Using YouTube for business: an introduction

YouTube, the world's biggest video sharing site, doesn't always strike small business owners and self-employed people as the first port of call when they're looking at getting on to social media. But it can really help you gain exposure online, because it's easier to rank highly on Google (ie. appear higher up on search results) with a YouTube video than just a normal website. YouTube is also full of useful research videos, and can provide a great opportunity to increase customer loyalty.

What YouTube is and does

YouTube is a bit like a Google of video - and is, in fact, owned by Google. Anyone can upload a video (once they've registered on site - free and quick), and anyone can watch one of the millions upon millions on the site (20 hours of video are uploaded every minute).

You can browse videos by name, type, keywords, and creator, among other things. There are also channels - a series of videos created by one user, often with a theme (subject matter, promotional, political), that can be subscribed to. Viewers can (and do) leave comments under videos and can embed them into their own sites and send them on to friends. Part of the reason video has become so popular online is people embedding YouTube videos into emails and sending them to their friends, which can see a video spread exponentially - virally.

  • Users: 100 million video views per day - more or less everyone in the Western world uses it
  • Age and industry: All
  • Business example: Go Ape used YouTube to great effect to really show potential customers what its experience days on ziplines in forests could be like, handily creating a nice little viral in the process

Why would I want that?

  • Watching what other businesses are doing.
  • Watching advice videos for your sector.
  • Find good video resources to embed onto your website and share with customers to increase loyalty.
  • Positioning your business as expert and creating advice videos for your customers, to build loyalty.
  • Creating a public following from audiences you may not have been able to reach otherwise (as anyone can search for and find you and it's normally easier to rank high on Google with a youTube video than just a normal website).
  • Giving your brand a facelift and creating a buzz around it.
  • Fully showcasing your products and demonstrating how they can be used - but it needs to be done carefully.
  • Large-scale viral marketing (if you can get it right).

What's the catch?

  • Creating video takes commitment, time and planning to come up with something that'll appeal to users. You also need a video camera - though you can buy a Flip for around £200.
  • It can be impersonal than other social media sites. You can't build rapport with consumers and contacts - you can build affinity, but there's less opportunity for dialogue as with other social media.
  • There are so many videos on there that if you're creating content you'll need to go niche and do your research to find out how to get spotted. You'll also need to wade through some pretty average viewing until you find valuable videos from other people.
  • Not much room for profiling you or your business - descriptions are given limited space, though you can of course link to your own site.

Going to get on it? Here's some social media expert advice:

It's not as straight-forward or in most cases as cheap to promote yourself on YouTube as with other types of social media - but, done right, it can have great effect. But you need the time and dedication to plan out a campaign before diving straight in there.

Firstly, bear in mind YouTube analytical tools are pretty limited. "So we suggest hosting a video on your own site if you're looking to target a specific demographic," says Alex Sass, head of digital media at Renegade, which handles social media campaigns for the likes of Mini Cabrio, and Mazda in China.

"The first thing you should look at is why you're doing it," he says. "Is there going to be a direct ROI?" If you're only looking to share info that could essentially be bullet-pointed, consider using a site such as Slideshare instead - an easier and quicker option.

YouTube works best if you're trying to create either a viral video, or a series of educational videos via a channel that are likely to be picked up by a large number of people interested in your industry.

Creating business advice/educational videos on YouTube

Avoid showcasing your business' work - provide something your audience will want and that teaches them something new. Set up a branded channel, fill it with keywords (more on those below), and start seeding it around (more on that below too). As always with social media, provide links back to your own site and a clear description of what your business does.

Make your videos professional, not overly friendly (this can look fake) - but, as always on camera, plenty of relaxed smiles go down well. Make sure the information you're giving is real insider knowledge, not the kind of thing anyone interested in your industry can just pull up off a website.

Use the same person or people to talk to camera in each video for consistency, and change the scenery or do different things in the videos to keep them varied and interesting. Try giving demonstrations to show how things can be used - a young lady called Lauren Luke did this to great effect with a series of makeup tutorials that became so popular she ended up launching her own makeup range: (a great example of how to strike the tone). Make sure you always give viewers a little teaser of what's going to be in the next vid at the end of each, to keep them coming back for more.

Sass points out YouTube audiences are very aware of 'cloaking' - where businesses pose as home-made videos showing something funny or crude, trying to subtly weave in a soft sell. Instead, be transparent you're a business, but leave your logo and info until the last shot so you engage with audiences first. Be aware YouTube takes the first shot of a video as the still image representing it.

Generally, aim for either low resolution of high resolution videos - which sounds strange, but users tend to respond better to low resolution than middle, which can be confusing. At least with low they know what they're getting. Shooting vids using a Flip or a camera phone can work for a quick-shot or on-the-road series, but if you're planning on giving long, detailed information then high resolution is going to keep people's attentions better (without straining their eyes too much). A few simple power point slides to break up just straight-to-camera talking for ten minutes can also work wonders.

Creating viral marketing videos on YouTube

Get an advertising agency on board - prices start from around £5,000. You're unlikely to manage the complex thinking behind virals yourself without former experience.

To get people watching your video, start by researching the keywords that will draw people to it. Sass recommends searching for competitors' videos, taking the url they're using then searching for backlinks using Google Analytics (free) to see who found their video and where the interest group came from. You can then spread the word about your own video to the same websites.

When you're putting together your keywords, use Google Analytics to work out what's popular. But don't just choose the most obvious phrases - 'you'll get swamped', says Sass. "Unless the budget is huge, go for more obscure or more human phrasing." He recommends using an agency to help you research this aspect thoroughly.

Getting your YouTube video ranked highly

The rank of your video on YouTube is heavily influenced by the number of views you get in the first few days of it going live, so get your database excited about it and ready to click before putting it up. Exclusives and previews can help generate a bit of PR around it beforehand. Sass also suggests using a specialist agency to help you seed your video, which takes a lot of effort if you want success. A good agency can get you tens of thousands of views per day - but again keep an eye on your ROI.

You should also post your videos as 'response' videos to relevant videos by other users on site - this will hopefully get some of your shared target audience checking out your channel too.

Key YouTube functions and how to use them

Channel: Create by one user (or business) and showcasing a series of video they have made (see above).

Response video: When a user posts a video that they think viewers of this video would be interested in (see above).


Share all your videos with everyone to create the largest possible catchment of an audience.

Resources has lots of thoughts from industry leaders on social media strategy.

We really like these advice articles from the brilliant social media advice site Mashable:

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