Adding YouTube To A Content Marketing Strategy
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
I see a number of digital marketing plans that identify YouTube as part of the plan. But when we start discussing how YouTube fits into the plan, getting started seems to be the hardest part. This might be because there’s a gap in understanding what to expect from running campaigns on YouTube, or it might be due to trying to weaponize a digital medium we don’t fully understand.
Let’s start with what to expect. YouTube is a cute place to post videos. The title, description, and metadata for those videos is then picked up by the search engines. Do not expect to post videos that have millions of views unless there are millions of followers or unless promoting the videos millions of times. When promoting videos, expect to pay $.10 to $.30 for a click.
The cost for those clicks will go up or down based on the production value and how closely the video matches what people are searching for. By production value, we mean quality. The quality of a video is not just the resolution (although that is part of it) but extends to how professional and interesting it is. This is because Google analyzes trends to see how many people watch the video and for how long. The cost for a click is then adjusted based on what drives eyeballs to stay on the YouTube site. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works the same way.
A common misconception is that we can just post YouTube videos and people will magically find them. They might but they probably won’t. And if people do find them, they might not be the people who are going to buy specific products.
So then, what should we expect? We should expect YouTube to be a great place to store our videos that we can then embed the videos into our site. Beyond that, we should expect YouTube to drive traffic to our site based on how well the content we upload manages to capture and retain viewers. That will require a strategy (and maybe a little luck).
Strategy and Tactics
The strategy should be based on what we know about the people we want to watch our videos. This is going to be different for every persona in every industry, so there’s no one-stop shop. Most companies will benefit the most from a strategy that helps to inform an industry. The more generic the content, the more a strategy is about brand awareness, the more granular the content the more a strategy is about nurturing existing contacts in the funnel.
A good strategy can be summed up in a sentence, like a mission statement, but including a purpose. These might resemble:
Create content that informs <insert industry here> technologists about up and coming news to increase overall awareness of our brand.
Build explainer videos that show how to use each feature of the product to cross-post to knowledge base articles.
Develop content to showcase features around upcoming releases.
Interview key industry leaders to help lift the acumen about our space for the whole vertical.
Provide necessary training to prepare viewers to take our certification course.
Develop videos that show how to perform common tasks around the house to increase service calls.
At this point, we’ve got a few ideas for how to capture new viewers but also provide helpful content. We don’t want vanity metrics though. If a video produces a million views but converts no leads then we are becoming a company that is making money off content rather than products. A fine strategy, if it’s the strategy. Just make sure to be deliberate (while willing to pivot if needed).
Don’t attempt multiple strategies at first. Pick one thing and do it well. We can always add more later (expand the strategy) if we’re seeing a good return on our investment or reduce our involvement if not.
Don’t overpromise. If we say it’s a monthly news update then we want to plan to produce content monthly. It’s usually best to start at 2-4 week intervals and increase provided the commitment isn’t too much, once we
First let’s look at some common strategies to drive traffic based on YouTube:
Explainer videos. In the past couple of years I’ve rebuilt the carburetor in my lawn mower, replaced the springs in my oven door so it closes properly, and sweated pipes to install shutoff valves in a bathroom. I’m more adventurous with home projects than I’ve ever been before. Why? Because enterprising companies post videos on how to do these tasks. Now, I’m probably not going to need to buy their services in the future. However, I might recognize their brand in the future if I need to. Not that any are based in the city I live in.
Industry News Series. These are often little 10-30 minute weekly or monthly updates on happenings in a given industry. Like a news channel. These are most effective in industries where a vendor keeps tabs on the goings-on a bit more than the professionals who are in the field and too busying shoveling poo to buy a shovel. The key with these is to be vendor agnostic in a given space but maybe to end each with a Call to Action (CTA).
Product Updates. Inform customers about updates to products (e.g. a video about those spiffy new features every couple of weeks (e.g. on a sprint cadence) or monthly.
Interviews. This is likely better as a podcast. Unless they’re just customer testimonials we can embed on our site. Most podcasting networks allow us to cross-post to YouTube as well.
Training videos. Here, we want to take videos (maybe even product explainer videos) and bolt them together in a way that follows a learning plan. Usually there should be a page on our site that takes viewers through the order they should be watching videos (think of that like a lesson plan or syllabus).
A final destination for miscellaneous content. No content ever really needs to die. Sure, that bad haircut might look dated, the branding might have been updated since a video was created, or the video might be a little grainy - but someone might find it valuable. And it’s more important to be valuable than to improve vanity metrics. One great piece of content to include in a YouTube channel is any Webinar over a certain age, like 6 weeks. For more on creating webinars, see our article on Getting Started With Webinars at https://www.bootstrappers.mn/post/get-started-with-webinars.
There are hundreds of other ways to do this. But again, to get started we should pick one for a minimum of a couple of months and then re-evaluate. Keep in mind, each strategy, tactic, product, or personal can have its own collection of videos - which we call a Channel. After we get a few repetitions and understand the time, money, and focus commitment, we can always add another Channel later.
