Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has become a modern media powerhouse, beginning with the development of the first wave of influencers (YouTubers) and, more recently, with the launch of its music streaming platform YouTube Music.
Currently, YouTube has more than 30 million daily visitors. Nearly 500 hours of video are uploaded every minute, with more than 2,400 channels that reach in excess of 1 million subscribers. The platform was purchased by Google in 2016 and currently ranks No. 2 for global and domestic web traffic, according to Alexa.
Marketing is moving toward video over static content, and YouTube is emerging yet again as a key player.
For an individual user, the site appears straightforward, but it's more complicated if you want to use it to market and grow your business. Here's what you should know if you want to use YouTube for business.
Setting up a YouTube channel
- Signing up for an account
- Customizing your YouTube profile
- Interacting with others on YouTube
- Verifying your channel
- YouTube Live
- Trending videos on YouTube
- Advertising on YouTube
- YouTube Partner Program
- YouTube Premium
- YouTube tips and tricks
Signing up for an account
Most social media networks require you to set up an account before you can view content. That's not the case with YouTube. You can view content without a YouTube account. However, an account is required to upload and engage with other users. Membership is also required to view videos flagged as adult content.
To sign up, you must be logged in to a Google account. You can sign up using an existing Google account or create a new one. Once you're logged in to your Google account, go to YouTube to customize your YouTube business channel.
In the top left corner of the page, there is a dropdown menu with quite a few options. There are links for the homepage, subscriptions and trending videos, as well as three categories: Library, Subscriptions and More From YouTube. Your library helps you organize which videos you've watched, liked and saved for later. Subscriptions sends you updates on the channels you're subscribed to, notifying you when they've uploaded new content.
In the top right corner of the page, there are four buttons. The one closest to the center, which is an icon of a video camera, directs you to the page where you upload a video. The middle icon, a square comprising nine smaller squares, is for YouTube apps. The next one, the bubble icon, will take you to messages. The next button is an icon of a bell, and it notifies you of your account activity, such as a new like or comment. The one closest to the right side, which is an icon of your profile picture, will direct you to your account information pulled from Google.
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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.
To customize your channel, go to your avatar icon in the top right corner of the homepage. Then, click on My Channel. Here you'll be asked to enter your name, but you also have the option to use a business name. Click "Use a business or other name," which will take you to a page where you can enter your business's name.
You can then 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.
Your profile photo and channel art should represent your brand clearly through high-quality photos. If you don't upload a photo or art, YouTube will fill in generic default images for both. However, your profile photo is pulled directly from your Google account and must be uploaded 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. 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.
- Comments: Comments can be organized by most popular or newest. Engaging with users who comment on your 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 up to date with your brand's content is to subscribe. Every time a user uploads a new video, a subscriber receives a push notification. You should constantly encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel, especially since it improves your engagement traffic and increases the number of views. Many popular YouTubers incorporate reminders to subscribe at the beginning and/or end of their videos.
- 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, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Blogger, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
- Messages: You can also share videos and message privately with friends and contacts.
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 next to the channel's name. To apply for verification, your channel must have 100,000 subscribers. However, interested businesses can contact Google directly to inquire about verification.
Similar to Facebook Live, YouTube has its own livestreaming feature. Broadcasts are usually oriented around news or sports. YouTube Live isn't as important as the site's standard video format, because it's not as widely known, and your account must be verified to conduct a livestream.
If you choose to do a livestream, there are four ways to go about it. The first, which is the quickest, is the Stream Now option. The second is through the Events tab, which gives you more control, because you can preview your stream ahead of time. The third option is found on the site's mobile app; if you use this, the stream will later be archived on your channel. Lastly, you can stream from your computer's webcam.
Trending videos on YouTube
Trending videos are videos that YouTube users are interacting with at a very high rate. Often these videos were uploaded within the last couple days. 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.
Trends reflect popular culture, one-off viral hits and current events. The site also features users tagged with a blue Creator on the Rise, Gaming Creator on the Rise or Artist on the Rise badge next to their channel names on the Trending Videos page. These channels are showcased for 24 hours. The criteria for making the cut includes having more than 1,000 subscribers, and 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 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 form of a vlog. Many of these personalities have grown and maintained a large following, sometimes with hundreds of thousands or even millions of subscribers, 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. [Learn more about working with influencers.]
