The likes of Instagram and Snapchat have presented a new way for brands to experiment with video, yet with 5bn videos being watched on its platform on a daily basis - YouTube is still the reigning king of visual content.

Recently, YouTube has been in the headlines, but not for the most positive reasons. On the back of controversy over brand safety and influencer wrong-doings, brands might be reconsidering how to navigate this increasingly confusing channel. 

So, with this in mind, here’s a few tips for brand YouTube strategy in 2018, with reasons why the platform should still be top of mind for social media marketers (and remember to check out our video strategy reports and training).

1. Create lean-back content

One of the biggest misconceptions about YouTube is that success only happens if a video goes viral. It’s often thought that if you can’t deliver cats getting up to mischief or show a prank going wrong – it’s not for you. 

This is widely off the mark, of course, especially considering the changing ways in which users are now consuming video content. 

While it’s true that a lot of people are watching YouTube on their mobiles, this doesn’t necessarily mean they want extremely short, or purely entertaining videos. Google suggests that when it comes to video viewing, mobile is a lot like TV, meaning that people are in fact watching in the evening, at home, and to relax.

As a result, brands must no longer think of YouTube in the context of ‘on-the-go’ entertainment. Instead, there is scope for lean-back content, i.e. longer videos of more variety – whether informative, educational, or indeed entertaining. 

2. Be consistent

One characteristic that the most successful YouTube channels share is consistency. The most obvious way being how often videos are posted, with big brands typically posting every couple of days or even every day.

However, consistency does not necessarily mean having a highly populated channel. Instead, brands can create consistency in terms of format, meaning that they post the same style of content. This can also come through featuring the same people or coming back to a recurring theme or topic. The overarching benefit is that viewers get to know what to expect from a channel, with familiarity helping to build loyalty over time. 

In order to achieve consistency, it is vital that brands build a content plan or strategy, mapping out when and what videos will be created and posted. 

3. Build a community

While ephemeral video can be effective for capturing the attention, it tends to create a passive user experience (where the viewer is simply watching rather than interacting). 

In contrast, the beauty of YouTube is that it creates a sense of community for brands, with each channel having the potential to build a loyal and highly engaged audience. 

There is the common understanding (from both creators and viewers) that comments are expected and appreciated. Brands should therefore be ready and willing to respond in order to build a relationship with the audience alongside a cycle of communication and interaction.

4. Encourage action

Again, it is important for brands to prompt users to leave comments, but there are also a number of other ways brands can help to build an audience and promote loyalty. YouTube cards are one simple tool – they are pre-programmed notifications that pop up in videos to point viewers elsewhere (in a shoppable video, for example, a card might link to a featured product).

End screens are also a valuable tool. These allow brands or creators to promote up to four elements at the end of a video, such as another video, playlist, or an external website. This lets the viewer know that they can take further action, which could help to keep them within the channel walls rather than clicking away elsewhere.

5. Optimise for search

While success on YouTube is bolstered by features like quality content and consistency, it’s still important for brands to ensure that videos are getting the maximum exposure possible. So, how can you get your video to rank highly? There are a number of simple things you can do to help your content, such as including a major keyword in the title, using relevant tags, and a lengthy and well-crafted description. 

Customised thumbnails can also be effective for generating views, with branded design again helping to create consistency and familiarity for viewers.

6. Think mobile

Google suggests that three in four adults report watching YouTube at home on their mobile device. 

Not only is it clear that more people are accessing video content on their smartphones, but it seems this might also prove to be an automatic positive for brands, as YouTube mobile users are also reported to be twice as likely to pay close attention while watching compared to TV viewers.

This is because the act of watching video on mobile offers less distraction. In comparison, while watching traditional television, viewers might be more likely to partake in another activity at the same time, such as cooking, cleaning, or using another device. 

So, how can brands capitalise on this? Again, it is about thinking of the user need, with a mobile-first strategy helping to deliver content that’s relevant and engaging in a real-time context.

7. Think about micro-moments

So, what kind of content should you be creating? According to Google, it's helpful for brands to consider the ‘micro-moments’ your audience might be experiencing, in order to come up with relevant content.

In other words, to consider why a person might be turning to the internet to look for help, information, or entertainment – and how a brand might be able to create content to intercept and deliver on this need. 

Beauty brands tend to be particularly adept at this, conveniently capitalising on the demand for tips, tricks, and make-up tutorials. It doesn’t always have to be educational, however. Cosmetics brand Lush often posts videos relating to its stance on ethics and sustainability, which is likely to appeal to those of a similar mindset.

8. Be wise with influencers

YouTube and influencer marketing has enjoyed a fruitful relationship over the past few years, with brand partnerships typically leading to increased exposure and reach. In recent times, however, we’ve witnessed the likes of PewDiePie and Logan Paul getting themselves in hot water, leading to many brands perhaps reconsidering their involvement with influencers.

Meanwhile, with some adverts being shown alongside extremist content – it’s unsurprising that a few brands have removed themselves from the platform entirely.

But do brands need to be overly cautious? YouTube’s decision to crack down on problematic videos is (hopefully) going to lead to fewer issues for advertisers. So then, in terms of influencers, it is perhaps wise for brands to tread even more carefully when partnering with big name creators, or indeed those whose content has the potential to be controversial or inflammatory.

While this might sound like an obvious statement, it didn’t stop the likes of Nike and Pepsi previously working with Logan Paul – a regrettable decision in retrospect. That being said, as long as brands exercise caution - and partner with influencers that match their own brand values - there's no reason why the 'YouTuber' trend won't continue to flourish.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 30 January, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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