What we build depends on the goals, target audience, and industry. Those should align with the values of the organization. Once we’ve decided what makes the most sense for our organization it’s time to start building.
There are some basics we want to knock out before we get started. These will help us avoid early mistakes.
This is important: start by creating a Brand Account with Google. Anyone can create a YouTube channel, but in an organization we’ll want to have multiple people working in the account eventually. A brand account allows us to do so. We don’t want to have to move content or have to create another account later and possibly https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/7001996
Once there’s an account, set the images and description. Here, state what the purpose is and who it’s for. In the beginning let’s disable comments - once we get some informal feedback we can always turn those on later. In a previous article, we laid out some broad instructions on microphones and other equipment for podcasting. Those apply to recording for YouTube as well and can be found at: https://www.bootstrappers.mn/post/starting-a-company-podcast
Now it’s time to create a video. Consider these types of videos:
Talking Heads: Here, we’re recording ourselves talking about some things. Sometimes this could just be a zoom call with a pair of people talking about a subject or the news. Try and refrain from just using a recorded Zoom. A recorded Zoom call can seem like just watching people have a meeting. Instead, consider enriching the media with slides, screen captures, and/or video clips in order to be more engaging.
Screen recording: This is most effective when showcasing new features of a product. Try to switch back and forth to the camera every now and then as it keeps a viewer interested. A good rule of thumb is that when talking about a button, where to click on a screen, workflows, or what to put in various places in an app, show the app - and when talking about the philosophy behind a feature or the general concepts, show the speaker. Just make sure the audio levels don’t seem disjointed.
Slides with narration: Power Point, Keynote, or Google Slides make it easier to create great and compelling presentations than ever. Mix video in natively rather than embedding it in and trying to capture a screen recording. And try to put an image of the presenter (or video of the presenter) into the slides at key places, if not running in a part of the screen the whole time. With or without video of the presenter this allows for powerful delivery of content without needing a studio. Pro tip: Apple’s Keynote comes with a feature to export a deck to a QuickTime movie.
Filmed: There’s little more powerful than putting video of a customer using a product into a video. When adding historical context we can also use stock video provided we use proper attribution.
Animations and images: Here, we have animated explainer videos, video of animations in presentations, animation snippets that can be purchased, and even stock animations with an open license. Tools like Apple’s iMovie make transitions between these simpler and more compelling than ever. Just don’t forget to read the licensing if using existing content.
Music and sounds: We can also add extra audio - just making sure not to infringe on any copyrights. This might be an intro song, some audio in the bumper, or sound effects. For this, YouTube has content available at https://studio.youtube.com/channel/UCitOdZPPipSfa88y9ls3DiQ/music or there are plenty of royalty free sites out there to pull music from. Having said that, we all have friends who are musicians. Many of which would love an excuse to create music that will be used in cool ways!
Mixed: As a team’s skills increase (or if outsourcing editorial), mixed media content is usually the most compelling and often ends up with the most engaged audiences. Each type of video content can be used in different ways when storytelling. This is more time consuming but just like when watching the news and seeing a lot of different types of video, is often the most engaging.
Live video: The great thing about live video is that viewers rarely expect a really high production value. A live interview with a customer or a developer/engineer of a product is a great way to get people watching at a specific time. Just make sure to record it and keep it as someone is likely to always consider it valuable.
A new video can easily be created using the camera in most modern computing devices. A physical separate camera is often best. According to the platform, there are a number of pieces of software that can be purchased or downloaded to aid in great screen capture vide. Or the built-in tools (e.g. the Screen Recording Feature built into QuickTime Player on a Mac). These can also be used to simply play a slide show and talk over it. Filmed content can be mixed in, giving a viewer a more real view of what we’re discussing. This can also be downloaded using a number of free or paid image repositories.
The best answer if there’s time to produce quality content is usually to create some kind of mixed media that incorporates elements from all of these types. Here consider a tool like OBS (or Open Broadcaster Software) available at https://obsproject.com. As seen in the screenshot, we’re able to have slides or video in the main screen, switch between them on the fly, have an audio track recorded at the same time, and record talking heads. Simply use a logo in an image file and cut out areas where we’ll put boxes for transparencies. It’s a great little tool - and free.
Post The First Videos
Each video needs a great title. We don’t want to clickbait people into watching videos, but we do want to grab the attention of potential viewers. Keep titles to about half the size of a tweet at the max and we want to make sure they’re accurate. Keep in mind that around 70% of Google searches will include a YouTube video and the title will be what searchers see.
The description should include the desired keywords. Don’t stuff keywords in where they don’t belong, but do include them where they can be put in organically. Also consider using them in categories and tags. As more videos get posted (and more importantly the path from a new lead to a converted lead) is clear, we can always hone in on the words that drive the type of engagement that converts. One way to to get a great description is to add links to timestamps where each new slide starts along with the title of the slide. This will take a few extra minutes for every video posted but is a great way to get more people seeing content.
