Marketing with YouTube Videos

Excerpted from Friends With Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook (No Starch Press)

You’ve created a YouTube account and a channel. You’ve produced one or more clever, original, and brief videos that might become stout Louisville Sluggers in your marketing bat bag. Now what? Earlier in Friends With Benefits we made two recommendations: See your videos as part of a larger marketing strategy, and set reasonable expectations. Now let’s turn to what you can do with your freshly hosted YouTube video and how to get it seen.
Set the Stage

As with your profile on any social media site, take time to customize your YouTube account and channel. Take advantage of all the ways in which you can personalize your space: uploading a photo, tweaking the colors, and so forth. As a general rule, we recommend picking an account name that reflects, directly or indirectly, your organization or brand. If you plan to feature your videos on your corporate blog and your blog has a clever name, then you might use the same name for your YouTube account.

Keep in mind that your username becomes part of your YouTube URL. For example, Save the Children UK’s username is, aptly, savethechildrenuk. That makes the organization’s YouTube web address http://www.youtube.com/user/savethechildrenuk. If you want to share your URL, you can safely shorten it by removing the user part, making the previous address simply http://www.youtube.com/savethechildrenuk.

Pick the Right Title

Increasingly, people navigate the Web using search. Instead of typing www.ESPN.com into their address bar, they simply search for ESPN. As we mentioned previously, video is increasingly important to SEO, so consider the title of your video carefully. Make the title descriptive and evocative without being hysterical. A common practice on YouTube and other video sharing sites is for video creators to write melodramatic or exaggerated titles and descriptions for their videos. They also may add totally irrelevant terms to the title and description (“sex!”, “Lindsay Lohan!”, and so forth). This tactic is a very obvious bid to obtain more views. Resist these temptations. For example, imagine you’re the VP of Marketing for ACME Locks. You’ve produced a video demonstrating how indestructible your padlocks are. In the video, your lock is exposed to increasing levels of kinetic force — a hammer, a crowbar, a handgun, and so on. Here are some good titles:

* How Much Abuse Can This ACME Lock Withstand?
* We Smash, Trash, and Shoot a Padlock — Will It Survive?
* Harold Shoots a Lock

On the other hand, here are some ill-advised titles:

* Paris Hilton Fondles a Lock — You’ve Gotta See This!
* ACME Lock Marketing Video #18
* woot!!! r locks r best!

Describe and Lead with a Link

Write an accurate, keyword-rich description for each of your videos. As elsewhere, try to avoid using boilerplate marketing text or anything that feels like advertorial copy. Simply faithfully describe what happens in the video. If you want to drive YouTube viewers to your website (and why wouldn’t you?), we recommend beginning the description with the complete (sometimes called fully resolved) web address. That means including the http:// at the beginning. If you’ve got a long URL as a landing page (say, more than 25 characters), your web designer or site manager can set up a redirect with a shorter URL. Here’s an example of a good description:

http://www.acmelocks.com/ — In this video, ACME Locks Quality Assurance Manager Harold Druken tests our new padlock for durability. He starts with a hammer, then tries a crowbar, and finally shoots it with a 9mm handgun. The results may surprise you! Oh, and don’t try this at home.

Categorize and Tag Responsibly

In addition to titles and descriptions, you can assign a category and tags to a video when you upload it. Like many social media sites (we’re looking at you, Digg), the categories seem limited and a bit baffling. Just choose the one that fits best — we don’t think this is a particularly important bit of metadata. You should write your tags wisely, however. Don’t be deceptive in applying tags to your video, but do try to be as exhaustive as possible. Consider synonyms for your targeted keywords and industry terms. Be as specific as possible. You’ll find applying a core group of relevant tags to all of your videos worthwhile (they may then show up under Related Videos on your video’s pages) along with some additional tags specific to each video.
Play Nice with Others

