In the universe of the Internet, YouTube isn’t just its own planet, but its own solar system. Users around the globe rack up more than a billion hours of watchtime every day, and there’s as many unique niches for them to explore as there are stars in the sky. Some of these stars burn brighter than others, however, and while thousands of niches and categories flourished on YouTube in 2018, a few key trends came to define viewer behavior for the entire year. Think with Google recently published an article on three of the most interesting patterns of viewer behavior in 2018—with insights and advice on how brands can react.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Technology makes it possible for us to discover, learn, shop, share, communicate, and more from any place, at any time, with anyone; it also helps us to relax. Videos related to “relaxing” saw a 70% increase in watchtime between July 2017 and June 2018 as more and more people turned to their devices as a way to keep calm and carry on.

Millions of users even explored how to live off the grid from the very comfort of the grid itself through videos that explain how to do everything from catch fish in the wild to build a clean water filter system. In fact, the niche of “van life”—channels and videos depicting minimalist lifestyles of people who live in vans—peaked last year, hitting a new all-time high for viewership.

In 2018, these users visited YouTube to explore new lifestyles: what might be possible if they weren’t weighed down by the tumult of modern life. This makes sense amid a broader cultural shift to consumers who value experiences over items. Brands can follow this current to help potential customers achieve their laid-back, zen ideal by emphasizing lifestyles over products.

Community

YouTube is a video platform, but it’s also a community, and a majority of users—as many as 7 in 10—say watching videos “with” others gives them a stronger sense of connection. Some videos even draw in viewers for a live event where they “share” an experience by performing an activity at the same time as the YouTuber and their fellow fans.

Brands can use the YouTube platform to connect directly with existing and potential consumers alike. This way, consumers can turn to a brand’s channel for information on products, swap tips on how to get the most out of products, and build a close relationship with their consumers one video at a time.

The Inside Scoop

An abundance of options tends to make decisions harder, not easier. Contemporary consumers understand this perfectly and use the web as a tool to identify the right choices for them. That’s why watchtime for videos related to “which product to buy” doubled in 2018.

As users scour the internet for information that can guide their thinking, one of their preferred research strategies is turning to trusted friends in the form of influencers, or YouTubers who post videos reviewing or describing their experiences with specific products. “Morning routine” videos, where influencers discuss the cosmetic products they use, have seen a threefold increase in watchtime over the past two years.

Users are looking to YouTube as a source of information on products before they commit to a purchase. 70% of shoppers say they’d be willing to learn about products on YouTube from the brand behind them, so brands can take advantage of this trend by sharing insider information with a worldwide audience.