More and more companies are starting to understand the value of user reviews. They will often send out demo units for YouTubers who want to get their hands on the latest gear for a review. We look at the ins and outs of acquiring demo units.

Who doesn’t enjoy the fresh smell of new gear? Especially when that new gear didn’t cost you the new gear price, or better yet, it’s free. It is possible to have companies send you new products and equipment in exchange for a review. These products are referred to as “demo units.” We talked to a YouTube reviewer and a few company reps to find out what it takes to get your hands on the latest gear.

One Channel’s Experience

Sean Cannel runs a channel called Think Media, which hosts dozens of product reviews along with tips and tools for YouTubers. He has 350 thousand subscribers and nearly 20 million views. He tells us that there are generally two ways that companies provide demo units: “The first is a unit that you just borrow. Typically a company will just send it out to you with return mailing label in the package. You’ll have the gear, use it, review it for a certain amount of time, then repackage it and drop it back at the post office. Its a pretty cool way to go. But the second way is even cooler, if you can get it. You basically get a review unit that you get to keep, so it’s free gear!” Sean says this second method is usually reserved for established product reviewers.

Sean Cannel of ThinkMediaTV reviews all kinds of new video gear. He says the first step for aspiring YouTube product reviewers is simply to start asking for demo units.

This veteran YouTuber tells us that getting started may be easier than your think — simply ask. “If you’re just starting out, I would say don’t get too discouraged. I’ve seen people who only try one or two companies, they don’t hear back and they give up. I think you’ll see results when you’re trying like twenty companies, or even 50 or even 100! Really putting it out there.” Sean says that once you get established, the companies will start approaching you.

It’s really all a matter of starting small and developing a reputation and an audience.

He says that a good way to get up and running with review units is to approach smaller companies — and not for big ticket items. He says that he emails marketing reps or uses Twitter to connect with a company and make the ask.

Advice from Brands

Gus Harilaou is the President, The Americas for Miller Camera Support Equipment. He tells us that they generally loan out gear and have users have to go through a basic process: “We have a standard loaner agreement that we send out for the customer. Basically just stating the obvious: You’re accepting the equipment and while its in your possession, you’ll care for it. We just ask how long they want to demo it, evaluate it, and review it. That can be as quick as a week or as long as a month. From there they just return the paperwork, filled out, signed, and we ship the equipment out.” He says they primarily interested in reviews for newer product lines, but they don’t mind seeing serious user reviews on their older products.

Gus tells us that Miller actually welcomes review requests, “A lot of equipment buyers these days want to demo units for themselves or they want to read one or 10 reviews before they make a purchase. So, the more the merrier.” In other words, their company knows that buyers often watch YouTube reviews before they buy. He says that he cannot remember them turning down a request for a demo unit.

GoPro is another company that understands the benefit of online reviews. Katie Babineau is the Senior Manager of Global Social Media for the action cam giant. She outlines their requirements: “When we send demo units to vloggers, we want to ensure these are folks who are familiar with GoPro, our products and ecosystem, and who are excited to give a fair evaluation of our products. Their social reach is a big factor for us too — they need to have a significant following (typically 100K+) and reach beyond the audiences we’re traditionally known for.”

Additionally, Katie tells us that they work with a group of users who are part of their advocacy program, made up of partners who have a passion for their brand, “They’ve gotta love GoPro, or at least embody what we stand for — inspiring others to live their best life. Social reach is also very important since the main object of the program is reaching new audiences and driving demand across key regions. Typically, we target a social reach of 50K and above, but this threshold is flexible based on the market.” Katie notes, “They also need to be a solid creator and someone who is eager to learn — we spend a lot of time on training and elevating skill levels as our products progress and evolve.”

Start where you are.

It’s really all a matter of starting small and developing a reputation and an audience. These rules would generally apply to just about any industry, not just video content. The first step might be to rent equipment. As your channel grows, who knows, companies might start knocking on your door.

Get YouTuber.

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