.
  • The in-house influencer-marketing service also has a new global head of business, Lori Sobel, who comes to BrandConnect after 16 years of working across various teams within Google. 
  • Unlike FameBit, which offered a self-service tool for creators and brands to connect for sponsored content deals, all YouTube BrandConnect deals will be initiated by the company’s in-house team.
  • Sobel told Business Insider that the company will be tapping into Google’s pool of proprietary data to play matchmaker for brands and creators. 
  • Subscribe to Business Insider’s influencer newsletter: Influencer Dashboard.

Four years after acquiring the influencer-marketing startup FameBit, YouTube is doubling down in its role as matchmaker for brands and creators and tapping into Google’s vast pool of data to try and gain an edge.

The company recently announced that it’s eliminating self-service deal-making from its in-house influencer-marketing tool, and as of today, the company is sunsetting the FameBit name and rebranding as YouTube BrandConnect.

The team has a new leader as well: Lori Sobel, who’s taking charge of BrandConnect after spending 16 years working across a variety of teams at Google. 

“We’ve seen increased interest in influencer marketing over the last few years, and I anticipate that continuing to rise,” Sobel told Business Insider. “Our team actually proactively matches creators with brands and provides that end-to-end campaign management and delivery. This was in contrast to our original self-service product which was a website that allowed creators to independently find brands to work with.”

Lori Sobel YouTube BrandConnect

One of the main benefits of shifting away from a self-service model is having the ability to tap into Google’s proprietary data to make more audience-based influencer-marketing deals rather than relying on a creator’s content vertical, Sobel said.

“Instead of saying, ‘Oh this is a beauty brand, they should only connect with beauty creators,’ what we do is say, ‘Okay this beauty brand is looking to reach this audience and then we come back with a list of more creators that they might not have even thought of that would be great for their brand,” she said. 

YouTube acquired FameBit in 2016 with the hope that FameBit’s “democratized marketplace” would allow creators “of all sizes to directly connect with brands,” it said in a blog post at the time. The company has since discovered that creator-negotiated influencer deals are far less lucrative than campaigns set up by FameBit’s in-house team. Sobel said that self-service deals represented less than 4% of total creator payouts on YouTube, and that its influencers earn on average 30 times more from full-service deals than self-service campaigns.

With the rollout of its full-service-only platform, BrandConnect, YouTube will act as a middle party for all negotiations between brands and creators, similar to an influencer-marketing agency model (though the company rejects the comparison). YouTube will continue to set a 25,000-subscriber minimum threshold for creators to participate in its branded content program.

The company said brands pay an upfront fee for each influencer campaign and in return YouTube guarantees a certain number of organic views. YouTube takes a percentage of the fee paid by the brand and creators who are part of the campaign get paid a pre-negotiated rate, which is also covered by the upfront fee.

“We’re working with the brands to come up with what makes sense for them from a financial perspective, and then we’re also working with the creators to do that as well,” Sobel said. “We’re not really an agency, I can’t really get into all the details, but the goal is that we want to make it favorable for both sides, but everything we do is in-house.”

The BrandConnect team’s pitch is built around offering custom features (that it calls “shelfs”) to make YouTube branded content more actionable, including a shopping carousel, an artificial-reality makeup try-on feature, and two new features that enable creators to feature apps and movie and TV shows they’re discussing in their videos. Those features are exclusive to BrandConnect.

The company also offers a slate of measurement products for campaigns built on proprietary Google data to help brands identify increases in searches on Google.com and YouTube.com, purchase intent and brand recall shifts through surveys, and conversions, whether that’s a website visit or product purchase.  

FameBit is not the only YouTube advertising program that’s had a touch-up in recent weeks.

The company announced last month that its Google Preferred ad program is being overhauled and rebranded as YouTube Select with an eye to monetizing a wider swath of content on its platform. 

For more on the business of influencers, according to YouTube creators, check out these Business Insider Prime posts: 

  • How much money do YouTubers make a month? A minimalist influencer with 77,000 subscribers shares exactly what she earns and spends: The minimalist influencer Kyra Ann, who has 77,000 subscribers, shared how much money YouTube paid her in February.

  • 8 YouTube stars explain which videos made them the most money, including one that earned $97,000: We spoke to eight creators with vastly different channels, and they shared the most amount of money YouTube paid them for a single video.

  • A YouTube creator explains why personal-finance videos can make much more money than many other types: Marko Zlatic runs a YouTube channel with 298,000 subscribers, and he posts videos about personal finance, stocks, and real-estate investing.

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