How to use YouTube to grow your business

The world’s biggest online video sharing platform can be a great tool for growing your business – and you don’t have to be a camera whiz or a social media sensation to make the most of it. Getting started on YouTube can seem daunting if you’re already busy running a company, so our quick guide below aims to help you launch quickly, easily and successfully.

Know what you want out of YouTube

It seems like every kid (and quite a lot of adults) dream of being a YouTube star. Recent surveys indicate that 30-75% of kids age 6-17 would like to be a hit vlogger when they grow up. And much like when earlier generations dreamed of being an astronaut, the chances of earning a fortune on social media are slim. However, if you’ve already got a working business model, you don’t need to go viral to be a success. Treat YouTube like any other video advertising, social media, marketing or advertising platform and be proud of the effects your work has while ignoring the numbers. For example, if you post a ‘how to’ video, and that reduces the number of phone queries you need to deal with, that’s a great benefit.

Don’t expect millions of views

Social media is designed to produce similar brain effects to addictive substances, and with stories of ‘viral success’ splashed across both old and new media it’s tempting to see anything under a million hits as failure. However, this isn’t helpful, particularly if you offer a specialist or localized service. As an example, imagine the owner of a Portsmouth ice cream shop makes a video and posts it online. If the video is viewed a million times, that seems much better than if another video only gets a thousands views. But what if the million views come from people in Canada, while the thousand are all local? What if the million views are mostly confused bots? Suddenly the raw numbers don’t seem so impressive.

Do a cost/benefit analysis

You don’t need to be a camera expert to shoot a useful video and get it up on YouTube. However, if you’ve not used the channel before then you can expect some cost in terms of either hiring a professional (quick, easy, not as cheap) or learning to do it yourself (cheap, not as quick, not as easy). Be clear about what the costs and hoped for benefits are – this is a job, not a hobby, so if YouTube video advertising or product demos are going to be part of your business strategy, you need to know whether they’re effective.

Find your niche

If your video is one of a thousand with a similar theme, you’ll struggle to get any recognition. However, if your video fills an empty niche, you may not only get views but encourage visitors to use your business. As an example, while there are thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of videos showing how to use beauty products, such as hair straighteners, there may be few or no videos showing how to use more prosaic products, such as the inside of a particular brand and model of suitcase, the motions of an office chair or how to install a computer monitor support.

Play to your strengths

Videos made by experts are more compelling so use your areas of expertise to create short, clear videos in the niche you’ve selected. If you have other strengths, perhaps a gorgeous view where you can demonstrate outdoor products or a lovely, homey space to demonstrate kitchen and lifestyle goods, then that’s great too. Even an accent or regional knowledge can be an advantage as you’re trying to target and talk to your customers and potential customers.

Make evergreen videos

YouTube videos are likely to be around for years, or possibly decades. It’s certainly true that there are videos on the site which date from the months after its launch in 2005. As a result, it’s more cost effective if you can make videos which, like an evergreen tree, are equally beautiful and interesting all year round and for many years to come. Of course, you can’t always predict when a trend or industry disruption will turn a popular product such as typewriter ribbon or camera film into a niche product, but you can avoid spending a lot of effort on products which are clearly of short term interest, such as vuvuzelas or royal wedding merchandise.

Share your video around

As soon as your first video is ready, share it. Don’t be shy. Think of as many ways to get some value out of your video as possible. This might include posting links on Twitter, Facebook and other social media; sharing it in an email newsletter; using it to answer customer queries (“this video will show you how to desprocket the widget”); posting about it on your blog; embedding it in a product page (“see the widget in action!”); or even using it as video advertising.

Ask for feedback

We don’t usually recommend reading comments on YouTube as they are unmoderated and people often seem to use high profile videos as spaces to post vile thoughts. However, asking for and listening to feedback from people you know, trusted customers and even strangers can help you improve your video making dramatically with little cost. Viewers will notice different things than you do as the content maker and react to them differently. As an example, a friend might find the background distracting, a colleague might notice you missed a step in your explanation or a customer might point out that it’s too dark to easily see particular details.

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