YouTube stars and fans are gathering in London for Summer in the City, the UK’s largest and longest-running online video festival. We meet the people who get to call YouTube their job.
Caroline Hirons, a 49-year-old aesthetician and beauty consultant turned blogger and YouTuber, says her existence on YouTube is all down to trust with her viewers.
She decided to start her blog eight years ago after seeing bad skincare advice shared on Twitter and joined YouTube shortly after to visualise what she was writing about.
Girls would spend two hours doing their make-up then take everything off with a face wipe – I was just apoplectic looking at it home,” she tells the BBC.
“So I just sat down one night and wrote a blog post about cleansing and it’s still one of my most-read blog posts.
“YouTube happened just from demand and I didn’t want to do it if I’m honest, because I’m older and I wasn’t sure, but it was received really well.”
‘People feel like they know you’
For Caroline, she says her whole online career has been built on trust because she is advising her viewers on what products they should buy.
“I’m very aware that my opinion carries a lot of weight and I can put a brand in a sell-out position,” she says.
“Its a big trust issue, I know that my readers trust me implicitly and I do everything I can to protect that.”
“So it makes me a lot more of a critical reviewer and blogger and that has stemmed from demand from readers – I’m very aware of wasting people’s money.”
She says because of that trust she has to be very careful with what companies she works with – as beauty brands often offer to pay her to review their products.
“For me it’s really easy to decide whether I will or won’t work with a brand – do I know the brand, do I like the brand, do I use them?
“With YouTube people feel like they know you intimately, so if I was to go and start recommending things that I’m known to dislike it would just be completely disingenuous and I’d get called out on it immediately.
“I think when you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you build up a rapport with readers and people feel like they know you.
Reality TV stars
Whilst beauty bloggers have been using YouTube and Instagram to recommend products for a while now, reality TV stars are just starting to get in on the action.
As fans flock to recreate the looks of their favourite TOWIE and Geordie Shore looks, stars on the shows have been cashing in with their own product lines and endorsements.
But Caroline says she doesn’t “have a problem with reality stars flogging their wares”.
“All power to them, but don’t think people like me who are qualified and have been doing this a long time and are trained won’t call you out on it!
“We are going to say ‘actually don’t put that on your skin’, I don’t care who it is, they’re getting paid to say it!”
“It’s a short life span for a reality star unless you’re a Kardashian, but even they get called out on it.
“I think the cream rises to the top and eventually there’s only so much fake tan and glitter you can buy.”
YouTube is ‘intensive’
“I laugh when people say blogging and YouTube is an easy life, because if it was then everyone would be doing it,” Caroline says.
“Is it the hardest job I’ve ever done? No but I’m older and I’ve had many, many jobs.”
She says her most popular video – where she goes through all the beauty products she has used up, “can take many, many days” due to filming, editing and then sourcing every product used so that viewers can buy it.
“The video I’m filming next week is showing over 60 products so it’s intensive.
“It’s hard work mentally because for me in particular I am answering a minimum of 50-100 questions a day and that’s on a quiet day.”
Caroline also has a “complete mix of demographics” when it comes to readers and viewers so has a lot of different people to cater for in her output.
“I have women way up into their 70s reading me or teenage girls finding me for the first time, I’m treated like mother hen or big sister and I embrace it – there are plenty of 20 year olds and not many 40 year olds!”
‘A small minority of negativity’
She also says her age helps her deal with one of the biggest problems YouTubers face – nasty comments.
“I deal with negativity a bit differently as well,” she says.
“I think it must be really hard to be a 20-something who then becomes famous on YouTube, and not know yourself.
“I only started blogging when I was 40 so I’m very confident in who I am as a person. I always think it’s more of a reflection of them on me.
“I only get a small minority of negativity, but if someone questions something I say or endorse then I reply, it all depends on how its pitched.”