How Sesame Street reached 1 billion YouTube views

Do you want your brand to go viral? Take a cue from Big Bird and the gang: Educate, balance serious and light-hearted content, and know what’s important to your viewers.

For those who love videos of talking dogs, babies biting fingers or Korean men dancing, the news that Sesame Street’s YouTube page is the first nonprofit channel to achieve 1 billion views may come as a surprise.

To those who know what kind of content inspires people, it doesn’t.

There are three main reasons why this channel has proven so successful—reasons brands (for-profit or nonprofit) should take note of.

1. It is educational.

Sesame Street targets youngsters, but the theory is the same for all brands: Teach viewers something new every time they watch. Sesame Street teaches a new letter, word, number or life lesson. Brands could teach anything and everything. It’s a great way to make content truly valuable.

If your videos enrich your viewers’ lives every time they watch, they’ll not only keep coming back for more, but be more likely to recommend your content to their peers. This could mean increased likes, retweets, shares and Google +1s. These broaden your reach and can improve your social signals, thereby increasing your traffic/rankings. What’s not to like?

2. There’s a good balance of light-hearted and serious content.

While Cookie Monster might sing a silly song about his love of cookies one day, the next day Big Bird might teach his friends about how important it is for families to stick together, or help them cope with their parents divorcing. This helps viewers understand that life isn’t always easy, but with help they can get through anything and have some fun along the way.

Employing a balance of light-hearted and serious content can help your brand appeal to a range of viewers. It can also establish your brand as one that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also cares about and recognizes when to tackle the serious stuff. It’s a great way to give your brand personality.

3. It recognizes what’s important to its audience.

Sesame Street’s content doesn’t aim above or below its audience—it’s right on target. It knows children love colorful, engaging content. It knows children are at a point where learning about numbers and letters is important, but that they also love to dance around the living room once the learning is over.

In short, Sesame Street doesn’t put out anything that’s irrelevant to its audience. That should be a key goal for brands. Find out what your audience wants and deliver it. Don’t deliver what your audience isn’t interested in.

Although these may sound like simple or even obvious techniques, more brands than you’d think have yet to catch on.

Take inspiration from Elmo, Bert, Oscar and the gang. After all, if doing so could help you gain 1 billion views for your content, isn’t it worth considering?

Deborah Bates is campaign delivery manager at Red Rocket Media. A version of this article originally appeared on iMediaConnection.

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