A YouTube channel can put your business in front of today's largest online viewing audience. Some 800 million people worldwide visit YouTube every month, many of them to research and discover products and services before investing in them.
If your company can reach even a fraction of that audience with your own branded YouTube video channel, the time and effort to create one can pay off, says Michael Miller, author of YouTube for Business: Online Video Marketing For Any Business (Que Publishing, 2nd edition, 2011). "YouTube is an incredibly effective tool for attracting new customers and even more effective for serving existing customers."
Here are 10 key questions to ask when creating your company's YouTube channel:
1. What do I want to achieve with my YouTube channel?
Choose a well-defined goal for your YouTube channel before uploading videos, suggests Lane Shackleton, product manager for YouTube. "Having a clear vision of what you are building the channel for helps clarify not only the type of video content you'll provide, but also exactly what you hope to gain from providing it," he says. For example, do you want to showcase new products, drive sales, boost traffic to your website, engage current and future customers or simply tell your brand story?
RevZilla.com, a Philadelphia-based motorcycle apparel, parts and accessories online retailer, designed its YouTube channel to answer common customer questions about sizes and fit for many of its products. Most of Revzilla's 2,000-plus YouTube videos show staff members trying on jackets and helmets and discussing which sizes best match their body types.
2. Do I need to create multiple channels?
If your company sells distinctly different products and services, you might consider rolling out several YouTube channels tailored to each one. For example, Procter & Gamble has its own YouTube channel, as well as channels for many of its brands, including Gillette, Pampers and Tide.
3. How do I customize my channel background?
When designing your YouTube channel, Shackleton recommends mirroring your company's existing online look, including the color schemes and logos on your website. You can choose a background color for your channel and then upload your background image.
4. Should I upload commercials about my products and services?
People come to YouTube to be entertained, educated and informed, not to watch commercials, Miller says. "The idea is to put helpful, informative videos on YouTube that enhance your company's image without being overly promotional," he says.
For example, BBQGuys.com, a Baton Rouge, La.-based site that sells grills and outdoor cooking accessories, offers cooking tutorial videos on its YouTube channel. The videos teach people how to barbeque meals quickly, while driving viewers' back to the BBQ Guys' online store.
5. How should I describe and tag my videos?
Video descriptions should be concise -- no more than a couple of short sentences. Shackleton suggests including the URL to your company's website or online store in the first sentence of the video description to try to encourage visits.
Also use keyword search terms in your video descriptions. For example, if your company produces red velvet cupcakes and you're posting a behind-the-scenes video showing how they're made, add keyword tags like "cupcakes," "red velvet," "frosting" "gourmet" and "baking." That way, cupcake lovers can easily find it via search engines and YouTube search.
6. How should I organize my video content?
Instead of presenting your videos in a single long list, group them into playlists by topic or theme. With a little navigation, viewers can more easily find videos that interest them.
7. Should I produce my own videos and how often should I post them?
The decision to shoot your own videos or hire a production company depends on how much time and money you're willing to invest. If your resources are limited, Shackleton suggests simply shooting videos with your smartphone or an HD video camera. Over time, as your profits and marketing budget increase, you can invest in better recording equipment, lighting and perhaps even a studio.
Upload new videos as often as your schedule and budget allow. "If you post a new, interesting video every week, then people will eventually start showing up automatically for you," Shackleton says. "You'll build a repeat audience."
8. Should I allow comments on my videos?
Allowing people to comment on your videos should encourage them to share their experiences with your brand and show that you're open to feedback. You can automatically display comments, display them only after you've approved them or keep them hidden. If you enable comments, you still have the option to delete any that are inappropriate or spammy.
Anthony Bucci, co-founder of RevZilla.com, says the comments section is "where we directly interact with and engage our community," helping to keep it active and growing. It's important, he adds, to respond in the most helpful and authentic way possible.
9. How should I promote my channel?
Every time you upload a new video, share a direct link to it across all of your business's social media networks. You can embed your YouTube videos and playlists in your business's website or blog.
You can also try to build an audience for your videos with Google Adwords for video, which lets you create and manage video promotions on YouTube and elsewhere online. Google Adwords campaigns are cost-per-view (CPV). To set a CPV bid, you enter the highest price you want to pay. For example, if you think it's worth 25 cents for someone to watch your video, set that amount as your maximum CPV. Then you pay only when people watch your video.
10. How can I measure my channel's success?
YouTube offers a free, self-service viewership analytics and reporting tool called YouTube Analytics. It tells you how many people watch your videos, how often, and how they discovered your videos.
YouTube Analytics also shows you how many subscribers you have, as well as how many likes, dislikes, comments and shares each video has received. Tracking which videos are most popular, along with the precise moment people stop watching them, can help you learn which types of content resonate with your viewers.