YouTube Killed the TV Star: How to Leverage Video in Content Marketing

YouTube Killed the TV Star: How to Leverage Video in Content Marketing

Video killed the radio star, video killed the radio star. Pictures came and broke your heart. Oh-a-a-a oh. Be honest: you were singing along, right? As one medium comes in, inevitably, another goes out. And lately…? All eyes are on YouTube.

As someone who spends at least an hour a day on YouTube, I’m not surprised. Grace Helbig has her own show on E!, Troye Sivan released a hit EP, Zoella launched a beauty line, Tyler Oakley is interviewing today’s hottest celebrities (hey, Harry Styles), Shane Dawson is a New York Times Best Seller... the list is endless. And they all started on YouTube.

One thing’s for sure: YouTube celebrities are taking over. So, as marketers, we have to ask ourselves how we can replicate this type of success for brands. Is it really as simple as filming our day-to-day lives on our iPhones or doing the Chubby Bunny challenge with our CEOs?

4 Steps to Replicate the Success

YouTube sensations aren't made overnight (well okay, some simply are). For the rest of us, there are four simple steps you can take to get started:

1. Generate great ideas.

Let’s start from the very beginning. First, you’ll need a great idea for a video. Do you go the funny route like Dollar Shave Club and Poo Pourri? Do you try to pull off a parody like First Round? What if you hop on a bandwagon like Grasshopper? Do you get personal and motivational like Dan Martell and Lewis Howes?

One of the most common questions I receive about video marketing is: Should I be entertaining or informative? The answer is simple. You need to be both. (Shout out to Rand Fishkin and Moz for nailing this.)

How? You have to be able to tell a great story. All of the videos I link to above have one thing in common: they share a stellar narrative. Whether you’re learning or being entertained, you’re captivated -- you want to see how the story ends.

Before you try to make a name for yourself in video marketing, focus on mastering the art of storytelling. Maybe you’re refining your personal story like Dan and Lewis or maybe you’re refining a brand story like Dollar Shave Club and Grasshopper. There’s only one real absolute truth when it comes to generating great video ideas: it has to tell a compelling story.

Tip: Once you’ve nailed down your story (or stories), do some audience research. Who is most likely to care about your particular brand of storytelling? Odds are the people watching Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen aren’t going to appreciate First Round’s holiday parody. You’re not out to please everyone.

2. Lights, camera -- action.

A $2,000 camera is not going to make your crappy video a success. All of the lights and sound equipment in the world can’t make your video go viral. So before you make a very expensive trip to the tech store consider starting small. 100% of the celebrity YouTubers I listed above started in their bedrooms or kitchens recording on their phones or family cameras. And Rand’s Whiteboard Friday? Here’s one from back in 2012.

Like most things in marketing and entrepreneurship, the important thing is to just start. Nail the content value (story) first, and your production value can catch up later.

That said, recording in a pitch black echo chamber might not work. So, what’s important now? Consider where you’ll be shooting, how long each shot will be, and the camera angles involved. Two things to be sure of:

  • Face a great natural or soft indoor light.
  • Use a standard camera (just a little better than your phone that you’ve dropped eight times today).

That’s it. If you really want to get fancy in the beginning, invest in a good microphone ($100-250).

Tip: Remember, you can’t plan for everything. There will be lots of little hiccups, but don’t go into it completely blind.

3. Spend some time on the cutting room floor.

This step is crucial and it’s right around the time marketers start to get lazy. I get it. The video has been in production for a while. It was more work than you thought it would be. (How does Miranda Sings make it look so easy?) But don’t be the guy who gives a presentation in PowerPoint with star transition slides.

Truthfully, editing is more about what you leave out. The average video is 2 to 3 minutes long (short attention spans, friends), which means you’ll lose a lot of what you originally filmed. It’s important that you master the art of cutting the fluff without cutting the story. Make edits, show it to your best friend, make more edits, show it to Jack in accounting, make more edits, show it to your mom, and then… make more edits.

Fight the urge to rush through this stage. Grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of vodka) and get to work. Make the transitions seamless, make the CTAs pop, make the introduction memorable.

Tip: Put your money where your mouth is and invest in editing software (you can nab a good one for just $50-125).

4. Kick ass + take names.

So, you’ve got your kick ass video. Now what? It’s time to optimize and schmooze.

  • Keyword Research: Based on your audience research, select 2-3 core keywords for your channel. What do you want to rank for? More importantly, what do you want to be known for? Choose strategically for SEO reasons, but also choose based on what you’re able to speak to regularly.
  • Title: This seems like a given, but always include your core keyword in your title. If you’re doing a one-off video (vs. planning to consistently create videos), be sure to put the name of your brand in the title as well.
  • Description: Don’t go overboard, but you’ll want to include your core keyword in your description as well, especially in the first sentence. Include links to your social profiles and/or website here as well.
  • Tags: You need these! Search engines will thank you.
  • Transcript: You need one! Search engines will thank you.

