Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has become a modern media powerhouse. Currently, YouTube has more than 2.6 billion users worldwide and 122 million daily visitors. More than 500 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, with more than 41,000 channels that exceed 1 million subscribers. The platform was purchased by Google in 2016 and currently ranks No. 2 for global and domestic web traffic.
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Marketing is moving toward video over static content and YouTube is a key player. For an individual user, the site appears straightforward, but it’s more complicated if you want to use it to market and grow your business. Here’s what you should know to use YouTube for business.
How to set up a YouTube channel
These guides break down the process of setting up a YouTube channel for your small business. Each section examines an essential element of creating and optimizing your YouTube channel:
- Signing up for a business YouTube account
- Customizing your YouTube profile
- Interacting with others on YouTube
- Verifying your YouTube channel
- YouTube Live
- Trending videos on YouTube
- YouTubers and influencers
- Advertising on YouTube
- Video action campaigns
- YouTube Partner Program
Social media platforms like YouTube are excellent tools for building a brand and boosting brand awareness.
Signing up for a business YouTube account
While most social media platforms require users to set up an account before viewing content, users can view YouTube content without an account. (Membership is also required to view videos flagged as adult content.)
However, when using YouTube as a business social media platform, you must have an account to upload videos and engage with your customers. Follow these steps to create your business YouTube account.
- Sign in to your company’s Google account: If you use Gmail for your business email, you’ll use the same username and password for your YouTube account. Alternatively, you can create a new Google account solely for YouTube business purposes.
- Go to YouTube’s homepage: Once signed in, visit YouTube’s homepage. Double-check that you’re signed in to the appropriate business account instead of your personal YouTube account.
- Click on your Google account’s avatar: You’ll find your avatar in the top-right corner. It’s a small circle containing your picture (or your company’s logo if you’ve set that as your email address’s picture).
- Start creating your channel: Select Your Channel from the drop-down menu displayed after selecting your avatar. It’s the first option in the first batch of icons.
- Enter a company name: Choose Use a business or other name and enter your company’s name.
- Finish account creation: Select Create. Your business YouTube account is ready for action.
After taking these steps, return to YouTube’s homepage. Familiarize yourself with the available options:
- Top-left corner: In the top-left corner, there’s a drop-down menu with several options, including links for the homepage, YouTube Shorts, your library and your subscriptions. Your library lets you organize which videos you’ve watched, liked and saved for later. Under your subscriptions, you can see all the channels you’re subscribed to and receive notifications when they’ve uploaded new content.
- Top-right corner: You’ll see four buttons in the top-right corner of the page:
- Video camera icon: The video camera icon directs you to the page where you upload videos.
- YouTube apps: The middle icon ― a square comprising nine smaller squares ― is for YouTube apps.
- Account activity: The next button is a bell icon; it notifies you of account activity, such as a new like or comment.
- Account information: The button closest to the right side ― a profile picture icon ― directs you to your account information pulled from Google.
Customizing your YouTube profile
Once you’ve signed up for YouTube, you must customize your profile with your business’s information. Every user is assigned a channel according to their username. You’ll be given a specific URL so people can find your channel via a direct link.
However, you must do more than the basics to stand out from the competition. Take these steps to show your visual brand identity by customizing your channel.
- Add channel art.
YouTube channel art is similar to a Facebook or Twitter banner. This header is a great place to add your business’s logo and tagline.
Your profile photo (also known as a channel icon) and channel art should represent your brand clearly through high-quality photos. YouTube will fill in generic images if you don’t upload a photo or art. However, your profile photo is pulled directly from your Google account and must be uploaded through Google, not YouTube. Syncing your Google profile photo to your YouTube account will take a few minutes.
These are the ideal dimensions for YouTube channel art files:
- Channel icon: 800 x 800 pixels (displays as 98 x 98)
- Channel banner: 2560 x 1440 pixels, although for mobile and web use, the “safe” dimensions are 1546 x 423 pixels.
Given the large size of these files, using high-resolution images (ideally 300 dots per inch or dpi) is essential for your channel icon and banner. Experiment with YouTube’s preview and cropping tools to ensure your channel icon and banner look their best. If your page looks subpar, visitors will be less likely to stick around and explore your content.
- Fill in your business information.
It’s important to share information about your business and its services in your YouTube account’s About and Links sections:
- About section’s channel description: Start with your About section’s channel description. Keep it short and sweet with a concise mission statement with at most three links and a minor call to action or your company tagline. Then, scroll down to the Email for business inquiries box and enter the appropriate email address.
- Links section: Add appropriate links in the Links For example, add your business website, social media accounts and other web pages you want to share with viewers. You can include up to five links with up to 30 characters of customized hyperlink text for each. The more links you have, the higher your chances of driving traffic to your business website and engaging your YouTube viewers.
