More than three billion videos are viewed on YouTube each day, and more than 48 hours of video are uploaded to the site every single minute.
That makes YouTube a daunting playground for consumers and for brands. Yet, brands are increasingly relying on the video-sharing site as a hub not just for videos, but for connections, interactivity, and marketing. Standing out amidst the vast expanse of videos is challenging and it requires cohesive and consistent marketing tactics. Gone are the days when brands -- or anyone -- can simply slap a video online and hope it catches fire. That's why video experts at leading media agencies as well as YouTube executives themselves contend that a strategy for success is vital.
"First, recognize that no video is inherently viral," said Jamison Tilsner, VP of business development at Kantar Video, a division of media agency WPP, "Videos can be spread, and catchy or sensational videos are more easily spread. A media and social media seeding strategy is as important, if not more important, than expert production of ground-breaking content. Marketers need to distribute the great content to the audiences that will appreciate and share it."
To build, share, and succeed on YouTube requires several steps for digital marketer small and large. They begin with the basics, such as building out a brand page, interacting with viewers and responding to comments, and lead up to more sophisticated strategies too for enhancing views, traffic, and virality.
Here are the basics:
Start with a brand channel
This sounds simple, but it's mission critical. A brand or business should set up an official brand channel on YouTube. Brand channels are free, so be sure to use all the design elements, though some of the gadgets and customization have a fee. A brand channel is essentially your home on YouTube; think of it as the YouTube equivalent of a Facebook page.
First impressions count
"You want all your videos to be stellar, but remember the first 15 seconds of any video is critical so make sure you have a fantastic opener, said Paul Kontonis, VP and Group Director for Brand Content at Digitas.
"Use the right words in your title, description and keywords. The important words, the ones that are the most searchable, should be in all three places. Make sure you order your keywords in search rank order," Kontonis said. "Explain as much as you can about your video in the descrip-tion and add a transcript if you can."
Take your time
You don't need to upload 20 informational videos the day you set up your channel. Roll out your videos via a sensible timeframe to build momentum and excitement. Once uploaded, use playlists to organize and curate videos. You can create playlists from other channels that fit in and complement yours.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Rather than let YouTube randomly select the thumbnail that is displayed with your video, upload a custom thumbnail that's attractive, stands out, and will entice viewers to watch your video.
Don't forget your channel
Kontonis points out that many marketers start a brand channel to coincide with a paid media campaign. That's a smart way to leverage resources, but be sure to keep feeding the channel even when your paid flight ends. Consumers will still seek out your videos organically and you want to make sure fresh content is on the shelves for those who look.
Shoot what you love
United Linen is a small business in Oklahoma that has gained some YouTube traction with vid-eos on how to fold napkins. "Shoot video about your products and services solving your custom-er's problems," said Scott Townsend, marketing director at United Linen, "Show customers how to use a product, demonstrate how the product works, and show customers how to do business with your business."
Remember, that brand marketers can develop a YouTube channel into a powerful owned media asset which can drive a tremendous amount of earned media. "The next thing is to re-member that YouTube is a social platform where conversations and community can develop," Kontonis said, "Don't just post and hope; get in there and talk to your audience, friend, subscribe, comment, and favorite."
Most YouTube brand channels do need the support of paid media to break through. One of the most powerful examples in recent months of paid and earned media working in tandem is the Old Spice campaign of 2010 that launched with a TV ad buy and morphed into a YouTube and Twitter phenomenon.
That brings us to our second set of guidelines for maximizing YouTube opportunities.
A brand channel alone is not enough
The Old Spice campaign did not simply take off one day. The online videos were part of a con-certed media plan that began on TV and in movie theaters months before the Internet video push last summer. The same applies to the popular Evian Babies campaign, which was supported first by a paid media campaign to drive viewers to YouTube: Paid media -- whether TV, the web, or a YouTube ad buy itself -- can accelerate and amplify a YouTube brand channel. Phil Farhi, Senior Product Manager at YouTube, said: "You want some kind of paid media to support your campaign. The key is starting with an asset to have that acceleration." United Linen's Townsend also advocates linking videos on a Facebook page, Twitter account, and even cross-promoting the YouTube channel on business cards, billboards, newspaper ads, and radio ads too.
Make the videos feel YouTube-esque
Remember that YouTube is a place marketers can drive viewers to from other platforms, like TV, Internet, or radio for instance. "Let's say there is a great Coca-Cola ad on TV, but I can't tune to the Coca-Cola guide on Comcast and watch more Coca-Cola commercials. But now there is a chance to interact with that, discover more videos. YouTube allows for a longer conversation and a deeper conversation," Farhi said. But that conversation must also be different than what's on TV, and that's why brands should focus on developing videos for YouTube that look and feel like content. Toyota found success with its Swagger Wagon campaign not just because of the paid media support behind that, but because those videos relied on a style of content that had already become popular on YouTube -- musical video parodies.
Make a video that speaks to the YouTube ethos, audience, and expectations. Smaller brands can do this as well. Orabrush is a toothbrush maker that struggled to gain WalMart and Target distri-bution, but then created a YouTube series featuring a guy dressed up as a giant tongue. Those videos became popular because they were in the vein of the fun, spoofy YouTube vibe, Farhi said.
Play around with interactivity
There are many ways to use interactive tools on YouTube. These range from high-end ad innova-tions down to annotations. Dreamworks created a series of videos with Po the Panda fighting the screen to support the release of Kung Fu Panda 2, while Lionsgate and Millenium Films tested out an ad for The Expendables that showed star Sylvester Stallone appearing to blow up the screen during a film interview. While these for-mats may be cost prohibitive for smaller brands, Farhi suggests marketers try out simple interac-tive tool such as annotations to create choose your own adventure series, or to link videos together.
Feed the beast
Individual YouTube stars like iJustine and Michael Buckley have grown their audiences by post-ing videos regularly, interacting through comments, answering questions in vlogs, and so on. Be sure to follow their example and engage with your audience and supply them with regular videos.
Tap into your community
Old Spice invited fans and influencers to participate in its video campaign last year by posing questions for its star Isaiah Mustafa to answer in additional videos. Look for ways you can engage with your community to make them feel part of the process and conversation. "A lot of these things don't necessarily require a high cost of production," Farhi said.
"Research of online video, especially in reference to other predominant advertising media, has only recently become available to YouTube-savvy marketers who can now take advantage of tools that will link online viewing behavior to online and offline purchases, search behavior, TV viewing habits, social media sentiment tracking, and key brand health measures," Tilsner said. Once you have the brand channel and have marketed it properly, be sure to see how you're doing. Find research, data, and tools to measure the performance. Assess what worked and didn't work and tweak the next campaign.
Daisy Whitney is a producer, on-air correspondent, podcaster, and expert in the new media business.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.