YouTube Viral Marketing Tips

I’ve been reading lots lately about how small businesses can best use YouTube in their online marketing efforts and I’d like to share some useful things I’ve learned. First, statistics indicate that 4.3 billion videos are watched per month on YouTube. That’s a viewership that many marketers find too enticing to ignore. At the same time – and perhaps a major factor in YouTube’s growth – the cost and time required to produce a video is now well within reach of nearly every business.

Does this mean everyone needs to run out and create a video to jump on the bandwagon? Not necessarily. Like all forms of social media, it’s best to stop and think about what value you have to offer before jumping in, as content that’s strictly self-promotional isn’t likely to get much viewership.

So what do YouTube viewers like to watch? Topics that work best on YouTube tend to fall into one (or more) of 3 categories:

News. Both viewers and search engines (YouTube has its own search engine) gravitate towards what’s new. If you have real news – a product announcement, an upcoming event, a new offer, etc. – consider announcing it on YouTube. You can get double mileage by also attaching your video to a press release and posting it on PRWeb. It doesn’t need to be a glitzy or expensive video production – just interesting and informative. And like any news announcement, tell a story and you’ll generate much more interest.

How To. Since the true advantage of video over other communication forms is its ability to show & tell, it makes sense that “how to” videos can do well on YouTube. Again, the obvious applies – tell a story, make it interesting, make it entertaining – and the presentation quality should be professional. My favorite is the series of “Will It Blend?” videos from Blendtec. They combine a how-to message with humor and shock value as they demonstrate a multitude of objects and substances that can be blended in their blender. Highly popular on YouTube.

Entertainment. People are always drawn to humor and human-interest stories, and entertaining videos can have terrific viral (pass-along) value. But the real challenge if you aim to produce an entertaining video is to link it effectively to your marketing message. Don’t just spend your marketing budget to make people laugh; make them remember you and – better yet – click a link to your website. Here’s an entertaining advertisement from OraBrush, and another from Oreo. Warning: humor is a personal taste, so trying to be funny can be very risky and hard to pull off.

What To Do With Your Video

Your primary objective for your video is to be found on YouTube (remember those 4.3 billion viewings? They likely include some of your potential customers). YouTube has its own search engine and allows you to do some rudimentary SEO by entering a Title, Description and Tags. Like traditional SEO, take care to enter keyword phrases that your target audience is likely to use in their searches. But this is just a start and there are many ways to build on it. Here are some good suggestions for what you can do next to build your video viewership and turn it into an effective marketing vehicle for your business.

Send YouTube viewers to your website. YouTube allows you to include a link to your website, so make it count. Make sure you choose a landing page that builds on the contents of your video and includes a call-to-action for visitors who follow the link. Remember, if your video is good enough to capture the interest of a prospective customer, you want to engage that viewer sufficiently to get them to click through to your landing page, and then encourage them to pick up the telephone, send you an email, drive to your store or office, or make a purchase on the website. Remember this and you’ll see that what you present on your landing page is as important as your video content.

Encourage viewers to share. Surely you’ve received emails or seen Facebook and other social media posts that point you to “must see” videos. This is the viral element of web videos. If your video is engaging, compelling, entertaining, or fascinating in some way, it may be lucky enough to get passed along and become a viral phenomenon. Some viral videos just take on a life of their own. But it is possible to “encourage” a viral spread through video optimization.

I took a workshop recently from Greg Jarboe, author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day. He shared a good story about the recent election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate and the part played by optimized YouTube videos in that election. Here are the facts:

Scott Brown had roughly eight times as many views on his YouTube channel as Democratic opponent Martha Coakley.
While Brown had only 950 subscribers to his YouTube channel, he nonetheless had over 700,000 views of his campaign videos. His single most popular video had 130,000 views, while Coakley’s most popular video had 45,000.
If you searched on YouTube for Martha Coakley during the election, her videos didn’t even show at the top of the rankings; certainly Brown’s did if you entered Scott Brown.
What gives? Why did Brown’s election videos take off while Coakley’s viewership paled in comparison? The answer is viral marketing. It appears that Brown’s staff were savvy about how to make a video “go viral”, while Coakley’s team left it to chance. Here are some of the things you can do:

Ask people in the video to share it through their own social media connections
Invite comments and ask people to rate the video
Feature your customers or other influentials to cameo in the video
Ask anyone featured in the video to share it in their blog
Find people who comment on similar videos in YouTube and send them a link, especially if they have a blog. Many bloggers are looking for good video content; make sure your video supports their message and adds value to their readers.
If your video features newsworthy content, issue a press release and embed or link to the video
Embed the video in your own website and urge people to build links to your site rather than to YouTube
Cindy Lavoie is a partner at Sound Web Solutions, an Internet Marketing agency in Seattle, WA. At Sound Web Solutions, we help small to midsize businesses increase traffic to their website, build online credibility for their brand, and turn their website visitors into prospects and sales. Cindy is a hands-on marketing expert with 25+ years experience driving marketing strategy and executing campaigns for technology-driven companies.

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