Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has become a modern media powerhouse. Currently, YouTube has more than 2.6 billion users worldwide and 122 million daily visitors. More than 500 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, with more than 41,000 channels that exceed 1 million subscribers. The platform was purchased by Google in 2016 and currently ranks No. 2 for global and domestic web traffic.
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Marketing is moving toward video over static content and YouTube is 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 to use YouTube for business.
These guides break down the process of setting up a YouTube channel for your small business. Each section examines an essential element of creating and optimizing your YouTube channel:
While most social media platforms require users to set up an account before viewing content, users can view YouTube content without an account. (Membership is also required to view videos flagged as adult content.)
After taking these steps, return to YouTube’s homepage. Familiarize yourself with the available options:
Once you’ve signed up for YouTube, you must customize your profile with your business’s information. Every user is assigned a channel according to their username. You’ll be given a specific URL so people can find your channel via a direct link.
However, you must do more than the basics to stand out from the competition. Take these steps to show your visual brand identity by customizing your channel.
YouTube channel art is similar to a Facebook or Twitter banner. This header is a great place to add your business’s logo and tagline.
Your profile photo (also known as a channel icon) and channel art should represent your brand clearly through high-quality photos. YouTube will fill in generic images if you don’t upload a photo or art. However, your profile photo is pulled directly from your Google account and must be uploaded through Google, not YouTube. Syncing your Google profile photo to your YouTube account will take a few minutes.
These are the ideal dimensions for YouTube channel art files:
Given the large size of these files, using high-resolution images (ideally 300 dots per inch or dpi) is essential for your channel icon and banner. Experiment with YouTube’s preview and cropping tools to ensure your channel icon and banner look their best. If your page looks subpar, visitors will be less likely to stick around and explore your content.
It’s important to share information about your business and its services in your YouTube account’s About and Links sections:
As you write the copy for your channel description and links, use keywords to increase your visibility in YouTube searches. (We’ll discuss that in more depth later.)
While optional, a channel trailer ― a brief video that introduces viewers to the content they’ll find on your YouTube channel ― is an excellent customization option to increase YouTube viewer engagement. Once you add this trailer, it will appear on your account’s homepage when viewers visit, helping to reel them in and acquaint them with your brand.
There are several ways to interact with YouTube users:
How will you know if a channel is verified or not? A small checkbox will indicate 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 video livestreaming feature. Broadcasts are usually oriented around news or sports. YouTube Live isn’t as popular as the site’s standard video format because it’s not as widely known.
To conduct livestreams, your account:
To start a livestream, go to your channel and select Create > Go Live. (Create is the video camera icon.) If it’s your first time, you’ll need to request access to streaming. It can take 24 hours to be approved. After you’re approved, you can livestream instantly.
You can stream via the YouTube mobile app on an Android or iOS device or using your computer’s webcam. Additionally, you can stream using an encoder, which is often used for gameplay and overlays.
Trending videos are videos YouTube users interact with at high rates. They’re often newly uploaded. You can view 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 platform 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. To make the cut, your channel must have more than 1,000 subscribers, and users can only be chosen once.
You may have heard about “YouTubers” ― YouTube content-creation stars. These personalities create and market unique channels that appeal to their target audiences. Many YouTubers specialize in niches like cooking or beauty while others document their day-to-day lives in vlogs. Many have grown and maintained a significant following, sometimes with hundreds of thousands or even millions of subscribers.
Many YouTubers have corporate sponsors who send products to feature in their videos. For instance, cosmetics companies often send products to popular beauty vloggers who create videos demonstrating their use. Some creators upload “haul” videos where they review several products at once.
Working with social media influencers like YouTube stars can be a smart business move for your brand. If you have a service or physical product that fits a specific YouTuber’s niche, it’s worth reaching out to learn their rates and see if they’d be willing to feature your brand in a video.
There are a few ways to advertise on YouTube:
Video action campaigns help brands generate leads and conversions by showing your ads on and off YouTube in one automated campaign.
You can monetize your content with the YouTube Partner Program. 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 also become eligible for the program if you have 1,000 subscribers and have received 10 million views on your Shorts within the last 90 days.
You can check your watch time and subscribers under YouTube Analytics on 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 $9.99 a month, that allows users to stream video content and music without advertisements at the beginning of videos. It also lets users 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 familiarize yourself with it.
Now that you understand how to use YouTube, here are a few tips to use the site to your brand’s advantage.
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 number of people who will likely view your video.
Link to your YouTube videos whenever possible on your website and other social media networks like your Instagram business account. Don’t stop at direct video links, though. Link to your channel so your audience can see what it looks like and have a chance to subscribe.
“[You should] have a video strategy,” advised Tracy Sestili, chief marketing officer at Intellimize. “Without a strategy, you can post videos as a repository, but you may not get the return.”
Experiment with different titles and descriptions. Selecting relevant keywords to increase hits is a common SEO strategy for marketers on any social networking site. 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 create a list of relevant 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,” explained James Robinson, executive creative director at Iconic Genius. “Go after local keywords.”
Like and comment on videos uploaded by other users. They may investigate your videos and channel ― along with anyone who sees that comment or like. Do this with videos that have a similar topic, interest or theme as yours to attract new viewers.
In addition to liking and commenting on other users’ videos, you can highlight featured channels and your liked videos on your account. In doing so, you show you’re active in your industry’s YouTube community and direct traffic ― a much-needed internet commodity ― to other YouTube users in your realm. Be sure to highlight videos relevant to your customer base, not uploads from direct competitors.
If any of your videos follow a consistent theme, group them. Perhaps you upload a video every Friday morning; you could compile all those videos into a “Friday Series” playlist. Your playlists will appear on your channel’s page below your uploaded videos.
Viewers count on you to create, edit and upload new content ― especially if you’ve developed a solid subscriber pool. Consistency adds relevance to your brand.
“Be consistent,” advised empowerment coach Michelle Baxo. “I found that I was building the most traction when I did a weekly post at the same time and notified [subscribers on] my social networks.”
At the end of videos, you’ll notice many videos reference previous, relevant or 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 to any pages or sites your video covers.
Popular YouTubers, especially those with frequently trending content, have hundreds of thousands to millions of subscribers constantly watching their channels. Reaching out to them as a potential sponsor could be a great business opportunity. Many YouTube personalities place products in their videos, which gives a specific brand a larger audience than usual.
YouTube Shorts are short-form videos of one minute or less. You can record a video from your smartphone within the YouTube app or edit one of your video clips into a shorter version to create a Short.
Running or promoting a contest on YouTube is an easy way to get people to watch and engage with your content. However, before posting a contest, read YouTube’s rules and guidelines
By incorporating YouTube into your business’s marketing strategy, you place a world of creativity and options for connecting with your audience right at your fingertips. This platform offers many ways to put your content in front of users worldwide through ads or original content. While you can take several approaches, don’t worry about trying to follow all the above tips at once. Working a few of them at a time into your regular social media marketing plan can get you off to a great start.
Shayna Waltower and Adryan Corcione contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.