Just as we wanted a great title, we also want a good thumbnail. These are the images a viewer sees when looking at a bunch of YouTube videos on YouTube.com, Google.com, etc. The default video used when posting is often just a random frame. But pick something more eye catching from the video as the poster frame when possible.
And don’t forget about the call to action. Every video posted should have a link in the description. This provides a call to action that can even be called out at the end of the video. For example, a simple “to learn more click on the link in the notes” is an effective ask or “sign up for our newsletter using the link provided.” We want to be informative to people watching our content, but we also want to get to a point where we can message them more content and build a more lasting relationship with viewers. One way to reduce the per-video work is to add a video watermark with a Subscribe button. For more on doing so, see https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2972003.
We don’t want to post too many videos at once. If we have four that are finished, consider dripping them out at one a week. Future content can come every other week if needed, but set the expectation of regularly released content so more people follow a given channel. This might mean using a tool like Social Sprout to schedule content to be released at various times.
Communicate The Content
Once there are a few pieces of content we get a decent understanding of what kind of commitment we’re making. Our risk is low because we’ve made some videos and can then embed them in our site. But the number of followers we have for our content isn’t that high yet.
There are a number of ways we can inform people that we’ve got some stuff that possible viewers should go watch. There’s another article brewing on marketing routes but for now, let’s focus on a sampling of those specific to video:
CRM: Most organizations likely have a list of contacts (e.g. a CRM like Salesforce or Hubspot). These can either be leveraged as messaging platforms or synchronized with dedicated messaging suites like Mailchimp. Typically it’s best to just add a snippet about videos to existing campaigns where they are complimentary rather than run a campaign for the video. A great way to go about marketing a new channel is to simply write a survey asking what people want more of. A lot of people will go watch and it won’t seem like pandering for views.
Collaborators: Interviewing people with strong followings will get more people watching. That might be their coworkers or professionals in the same industry. Not everyone works at an organization where they’re allowed to speak publicly. But look for “thought leaders” and especially customers who are. And look for people who you can help make a thought leader - maybe the ones who are awesome and others just don’t know it yet!
Embedded Players: Each video has the ability to be embedded in other content. This is where the web pages we build can display a video. This can allow us to place a video as gated content or embed it in a blog where more people might find it.
Newsletters: A single video in each newsletter is a great way to keep readers tuned in and get them to open more newsletters later. Any organization not doing a newsletter already is missing a great way to communicate with customers and leads just waiting to get nurtured into customers.
Social Media: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, WeChat, Reddit, and other social media outlets provide a route to potentially reach a lot of customers. And social media sites typically embed YouTube videos well. Even if there’s not a huge following on social media, it’s always good to flex the muscle to automatically post there. Just tailoring the message to the intricacies of each social media network.
YouTube Followers: At the end of all videos have a call to action to follow the posting account or subscribe to a channel. This doesn’t help with getting eyeballs on content in the beginning but helps to drive further engagement.
Contests: Not all industries allow giving a gift to people. But YouTube loves gifts. These can be used to get others to create content, like a video, leave a comment, share a video, subscribe to a channel, or even to fill out a form linked in a description. Just keep an eye out for people that are just trolling YouTube looking for freebies.
Paid Advertising: This is last as we want to use the other mechanisms to distribute content in order to identify the content, keywords, and titles that drive the acquisition of new customers. Otherwise we’re just spending money on YouTube or Google ads and hoping for the best. Experiment with Bumper ads, Display ads, Overlay ads, and Sponsored cards to see which is best for each persona.
As humans, most of us consume content differently than other people we know. Various personas in a given industry might follow similar patterns but those of us planning to create content often consume content differently than those we are hoping to engage. Therefore, our initial attempts may or may not resonate with potential and current customers. Be humble and don’t be afraid of asking people what they think and what could be better.
Keep Getting Better
Asking people how we can be better is one way to iterate the content we produce for better results. Another is to actually measure the results and produce content that is tailored to the audience. Tools like Google Analytics and HootSuite will help get there and the time invested in seeing how viewers interact with content is always time well spent.
As the YouTube channel matures, we can also create a channel trailer. This gives us a chance to explain how our brand is impactful to customers. Once there’s engagement we can also spend time customizing channel banners, adding captions and translations, and really digging into YouTube analytics.
After measuring results we have to be careful not to just look for numbers that validate us. Showing humility is often about simply looking for where we didn’t achieve what we wanted out of an initiative. It’s easy to look for the successes and they should certainly be celebrated. But we should also keep looking for ways to help people in our industries get better at what they do, to reach more customers, to gain visibility into their organization, to put products in markets faster, produce less errors, and to be more efficient. That starts with looking for ways to do the same for ourselves. Even on YouTube.