The Creator – Viewer Relationship panel took place on Sunday at Summer in the City 2018, in Panel Room A. It was moderated by Mary Akemon and featured Ellen Rose, Tessa Brooks, Saffron Barker and Jack Dean.
Mary kicked off the panel by asking the guests to introduce themselves and their channels. She then initiated the conversation by asking them what their relationship with their viewers is like. Tessa jumped in: “I love the Brooksters!” she said, as she talked about how much she enjoys meeting people at conventions. Saffron relates to this. She explained that she feels like her viewers are her friends because they know her quite well.
Ellen said that she had started doing events recently, and it was “lovely and heartwarming” to interact with her viewers. Mary also asked Ellen about her experience being a fan first and becoming a creator. Ellen talked about how amazing it was going into the studio, which she had seen in the background of the videos, for the first time.
Finally, Jack explained that his relationship with his viewers is quite different to the ones described above, as they “slag each other off”, but he tries to make it clear that they are not friends. “There is always going to be that gap,” he said, explaining that he tries to be as honest as he can with his audience with regards to their relationship.
Mary continued by opening a discussion about the panellists’ content, and how it had changed since they had started on YouTube. “In what way have the viewers influenced what you make?” she asked. Tessa stated that she likes trying new things. She started by vlogging but her fans suggested that she did makeup videos. She tried it and loved it. Jack explained that YouTubers make the stuff they want to make, but they also have to pay the bills. He said that it was all about finding that middle spot between the two types of content.
“Everything I’ve made on this channel is me,” Saffron said, explaining that she would never do something just for the views. She added that branching out is good but that she wants to stay true to herself. Ellen started by making fairly generic videos, but she found that when she talked about gaming that was well received. She loved making gaming content, so this is why her channel slowly became all about gaming. Ellen concluded that she tries to find a format that works for the audience, but retains a strong voice.
Mary then went on to ask how much responsibility the creators felt they had over what their viewers did. Tessa thinks creators are responsible for the content they make, but not for the specific actions that the viewers take. Ellen added that she needs to be very careful when she calls out someone for being rude to her, as her audience will go after them. “ I now screenshot their tweet and black their name out,” she shared.
Mary went on to ask what the creators would like YouTube to provide to help them improve their relationship with their viewers. Jack immediately answered that video responses would be top of his list. He recalled how great they were for the relationship between viewer and creator. Saffron talked about how much she enjoyed using the already existing Community Tool, and Tessa mentioned the Live feature, and how she like the interaction that going live allows her.
Mary turned the conversation to the panellists’ worse fan interactions and asked the creators what viewers could do to make these interactions better. Tessa started by saying that people coming to her house is very scary and that it’s important to respect creators as people. Ellen talked about several uncomfortable and scary interactions, including a fan whispering “I love you” to her when they hugged, a stalker on Instagram for whom she had to call the police, and fans who send her poetry.
Jack made it clear that creators are people and no one should be having people turning up at their houses. However, he considered that perhaps when YouTubers share every detail of their lives – including, for example, the birth of their children – a false sense of familiarity is created. Mary agreed and noted that this one-sided type of relationship is called a parasocial interaction. Tessa said that although the line between viewer and creator can be blurry, the most important thing is for both sides to respect each other.
The panel was then opened to questions from the audience. One audience member asked what the viewer’s responsibility is towards the creator. Jack suggested that the viewer should keep an open mind and not agree with every word that their favourite creator says. Ellen added that the number one rule is respect. “The creator is trying their best [to maintain the balance] don’t ask for more out of them,” she said.
Finally, an audience member asked what the balance is between sharing too much and too little. They elaborated by explaining that sharing too much encourages this one-sided relationship, whereas sharing too little means that people will think you are fake when they meet you in real life and you are more multi-faceted. Saffron admitted that maintaining this balance is hard, while Jack said that it will always be too far one way or the other. He suggested learning through trial and error and being aware of the balance. Tessa concluded that each creator is different and therefore the line is in different places for different people, saying “I like to share things […] You won’t please everyone.”
Photos by George Yonge.
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