There's no question that YouTube is an incredibly powerful marketing channel. But how do you make that channel work for your product or service? Why do some YouTube campaigns take off, while others just lie there?

It's largely because too many marketers simply post promotional videos to YouTube without taking the time to understand its attributes. That's according to Rich Raddon, co-founder of YouTube marketing company ZEFR. "Brands cannot approach a platform like YouTube--which is highly social--in a standardized way," he says. "They have to look at the brand and say, how is our audience engaging with the brand?"

Want to really connect with your audience on YouTube? Here are some tips that will help:

1. Use YouTube to host your videos

If at all possible, consider hosting all your promotional videos on YouTube, even if you want them to run on your own site. Smart marketers have been suggesting this move ever since Google acquired YouTube and began giving its videos prominence in search results. A second good reason to host videos on YouTube is that it's mobile-friendly.

While you're at it, pay close attention to the text accompanying your videos. Google's search engines will use that text to determine how the video shows up in searches.

2. Think before and after purchase

"The audience is engaging with a brand pre-purchase and post-purchase," Raddon says. Before the purchase, they are likely to watch product reviews. "There are more product reviews on YouTube than on Amazon," he notes. After a purchase, they may seek to interact with your company or with fellow customers. Loot Crate, which delivers a monthly box full of gadgets, collectibles, games, and apparel selected to appeal to gamers, discovered its customers posting videos of themselves unboxing their deliveries every month.

3. Approach influencers the right way

YouTube vloggers (video bloggers) can give your brand a powerful boost. ZEFR has successfully boosted perfume atomizer Travalo by connecting with influential vloggers and providing them free products to check out with no obligation to review. This led to enough attention for the product that other influential beauty vloggers Travalo hadn't contacted chimed in with their own favorable comments.

4. When selecting influencers, look beyond the obvious

Too many companies limit themselves to promoting or offering their products only to vloggers who regularly review products in that category, Raddon says. Instead, he suggests, consider vloggers who post videos in the right topic area, even if they aren't specific reviews of your type of product. For instance, a general lifestyle vlogger might be a great influencer to support a cooking or cosmetic item.

5. Treat YouTube like a two-way street

"Brands are typically accustomed to pushing advertising," Raddon says. "YouTube is a platform that talks back. So you have to have a 360-degree understanding. We're going to push something out to you, and you might iterate it, tweak it, and then push it back to us."

6. Don't expect to control your brand

This can be a tough concept for those with traditional marketing skills, but it's an important one to get right. When you engage with the YouTube community, you should be prepared to accept that your audience's view of your product and company is as legitimate as your own. "We're not going to tell the consumer what our brand is," Raddon says. "We're going to listen to what the community is saying about our brand."

Published on: Dec 9, 2014
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