YouTube was all fun and games until it became just another platform for selling stuff. Besides peep shows and online brides-to-be.
Maybe that’s a little harsh, given that companies pushing their brands on YouTube have largely managed to keep things low-key.
We are, however, talking about the Internet. Where no one is fooled by thinly veiled commercials pretending to be entertainment. OK, maybe some are. (You didn’t think your dating profile should have disclosed that you store a dead Great Horned Owl in your freezer? And that you only take baths during a full moon?)
For the rest of us, though, it’s best to bear in mind a few important principles about Internet Dating. Sorry, we mean Branding on YouTube:
Obsessing Over ‘Going Viral’
According to the experts at Mashable, where everything inevitably becomes video, it’s only natural to see your clever info-tainment take off like a guy who just found out his date keeps a ritual sacrifice next to the ice cream. In entirely positive ways, in the case of brand videos, yet with all comparable speed. The best secrets are those that can’t stay hidden. A few “shares,” “likes” and “pluses” later, and people on the other side of the world suddenly have the chance to learn more about the latest gadget than do people in the city where it was invented. The urge to produce viral content, however, must be tempered. That’s because less than 1% of videos on YouTube collect more than a million views – and even those, we’re told, usually involve an element of seedy material that no self-respecting brand would want to use. Instead, focus on these issues: Did any key publications notice/review/headline your video? Were influencers impressed enough to Tweet their approval, thereby laying the groundwork for a pseudo-viral reaction? Did the flick reach its target audience? Was it even made with a target audience in mind?
Blowing Off Those Pesky Details
When it comes to search engines, YouTube is second in massiveness and power only to Google. Which happens to own YouTube. So, good luck gaming that system. And ignoring search basics will not result in a happy outcome for brand videos, either. Remember: a) Search engines read only the first 160 characters of your video description, so keep it short, sweet and to the point; b) thumbnails help, especially when you have that iconic logo your company has been dying to change for 50 years but hasn’t…because the iconic one is, well, iconic; and, c) titles are like successfully implemented lingerie – they heighten interest through creative teasing rather than giving everything away through transparency and/or too much detail. When in doubt, take a look at YouTube’s Creator Playbook. Come to think of it, take a look anyway. No one ever lost out by skimming a manual and finding out they already knew everything.
Standing Out Requires Effort, & Discretion
You may have wowed the opposite gender in middle school merely by showing up to the dance and doing your best wallflower impression. Certain questionable movie-making aside, YouTube is hardly the middle school gymnasium. Of the gazillion or so videos there, less than half generate more than 1,000 views. You have to stand out somehow. Which means either Paying for Placement, just like you would for an ad, specifying target demographics such as gender, location, interests and age. (“This is not cheating. I repeat: This is not cheating,” says an obviously haunted-by-teenage-years Mashable scribe.) Or, you can try generating some interest via PR or Influencer Outreach. Word of mouth still sells (and can still spread viruses, so be careful out there). Just be selective about which trees to shake and which waves to make. One drop of blood on a white silk napkin draws infinitely more attention than does a river of blood. (Hey, it’s YouTube, where you can find a fair amount of gore, if you look in the right places.)
Maximize YouTube’s Social Potential
Gone are the days of YouTube-as-bulletin-board, where users click the one video they want to see and then continue surfing. Google’s little film school is now a platform, with channels and social connections. Be a player in this department by encouraging your audience members to subscribe to your channel. Did you know, as the middle-school-addled Mashable scribe does, that every time Victoria’s Secret posts a video, more than 300,000 subscribers immediately get notified? Can you guess who just subscribed to Victoria’s Secret? For the high-quality editorial content, of course.
Production Values Count
Other than the occasional story that soars with real-life grittiness, grainy flip-phone videos should stay where they belong — in the palm of your hand. It’s estimated that about 100 new hours of videos upload to YouTube each hour. Think yours will get even a first look if the production values are less than solid? Notice we didn’t say “stellar” – anything that smacks of slickness and excessive polish will scream “ad”. Quality of production values should be measured by how well they enhance the story; not in how emphatically they push through an ulterior tag line. And please keep those calls to action at a minimum, if indeed they’re included at all. They’re about as welcome in a YouTube branding video as a virtue disclaimer would be in the middle of a South Park episode.
Confession time: Howe many out there troll YouTube for quality content while sitting in front of a screen that’s even 1% viewable by your significant other? Those who raised their virtual hands are either into couples activities or about to become de-coupled. Clueing in time: YouTube rocks because of the many videos that score on small screens. Unlike those Films of Personal Prowess that the rest of us have no choice but to release to the Pantheon of Screens Large Enough to Accommodate our Salient Features. Translation time: Small is where it’s at, so scale down your epic accordingly. Seize attention immediately; use close-ups that make the most of a smaller screen; and, keep the length under, say, three minutes. Which should be really easy to accomplish for anyone who’s been married longer than a week.