That covers the basics. Once you’re optimized, hit the social media streets to promote, promote, promote!

And finally? Make friends and influence the influencers. If I’ve learned anything from YouTubers, it’s that collaboration is everything. The same way you want to collaborate with partners on eBooks and webinars, you want to collaborate with partners on videos.

5 Video Marketing Tips from Top YouTubers

There’s nothing wrong with taking some tips from the pros. Here’s what we’ve picked up along the way:

1. Don't forget to innovate.

“Many new YouTubers will copy the metadata from a successful video verbatim in the hopes that they will rank similarly, as often times with the hope that the original YouTuber will take notice and be honored that you found their work to be well optimized. In reality, you will end up annoying these people that you look up to, and they may never want to talk to you as a result. Not a good approach for attempting to become connected to a YouTube influencer.” ~ The Fine Brothers

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and that all great artists steal, which is true to some extent. Why mess with a system that works? But be very careful not to step on anyone’s toes. Remember, you want to make friends, not enemies. Play it safe with the tried-and-true when you’re just starting out; look to those who have been there, done that. But don’t get so carried away that you forget to innovate every once in a while.

2. If it’s not personal, it’s not effective.

“I consider myself like a second wave YouTube vlogger. Vlogging started as a hobby — something I was partaking in purely for fun — and has now become a career, and that feels almost like an impossible reality.” ~ Grace Helbig

As with most inbound marketing tactics, video marketing requires a personal approach. Act and speak like a corporation and you’ll get treated like one. Insert your personal voice, unique personality and creativity into every video. If you’re not enjoying yourself, neither are your viewers.

3. No vanity metrics, please.

“So a rise in subscribers was never the goal, although that’s a cool side effect. We were just making videos to make videos. There was no money to be made; there were no awards to be won. Sure, there were a few YouTubers with more than 100,000 subscribers, but they were legends; icons.” ~ Tyler Oakley

Living for subscribers and views is like living for Twitter followers and Facebook likes. It looks good and gives you an ego boost, but not much else. Focus on the metrics that matter. What’s the conversion rate for your CTA? How many viewers convert after landing on your website? Dave McClure famously said, “TechCrunch don’t pay the rent” and, frankly, neither do subscribers or views.

4. Get by with a little help from your friends.

“We Brit Crew, as we’ve been called, have this lovely collaborative thing going. Sharing is the essence of social media.” ~ Zoella

Zoella speaks from experience! Her Brit Crew consists of: Alfie Deyes (her boyfriend), Joe Sugg (her brother), Caspar Lee (Joe’s roommate), Louise Pentland (her best friend), Jim Chapman (her friend), and Tanya Burr (Jim’s fiancée). If you want to succeed, start collaborating early. Borrow influence and reputation from your friends and/or industry partners.

Make a list of people and companies targeting the same audience as you and start reaching out. For best results, keep your pitch mutually beneficial. How can you help them in return?

5. Community > Subscribers

"It's kind of like a Thank You tour where I get to go around and visit with the people in the cities that have supported me. I feel very lucky in that the Hartosexual community seems to be made up of people who are smart and funny and interesting and caring. I've only met fans of the show that I find interesting, and I feel privileged that I get to meet them, as well." ~ Hannah Hart

Subscribers? Remember: it’s a vanity metric. Community? That’s what will take you from 90 to 100. A few loyal supporters will take you farther than hundreds of casual viewers. Anything you can do to encourage a sense of community among your viewers will go a long way.

For example, Hannah gave her viewers a name, “Hartosexuals.” She also teams up with Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart (the three are known as the “Holy Trinity” and have a community of their own) regularly.

Just as you’d get to know your brand advocates on Twitter or Facebook, get to know your loyal viewers on YouTube. Personally respond to their comments and look for people sharing your video on other platforms and find ways to thank them. Stay humble. Stay dedicated to community building.

Video in content marketing: for the win

We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far. Pictures came and broke your heart. Put the blame on VCR.

Video marketing has been around for a while, but few marketers have been able to master it just yet. The good news? Effort has not been wasted because video is here to stay. I know I’m not the only one who has happily ditched cable for YouTube and Apple TV. If you follow the advice above, I promise YouTube won’t break your heart.

Have you had some success with video marketing / YouTube? Let me know below or tweet me @shanelle_mullin if I’ve missed anything or if you have questions!

[Photo Credit: Moz, Whiteboard Friday]

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