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7 Secrets of YouTube Marketing

Culled from data on 30,000 businesses, here's what works--and what doesn't--on YouTube.
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Owned by Google and packing the power of video, YouTube can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool, especially for a small business with a limited budget. On the other hand, launching a video campaign on YouTube can also yield nothing but the sound of crickets.

What's the secret? SumAll has used detailed data from 30,000 businesses to analyze what does and does not work on YouTube and other social media, according to CEO Dane Atkinson. And he's happy to share that information so you can learn from others' mistakes. Here are his seven tips for getting a payback from YouTube:

1. Don't spend a lot on fancy video production.

The average self-created video on YouTube (as opposed to a movie trailer or something) has a budget of about $300, Atkinson says. On the other hand, do spend a little time and effort creating your own YouTube channel for your brand, and giving it distinctive graphics.

2. Don't be sucked in by dreams of a viral video.

The odds of any particular video going viral these days are minuscule, Atkinson says. And even if you get there, it may not be that useful since page views for a viral video may not translate into purchases or even visits to your website.

3. Try to get customers to post videos involving your product.

Having customers post or re-post videos that involve your product in some way is far, far more effective than posting any kind of video yourself, Atkinson says. How do you get that to happen? It'll take some research, but seek out customers who are using your product, or even your category of product, in interesting ways and/or posting video of them.

"We had a company selling industrial mowers, and they got people to post videos of themselves laying down different mowing patterns into the grass," Atkinson says. In that case, the client found people who were mowing in patterns and offered incentives for them to try it with this brand of mower and then upload the video.

4. Ignore stats that don't lead to sales or at least website visits.

Comments are a big deal when it comes to blogs, Facebook, and other social media, but they're meaningless in YouTube, Atkinson says. So are likes and subscriptions.

"Re-posts are effective," he says. "The more advocacy you can get, the better."

5. Don't do traditional marketing.

Internet users and especially YouTube visitors these days have little patience for marketing that "stays on message."

"The worst is going into a 20-minute diatribe about how your product is the best thing out there," Atkinson says. "YouTube patience is very short. You'll get this false data where it looks like you had a lot of page views but it turns out people are ending the video within six seconds."

6. Know your goals.

They should be specific and measurable. A lot of brands go into social marketing, including YouTube very blind. Or worse, they hire someone to do something for them and don't say what indicators they want to see changed. If we're going to spend a month doing this and $1,000, we want to see not only views, but people landing on our site and, ideally, buying."

7. Be patient.

Marketing over YouTube is much more indirect than, say, buying keywords on search sites or putting banner ads on pages, Atkinson warns. "People say, 'We spent two months doing this, we gave away a couple of video cameras so people would upload their videos and nothing happened,'" he says. But a YouTube campaign takes a while to build, so be prepared to give it at least six months.

Last updated: Apr 10, 2013

MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, 'The Geek Gap'

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Like this post? Sign up here for a once-a-week email and you'll never miss her columns.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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