As with the other social media channels we’ve discussed, becoming a member of the YouTube community is advisable. Create a complete and personalized YouTube profile. Watch other users’ videos and provide feedback through commenting, rating the videos, and marking them as favorites. Record a few video responses for YouTube users who might have an affinity for your video — those who live in the same city or share an interest or work in the same industry. Just as bloggers monitor their blogs’ statistics, YouTube users notice when you participate in this fashion. Just as you do on MySpace and Facebook, add YouTube users as friends. This friend group will come in handy when you want to spread the word about a new video.
Join Groups

If a group exists in the YouTube community for your industry or interest, join it. You can upload your videos to the group and interact with other members. If no group exists, you may want to launch and promote a group. Obviously creating and maintaining a YouTube group takes time and effort, so you’ll want to gauge the relative importance of the video channel in your web marketing work.

Fans engage with one another through the Celine Dion YouTube group.

Curate with Playlists

YouTube enables you to assemble videos — your own and others’ — into playlists of related content. To do so, you click Playlists and select the playlist to which you’d like to add the video. By creating a useful playlist for your industry or cause, you act as a DJ or museum curator. If you create compelling playlists on specific topics or themes, they benefit the larger community and, if popular, get others’ videos more views. Additionally, YouTube tends to include playlists in search results on the site, so be sure to use keyword-rich titles and descriptions for your playlists. Assuming it’s appropriate, you can always include your own videos in your playlists. Just be sure your first priority is to deliver value to the person browsing the playlist. Include new or unpopular videos; a playlist won’t be of much interest to the average user if she has already seen 9 out of 10 of the videos.
Ninety Percent Less Moron

Speaking of community, we need to warn you about YouTube comments. As you may be aware, YouTube commenters seem to have the language skills and sense of humor of a dimwitted eleven-year-old. We’re not sure why, but it endangers our faith in humanity. YouTube recently implemented an Audio Preview button, which encourages users to listen to their freshly composed comment before clicking Post Comment. If you’re a Firefox user, we encourage you to install the YouTube Comment Snob browser plug-in. This plug-in automatically hides YouTube comments that abuse basic rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You’ll enjoy a YouTube with 90 percent less moron. If you’ve got videos on YouTube, feel free to take the advice we provide elsewhere in this book and delete any comments that don’t meaningfully contribute to the conversation. On YouTube, that may very well be most of them.
Include Videos in Pitches

Be sure to link to those other channels in your emailed pitches and on your website. In particular, embed your videos or YouTube channel widget on your social media resource page and in posts on your organization’s blog. For lots of busy social media creators, a quick post featuring your video in their blog or Twitter stream may be an enticing alternative to a longer post about your product or cause.
Feature Videos in Other Communication Channels

Depending on the focus of your videos, promoting them to your existing customers or constituency may be appropriate. For example, feature your videos in your company email newsletter or invite readers to “Look for us on YouTube” in offline advertising.
Annotate Your Videos

In mid-2008, YouTube added the Video Annotations feature. This feature enables you to overlay text, graphics, and sundry other effects to a video. YouTube users are still experimenting with how to implement annotations without annoying their viewers. Some common annotations we’ve seen so far include simple calls to action (“Subscribe to our channel”) or references to other videos. Currently, you can only link to other YouTube videos, not to external sites. If you’re publishing a connected series of videos, you might want to add a message near the end of each one that reads, “Click here to watch the next video in this series.” We expect these postproduction features to continue to expand on YouTube and other video sharing sites, so keep an eye out.
YouTube Killed the Video Star

As with every social media channel, you’ll find that YouTube gets more rewarding as you spend more time within the community, engaging with your viewers and learning the ways of the new world that is YouTube Nation. Start small, set humble goals, and split your energies equally between creating a great original video and promoting it to your tribe and the larger Internet community. Even if you never achieve success on a “Will It Blend” scale, you’ll enjoy some search engine optimization benefits and an increase in visitors to your website over the long term.