Until today, the only cryptic advice that YouTube was willing to give to content creators and brand advertisers about how to make videos worth watching and create content worth sharing was this little nugget hidden on the programming checklist in the Creator Playbook: "Create content that is unique, compelling, and entertaining or informative."
Instead of revealing the secret formula to content marketing success, YouTubers seemed to have adopted the policy of "letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend" in order to create "a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small."
In July 2008, the YouTube Spotlight channel uploaded an animated short by Jantze studios, "The Birds and the Biz," which claimed there was no "magic formula" or "secret potion" for content marketing success. "The truth," according to Papa Bear, was YouTubers "never really know what crazy new thing will be next."
That was then. And with Susan Wojcicki now the CEO of YouTube, this policy appears to have changed – big time.
Today, Suzie Reider, Google's managing director of brand solutions, will be giving the luncheon keynote at the 2014 ANA Media Leadership Conference. Reider will look at the key industry trends and tell advertisers and brand marketers what they can do (and should do!) to prepare for this next decade of rapid change in all things advertising. She will also announce The YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands.
The Brand Playbook reveals the tools and know-how developed by a generation of YouTube content creators in order to help brands as they develop content strategies that will resonate with 21st century consumers.
This newest playbook is divided into seven sections. Each section presents several optimizations or strategies for building engaged audiences on YouTube.
These best practices are explained in stages to help content creators and brand advertisers understand each point and guide them through taking action.
- Content Marketing as part of Your Brand Strategy recommends, "Before making videos, create a content plan to ensure that your content both meets your brand's goals and engages your intended audience. Our five guiding principles will then help you define your content marketing specifically on YouTube using simple questions. "
- 10 Fundamentals to Create Content People Love says, "A successful creative concept can have an enormous impact on a channel. Compelling videos can bring in new viewers, introduce them to the rest of your content, and build a loyal fanbase. While no strict rules govern content creation on YouTube, ten fundamental principles have emerged as the most important guides to a successful creative strategy."
- Schedule Your Content declares, "Now it's time to map out your overall channel strategy. How do you decide which video to release when? First you need to communicate what your channel stands for, and then you need to map out the different types of potential videos and the best times to release them."
- Optimize Your Content reveals, "Creating great content is essential to finding success on YouTube, but it's only half the battle. YouTube is a big place with lots of content for viewers to choose from. A successful optimization strategy will help you take full benefit of the platform's functionalities and avoid execution mistakes."
- Promote Your Content with Paid Media explains, "The key to success on YouTube is not only to produce great, relevant videos, but also to make sure your target audience sees them. In this section, we'll guide you through cost-effective strategies to help you get the most out of paid and earned video views and ensure effective promotion of your content on YouTube."
- Amplify Your Content with Social discloses, "Online video is an inherently social medium. People are drawn to online video and web series because they can interact with the creators in ways that they can't on television. In this section, learn how to optimize the social amplification of your content."
- Measurement acknowledges, "Measurement is key, both for defining success and optimizing towards it. In this section, we'll present you with tools that will help you track metrics around all of your paid, owned and earned media on YouTube. We'll also help you select KPIs that make sense for your objectives."
In addition to being more up-to-date than previous Creator Playbooks, the Brand Playbook is also more comprehensive. For example, Version 2 of the Creator Playbook, which was published in February 2012, was 73 pages long and organized into three sections: Programming and Producing, Publishing and Optimization, and Community and Social Media.
By comparison, the Brand Playbook is not only organized into seven sections, it is also 100 pages long. About the only things missing from the newest playbook are some of the best practices for leveraging Facebook, Twitter, and other social media that were included in earlier versions.
One of the few anachronisms in the Brand Playbook is a tip on Page 87 to "Partner with a third party such as Wildfire, Google's in-house social media marketing platform, to help you seamlessly execute consistent campaigns across multiple networks." Google started winding down Wildfire as a standalone entity on March 14, 2014, and began rolling its technology into the DoubleClick ad platform.
In addition to announcing the Brand Playbook during Reider's keynote, Vanessa Pappas, the Global Head of Audience Development YouTube, is also expected to post an announcement on the YouTube Creator Blog and/or the Official YouTube Blog.
A draft of the blog post was shared with Search Engine Watch on Friday. In it, Pappas asks, "Ever wonder why Smosh gets millions of views on every video posted to their channel? Or how Michelle Phan is able to attract and retain an audience of more than 6M subscribers who tune into her videos every week?"
Pappas then says, "To demystify what makes these top channels tick and help you better understand how to create a successful strategy for your brand on YouTube, we developed the new YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands. Similar to the Creator Playbook, which has helped over 2 million of our creators grow their audiences, the Creator Playbook for Brands walks you through the steps to help you create, plan, and implement a YouTube content creation strategy; from tips on how to create videos to video promotion."
In her post, Pappas also does some myth busting on the five most commonly misunderstood fundamentals about creating content for YouTube:
- Myth #1: Virality is the only measure of YouTube success. The most successful creators release episodic series to generate high sharing and viral activity, as one video will often break out and then introduce massive audiences to the entire series.
- Myth #2: You can only be successful on your own. While brand advertisers should optimize their own channels for discovery, authentic collaborations with YouTube creators can be a hugely impactful way to help new viewers discover their brands.
- Myth #3: All videos must provide utility. Although how-to and informational videos play a key role in a content strategy, tapping into the cultural moments and memes that your audience is a part of on YouTube is an integral part of reaching new viewers.
- Myth #4: People will watch your video where you want them to. In reality, a significant percentage of your audience will discover your video from a social feed, search result, or a related video placement. You'll know you've done your job when every episode of your show can be fully appreciated by a first time viewer.
- Myth #5: To keep viewers interested, you need to constantly reinvent your videos. Most top creators agree that consistency is crucial to success on the site. Stay true to who you are and be consistent - in format (a recurring series), elements (intros and outros), and voice. This will set a clear point of view that accurately reflects your brand and keeps your fans coming back for more.
The LEGO Brand Channel on YouTube provides an excellent example of how to make videos worth watching and create content worth sharing.
With toy products, YouTube provides a unique opportunity to tell a story around the product, show the toys in action, and create a world that customers want to engage with. LEGO has turned their YouTube channel into a highly effective means of engaging fans, creating episodic content that entertains customers and encourages them to stay on the channel and watch more.
"We don't view our brand channel on YouTube as a means of selling products; rather, it's a great way for us to deliver against what today's kids need and want: to be entertained, inspired, informed and amused," said Michael McNally, LEGO's senior director, brand relations. "We've found that the LEGO brand can successfully deliver against those needs in an authentic and very distinct way, thereby making our brand channel a valuable means to more deeply engage fans in the LEGO brand.
"We plan our content, then, to optimize brand engagement, support promotional activities and generally maintain relevance among children," he said. "We program content at a global and regional level, depending on the scope, scale and focus of the content, and we're always motivated to keep content fresh, timely and frequent."
What are the most engaging content pieces? Short-form, humorous, bite-sized videos, McNally said.
"Also, we find that videos on how to improve building technique, behind the scenes sneak peeks and other inspirational brand content that will spark a child's imagination to continue building are also popular, because they convey that we understand them, what they like and what they are looking for, which strengthens the personal connection they have to the LEGO brand," he said.
In other words, now that YouTube has revealed the secret formula to content marketing success, content creators and brand advertisers can learn how to make videos worth watching and create content worth sharing. The rest is "kids' stuff."