Nielson Net Ratings reported in 2008 that YouTube has more than 68 million unique visitors per month and has the sixth largest visitor audience in the US (ahead of eBay, Amazon, and Wikipedia). More than 2/3 of the US 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 online exposure opportunity.
There are ways to tap into this huge audience with a large ad spend, however I will focus on more profitable “organic” tactics. These require time but not a direct outlay of cash. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you’ve already created a branded YouTube channel and are now looking for ways to leverage your channel, expand your reach, and grow your subscriber base. (If you’re new to YouTube and haven’t created your channel yet, the YouTube Help Center is a great place to start.)
The first step to 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, branding? Once you have established a firm purpose, you can begin to put together a specific plan of attack. Your channel design should reflect your purpose and regularly review your design, 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 on your channel and website. Also, be sure to link to your website and include your contact information outside of YouTube. Also, indicate in your profile that you want users to add comments, rate, share, add video responses, and subscribe to your channel.
When adding video content to your channel, make sure each video has a clear message and is not obscure or confusing. Keep your content fresh and upload a constant supply of 1-2 new videos a week at the same times so your subscribers know when to expect new content. Also, update featured videos frequently. You have the opportunity to feature nine videos on your channel, and you can control the order and placement of your featured videos. Also, use the playlist feature as a way to organize your videos. Creating playlists by topic will help users and subscribers find the videos they’re looking for, as well as expose them to content they might not otherwise see.
Also, pay attention to the quality of your videos. YouTube has the ability to display videos at a higher quality level. The quality of the uploaded video combined with the bandwidth of individual viewers will determine if the video is displayed in higher quality. Higher quality video means greater sharpness and visual clarity. The difference is especially noticeable in videos that contain text or fast motion and in full screen mode. When uploading a video, make sure your video resolution is 480 x360 or higher and a frame rate of 24 fps (frames per second) or higher.
Whenever 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 theme of videos that have a lot of views, comments, and ratings to try and recreate success. Include specific keywords in the title that people will search for on YouTube as well as external search engines. Also, make sure your description is keyword-rich, specific, and gives credit to the participants featured in the video (the same goes for placement). This way, people who don’t know the title of your video can search by the participant’s name or location and your video will appear in the search results. I would also recommend placing your video in the appropriate and relevant category (contrary to the belief that you can manipulate views by placing your video in a different category). If you’re trying to drive YouTube traffic to your website, include your website link at the top of your video description so the link appears directly below your video title.
Another effective tactic you can use when uploading new videos to your channel is to use the video annotation feature. Video annotations are a new way to add interactive comments to your videos. You control what annotations say, where they appear in the video, and when they appear and disappear. Annotations appear as pop-up word balloons (text boxes) as well as on-screen 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 them to your other videos and channels so they stay focused on your content.
Once you’ve tweaked your channel design, messaging, organization, video frequency, video SEO, and sitelinks, you’re ready to grow your subscriber base. The key to successful YouTube marketing is a large subscriber base. Subscribers will serve as evangelists for your content and validate your purpose. They increase your view count, rate your videos, comment, add you to their favorites, share with your friends, and ultimately increase traffic and exposure to your website/brand. Also, content submitted by a channel with a higher number of subscribers and friends carries more weight when it comes to video ranking and popularity.
YouTube has built its engine in such a way that subscribers have to be earned. To ask someone to subscribe to your channel, you must first invite them to become a friend. Once they have accepted your friend invitation, 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 popular channels; these people tend to be the most active on YouTube.
Also, 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 interested in certain topics and ideas, which can ultimately lead to more friends and subscribers. It is also very easy to create a new group on YouTube to attract like-minded users. If you create a new group, make sure it’s open and doesn’t require an invite to join.
Now that you have added as many friends as possible, you can start using the sharing feature. The sharing feature allows you to notify subscribers and friends every time a new video is uploaded. This sharing functionality is very useful 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 comes in handy once you build your friend base is the newsletter feature. Bulletins are used to broadcast messages, and once posted, the messages are sent to all contacts in the channel. Your contact list includes other users on the site that you are linked to through friend invites, as well as the emails of friends with whom you have shared videos. You can also create special contact lists by using a tag to describe the common topic of that list. You can then put specific contacts into different contact lists and send messages to multiple friends at once.
Due to YouTube’s prominence in the online video space, friends and subscribers need to communicate regularly. Whether it’s through a newsletter, sharing new videos, or direct communication, treat these contacts like they’re an important part of your business. Remember to respect their privacy and treat them similarly to your subscription email list. Remember that the people who subscribe to your channel are interested in your videos, but not in your spam, so be careful.
If you’re using YouTube as a way to drive traffic to your website to increase sales volume, think about the extra steps you might need to implement on your site to convert YouTube visitors into sales. Whether it’s landing pages, a personalized message, pricing, or any other strategy that helps convert visitors into paying customers, it’s worth trying, trying, and trying until you get it right.
Below I’ll outline specific tactics you can implement to increase activity within your channel and your videos. Being an active participant in the YouTube community will help a lot. 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 worth implementing:
o Find popular videos that are relevant to your area of expertise and post video responses. Video responses are not widely used and there is a good chance 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 start the conversation.
o Mark other user videos as your favorites. This will most likely catch their attention and show that you are participating in the YouTube community.
o Participate in the contests that are being held on YouTube. This is another great way to make your content and channel stand out.
o Add your most popular YouTube videos to video search engines and video sharing sites.
o Promote your YouTube channel on your other online outlets like your blog, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
YouTube is a factor to take into account; the most revealing statistic is the fact that 10 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. If you implement some or all of the strategies outlined above, you will definitely see an increase in the results of your YouTube channel. Like any other organic marketing strategy, it takes time and patience before you see measurable results. Hang in there and know that this is a worthwhile process and one that will pay off in the long run.