Nielson Net Ratings reported in 2008 that YouTube has over 68 million unique visitors per month and has the 6th largest visitor audience in the U.S. (ahead of eBay, Amazon and Wikipedia). More than 2/3 of the U.S. population over the age of 25 has watched a YouTube video and 91% of users have purchased something online. YouTube represents a very powerful marketing channel and opportunity for exposure on the net.
There are ways to tap into this immense audience with big ad spend, however I will focus on more cost effective “organic” tactics. These require time but not a direct cash outlay. For the purposes of this article, I will assume that you have already created a branded YouTube channel and are now looking for ways to leverage your channel, broaden your reach and increase your subscriber base. (If you are new to YouTube and have not yet built your channel, the YouTube help center is a great place to start.)
The first step in maximizing the effectiveness of your YouTube channel is to take a step back and examine your purpose for marketing on YouTube. Is it traffic, distribution, brand? Once you have established a firm purpose, you can begin to put together a targeted plan of attack. Your channel design should reflect your purpose and it is necessary to regularly to take a look at your layout, logo, images and profile information. Make sure your design adequately reflects your brand and message. Think of your YouTube channel as an extension of your website; therefore, it should closely resemble the look and feel of your website and other business materials.
Include information in your profile that describes the type of content that can be found in your channel and website. Further, make sure that you link to your website and include your contact information outside of YouTube. Further, make it known in your profile that you would like users to add comments, rate, share, add video responses and to subscribe to your channel.
When adding video content to your channel, make sure that each video has a clear message and is not obscure and confusing. Keep your content fresh and upload a steady supply of 1 to 2 new videos per week on the same schedule so your subscribers know when to expect new content. Further, update the featured videos frequently. You have the opportunity to feature nine videos on your channel and can control the order and placement of your featured videos. Further, use the playlist feature as a way to organize your videos. Building out playlists by subject matter will help users and subscribers find videos that they are looking for as well as expose them to content that they might not otherwise see.
Also, pay attention to the quality of your videos. YouTube has the capability of displaying videos at a higher quality level. The quality of the uploaded video combined with the individual viewers’ bandwidth will determine if the video is displayed at higher quality. Higher quality video means improved sharpness and visual clarity. The difference is especially noticeable in videos that contain text or fast movement and in full-screen mode. When uploading a video make sure your video resolution is 480 x360 or higher and a frame rate of 24fps (frames per second) or higher.
Each time that you upload a new video, pay specific attention to the types of videos that have done well in the past as well as VSEO (video search engine optimization). Copy the format and subject of videos that have a lot of views, comments and ratings to try to re-create the success. Include specific keywords in the title that people will be searching for in YouTube as well as external search engines. Further, make sure that your description is keyword rich, specific and give credit to participants who appear in the video (same applies to location). This way people who do not know the title of your video can search by the participant’s name or location and your video will come up in the search results. I would also recommend placing your video in the proper, relevant category (contrary to the belief that you can manipulate views by placing your video in a different category). If you are trying to drive traffic from YouTube to your website, include the link to your website at the top of your video description so the link will appear directly below your video title.
Another effective tactic that you can use when uploading new videos to your channel is to use the video annotation feature. Video annotations are a new way that you can add interactive commentary to your videos. You control what the annotations say, where they appear on the video, and when they appear and disappear. The annotations appear like pop up word balloons (text boxes) as well as onscreen overlays. You can even link from an annotation to another YouTube video, channel, or search result. Annotations are effective in keeping users engaged by linking to your other videos and channels so that they stay focused on your content.
After you have tweaked your channel design, message, organization, video frequency, video SEO and site links, you are ready to increase your subscriber base. The key to successful marketing in YouTube is a large subscriber base. Subscribers will serve as evangelists for your content and they validate your purpose. They increase your view count, rate your videos, comment, add you to their favorites, share with their friends and ultimately increase traffic and exposure to your website/brand. In addition, content submitted by a channel with higher subscriber and friend counts is given more weight when it comes to video rank and popularity.
YouTube has built their engine in a way so that subscribers have to be earned. In order to ask someone to subscribe to your channel, you first have to invite them to become a friend. Once they have accepted your friend invitation, then you can invite them to subscribe to your channel. The key is to invite as many people as possible to become friends. To find these potential friends, stick to the popular channels; these people tend to be the most active on YouTube.
Further, participating in the groups feature is another great way to find friends and increase exposure. Joining groups is an effective way to get in front of people who are interested in certain subjects and ideas, which ultimately can lead to more friends and subscribers. It is also very easy to create a new group in YouTube to attract like-minded users. If you create a new group, make sure it is open and an invitation is not required to subscribe.
Now that you have added as many friends as possible, you can begin to use the share feature. The share feature allows you to notify subscribers and friends each time a new video is uploaded. This share functionality is very handy because it allows you to target specific groups (think marketing silos). For example, you can share with subscribers, friends and people who have received a friend invitation but have not yet accepted or subscribed.
Another feature that is useful once you build your friend base is the bulletin feature. Bulletins are used to broadcast messages and once posted, messages are sent out to all channel contacts. Your contact list includes other users on the site to whom you’re linked through friend invitations as well as the emails of friends which whom you’ve shared videos. You can also create special contact lists by using a label to describe the common theme of that list. You can then place specific contacts into different contact lists and send messages to multiple friends at once.
Because of YouTube’s relevance in the online video space, friends and subscribers should be communicated to on a regular basis. Whether it is through a bulletin, sharing new videos or direct communication, treat these contacts like they are an important part of your business. Remember to respect their privacy and treat them in a similar fashion to your opt-in email list. Remember people who subscribe to your channel are interested in your videos but not your spam so walk a fine line.
If you are using YouTube as a way to drive traffic to your website to increase sales volume, think about the extra steps that you might need to implement on your site to convert YouTube visitors to sales. Whether it is landing pages, a customized message, pricing or any other strategy that will help convert visitors to paying customers, it is worthwhile to test, test, and test until you get it right.
Next I will outline specific tactics that you can implement to increase activity within your channel and your videos. Being an active participant in the YouTube community will go a long way. Networking can make all the difference in the world when it comes to being relevant or not. Earlier I mentioned participating in groups and this definitely falls into the networking category. Here are some additional networking tactics that are worthwhile to implement:
o Search for popular videos that are relevant to your area of expertise and post video responses. Video responses are not widely used and there is a strong possibility that your video response will end up high in the results. The key to remember is that your video can only be used as a response once.
o You can also post video responses to your own videos.
o Watch other people’s videos and comment on them. Keep your comments brief, respectful and on topic.
o You can also comment on your own videos to get the conversation going.
o Mark other user videos as your favorites. This will more than likely get their attention and show that you are participating in the YouTube community.
o Take part in the contests that are running on YouTube. This is another great way to get your content and channel noticed.
o Add your most popular YouTube videos to video search engines and video distribution sites.
o Promote your YouTube channel on your other online outlets such as your blog, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
YouTube is a factor to be reckoned with; the statistic most telling is the fact that 10 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. If you implement all or some of the above outlined strategies, you will most definitely see an uptick in your YouTube channel results. Like any other organically grown marketing strategy, it takes time and patience before you see measurable results. Hang in there and know that this is a process that is worthwhile and will pay off in the long run.