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While TV is certainly not dead, YouTube is gaining in influence. (PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
While TV is certainly not dead, YouTube is gaining in influence. (PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

The Top Tens

Ten YouTube tips for small businesses Add to ...

Using YouTube is easy. Anyone with a digital camera or cellphone can record a video, create a YouTube channel and begin uploading. Getting noticed, however, is an entirely different story. Over 2 billion videos are viewed on YouTube each and every day and in such a vast ocean of content it’s getting harder and harder to stand out and get noticed, especially for businesses.

Here are 10 quick tips you can use to build a successful YouTube channel for your business. For more on this topic you can also watch highlights from some of the country’s most successful YouTubers speaking on the ‘How to Win at YouTube’ panel at NXNEi by clicking here.

1. Be useful! A great way to achieve YouTube popularity is to be of value to your audience. Instead of trying to be entertaining or attempting to go viral, your goal should be to provide your viewers with something they can use to their benefit. As an expert in your industry you should be using your YouTube channel to teach your audience something new in each video. Trust is how you win business in the long term and there is no better way to build trust online than by having a great channel of useful video content.

2. Be authentic. YouTube is a wide open market just begging for experts, key opinion leaders and teachers but inauthenticity can be smelled from a mile away. Divorce yourself from corporate speak, phoniness and don’t worry about “umms” and “ah” in your speech. Speak to your audience like you would speak to your friends in your living room. If you are genuine, passionate and candid with your audience, they will love you for it.

<iframe width="560" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/-v8a5RBk79s" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

3. Don’t sell directly. People go on YouTube for many reasons and to feel like products or services are being shoved down their throats is not one of them. If you are a business or brand it’s great to have a presence on YouTube, but avoid focusing on what you are selling. In fact, it’s best to avoid mentioning your product or service altogether unless it’s directly related to something informative or interesting to your audience. Your audience is smart and knows there is a business behind the channel. If they value your content and it leads to them building a relationship with your brand, they will buy what you are selling. You don’t have to ask on YouTube.

4. Be prepared to engage. It’s important to remember that while YouTube is a means to broadcast, it’s also a social platform. The greatest opportunity this creates for businesses is an ability to engage and build real relationships with your audience. Engaging with them means responding to all of their comments, answering all of their questions and addressing all of their concerns. Your audience is full of insights and feedback and facilitating an active conversation between you and your audience will turn viewers into fans and brand evangelists. Be careful though, this can be a full-time commitment! In this example you will see how active a conversation between a brand and audience can be.

<iframe width="560" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/erELquZMNMA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

5. Make content that is relevant now and in 10 years. This is known as 'evergreen.' Evergreen is the name used to describe a video that has relevance today but can also be shown many years from now and will continue to be relevant. It is not tied to a current event or cultural happening, but to something more general. Evergreen videos are powerful tools for businesses because of their shelf life. They can be shared and linked to for years, which also ends up giving them a strong position on search engines.

6. Cater to popular trends. Sometimes to get spikes in traffic it’s a good idea to react to current events or popular trends. This is known as ‘burst’ traffic. LuxyHair, a YouTube channel specializing in hairstyle tutorials built a large portion of their audience by making a video that showed their audience how to style their hair like Kim Kardashian. There was a massive interest online for anything having to do with Kim Kardashian and LuxyHair played to the demand to grow their YouTube channel significantly. The only problem with burst popularity is that it’s fleeting. When Kim Kardashian becomes irrelevant, so will LuxyHair’s video about her.

7. Avoid heavy branding and be subtle. It’s tough to be a successful brand on YouTube because people often have their guards up when a channel is branded. You’re better off keeping the brand presence low key if you don’t want to turn away too many heads. A good example of subtle branding is on the Nike Training channel. Notice there is no mention of Nike products whatsoever. Just useful information for athletes looking to improve their training regimen while Nike attire is being worn.

<iframe width="560" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/NbWBUABaErI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

8. Release on schedule. We are creatures of habit and this shouldn’t be ignored on YouTube. Think of YouTube in a similar vein as television, it works best when the programming follows a specific release schedule. Try to release a video each week on the same day at the same time. By adhering to a schedule it becomes easier to become a part of your audience’s life.

9. Don’t be all over the map. Create similar content week in and week out. Once you define a style and approach, stay consistent! Again, very much like television YouTube works best when you become familiar to your audience. If someone decides to subscribe to your channel, they instantly develop expectations of what your next video will be. The ‘unsubscribe’ button is just as easy to click as ‘subscribe’ so give your audience what they signed up for. If you want to try deploying something different in format it is best to create a brand new channel.

10. Seed distribution. Alex Ikonn, co-founder of LuxyHair on YouTube, one of Canada’s most successful YouTube businesses says “If you build it they will come does not work on YouTube”. You need to push to distribute. If you don’t have a PR company to push your content down relevant paths you have to figure out where your audiences reside by yourself. Send your videos to blogs, buy pay-per-click ads and post your content on as many forums as you can think of. Make sure you are targeting the right demographic and be as present as possible. The first 1000 subscribers will be the most difficult to obtain.

Dan Demsky is a partner at BizMedia, a digital video agency that works with brands and ad agencies to develop premium video content. Acting as BizMedia's VP, Client Services Mr. Demsky works intimately with companies such as Fujifilm, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Microsoft, Air Hogs, Maple Leaf Foods, and with agencies like Ogilvy, Weber Shandwick, Inventa and Mosaic. You can follow Dan on twitter @dandemsky.

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