10 tips to make the most out of YouTube

Maximizing video for marketing and brand impact.

Do you remember what the Internet was like before YouTube? That was in February 2005, and if you’re reading this, you can, of course, think back past 2005, back to an era before all those videos of dancing cats were just a click away—when the only way to see embarrassing wedding videos and stupid stunts was on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (now available on YouTube, of course). And if you saw a really funny video, you couldn’t share it with your friends and colleagues. (You had to find other ways to goof off at work, like sending long, unfunny jokes by e-mail.)

Hard to remember, right?

These days, more than 13 hours of video are uploaded every minute to YouTube. And now, YouTube is the second-largest search engine, behind Google. ($1.65 billion seemed like a lot of money for YouTube in October 2006, but that seems to have been something of a bargain.)

Larry Weber devotes an entire chapter in Sticks and Stones to “”The YouTube Juggernaut,”” and I think it’s one of the most important chapters of the book. Weber writes, that YouTube, “”the largest of the video sites by far, will be at the core of everybody’s video reputation for years to come.””

Yet a lot of companies still don’t take advantage of online video.

Here are some steps to consider to make the most of YouTube:

1. Create a YouTube channel: Establishing a YouTube channel is pretty easy; you just need to have a YouTube account and some videos. YouTube provides some customization, including your logo and description. There are, of course, videos on YouTube about creating your own YouTube Channel.

2. Establish benchmarks for success. These can include the number of times a video has been downloaded, embedded or linked to, or commented upon, as well as the number of subscriptions to your channel. You might even generate video responses to your video, as Old Spice did with its videos. Here’s a good article about some metrics Old Spice tracked from its YouTube channel.

3. Be prepared that people may comment on the videos. You should monitor the comments, because if you post videos that demonstrate your product, viewers may have questions about the product or demo, and you’ll want to respond. There may be negative comments, too, and you’ll want to consider how to respond to address legitimate concerns.

4. Link back from your YouTube channel videos to your site, because that’s important from an SEO perspective. This goes for any user-generated video you like. In the case of one of our clients, we found a lot of user-generated how-to videos about their product, and we recommended linking to them from the corporate site.

5. Start thinking about how to use video. Moving from a text-based focus on content to one that includes video requires a culture change, because it means you’ve got to start thinking about the visual aspects of your news, perspectives and thought leadership. It also requires additional planning and budgeting to get video ready. For example, you can take a podcast and add slides to it or a video demo, and now that can be a video—one that’s searchable on the second-largest search website.

6. Involve your customers. In an example from Sticks and Stones, Weber cites the SanDisk Point & Shoot Film Festival, with the top 200 entrants winning large-capacity SunDisk cards. There’s even a website that tacks online video competitions, VidOpp.com.

7. Don’t expect every video you produce will go viral. There was a time when many prospective clients asked about getting onto “”Oprah,”” and now lots ask about viral videos. With the exception of Blendtec’s WillItBlend, most companies should not expect that their videos will go viral.

8. Take the time to produce good video. Make sure it addresses the needs of your particular target audiences, or they won’t watch. In an era of Flip cameras, the video production doesn’t have to be expensive, slick or super-professional, but you don’t want it to be careless, sloppy, or hard to hear or see. It’s OK to experiment, because that’s the best way to find out what works. Weber says the best time to launch a video on YouTube is Sunday night at 9 p.m. (ET) so the video will be up when European viewers can watch before going to work and for U.S. viewers to watch before winding down their weekends.

9. Promote your videos on Twitter and other social media.

10. Keep in mind some of the best practices cited by Weber in his book:

  • Create content with value for your target viewers—it can’t be just a sales pitch or a commercial.
  • Keep videos short. Google just extended the 10-minute limit of videos you can upload to 15 minutes, a 50 percent increase. But just because you can upload a 15-minute video doesn’t mean you should. This is particularly important, as people watch videos on mobile devices while waiting in line somewhere.
  • Develop a plan in case your video does go viral.
  • Tag video content carefully to maximize search results.
  • Aim to provoke a conversation with your video, to get other people to want to watch it and respond to it.
  • Be ready to respond quickly to negative videos—especially like one (that Weber cites) of a rat-infested Taco Bell in Manhattan.
  • Develop a strategy for building your online video library.
  • Check out how your video looks on mobile screens, including iPads.

Norman Birnbach is a 20-year PR veteran who blogs at PR Back Talk.

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