We all know that YouTube is a place where you can be seen by millions of people, even if you have no startup cash...and you're a cat. So why do YouTube marketing campaigns almost always end up falling directly on their face? Do they need more cats?
According to a recent study by Pixability (PDF link) of the top 100 brands, it all comes down to 7 best practices.
The study also has some "good" news for small businesses: more than half of the videos produced by the top 100 brands get less than 1000 views.
So, it turns out, throwing boatloads of cash at the problem isn't the solution. And that's good, because it means that you can beat the living heck out of most of the top brands in the US (when it comes to YouTube), all by being smart about the way you put together your videos.
Here's how to do just that.
1. The Shocking Truth About Quantity
While only one of the top 100 brands has declined to use YouTube at all, the near-unanimous use is anything but consistent.
Want your videos to have more views? Start by making more of them. The quarter with the worst performers averaged 101 videos per channel, while the quarter with the most views averaged 153 videos per channel.
I want to be clear here. We're not saying that you get more views if you make more videos. You do, but that should be obvious. We're saying that if you make more videos, each one of your videos gets more views. That's an important difference.
Furthermore, and this theme comes up a lot, consistent video releases played a big part. An isolated burst of videos isn't going to help you as much as a steady stream of them.
2. Don't Just "Build it and they Will Come"
The best performers used twice as many video tags and twice as many playlists as the worst performers. That's right: they leveraged SEO.
Metadata may not be king in Google anymore, but it's still huge on YouTube, which is, of course, the second largest search engine on the planet.
Keeping in mind that videos are also more than 50 times as likely to turn up in Google as text, you're really shooting yourself in the foot if you don't do some keyword research and get those keywords in the video title, tags, and metadata.
3. Quality is Awesome, Except When it's Not
Did the top performers make longer videos? Did they spend more? Did they produce higher quality videos?
They did. And they also didn't.
The top performers did both. On average, their shortest videos where shorter than those of the worst performers. Their longest videos were also longer than those of the worst performers.
It's all about range.
There are different reasons that people come to YouTube, and even different reasons for the same person to come to YouTube. Sometimes they are looking for professional grade content, and sometimes they are looking for a laugh or something more gritty and raw.
The best performers published professional grade content as well as curated "low quality," user-generated content.
None of the successful brands tried to make "viral videos." How-to's, brand awareness, customer testimonials, and so on did much better that these transparent ploys for attention.
4. Nobody Puts YouTube in the Corner
YouTube needs to be integrated into other marketing efforts. Traditional marketing spots should pull people to YouTube. YouTube should link together various other marketing efforts.
Brands shouldn't create channels for isolated campaigns. This is a continuous, evolving platform, and it should be treated that way.
5. Leave Your Mark
Supposing your video does so well it goes viral, it immediately loses its value once it gets embedded on somebody else's site. That is, it becomes utterly useless unless it's branded.
Clearly, branding should be obvious, but not distracting, in the context of the video itself. YouTube also now lets you brand the header. Companies with relatively big advertising budgets can also use a custom gadget within the video. Top Top 200 channels, by views, use these twice as often as the sample of top 100 brands used in the study.
6. If You Can't Be Everywhere at Once, Don't Try
While some of the most successful brands had loads of channels, many others did not. There was no correlation between the number of channels and the number of views.
While it's good practice to segment and target your audience, this has its limits. The study found that 37 percent of the channels were inactive for over 120 days. This makes brands look out of date, stale, and uninteresting. People don't go to YouTube to see abandoned channels.
Some brands need to segment their audiences more than others, but the rule of thumb is the same for all of them. If the channel isn't going to be updated consistently and indefinitely, you probably shouldn't create it in the first place.
7. The Audience is Doing it for You
YouTube isn't the television. It's not YouTube's job to put you in front of millions of people. Your viewers are the ones who do that.
The study points out that the top performing brands and a whopping 10,000 percent more tweets and 5,000 percent more Facebook shares and likes than the worst performing brands. Now, as you already know, I don't think these metrics are worth tracking for your own campaigns, but they can sometimes be useful for evaluating public campaigns.
Personally, I'm not convinced that these numbers show anything other than the fact that popular videos are going to get shared more often, because more people see them in the first place. That said, unless you are paying for traffic, nothing is going to draw viewers to your videos other than other viewers.
Whether it's social sharing or YouTube's algorithms, user behavior is the only thing that determines whether your video gets recommended. So make it about them.
And that about wraps this up.
Image credit: Jonathan Kos-Read