5 Tips for Devising a YouTube Strategy

Mario Armstrong is a digital lifestyle expert, the tech corespondent for the TODAY show and CNN, and the host of a daily tech talk radio show on SiriusXM. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.

According to the latest data from comScore, American Internet users watched an average of 23.2 hours of video in December. While that number still doesn’t begin to approach television and cable viewership, it represents a huge market of people eager to consume interesting content. Based on their analysis of massive amounts of Internet traffic, Cisco is estimating that fully half of all time spent online will be spent watching video by the end of 2012.

While the number one search engine is still Google, YouTube is #2. So as we all assess and tweak our content strategies for 2012, it’s important that we make sure that video is towards the top of those lists. I recently began experimenting with shooting several videos a week on mobile platform Socialcam. In a few short months, I’ve acquired more than 35,000 viewers. Now it’s no longer an experiment, but part of my regular production. Video’s growth has simply been exponential as of late.

Take a look at this video of me teaching bloggers at AT&T how to use Socialcam for online video…

But before you sign up for a YouTube channel and start filming everything you can think of, you need to stop for a second and come up with a solid strategy. Without a good plan for how you’re going to tackle and produce your video, you’ll just be treading water out there.

1. Video means less writing

Maybe you’re a great writer, in which case you should probably stick with blogging. After all, great writers always seem to manage to find a home on the web and their content is passed around social media channels all day long. But if you’re a blogger and struggling with the writing, then video may be a great outlet for you. After all, the only writing you’ll have to do is coming up with great titles, descriptions and keywords for your videos. But that presents a challenge of it’s own: how do you sell people on great videos?

First, you need to identify keywords. Broad keywords are good (“mobile” for instance) but specific keywords are better (“productivity apps”). In many ways, you need to build video content around keywords you think you can succeed with, and then make sure those keywords appear in both your title AND the tags on the video. This way, users searching Google and YouTube will be far more likely to stumble across your video over a competitor’s.

2. Identify your Demographics

Maybe you think you’re going to be producing videos solely for other business professionals in your field. That’s great, but when your jargon-filled video hits YouTube and generates fewer than 100 views, how do you justify that to yourself? The online video audience is composed of your peers, sure, but also a huge swath of society, from cat video addicts to people with passing interests in the latest and greatest tech.

Your videos should be designed to draw in as large an audience as possible and communicate clearly with them. There’s no need to pigeonhole yourself by restricting your audience—instead, make videos that are accessible to wide audiences and you’ll be rewarded with far more views.

3. Content is King

Video production quality certainly makes a difference, but most small businesses, if they’re getting into video at all, are operating with small teams and even smaller budgets. That’s totally fine, since even videos with low production values can get millions of hits. YouTube may have added HD, but the vast majority of the videos on the site are still more blocky and grainy than VHS tapes.

Viewers aren’t primarily concerned with how good it looks, but rather what it conveys. This is great since you probably already have a camera capable of creating YouTube-quality videos in your pocket—your smartphone! With video editing apps like iMovieStadicams to keep your iPhone away from shaking hands, and even external microphones and lighting designed to plug into your mobile, you have a complete video recording station at your disposal 24-7.

4. Get right into the content

Just like most visitors to your website make the decision to stay or leave your site for another in a few seconds, you similarly only have a small window of opportunity to catch a video viewer and get them to watch your whole piece. Excessively long introductions are a hindrance, as the viewer wants you to get right into the action.

Don’t spend your budget on fancy motion graphics that take up the first 30 seconds of your video—instead make sure you’re getting right to the content that people expect based on your keywords and title. Viewers will be far more likely to stick around for the whole thing, and thus more likely to share and pass on your video to their friends.

5. Keep it short and sweet

Your first few videos will probably be rambling messes that are several minutes long. That’s okay, but it’s not what the audience expects! The Internet isn’t television—there are far shorter attention spans here! Can you get your point across in a minute? How about 30 seconds? When I prep for the TODAY show, I spend weeks whittling down material to around 4 minutes. But the television audience will leave the television on in the kitchen or living room, tuning in when they see something interesting.

The Internet audience is looking for something to engage with RIGHT NOW. So pull them in, but don’t drag it on. I know when I see a video is 10 minutes long on YouTube, I’m already expecting that I won’t watch the whole thing. A 30 second video I’ll always give my full attention to, and won’t skip around. Figure out the shortest amount of time you can get your message across, and then nail it. It’s the only way to keep people’s attention.

These are just a few tips to help you think about how to approach video on the web. I’ve got tons more, and will be sharing them in upcoming stories, but what do you think? Are there areas of online video production that you’re stuck on? Do you need help with some aspect of your production or performance? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

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