YouTube for b-to-b

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With 233 million unique visitors each month, according to comScore, is a popular destination for entertainment, fun and—in some cases—education. But despite its consumer leaning, YouTube, which served up 11.9 billion videos in February, is also an excellent tool for b-to-b marketers—as long as they know the best ways to take advantage of the site.

“It's something that our b-to-b clients ask us about all the time because they're not sure whether or not a consumer site will attract their customers,” explained James McQuivey, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research. “And our answer for many of them: Yes.”

YouTube, McQuivey said, can be an incredibly flexible tool, as long as it's used correctly and the marketer maintains some oversight into how its video is being accessed and distributed. “Most people are going to search for video on YouTube, [which is] one of the reasons it's a good place for marketers—all marketers—to be,” he said.

Marketers interested in using YouTube for video marketing should master the basics from the beginning. To help them do so, Google (which owns YouTube) has released a PDF guide (“YouTube: Best Practices for the B2B Marketer”) which contains suggestions such as creating compelling content, adding tags and links to the video, and using YouTube Insight, a video analytics tool. These are solid suggestions, but definitely just a start. Here are some ideas to help take your YouTube strategy to the next level.

Create microchannels to boost brand awareness. If you think about it, said Julie Salchert, managing director at interactive agency Fullhouse, you're probably already creating microsites for your brand efforts. Creating the YouTube equivalent—a YouTube channel focused on one specific product—is fairly simple and provides similar benefits, she said. “It might actually be cost-effective for those people who don't want to have to build a microsite,” she said. That said, make sure you're also posting the video links to your own site and tagging that video for search engine optimization so people can find the content whether they are searching YouTube or a traditional search engine.

Be open to participation. Constellation Energy, a holding company for energy businesses, has several YouTube channels for its various units. At first, it was reluctant to allow comments on its video assets, said Aaron Koos, a communications consultant at the company; but eventually it realized that videos, like any communication vehicle, should be a two-way medium. “We did select the setting where we can review all the messages coming in before they are posted, but we're approving and replying to almost everything that is submitted,” Koos said.

This level of activity is the reason Adam Kleinberg, CEO at interactive agency Traction, said marketers should make sure they allocate enough manpower to monitoring, approving and replying to comments. He also advised marketers to be careful about how they respond to negative comments. “Intelligent feedback, even on negative comments, will build transparency and credibility; but on the other hand, if someone is using profanity or sarcasm, it's not worth engaging with them,” he said. Eventually, your brand evangelists will fight your battles for you, he said.

Give videos a “face.” Customers and prospects like knowing the people behind a company. So videos, aside from customer testimonials, should feature at least one friendly face, said Lynne D. Johnson, senior VP-social media at the Advertising Research Foundation. “It should be a consistent person that people become accustomed to seeing,” she said.

Be funny (on purpose). All experts agreed that entertaining and funny videos have the best chance of going viral and boosting your brand's image. But marketers must make sure that they're not giving people a laugh at their company's expense. “You always have to be on the lookout,” McQuivey said. “Is there something in the video that could make it unintentionally hilarious and cause it to shoot around the Web at lightning speed?” Something as simple as a CEO who is obviously reading off a teleprompter can create an embarrassing situation, he said.

Use social marketing to get your word out. Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg and Facebook are promotional vehicles that you absolutely want to use every time you post a new video, said Traction's Kleinberg. Twitter, especially, can help marketers get a lot of views very quickly because people often “retweet” useful messages. Symantec Corp. also communicates directly with popular bloggers as well as partners and customers, letting them know when new video has been posted, said Michael Parker, the company's VP-interactive marketing. “We're reaching out to bloggers, since they often post our videos directly on their sites,” he said. “And we just had our largest U.K.-based distributor post our newest video on their site.” Why is this important? The more plays the video gets, the higher it will place in YouTube's search rankings.

Don't forget the call to action. Every video marketers post should have a link to a landing page that asks people to take the next step. “You have the ability to get people to learn more about your business, and that's genuinely powerful and something you can measure in terms of conversion,” said Forrester's McQuivey. Constellation Energy is getting ready to launch a new YouTube channel for its solar product line. Koos said videos will all include a link to help users self-qualify. “The call to action asks people to sign up for a free quote, but we make sure they are a good candidate for our products first,” he said.

Tap other video content. One of the best ways to get people to share your content is to share theirs. Retweet links to industry videos, and spend time watching and commenting on videos related to your product or service. However, make sure that you turn off the “related video” option (which displays similar videos) when you upload or you risk the possibility that one of your competitors' videos may pop up. “YouTube presents recommended videos when a video is finished playing,” said Richard Cacciato, partner with agency Blue Iceberg Interactive. “YouTube does allow you to turn this off, but a lot of people forget.”

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