Twenty years ago, the idea that you could make a living or boost the sales of your business by sharing videos with strangers online was a weird sci-fi dream. Today, clicking on a YouTube video in your search results seems an obvious route to the answer, whether you’re trying to find out how to do something, tap into a product review or play your favourite animation to a friend. But what is it about this particular platform that’s made it so ubiquitous? Is it a good thing for everyone? And how can you use YouTube’s success to boost your business?
What makes YouTube special?
It’s hard to say what exactly made YouTube the market leader. It’s probably a combination of factors including: the right idea (free video hosting) at the right time (before this was common), creating a vibrant and varied community, and being bought out by a bigger company (Google) at a point where it wasn’t clear how YouTube would actually make money. When YouTube launched in 2005, hosting video online for free was a novel idea – web hosting costs money, and it costs more money the larger the files are and the more often they’re downloaded (like bus journeys cost more the longer they are and the more people who are travelling – and even a free shuttle bus has to be paid for by someone). Videos and animations are some of the largest files people commonly want to move around, so video hosting was often a premium feature at the time.
Why is YouTube so high in my search results?
Estimates suggest that up to 9 in 10 searches are done using Google search, directly or indirectly. Google owns YouTube, so it’s no surprise that the video platform gets a boost over off-brand competitors like Vimeo. YouTube is also massive, hosting far more videos than its nearest competitors, so chances are that if you’re searching for something and want to see a video, it’ll be on YouTube. This has a circular effect – YouTube has more, so more people visit it, so content creators upload more videos and animations, so it has more so…
Who benefits from using YouTube?
The YouTube ecosystem is populated by four main categories of people: viewers, content creators (or channel owners), advertisers, and YouTube itself. It’s pretty clear how viewers benefit – they have full control over what they watch, so if they’re benefiting instantly they click away. Likewise, advertisers have an excellent platform to narrowly target ads at people (you searched for “deep sea fishing reel animation”? Great! Let me show you an ad for my deep sea fishing rod and reel set…) and YouTube makes money out of this whole process.
What’s unusual is that YouTube pays content creators directly, and while the exact details of who gets paid what are hazy, very few other platforms give content creators a chunk of the ad revenue. In general, only very popular YouTube channels are going to earn the owner a significant amount of money as the site only pays out on ad click through or when a viewer watches through the ad slot. This means that a channel with a million followers could, theoretically, make $0 while one with a thousands followers could make a mint. And, of course, not all videos have ads on them – no ad, no revenue.
Can I get paid for posting videos?
Yes…and no. Yes, people do get paid for running YouTube channels. Yes, some people make a living out of it. But YouTube videos are not a particularly lucrative revenue stream – you might make a few pence out of every thousand views or followers. This means that unless you want your primary business or job role to be “YouTube content creator”, it’s usually best to leverage the platform to boost your income in other ways. For example, online shops benefit from video product reviews which link back to their business and even if you offer services which require customers to be local, such as hair dressing in Hampshire or car repair in Portsmouth, you might make a series of simple how-to videos or videos showing off your skills and use them across multiple channels (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter…) as a free ad for your business. In this case, you’d want the YouTube ads switched off on your videos as you want people watching your “advert” rather than someone else’s, so you definitely wouldn’t get paid directly for the views.
What else can I do to take advantage of YouTube’s success?
YouTube is a great, flexible platform so there are lots of ways to use it to boost your sales, nurture your followers and generally advance your business goals. Which work best for your business will depend on your company’s existing marketing strategy and priorities. You can contact us directly for a personalised discussion, or read through the 15 ideas below – some are obvious, some more off the wall!
- Use YouTube as free hosting for your videos
- Create and share product demos that link back to your store
- Upload existing content you own such as TV ads or animations
- Share YouTube videos to your other social media channels, such as Facebook or Twitter
- Give customers a behind-the-scenes peak at how you work
- Create niche ‘how to’ videos to fill a gap
- Make sure all your content is easy to find, with appropriate tags and keywords
- Collect videos which help your team learn something – free education!
- Post a round up of videos your clients will find useful
- Reach out to influencers in your field, and offer them products for review or an interview or tour
- Buy ads on influential videos
- Sell ads on your videos (although we’ve discussed why buying ads may be more effective than selling them!)
- Tap into a community, if one exists in your field, and interact with potential customers
- Collaborate with suppliers, colleagues or others on videos and tap into their networks
- Do a live video from your office, shop or a trade show