As easy as it is for a viewer to take full advantage of YouTube, it’s almost as easy for a contributor to become part of the YouTube mix. After setting up an account, it’s a snap to start uploading video. And, if the video you’re uploading takes off, you could become famous and even earn a good chunk of change from your YouTube exploits.
Establish your YouTube channel brand
Whether it’s a consumer or a viewer, a brand makes your product or service immediately identifiable on YouTube. Imagine that the Coca-Cola logo looked different every time you saw it, or maybe the apple on your PowerBook wasn’t the same apple you saw embossed on your iPhone. This lack of consistency could shatter your confidence in the product; you may start wondering if what you had was a cheap knock-off of the real thing, rather than the genuine article.
Branding is designed to restore confidence in the product — that familiar logo makes us relax, knowing that we are sure to get the real thing. When it comes to your YouTube channel, branding becomes the identifiable element that lets viewers know who you are and what you’re all about, thus creating a similar feeling of confidence. Just like consumers flock to brands with which they identify, your audience will do the same with your brand.
Branding takes on many forms on YouTube
- Intro clip: Before each video runs on your channel, you can insert a three-second clip that acts as a label for your content. The torch-carrying lady wrapped in a flag for Columbia Pictures and the roaring MGM Lion are good examples of a branding element. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to come up with an intro of your own that is equally compelling.
- Channel header: This element is the banner on top of your main page, and at first, it’s as empty as a blank page. You’ll definitely want to click that Add Channel Art button to add a compelling picture or another graphic along with the name of your channel. The channel header can also include your contact info and specify how often you intend to upload new videos.
- Logo: Companies spend millions on branding when they have to come up with a new logo, because they have to track down and replace every single instance of the old logo. That’s probably not your problem — you just have to come up with your own logo, perhaps using a simple image and your name. If you feel graphically challenged, you can find places on the web to create one inexpensively. Or just have an artistic friend design a logo for you.
- Playlists: If you have enough videos on your channel, you can create a running order of them. This playlist can provide an overview of your content or a specific sub-topic of your videos. You can name every playlist, and even re-arrange them.
- Trailer: In a YouTube context, a trailer is a video that can automatically play when visitors come to your channel. You can use the video most representative of your content as a kind of advertisement for your offerings, or you could make a short video that shows viewers what your channel is all about and how they can benefit from watching your videos.
How to create great YouTube content
Whether you grab a 10-second video of a gathering of friends to put on YouTube, have something meaningful to say on your video blog, or plan a highly structured production with sets and actors, you’re creating content.
Almost every topic under the sun is represented on YouTube. That diversity in topics is matched by an equally broad range of production levels. Some videos are quite sophisticated, displaying amazing production values, but many are fairly average. And a great deal are just poorly done and end up getting shown in film classes as examples of what not to do.
Better production values increase your ability to grab viewers’ attention — maybe enough for them to watch the entire video and maybe enough for them to even consider watching whatever else you have to offer. The Holy Grail, of course, is having them feel so enthusiastic about what they see that they then share it with others.
But great video quality doesn’t happen accidentally; rather it’s done consciously, from conception to upload. Here are some key suggestions to always keep in mind:
- Plan before you film: Great videos begin in pre-production. That means having an idea of the shooting location and working with some sort of script (or at least a storyboard of the kind of shots you want for the video).
Great planning leads to great production.
- Know your audience: When you’re just getting started, you try to make solid videos tagged with good descriptions and hope that your audience finds you. After you have attracted a following, it’s still important to understand who they are and whether your content is right for them. For example, if you start an entertainment blog that talks about up-and-coming hip-hop artists, you should use language that’s consistent with a younger demographic. Don’t overlook the importance of being highly aware of your potential audience.
- Keep viewers entertained: Regardless of the subject matter, it’s important for viewers to enjoy the experience so that you hold their attention. Remember that hooking a viewer’s attention starts with the first ten seconds of the video (why? Because viewers may leave before the good stuff) and continues until it’s over.
- Let them learn something: People generally click on a video link in search of information. If they find it quickly and they were entertained, chances are good that they will love you.
How to choose a YouTube channel name
Take a reflective pause before you choose a YouTube username or channel name or other identifying criteria you want as your public face for the whole YouTube world. An overhasty decision here could end up being one that you regret later. Many a creator has made the mistake of beginning to upload videos to what they thought would remain a low-key, personal channel, only to have that channel take off in popularity, at which point they begin to feel trapped in a channel named after their cat. (Okay, just to be clear, this wouldn’t be a problem if the channel is actually about your cat).
Keep the following advice in mind when making your reflections:
- Try to relate the name to your content. Are you creating a channel about video games? Try to work a gaming term into your title. If you plan to create fitness-related content, try to integrate workout or sports terms.
- Avoid profanity, vulgarity, and inside jokes. Though you may find it hilarious to name your channel Dadfarts, a name like that will necessarily limit your market. It’s hard to predict what path your videos might take on their way out into the world, and a sophomoric name (or a downright obscene one) might deter your viewers from sharing your video. You want people to share your videos!
- Make the name catchy. Your channel name needs to be memorable. People love puns, rhyming, and alliteration, but don’t try to integrate all three. That might be a little much.
- Make it easy to spell. People need to be able to find your channel, and choosing a word that’s difficult to spell can prevent people from finding you. Do not see this as a felicitous opportunity to create a recondite channel name thronged with abstruse vocabulary that will confuse and confound your potential viewers.
- Make it easy for people to talk about. When you think you’ve hit on the perfect name, try reading it aloud a few times and make sure you can pronounce it. You want to have a channel name that people can talk about and make themselves understood. The best test for this is to call a friend on the phone and direct her to your channel. If you can tell your friend the channel name and she can get there without your having to spell it, you’ve got a usable name on your hands.
- Make sure the name is available and that you won’t be confused with another business on YouTube or elsewhere. You should search the web in general and YouTube specifically to make sure your brilliant channel name isn’t already in use elsewhere. You should also ensure that the URL you prefer is available. YouTube’s allocation of URLs is not automatic, and you have to choose your custom URL later in the channel creation process. So, even if your channel name is available, your custom URL may not be available. Check this in advance, or else it can turn into a real problem.
Embrace discoverability in a YouTube context
At the end of the day, YouTube is about one thing and one thing only: Getting people to watch your content. Simple, right? In theory, yes, but your challenge is to help viewers find your channel and your content. That’s what discoverability is all about: Placing your content in front of the right viewers so that they can watch.
Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t share the secret sauce for getting found, but you can help improve the odds of your videos showing up in YouTube and Google Search as well as in Suggested Videos on the Watch page. What can you do in the planning phase for aiding discoverability? Make watch time an important goal.
Watch time is one of the most important factors that trigger YouTube to put your content in front of viewers. In 2012, YouTube made watch time more important to discoverability than the number of views the video received. So what exactly is watch time? In its simplest form, watch time is the total amount of time viewers spend watching your videos. People who watch your content are telling YouTube, “Hey, this is important stuff; make sure similar viewers know.”
Watch time doesn’t indicate whether your viewers watch the entire video (although that’s a good thing, too) — it indicates that a relatively high percentage of the video is being viewed. How much? Again, YouTube isn’t specific. Note that it doesn’t matter whether your videos are short or long; what’s important is that viewers are engaged. The secret is to make legitimately good content. Good content increases watch time, which increases discoverability.