Each day Americans watch the equivalent of 500 years of YouTube videos—most of them inexpensive productions—on Facebook. One of those wildly popular branded viral videos, the Will It Blend? campaign from Blendtec, was downloaded more than 100 million times during its first year online and spawned a series of viral videos. For the first five videos, Blendtec budgeted a whopping $50 for items such as a garden rake, a rotisserie chicken and a Big Mac Extra Value Meal. Subsequent blendables included a human skeleton and an iPhone.
So why don’t more people turn on the power of online video branding for their small businesses? In a word, fear. Most small-business owners fear they lack the expertise or the looks or the skill to do it right. So they don’t do it at all.
I use online video as a primary marketing tool for my business and my book. This article covers the basic video branding steps that have worked for my business. They’ll work equally well for yours.
1. Get past fear to survive your first video.
You don’t have to look like a Hollywood star to make a high-quality online video. And you don’t need a voice like James Earl Jones for a memorable message. If you can make a sales pitch to a prospective customer, you can deliver a great on-camera message. People don’t watch YouTube videos to criticize the presenter’s looks. They watch to learn something they’re interested in or to be entertained by a good story.
A great script is key, so start by writing down what you want to say. Pick one key idea or message and write it as a script with notes for visual elements that will help you tell the story. Most Americans speak at about 110 to 150 words per minute, so one to two pages of double-spaced copy (roughly 250 words per page) is plenty for a YouTube video.
Practice in front of a mirror and then film a few short home videos with your camera phone. If you dislike the way you look on camera, you can still produce inexpensive videos by shifting the focus to your products or even a presentation created with Prezi, PowerPoint or similar software.
2. Create evergreen content.
Videos are an excellent way to create lasting search engine optimization (SEO), meaning your business is listed high in results from Internet searches powered by Google and others. Pick a topic that your target audience will search for long into the future instead of one related to current events.
How do you know what your audience will look for in the future? Stick with the basics: how to achieve a goal, solve a problem, make a complex issue simple. Put yourself in viewers’ shoes: What would you spend your free time watching?
To maintain your high SEO rank over the long haul, start with a catchy, memorable title that includes the keywords you are targeting. Then keep the title short, because Google truncates titles at about 66 characters, and list your keywords first in the title.
You should write a video description that is relevant and contains keywords, but don’t stuff the description with keywords. Just use the keywords that logically pertain to the video and provide value in the description. Google and Bing look at only about the first 165 characters of your description, but you can write a longer one for YouTube or your website. It’s best to put the link to your website at the beginning of the description, not at the end, because YouTube shows only the first few lines of the description in its default layout. And include your call to action in the first few lines of your video description.
I find that including five to seven relevant keywords as tags for my videos consistently helps them show up as “related” videos on the sidebar to other companies’ videos, which is a terrific way to increase my audience.
3. Build your audience.
Recording and posting a great video isn’t enough to go viral. You have to promote your video and build an audience for it.
YouTube ranks videos each day based on the number of views they have received in the preceding 24- to 48-hour period. So as soon as you post a video, share the link with your email address list, on social media, and as many other places as you can. Adding a video link to your pay-per-click ads or web banners is a great way to increase clicks on the ads.
You’ll want to link to your video on your company’s Facebook page and blog as well as post it on your business’s website. Here are other low-cost ways to build the audience for your video:
• Twitter: Tweet links to the video with short, catchy reasons people should watch it. Ten tweets spaced throughout the day and evening within the first 48 hours of posting is a good rule of thumb. Repeat the link periodically for people who haven’t seen it yet.
• Social bookmarking sites: Reddit, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn groups, Digg and Delicious are the main social bookmarking sites. Set up a free account and then all you need to submit are a link, a catchy headline and a 25- to 50-word description of your video.
• Email and e-newsletters: You can include a link to a relevant video in almost any form of digital communications. In addition, videos can be promoted in an email sent just for that purpose, or included in a P.S. to an email sent for a related purpose.
• Public relations: Services such as PRWeb ($99 and up to post a video that remains available as long as you wish) and MyPRGenie (the basic $19 monthly plan is great for most small businesses) distribute video news releases. You can also link to your video in a standard text-only news release.
4. Turn viewers into customers.
Conversion happens when you turn a stranger into a consumer or customer, and there’s a difference between the two. A consumer might take in your information or even sample your product, but he or she may not always buy immediately. That’s OK, because marketing is an ongoing process of converting people into consumers and customers.
Conversion is a complex subject, but here are some basics: To convert a video watcher into a consumer or a customer, you must persuade that person to act. So include a clear call to action in your video and in the description of your video. A call to action is a declarative statement—such as click here for more information, sign up today for a free newsletter or try a free trial—that’s hyperlinked to a place where the viewer can take the action, or with a link displayed onscreen. A QR (quick response) code—those checkered images that take mobile users to online content—is a great way to take smartphone and tablet users to additional content and get them to try or buy.
5. Should you monetize your video library?
You’ve seen the ads that populate the bottom third of YouTube videos. When you see one, it indicates the person or company who owns the video is monetizing—earning money from—the video. You can monetize on YouTube if your video is original, meaning you own all the content (music, images, copy, etc.) in it. Google has a tutorial to help you monetize your YouTube videos.
But should you monetize? I’d say yes if you’re in sales or are an artist or performer who wants to supplement your income with advertising revenue.
If you don’t fall into the categories outlined in the previous paragraph, weigh the potential income against the inconvenience and annoyance to your audience. Research shows that about 16 percent of viewers click away from videos requiring a viewer to sit through an ad before they can watch the video.
It’s a tricky decision. I have never directly monetized Shama.tv or my YouTube videos, but I benefit financially anyway by booking paid speaking engagements and discovering new business opportunities from those who have seen my videos and then reached out.