As a video producer, I’ve been asked to make content “go viral" more times than I can count. But you know what? It hasn’t happened for me (yet). I could read this as a crushing blow to my fragile ego, or as a sign that “making a viral video on YouTube” isn’t a good marketing strategy. But even though you may never have a video rack up 50 million views in 72 hours, you can still craft content that your audience really, really, really engages with. And that’s way more valuable than a single video that breaks the internet.


Should your brand even be on YouTube?

This might seem like a silly question in an article about YouTube tips, but it’s a critical first step. Saying yes to something means saying no to something else, so you need to weigh the pros and cons of giving up time on other social platforms to make room for participating in the YouTube community.

Knowing your audience is key. Are they stay-at-home-moms? Retired professionals? Millennials in the tech industry? If they aren’t already consuming online media on a regular basis, you might want to focus your time on other channels. Think about how large your audience is in relation to your products, too. If you’re selling t-shirts and accessories from a local community college, you likely won’t benefit from a deep network like YouTube. If you’re selling stylish sunglasses for women between the ages of 16 and 45, then your potential audience is huge, and YouTube might be a great fit.

If you decide the YouTube community won't cut it, you don’t have to forego video marketing altogether. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have robust video networks, and you can still engage with your audience on those channels.


Make content your customers will actually want to watch

The vast majority of people who enter YouTube expect either A) to be entertained, or B) to learn something. Most companies can’t compete with Hollywood trailers or Buzzfeed shorts, but anyone can teach something they already know. Think of YouTube as a video encyclopedia compilation, and you’ll go far.

What can you teach your audience that is both valuable to them, and relevant to your industry? If you sell vintage car parts, you could make a video series on “How to Restore a 1966 Shelby Cobra”. If you sell upscale menswear, your channel could be “Men’s Fashion Tips That are Trending in 2016”.

Look at what videos are already on YouTube that fall under your industry, and find gaps in the content that you can fill. Maybe you sell conflict-free jewelry, and your competitors already have video topics on how to polish or select jewelry, but not about “How to Tell if a Gemstone Has Been Ethically Sourced" — that might be a gap you could fill.

Protip: For inspiration, open an incognito window in your browser and head over to YouTube. Start typing keywords from your industry in the search bar, and check out the suggestions. If you build your videos around those phrases, you’re catering to viewers who are already searching for that content.


youtube-suggestions Don't make it a big production

So what if you can't afford Wes Anderson to direct your next video! You can still have better quality than you might think. Most modern cameras (and smartphones) produce images that are remarkably crisp. The key is using them to your advantage.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There’s no such thing as a face — it’s non-existent until the light hits it.” Shoot your video near a bright light source: next to a window, outside or in an evenly lit conference room. Find a place without distracting sounds like a loud A/C unit, your sales team’s phone calls or a door banging shut every few minutes. If your videos can be seen and heard easily (and your content speaks to your audience), viewers will be forgiving of your quality.

Check out YouTube’s Creator Academy for great production tips to boost your video quality on the cheap.


Turn your audience into customers

As important as it is to keep your audience on your channel, eventually you want them to leave YouTube and become a customer on your site. Tread with caution, though. YouTube will penalize your channel in search rankings whenever you cause a viewer to leave the platform. Their goal is to keep users watching their content for as long as possible so users can consume more ads. More ads watched = more revenue for YouTube, and if you break that cycle, YouTube loses money.

The majority of the content that you produce for YouTube needs to cycle your audience back into more YouTube content. Keep the cycle going by telling your viewers to make a single action at the end of each video. “Click our subscribe button,” or, “Watch other videos in the series,” are great examples. Once you have them in your video cycle, you can drop in the occasional sales pitch.

Be strategic when you ask a viewer to become a customer, and tie your products into the content they're watching. Maybe you sell farming supplies and your channel is about making money on an urban homestead. Your video, “How to Raise Angora Goats” could link to another video on your channel, “How to Use Our Angora Goat Brush." Think about how your product provides value to the content you're sharing, and then leverage that to make your sale.

Protip: Use YouTube’s Card feature to link your viewers straight to your product page from your video. Less work for them = more sales for you.


youtube-cards Be social!

It’s tempting to think of yourself as a cable TV network on YouTube, but it works much better as a social community. Take some time away from your channel and watch videos that complement your industry. Like, follow, comment and have conversations with other users. Video is a great way to humanize your brand and introduce yourself to your customers, so be yourself! The more people you interact with, the more views you’ll get, and the more products you’ll eventually sell.

What are some issues you’re having with your video marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments below!