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Back to Basics: 7 Steps for YouTube Success

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digital-videoYouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world (well, if you pretend that search box is a search engine). It can drive massive amount of traffic, help build your brand, and work wonders for your SEO.

Alas, many organizations find the idea of producing all that content intimidating, not to mention the platform itself. Either that or they upload some glossy, expensive, and unsuitable corporate video and hope for the best. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The seven steps below will help you succeed with YouTube too.

1. Find Your Angle

The first thing you need to do is think about your overall YouTube content strategy: what your videos are going to be about, how they are going to be presented, how they’re going to hook viewers, how often you are going to release new ones, etc. For some organizations this might be easy, for others it may be much harder.

As always at the beginning of a new content-based campaign, the single most important thing to do is to get together with your colleagues and brainstorm some ideas. Nothing is too stupid or outrageous at this point. You can always filter the ideas later.

If you work alone, that’s no excuse for skipping this step: get together with your friends, family or whoever you can drag along to get a brainstorming session going. You’ll be amazed how many great ideas come out.

Keep the following things in mind at this stage too:

  • Glossy corporate video tends to do less well than more “authentic” material (or, to put it another way, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do well on YouTube).
  • Think about the things that you and your associates watch and especially share on YouTube. That means everything, not just content related to work.
  • Videos should either inspire positive emotions (excitement, amusement, awe, etc.) or solve specific problems for people (tutorials, reviews, etc). Just talking about your company won’t cut it.
  • Little and often works well. Work on releasing short videos frequently. Avoid long intros or brand spikes. Put your logo at the end, not the beginning.
  • Think as laterally as you can about subject matter. Just because you sell plumbing supplies doesn’t necessarily mean that your videos have to be about plumbing. Think about other areas that could be of interest to your target audience.

2. Make a Plan

Neither YouTube nor Google care if you upload new videos with clockwork regularity, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care.

Working to a specific publication schedule is vital for getting things done when you have all sorts of potentially more urgent tasks to look after. That might be one new video per week, one new video per month, or whatever suits you. Just stick to whatever you decide.

If you're pressed for time, a useful approach is to batch produce videos (or make one longer one that you can cut up) which you can release steadily over time. It’s generally better to do that than to release them all at once.

3. Shoot!

Shooting a new video isn’t as hard or intimidating as it first might seem, and as noted above, you don’t have to hire an expensive video company to do well. It’s also much better to look deliberately amateurish than to fail at professional production.

This isn’t the place for a detailed tutorial on how to shoot great video, but some quick tips might prove useful:

  • Use whatever equipment you have or can afford: a Flip, a cameraphone, whatever. Anything is better than nothing, and you can always work on improving quality as time goes by.
  • If you don’t have proper studio lights, use natural light on a sunny day if you can (even better: shoot outside). Ordinary interior lighting will never look good.
  • Get lapel mics. They’re one of the few things worth buying specifically from the start. The improvement that even a cheap one will give to your sound quality is immense.
  • Have fun and don’t worry! You can always edit out the goofy bits later (... or not, if you prefer).
  • Keep happy accidents. If this guy  (warning: NSFW – strong language) had succeeded in his attempt, he’d have got way less publicity than he ended up with.

4. Upload & Optimize

Once you’ve got your shiny new video, it’s time to get it posted! The process of uploading a video is pretty simple and YouTube will guide you through that if you’ve never done it before. It’s the process of optimizing the video with which many people struggle.

It’s actually a simple process, however. We’re just talking about the various text fields that YouTube allows you to edit for each video. Google itself may have moved well beyond a site’s copy as its key ranking factor, but YouTube is still pretty backward in that regard.

Before you start, you’ll want to do a bit of keyword research. Keywords you're already using from an existing SEO or AdWords campaign may be useful, but YouTube also provides its own keyword tool.

As with the AdWords tool, it gives you estimated traffic levels for various phrases, as well as giving you a lot of new ideas, especially for more niche terms. These are well worth noting! If you’re going to struggle to rank well for a competitive term, opt instead for targeting a few niche terms around the same subject.

These text fields are not the only factor for YouTube ranking, but getting them right is essential. Especially important is the tags field, where your research above will go. Separate the different keywords with commas or put them in quote marks, or you can end up with a bit of a mess.

The title is massively important as well, of course, both for keywords and for encouraging people to click through. Experiment with some different formats here and see what works best for you, but always remember that you have to use the title to give people a reason to spend their time opening your video.

5. Promote

Simply uploading a video and hoping for the best is rarely enough. Start to promote it! Part of YouTube’s ranking algorithm is based upon the number of views you’ve already had (yes, it’s a bit of chicken and egg), so try to get a good number of views early on for each video.

You can do this by embedding the video in your own blog and Facebook page (always embed, don’t link), tweeting about it and putting it on any other social profiles you have. If you have a good enough relationship with any other site owners, ask them to embed it too: remember, your content can’t be shared and promoted enough.

One exception always to embedding – it's good to get at least one plain old link to each of your videos on YouTube, preferably from a site you don't own yourself. It helps with rankings.

6. Think About Your Channel

Your channel is your home on YouTube, just like your profile on Twitter or your page on Facebook. It’s where your videos live, but it can be customized. Make sure you add all the information you can to it: your links (including social profiles), description, location, etc.

Once you have some videos up there, you can start to create playlists too, and also select which of your videos (i.e., your most popular!) should be featured or promoted further.

It’s also worth adding some other channels to your own page, as you see fit, as part of the spirit of getting involved in the site as a whole (see just below). Add channels that you like or think are relevant to your customers, but not your competitors, of course!

7. Get Involved

Remember that YouTube is essentially a social site. It’s all about sharing and commenting. If you want other people to interact with your videos, do the same elsewhere (share the love!) This will help build up your profile and pull people into your channel.

Comment on other people’s videos (or even post video responses), share, subscribe to channels – do all the usual things you’d do on a social media site. Becoming a regular commenter on a channel you like or respect can work well.

Remember at this stage to think about your customers, not your competitors. Many companies, when they think about social media, start to say things such as, “But what’s the point of following my competitors? They’re no use to me.” Of course not, but why were you even thinking about that in the first place? The thing to do is work out where you potential customers hang out and get involved there.

Summary

These tips should get you well on the way to decent traffic and brand exposure on YouTube, but like everything worthwhile, it does require dedication and patience before you really start to see results. You can’t expect overnight success.

And, of course, we’re not doing physics here: this is just a guide, and there are no hard and fast rules. You should build on this, experiment and see what works for you. We’d love to hear about your tactics for YouTube in the comments below too!

Image Credit: Keenan Milligan


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