This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
Video can be a very powerful tool for businesses of any size, but YouTube's free-to-use model, ease of use and mass market audience means it's a great channel for small businesses. However, like any tool, in order to get the most of it, it needs to be used well.
We've pulled together ten top tips to help you get the most out of YouTube. Rather than video production hints or content tips (there are tons of other resources that can help you on that front) here are the dos and don'ts of using YouTube from a behind-the-scenes perspective.
1. Create and Customize Your Channel
First things first, customizing your channel is well worth the time it will take to set it up. You should add your company's branding, customize the colors to compliment your company's look, and add relevant information and links. A channel setup also offers YouTube users the option to subscribe to your content via the click of one button and the option to search just your uploaded content. The channel structure also allows you to highlight just uploads, playlists, favorites or all.
2. Add Subtitles
Since March 2010 auto-captioning has been available to all YouTube users, so there's no technical excuse not to. Doing so adds captions for the hundreds of millions of hearing impaired folk across the world, ensuring your content is accessible to anyone who'd like to watch it. It's an easy enough process that uses voice recognition, the results of which can be (and frankly need to be) edited for accuracy.
3. Don't Overuse Annotations
A recent"improvement"from YouTube is the ability to add comments that display over the top of the footage. Don't be tempted to go down this route, the annotations look unprofessional, are a distraction to viewers and depending how overused they are, can be a downright annoyance. Sure, you want to grab people's attention and make an immediate impression, but your video content and other info you've added to the site should be enough to not have to rely on extraneous text.
4. Act To Remove Offensive Comments
While you can't stop trolls from adding nasty comments to your videos or channel, you have the power to delete offensive or spammy remarks from the worst offenders. Taking advantage of this option requires good judgment. It's obviously not a great idea to instantly remove any negative or critical comments, especially relevant ones, but you can certainly remove any spam or comments that use offensive language. If challenged over the removal make a simple statement to the effect that such comments will not be tolerated. If you're getting seriously spammed or abused by a particular person, you can also block that user, but this should be a last resort. There are also options open to you to moderate comments before they go live, so you can nip any nasties in the bud before they are posted.
5. Engage With the YouTube Community
Don't be a YouTube island. After all, it's a social platform, so be sure to check out other content on the site, favorite appropriate videos and make suitable YouTube"friends."If you really can't, or don't want to associate your company with other companies or individuals, then think wider. Why not look at content or channels that cover your local area, or that are for a good cause that you/your company supports. As well as engaging with other users, be sure to keep up to date with YouTube's own news. The site goes through some fairly major changes from time to time and adds new features on a regular basis, so it's well worth following the official YouTube blog, at the very least, to be kept up to date with site and community news.
6. Organize Your Content
Be sure to organize your content to be viewer-friendly rather than just offer a linear stream of video uploads. Create playlists to group relevant videos together, or lump older content into time-related (March 2010, Spring 2010, etc) folders if that's more relevant to your organization. Remember that YouTube offers users the option to embed entire playlists (in addition to individual videos) into external sites, so give the creation of them, their titles and description, some decent thought.
7. Don't Overlook Tags
As with many other sites, YouTube's content is organized on a tag word basis. It's more than worth taking the time to add the correct tags to your videos. The beauty of a tag word system is that it works on the basis of logic, but also on the more-the-merrier principle as you can't know what search terms people will use. Really try and brainstorm around the tags you're adding. For example, if your company offers dog products add"puppy,""pooch,""mutt,""hound,"etc, too. As far as categories go, YouTube offers around 15 to choose from. Obviously try to use the most relevant, but don't be afraid to experiment if your content could fall into one or the other, but be sure to monitor how the different videos perform so you can make an educated decision about categories in the future.
8. Promote Your YouTube Videos Elsewhere
Don't assume viewers will come to you, or automatically think to look you up on YouTube. Every time you post a video that's relevant for general sharing, blog about it, tweet it or add it to your Facebook Page. The last two actions are easy through YouTube's account settings that automatically publishes news of a new video if you've linked up the social services. While YouTube is due to retire its"Link to Blog"option from the account settings soon, it's easy enough to embed the relevant video in a blog post using HTML and will help push users towards your video content. In addition, don't shy away from allowing embedding of your videos on other sites — the more views the better.
9. Use YouTube's Free Analytics Tools
YouTube offers every user free analytics data via the"Insight"button on every uploaded video. This free-to-view info should not be overlooked as it can offer you some valuable info on not only views stats, but demographics, community, and the most useful —"discovery"data — info on how users came across the video, including the popular links they followed to get there. The tools are there - be sure to use them.
10. Don't Neglect Your Channel
There are so many neglected YouTube channels, even from social, or web 2.0 firms that you'd think would realize the value in an up-to-date video resource for their company. While we're by no means advocating needlessly creating video content, if you're looking to go down the YouTube route then don't let your resolve or enthusiasm for the service dwindle a couple of months in. Even if you have no new content to post, still keep logging in to stay on top of comments, friend requests, add favorites, etc, so as not to relegate your channel to the ranks of the unloved.
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- 5 Ways For Small Companies To Better Engage Reporters- How One Small Biz Turned Their Company Retreat Into Social Media Success- Growing Your Business: 5 Tips From the Founder of Foursquare- 5 Essential Apps for Your Business's Facebook Fan Page- HOW TO: Implement a Social Media Business Strategy