Top execs from social-media powers YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitch, Snap and TikTok will be among those speaking at this year’s VidCon, the sprawling influencer gathering that also will feature such slightly less expected brands as World Wrestling Entertainment, World of Wonder, Complex Media, Edelman and Chinese giant Baidu.
Viacom-owned VidCon’s sprawling mothership event swamps the Anaheim Convention Center every July, attracting more than 30,000 influencers, social-media platforms, brands and tens of thousands of their wildly demonstrative fans to talk about a multi-billion-dollar industry that didn’t exist at the start of the century.
Even the original VidCon was a modest affair, held in the basement ballroom of a Los Angeles hotel and attracting a few hundred people. A decade later, it’s a decidedly different affair, the industry track alone to include 150 speakers.
The industry track has, in fact, become a de facto gathering of the tribes in the burgeoning business of influencers and influencer marketing. The industry track is held on the convention center’s top floor during the show’s first couple of days, far above the herds of verbally expressive young fans milling about the convention center’s first floor and neighboring venues. Industry speakers this year will include:
- YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan, who will be opening day keynote speaker. Mohan has spoken at the event before, but so too has his boss, CEO Susan Wojcicki, who has been under the spotlight in recent months over continued concerns about YouTube’s brand safety, marketing to children and more;
- Instagram Head of Strategic Partnerships and Emerging Talent Jackson Williams. Instagram has blossomed into a billion-user platform, and become a much faster-growing alternative to parent company Facebook, which also will have executives speak;
- Twitch SVP Content Michael Aragon. Amazon-owned Twitch’s live-streaming platform has taken off over the past 18 months, but the company is still trying to diversify more significantly beyond its video game roots;
- TikTok G.M. Vanessa Pappas. The karaoke short-video app, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, now has 500 million users and is increasingly influential in the music business;
- LinkedIn Head of Video Product Peter Roybal. Microsoft’s business-focused social-media platform claims that 75 percent of U.S. employees have a profile. Influencers there have grown in power since the company added native video nearly two years ago;
- WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, whose company remains a Top 10 social-media powerhouse;
- Complex Media G.M. Cornell Brown. Hearst and Verizon own Complex Media, which also includes such brands as First We Feast, Pigeons and Planes, and Sole Collector;
- Edelman Chief Media Ecologist Steve Rubel, who has been tracking influencers going back to the days of bloggers;
- World of Wonder co-founders Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey. The LGBTQ-focused documentary product company’s properties include a news site, YouTube channel as well as hit reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race and related podcast and convention.
Separately, the Interactive Advertising Bureau will host a “storytellers summit,” featuring a keynote by the IAB’s CEO Randall Rothernberg, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, Select Management Group and creators LaurDIY and Rosanna Pansino.
The conference as usual also features appearances by a battalion’s worth of influencers, led by VidCon founders Hank Green and John Green as well as such notables as Hannah Hart, Poppy, Rickey Thompson, The Try Guys, Kandee Johnson and Miles Jai, among other “featured influencers.”
The conference will again feature a track for fans, who are relegated to first-floor events, as well as an exhibition hall filled with various brand activations, merchandise offerings from influencers and huge “booths” backed by many of the big social-media platforms. Among the brands taking part are Mars Inc., Mountain Dew, Mattel, Hasbro and Adobe.
A third track, featuring how-to panels and other professional-development discussions specifically for influencers, is held on the convention center’s second level, also away from the fans.
The Green brothers sold VidCon in early 2018 to Viacom, which has been stringing together a series of acquisitions designed to beef up its presence online and among influencer.
Other acquisitions include influencer-marketing agency WHOSAY, ad-supported streaming service Pluto.TV and online-video production company Awesomeness, which will again sponsor a series of live concerts in the courtyard outside the convention center. A number of smaller acquisitions have helped beef up its branded-content unit, Viacom Velocity.
Other Viacom brands that will be present at the event include Nickelodeon and MTV, which will both have booths in the exhibition hall. Viacom also has taken a strategic investment in Pocket.Watch, the children’s programming service now creating content for Nickelodeon.
The conference begins July 10 with an evening party and concert at the convention center and runs through July 14. VidCon over the past two years also has expanded internationally, with events in Europe and Australia. The most recent event was in London in February.