YouTube, the Google-owned video network, is about more than funny videos and attempting to improve SEO signals. The network is a great way to connect to and engage with people in your audience, since it has more than a billion users. That’s more than 33% of everyone on the entire internet. Every day, people are watching millions of hours of content. Considering that on mobile alone, YouTube reaches more people between the ages of 18 and 49 than any cable network in the US, it’s a great place for small businesses to be. Except, less than 10% of American small businesses are actively using it. Why? Because it’s more difficult to produce video content than it is to create imagery and blog posts… or at least that’s how most people feel.
If you’re considering starting a YouTube channel to support your digital marketing efforts, it’s not just as simple as picking up the camera and pressing record. Just like with any other social platform, you want to think about goals and develop a strategy, so you can make sure your YouTube channel supports your overall goals.
Questions to Ask Before You Get Started
- Why do you want to start a channel? Go beyond the obvious answers like “to get more leads” and “to make more money”. Get specific with the reasons why you want to create this kind of content, and it will help you shape the content you’ll create for the channel. Success on YouTube for most people, anyway, isn’t about uploading a single viral video and making millions of dollars. It’s about time, effort, and a plan.
- What will your videos be about? Based on the reasons why you want to start a channel, think about what your core audience wants to know about your niche or industry. Then, start coming up with a list of ideas to cover in videos. You can go back to blog posts and other types of content you’ve already created for your business and create videos to accompany them, too; repurposing content is a great way to reach a broader audience with the same basic material.
- Does your target audience use YouTube? If your customers, or potential customers aren’t on YouTube, then you may have a problem. But, considering how many people are using YouTube, chances are you’ll find someone who’s not only interested in what you have to say on your channel, but what you have to offer outside out of it. Use whatever you know about your audience – age, interests, income level, and other demographics to make sure you’re creating content that appeals to them on some level.
- What other channels are serving the same audience? A competitive analysis helps you see what other channels are doing, so you know what you can do better. Look closely at the types of videos the other channels are putting out there, and how their audience is responding. Are there questions in the comments that you could weave into your video on the same topic? Look for ways your channel can improve upon existing content, so you can become the number one resource.
- How much time do you have to dedicate to video creation? How often will you upload new content? It’s important to post content regularly if you expect to build an audience on YouTube. This means you’ll need to spend time thinking about how often you want to post new content, and make sure you have some videos lined up and ready to go before you officially launch. This way, if something happens and you’re not able to create new content right away, you’ll still produce a steady stream of videos to keep you audience happy. You must be realistic with this, because you don’t want to stress yourself out or be forced to pull an all-nighter to produce a new video. On the other hand, you want to make sure you’re uploading new videos often enough to keep your channel fresh in your audience’s mind.
- How will you make your videos? What format will your videos be in? Are they going to be shot with a web cam? Your smartphone? A video camera? Will you be using screencasting software to avoid live action? Creating animations? What tools do you have at your disposal? What is your budget to get started? How will you be editing your videos?
- How will you measure success? Think about the goals you want to accomplish to help you determine whether or not your YouTube efforts are successful. You can choose any number of metrics, such as the number of views, the amount of traffic driven back to your website, the number of channel subscribers…and so on.
Creating Your YouTube Channel
I’m going to assume you already have a Google account. If you don’t, create one of those first.
Start at YouTube.com. Click “Sign in” at the top of the right hand side. Login using whatever Google account you’d like your channel to be associated with. It’s a good idea to use an account multiple people have access to since the channel is for business purposes.
Next, you’ll setup your YouTube settings. Click your profile icon in the top right corner, then look for the settings wheel, and click it.
Under those settings, you’ll see the option to create a channel. Click the link to get started. Skip the personal settings, and click “Use a business or other name.”
At this point, you’ll name your channel and choose its category. Your options include:
- Product or Brand
- Company Institution or Organization
- Arts, Entertainment, or Sports
Now you’ve created your YouTube channel. A new Google+ page will be created for it, too.
Now it’s time to fill out all the information and get to work on your channel art so your page looks inviting to visitors.
Creating Your Channel Art
YouTube recommends using a single image that’s 2560 x 1440 pixels to ensure the image works well across devices. It should be at least 2048 x 1152 pixels, since this is the safe area where any logos and text can display without potentially being cut off on different devices. The file size should be 4 MB or smaller, and if your image exceeds this size, you can use a tool like TinyJPG (it works with PNG files, too) to compress the image without sacrificing too much quality.
If you’re struggling, or just want a little help getting started, you can use the Channel Art Template, available in both Photoshop and PNG formats, so you can figure out the layout for your channel, and get an idea of how it will work across platforms.
Now, let’s talk about your channel icon. It’s your profile icon – or where you’d put a picture of yourself on a personal Facebook page. It shows over your cover art, and will be what displays next to your videos on your channel and watch pages. You need something that looks good at small resolutions, which is why many brands choose to use their logo. Your channel icon should be 800 x 800 pixels, and in JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG format. You cannot use animated GIFs.
Optimizing Your Channel for Success
- Give your channel a great description. This is a 1,000-character space to describe your channel, brand, and the content you share on the platform. What you put here will not only show on your channel page, but will also be indexed by search engines. It may also be featured across YouTube in suggested channel categories. It’s a good idea to include keywords and calls to action in the first part of your description.
- Add a channel trailer. When visitors come to your channel, you want them to be able to see the types of videos they will be able to find on your channel. The trailer is a great way to provide an overview of the kind of content they’ll find along with reasons to subscribe. It should grab attention as soon as it starts. Remember, the channel trailer will only appear for people who aren’t subscribed to your channel yet. Pay close attention to the description you add to this video, because it is featured prominently on your channel page.
- Include contact details. YouTube has a section to allow you to include your contact details for anyone who is interested. From your channel homepage, navigate to “About” and scroll to “Details.” At this point, you’ll be able to choose whether to share your email address.
- Optimize each video for SEO. Beyond the channel description, each video needs a clear description of what it is, complete with keywords and calls to action. Then, for good measure, add transcripts to your videos. These ensure people can understand your video when they’re not able to watch with the volume up, and can even help you create a blog post for your video later.
- Work your videos into your social media editorial calendar. Promote your videos on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter. People won’t be able to subscribe to your channel if they don’t know it exists. You can also invest in paid advertising on YouTube to help drive traffic to your channel.
YouTube Is an Ongoing Effort
You can’t slap up one or two videos and expect YouTube to become a viable source of traffic and leads. You’ll need to promote your channel and videos with your other social media platforms. You’ll need to interact with your viewers consistently. If things don’t work out as you’d hoped at first, it’s not time to give up just yet. Instead, run some experiments and then adjust your strategy based on the results.
If you’ve thought about starting a YouTube channel but haven’t yet, what’s holding you back? Tell me in the comments below.