YouTube is a social networking platform that allows users to upload their own video content and interact with other users' videos. The platform, which was launched in 2005 by former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steven Chen, and Jawed Karim, is web-based and also has a high-performing mobile application. Google bought the platform a year later, which is why YouTube accounts are linked to Google Plus.
YouTube is currently ranked No. 2 both domestically and globally, according to internet analytics company Alexa. It has more than a billion users, according to the company, and more than half of all views come from mobile devices.
As an individual user, the site appears to be straightforward. But what about small businesses? What kinds of videos should and shouldn't you upload? How do you engage with other users creating similar content? Can you attract followers that eventually turn into loyal customers? What about creating an advertising campaign? To know how to use the site to your brand's advantage, you need to understand how the platform works. [See Related Story: Video Marketing on Social Media: A Small Business Guide]
In this article….
- Signing up for an account
- Customizing your YouTube profile
- Interacting with others on YouTube
- Verifying your channel
- YouTube Live
- Trending videos on YouTube
- YouTube fandoms
- Advertising on YouTube
- YouTube Red
- YouTube tips and tricks
Signing up for an account
Unlike other sites, you don't have to sign up for YouTube to view content. Unregistered users can watch videos. However, an account is required to upload and engage with other's comments, likes, etc. A membership is also required to view videos flagged as adult content for those 18 years old and up.
To sign up, you must log in with a Google account. You cannot sign up for an account unless you are affiliated with Google, but, of course, you can create a Google account if you don't already have one for your business.
On the very top left-hand side of the page, there is a drop-down menu with quite a few options. There are links for "Home," "My Channel," and "Get YouTube Red," as well as two categories, "Library" and "Subscriptions."
"Library" helps you organize which videos you've watched, liked, and save for later. "Subscriptions" keeps you updated with the channels you're subscribed to, notifying you when they've uploaded new content. Toward the bottom, there are two links: "Browse Channels" and "YouTube Movies" (which does not pertain to business use of YouTube).
On the very top right-hand side of the page, there are three buttons. The one closest to the center, which is an icon of an arrow pointing up over a dash, direct you to the page where you upload a video. The middle one, which is an icon of a bell, notifies you of your account activity, such as a new like or comment. The other closer to the edge, which is an icon of your profile picture, will direct you to your account information pulled from Google.
On the top center of the page, you'll notice your dashboard is organized into three categories: "Home, "Trending," and "Subscriptions." As you've already noticed, there are quite a few ways to organize your subscription feed and this is one of them. However, this is the only way to access trending videos through a dashboard-like format.
Customizing your YouTube profile
Once you've signed up for YouTube, you'll need to customize your profile with your business's information. Every user is assigned a channel according to their username. Likewise, you'll be given a specific URL so other people can find your channel through a direct link.
Your YouTube channel's layout cannot be changed, but you can add channel art, which is similar to a Facebook or Twitter banner. The header is a great place to add your business's logo and/or tagline. YouTube recommends channel art to be 2560 by 1400 pixels and no more than 4 MB in size.
Your profile photo and channel art should represent your brand clearly through high-quality photos. If you don't upload a photo or art, generic, default images will be filled in for both. However, your profile photo is pulled directly from your Google account and must be done through Google, not YouTube. It will take a few minutes to sync your Google profile photo to your YouTube account.
It's important to fill out information about your business, too. Share information about your business, its services, and so on. You can also add your website along with your company's tagline. Other YouTube users, especially subscribers, should get a general understanding of what your business is about and how to find more information by looking at its channel page. After all, every social network is a chance to gain new audiences and, ultimately, loyal customers.
Interacting with others on YouTube
There are several ways to interact with other YouTube users, but only publicly. There isn't a private messaging service, unlike other platforms.
- Comments: Comments can be organized by most popular or newest. Commenting on relevant comment, or even engaging with users that comment on your own videos, boosts the video's engagement traffic.
- Likes: This is a more passive form of interacting with content. However, if you've chosen to show your likes publicly on your channel, these videos will appear under the playlists section on your channel.
- Subscriptions: The best way for users to stay updated with your brand's content is to subscribe. Every time a user uploads a new video, a subscriber will receive a push notification. You should constantly encourage your channel viewers to do this, especially since it improves engagement traffic and increases the number of views.
- Playlists: Organize relevant content using the site's playlist feature. If you choose to publicize them, playlists will appear on your channel's page below your uploaded content. You can also organize other users' content through a list. For instance, if you're a marketing agency, you can compile a client's videos into one big list. Otherwise, this is another way to organize your own content on your channel.
- Sharing: The site's social widget allows users to share videos on other social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Blogger, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, LiveJournal, Digg and more.
Verifying your channel
How will you know if a channel is verified or not? There will be a small checkbox, which indicates a verification badge, right next to the channel's name. To apply for verification, typically your channel must have 100,000 subscribers, the company says. However, interested businesses can contact Google directly to inquire about verification.
Similar to Facebook Live and Periscope, YouTube has its own live streaming feature. Predominantly, these broadcasts are usually oriented around news or sports. They also aren't as important or significant of a feature compared to the site's standard video format; it's not widely known to the general public. However, according to YouTube, your account must be verified to conduct a live stream.
If you choose to do a live stream, there are three ways to go about the process. The first, which is the quickest, is through "Stream Now" option. The second is through the "Events" tab, which provides more control, because you can preview your stream ahead of time. Lastly, there is an option available on the site's mobile app, which will later be archived on your channel.
