Oh, YouTube, the blissful home of cat videos and subtitled karaoke escapades. It’s also a bizarro wonderland where small business owners have long since felt conflicted; on one hand, you have a potential audience of millions, but on the other hand, is it the right platform for conducting business? Can you effectively communicate your company’s message, engage with a substantial audience, all while stay true to your brand?
The short answer: Yes. Lots of companies do, and chances are, yours can as well. The slightly longer answer: this list of tips for navigating and exploiting the wonderful world of YouTube without losing yourself, your audience, or too much money:
- Have clear goals
If you’re going to embark on a YouTube project – or really any social marketing campaign – make sure you have a focused idea of what you want to accomplish, or where you want to see hard change. If you hire someone else to do this project for you, make sure they know, and have a means of tracking the success on this level. For example, if you know that you want the video to drive more traffic to your website, or your new blog, be sure you are monitoring that growth. One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is jumping into the YouTube game with no real idea of what they hope (or even can hope) to get out of it.
- Have a reasonable budget
If this is your first foray into video marketing, don’t put all of your eggs in one very crowded basket. Give yourself a set budget and a set time limit within which to start seeing results. Between production, promotion, and follow-up, don’t initially invest more than $1,000, and expect to see some traction within the first 30 days (although be prepared to let a video “walk around” for a good 6 months before you really judge it’s viability.) If you see considerable growth from this investment, then look into bigger, broader YouTube projects. There’s no need to dive into the deep end before you are sure it’s going to be advantageous for your company.
- Stop trying to go viral
We’ve all heard stories (and we’ve all seen the videos) of companies who make videos that end up getting millions of views and are all the rage online for a few days or weeks. It’s pretty much the Cinderella story of YouTube marketing. That said, it is so rare, and almost never intentional. Going to a social marketing agency or video production company and requesting them to make a “viral video” for your company is one of the most laughably unrealistic requests you can make. It’s not formulaic; if it was, it wouldn’t be special or powerful. Not to mention, having a viral video doesn’t always translate into a significant business boost.
- Work with the medium; don’t make it work for you
A video audience is different from any other kind of marketing crowd. You can’t put the same old marketing messages in video form and expect them to take hold. There is a more fickle attention span, and a greater expectation to be entertained, as opposed to just informed. If your video is just a long talk about how great your product or service is, you can bet no one is going to sit through that. Trying to find a way to get your message across in an engaging, entertaining way that still drives your viewers to take action? It’s not easy. But it is what makes your company work on video.
- Ignore traditional social media performance indicators
On Facebook, number of likes, comments, and followers are all genuine indicators of how well your efforts are doing. All of those things help expand your audience. On YouTube, however, it’s not necessarily true. Comments and followers are reflective of just those people’s interest in what you’re doing; the act of them following and commenting doesn’t itself open you up to a new audience like it does on Facebook and Twitter. So while comments are great, don’t let that mislead you into thinking that your video is super successful. Even high numbers of views aren’t entirely solid; sure, people are tuning in, but are they walking away after a few seconds? Are they actually converting and going to your website? Bottom line: YouTube is one of the marketing channels whose success will almost always have to be measured by watching those goal indicators you identified at the beginning of the project as wanting to see improve.