As you write the copy for your channel description and links, use keywords to increase your visibility in YouTube searches. (We’ll discuss that in more depth later.)
Direct users to a custom landing page on your website so that you can track your YouTube marketing efforts.
- Create a channel trailer.
While optional, a channel trailer ― a brief video that introduces viewers to the content they’ll find on your YouTube channel ― is an excellent customization option to increase YouTube viewer engagement. Once you add this trailer, it will appear on your account’s homepage when viewers visit, helping to reel them in and acquaint them with your brand.
Interacting with others on YouTube
There are several ways to interact with YouTube users:
- Comments: Comments can be organized by most popular or newest. You can boost your video’s engagement traffic by responding to users who comment on your videos.
- Likes: Likes are a more passive form of interacting with content. However, if you’ve chosen to show your likes publicly on your channel, these videos will appear under the Playlists
- Subscriptions: Subscribing is the best way for users to stay updated on your brand’s content. Every time you upload a new video, your subscribers receive a push notification. You should constantly encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel because subscriptions improve engagement traffic and increase view numbers. Many popular YouTubers incorporate subscription reminders at the beginning or end of their videos.
- Playlists: Group related content using the site’s playlist feature to organize your channel’s content. If you choose to publicize your playlists, they’ll appear on your channel’s page below your uploaded content. You can also organize other users’ content with a playlist. For instance, if you run a marketing company, you could compile a client’s videos into one list.
- Sharing: The site’s social widget allows users to share videos on other social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
- Messages: You can also share private videos and messages with friends and contacts on YouTube.
Engagement begets engagement, so stay active and interact with others on the platform to build audience engagement.
Verifying your YouTube channel
How will you know if a channel is verified or not? A small checkbox will indicate a verification badge next to the channel’s name. To apply for verification, your channel must have 100,000 subscribers. However, interested businesses can contact Google directly to inquire about verification.
Similar to Facebook Live, YouTube has its own video livestreaming feature. Broadcasts are usually oriented around news or sports. YouTube Live isn’t as popular as the site’s standard video format because it’s not as widely known.
To conduct livestreams, your account:
- Must be verified
- Have more than 50 subscribers
- Not have any livestreaming restrictions
To start a livestream, go to your channel and select Create > Go Live. (Create is the video camera icon.) If it’s your first time, you’ll need to request access to streaming. It can take 24 hours to be approved. After you’re approved, you can livestream instantly.
You can stream via the YouTube mobile app on an Android or iOS device or using your computer’s webcam. Additionally, you can stream using an encoder, which is often used for gameplay and overlays.
Trending videos on YouTube
Trending videos are videos YouTube users interact with at high rates. They’re often newly uploaded. You can view current trending videos under the Trending tab on the YouTube homepage, even if you’re not logged in or don’t have an account. Trends reflect popular culture, one-off viral hits and current events.
The platform also features users tagged with a blue Creator on the Rise, Gaming Creator on the Rise or Artist on the Rise badge next to their channel names on the Trending Videos page. These channels are showcased for 24 hours. To make the cut, your channel must have more than 1,000 subscribers, and users can only be chosen once.
Don’t worry about creating viral videos for your brand. While you may get lucky and gain significant exposure, your content strategy should focus on connecting with your target customers.
Videos that go viral for the wrong reasons can hurt your brand. A common culprit is employees caught behaving badly on video.
YouTubers and influencers
You may have heard about “YouTubers” ― YouTube content-creation stars. These personalities create and market unique channels that appeal to their target audiences. Many YouTubers specialize in niches like cooking or beauty while others document their day-to-day lives in vlogs. Many have grown and maintained a significant following, sometimes with hundreds of thousands or even millions of subscribers.
Many YouTubers have corporate sponsors who send products to feature in their videos. For instance, cosmetics companies often send products to popular beauty vloggers who create videos demonstrating their use. Some creators upload “haul” videos where they review several products at once.
Working with social media influencers like YouTube stars can be a smart business move for your brand. If you have a service or physical product that fits a specific YouTuber’s niche, it’s worth reaching out to learn their rates and see if they’d be willing to feature your brand in a video.
The strong bond between influencers and their audience makes them ideal for creating experiential marketing videos that resonate with your target customers.
Advertising on YouTube
There are a few ways to advertise on YouTube:
- In-stream ads: In-stream ads on YouTube play before, during or after other videos. After five seconds, users can skip the ad. You’ll only be charged for the ad when a viewer watches for 30 seconds or interacts with it.