Trending videos on YouTube
Trending videos are any videos that YouTube users are interacting with at a very high rate. Often these videos were recently uploaded (a day or so ago). As previously mentioned, you can view the current trending videos under the "Trending" tab on the YouTube homepage, even if you're not logged in or don't have an account.
Most commonly, trends reflect popular culture, one-off viral trends and current events. Teen Vogue reports 2016's most watched YouTube videos include carpool karaoke with Adele, a "Last Week Tonight With Jon Oliver" segment on Donald Trump, and a man flipping a water cooler off a truck.
The site also features users tagged with a blue "Creator on the Rise" or "Artist on the Rise" badge next their channel names on the trending videos page. According to the company, these channels are showcased for 24 hours, featuring six creators and artists a week. Criteria includes having more than1,000 subscribers and being from any geographical region, but users can only be chosen once.
For brands, the goal of creating trending content isn't necessary. It could be a shoot-for-the-stars goal, because if one of your videos goes viral, it could end up on the trending page and thus gain significant exposure to your company. However, silly commercials, like those on the Super Bowl, have ended up as trending YouTube videos shortly following their television debut.
You might have heard the buzz about "YouTubers," or video content creators solely based on YouTube. These are essentially personalities, such as those on television talk shows or reality shows, with their own unique channels. Many specialize in a particular niche like cooking or beauty, while others document their day-to-day lives in the style of a vlog.
Many of these personalities have grown and maintained a large following, sometimes with hundreds of thousands or even millions of subscribers, like YouTube celebrities such as Grace Helbig and Tyler Oakley.
While recruiting such a large following is an admirable goal for small businesses, that isn't the only thing we can learn from YouTubers. In fact, working with YouTube personalities can turn out to be a smart business move.
Many YouTubers have corporate sponsorships. These sponsors send YouTubers their products to mention or use in their videos. Oftentimes, YouTubers will verbally mention the company and how awesome their product is. For instance, makeup companies often send popular beauty bloggers up their products, so these bloggers can make videos applying the makeup. Plus, some upload haul-themed videos where they review several products at once.
Advertising on YouTube
There are a few ways to advertise on YouTube, especially since users reap the benefits of the site's free service. Since the site is based on video content, companies are encouraged to add a call-to-action link to their website following their video.
The most common advertisements are short clips before, after and during video streaming. These are called in-streaming ads, which also pop up whenever a video is embedded on pages other than YouTube as well. You pay for advertising every time a user watches 30 seconds (or shorter, depending on the clip's length) of your clip or whenever they click on your add to learn more.
There are also discovery ads, which appear when a user is searching or browsing content on YouTube or across the web. These clips aren't limited to 30 seconds; they can be as short or long as you wish. You'll be charged every time someone clicks on the ad to watch the full video. Additionally, YouTube explains you can choose how much you're willing to spend on advertising, as well as target specific audiences based on age, gender, interests and location.
YouTube Red is a subscription service, starting at $9.99 a month, which allows users to stream video content without advertisements at the beginning of videos. This service is great for anyone who wants to watch videos without interruptions. It also lets you download videos to watch while offline.
Although you don't need a subscription to operate YouTube for your business, it's good to know the latest news about the site to better familiarize yourself with it. Plus, with this subscription, remember that videos are ad-free. At the end of the day, YouTube Red could hurt your business, because the premium services take users away from in-stream advertisements.
YouTube tips and tricks
Now that you understand how to use YouTube, here are a few tips and tricks to use the site to your brand's advantage:
Encourage viewers to subscribe. Subscribing is the best way for your audience to know whenever you've uploaded a video, created a new playlist and more. It also gives you an estimated figure as to who will eventually view your video.
Share videos on other social media platforms. Link back to your videos whenever possible on your website and other social media networks. However, don't just stop at direct video links. Link back to your channel so your audience can see what it looks like and have the chance to subscribe.
Use relevant keywords in a video's title, tags and description. Try experimenting with different titles and descriptions. Like other social networking sites, selecting relevant keywords to increase hits is a common SEO (search engine optimization) strategy used by marketers. It helps audiences find content that interests them. A quick exercise would be to watch a one of your company's videos from the beginning and then create a list of words and phrases as you watch.
Engage with similar content uploaded by other users. Like and comment on other videos uploaded by other users. Not only can those users stumble upon your videos and its channel, but anyone else that sees that comment or like can as well. Do this with videos that share a similar topic, interest or theme to attract new viewers.
Curate playlists. If any of your videos follow a consistent theme, make sure to organize them together. Perhaps, you have a Friday series, where you upload a video every Friday morning. You should compile all those videos into one spot through a special playlist. These playlists will also appear on your channel's page, right below your uploaded videos.
Upload content regularly. Especially if you've developed a decent pool of subscribers, viewers will be counting on you to create, edit and upload new content. Doing this adds relevancy to your brand. This also applies to any other website where users can follow and engage with your content. It's better to add content whenever possible, even if it isn't as consistent as you'd like.
Use clickable links to reference other content. At the end of videos, you'll notice many videos reference a previous, relevant or maybe even newer content with a clickable link inside the video. You can add these while editing your video in the site's video manager. This feature can also link back to any web pages or sites your video covers.
Work with top content creators to place products. Popular YouTubers, especially those with frequently trending content, have hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of subscribers constantly watching their channel. This is a great business opportunity to reach out to them as a potential sponsor. Many YouTube personalities place products in their videos, which gives a specific brand a larger audience than usual.