Many YouTubers have corporate sponsorships. These sponsors send YouTubers their products to mention or use in their videos. Often, YouTubers will verbally mention the company and how awesome their product is. For instance, makeup companies often send popular beauty bloggers their products so these bloggers can make videos applying the makeup. Some creators upload haul videos where they review several products at once.
If your business has a service or physical product that fits a certain YouTuber's niche, it's worth reaching out to see what their rates are and if they will feature you in a video.
Advertising on YouTube
There are a few ways to advertise on YouTube, as 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 directing viewers to their website following the video.
There are four video ad options, including TrueView in-stream ads, which play before, during or after other videos. After five seconds, users can skip the ad. You'll only be charged for the ad when a viewer watches 30 seconds of the video or interacts with the video.
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.
Bumper ads are six seconds or less, and users can't skip these. These ads also appear before, during or after another video. Outstream ads play only on mobile devices, showing up on partner websites and within apps. You'll be charged for these ads based on cost per thousand impressions (vCPM).
TrueView for Action
TrueView for Action allows you to drive leads and conversions by adding a prominent call to action (CTA) and headline text overlays to a TrueView in-stream ad. You will need to set up conversion tracking to run the campaign.
YouTube also has a curated directory of ad agencies that can be matched to your business needs and is planning to create video-creation tools to help users more easily create ad content.
YouTube Partner Program
With the YouTube Partner Program, you can monetize your content on YouTube. You earn money from advertisements on your videos and when YouTube Premium subscribers watch your videos. You're eligible for the program once your channel reaches 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months and 1,000 subscribers.
You can check your watch time and subscribers under YouTube Analytics, which is in your dashboard. While it may be difficult to reach these requirements, the program allows you to make money on videos you plan to create anyway.
YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) is a subscription service, starting at $11.99 a month, that allows users to stream video content and music without advertisements at the beginning of videos. It also lets you download videos to watch offline.
Although you don't need a premium 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, though, YouTube Premium 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 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.
"[You should] have a video strategy," said Tracy Sestili, head of marketing at SparkPost. "Without a strategy, you can post videos as a repository, but you may not get the return."
Use relevant keywords in a video's title, tags and description. Experiment with different titles and descriptions. As with other social networking sites, selecting relevant keywords to increase hits is a common SEO strategy for marketers. It helps audiences find content that interests them. A quick exercise would be to watch one of your company's videos from the beginning and then create a list of words and phrases as you watch. You should also be realistic about which keywords you use.
"Don't go after keywords that big brands compete for," said James Robinson, marketing advisor at Iconic Genius. "Go after local keywords."
Engage with similar content uploaded by other users. Like and comment on videos uploaded by other users. Not only might those users stumble upon your videos and channel, but anyone else who sees that comment or like might as well. Do this with videos that have a similar topic, interest or theme as yours to attract new viewers.
Curate playlists. If any of your videos follow a consistent theme, organize them together. Perhaps you have a Friday series, meaning 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. This adds relevancy to your brand. This also applies to any other website where users can follow and engage with your content. It's best to add content whenever possible, even if it isn't as consistent as you'd like.
"Be consistent," said Michelle Baxo. "I found that I was building the most traction when I did a weekly post at the same time and notified [on] my social networks."
Use clickable links to reference other content. At the end of videos, you'll notice many videos reference 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 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 to millions of subscribers constantly watching their channel. It could be 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.
Use YouTube stories. YouTube recently created YouTube stories, which are similar to Snapchat or Instagram stories. A story is a collection of short videos that can remain visible for a day or until they're deleted. Google is now testing Al to swap backgrounds in stories, running a beta version of it with some content creators.
Run a contest. Running or promoting a contest on YouTube is an easy way to get people to watch and engage with your content. However, before you post a contest, read YouTube's rules and guidelines.
Additional reporting by Danielle Corcione and Saige Driver.
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