- Discovery ads: Discovery ads appear when a user searches or browses content on YouTube. These clips aren’t limited to 30 seconds; they can be as short or long as you wish. You’ll be charged whenever someone clicks on the ad to watch the full video.
- Bumper ads: Bumper ads are six seconds or less; users can’t skip them. They appear before, during or after another video.
- Outstream ads: Outstream ads play only on mobile devices, appearing on partner websites and within apps. You’ll be charged for these ads based on cost per thousand viewable impressions.
Video action campaigns
Video action campaigns help brands generate leads and conversions by showing your ads on and off YouTube in one automated campaign.
YouTube also has a curated directory of ad agencies that can be matched to your business needs to help you tell your brand’s story via video.
YouTube Partner Program
You can monetize your content with the YouTube Partner Program. You earn money from advertisements on your videos and when YouTube Premium subscribers watch your videos. You’re eligible for the program once your channel reaches 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. You can also become eligible for the program if you have 1,000 subscribers and have received 10 million views on your Shorts within the last 90 days.
You can check your watch time and subscribers under YouTube Analytics on your dashboard. While it may be difficult to reach these requirements, the program allows you to make money on videos you plan to create anyway.
YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) is a subscription service, starting at $9.99 a month, that allows users to stream video content and music without advertisements at the beginning of videos. It also lets users download videos to watch offline.
Although you don’t need a premium subscription to operate YouTube for your business, it’s good to know the latest news about the site to familiarize yourself with it.
YouTube tips and tricks
Now that you understand how to use YouTube, here are a few tips to use the site to your brand’s advantage.
1. Encourage viewers to subscribe.
Subscribing is the best way for your audience to know whenever you’ve uploaded a video, created a new playlist and more. It also gives you an estimated number of people who will likely view your video.
2. Share videos on other social media platforms.
Link to your YouTube videos whenever possible on your website and other social media networks like your Instagram business account. Don’t stop at direct video links, though. Link to your channel so your audience can see what it looks like and have a chance to subscribe.
“[You should] have a video strategy,” advised Tracy Sestili, chief marketing officer at Intellimize. “Without a strategy, you can post videos as a repository, but you may not get the return.”
3. Use relevant keywords in a video’s title, tags and description.
Experiment with different titles and descriptions. Selecting relevant keywords to increase hits is a common SEO strategy for marketers on any social networking site. It helps audiences find content that interests them. A quick exercise would be to watch one of your company’s videos from the beginning and create a list of relevant words and phrases as you watch. You should also be realistic about which keywords you use.
“Don’t go after keywords that big brands compete for,” explained James Robinson, executive creative director at Iconic Genius. “Go after local keywords.”
4. Engage with similar content uploaded by other users.
Like and comment on videos uploaded by other users. They may investigate your videos and channel ― along with anyone who sees that comment or like. Do this with videos that have a similar topic, interest or theme as yours to attract new viewers.
5. Display content uploaded by other users.
In addition to liking and commenting on other users’ videos, you can highlight featured channels and your liked videos on your account. In doing so, you show you’re active in your industry’s YouTube community and direct traffic ― a much-needed internet commodity ― to other YouTube users in your realm. Be sure to highlight videos relevant to your customer base, not uploads from direct competitors.
6. Curate playlists.
If any of your videos follow a consistent theme, group them. Perhaps you upload a video every Friday morning; you could compile all those videos into a “Friday Series” playlist. Your playlists will appear on your channel’s page below your uploaded videos.
7. Upload content regularly.
Viewers count on you to create, edit and upload new content ― especially if you’ve developed a solid subscriber pool. Consistency adds relevance to your brand.
“Be consistent,” advised empowerment coach Michelle Baxo. “I found that I was building the most traction when I did a weekly post at the same time and notified [subscribers on] my social networks.”
8. Use clickable links to reference other content.
At the end of videos, you’ll notice many videos reference previous, relevant or even newer content with a clickable link inside the video. You can add these while editing your video in the site’s video manager. This feature can also link to any pages or sites your video covers.
9. Work with top content creators to place products.
Popular YouTubers, especially those with frequently trending content, have hundreds of thousands to millions of subscribers constantly watching their channels. Reaching out to them as a potential sponsor could be a great business opportunity. Many YouTube personalities place products in their videos, which gives a specific brand a larger audience than usual.
10. Use YouTube Shorts.
YouTube Shorts are short-form videos of one minute or less. You can record a video from your smartphone within the YouTube app or edit one of your video clips into a shorter version to create a Short.
11. Run a contest.
Running or promoting a contest on YouTube is an easy way to get people to watch and engage with your content. However, before posting a contest, read YouTube’s rules and guidelines
Repurpose your YouTube shorts by embedding the videos in your emails to customers to improve email open rates and click-through rates.