How To

Making YouTube a Brand Builder

Five Tips on Capitalizing on the Biggest Video Site

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At first glance, YouTube looks like a bit of an organized mess where anyone and everyone can post, view and comment on videos that cover the gamut from comedic spots to home movies to full-length features. Take a closer look, however, and you'll find a medium that's coming into its own as an advertising channel that relies heavily on viral marketing to spread the word about its offerings.

A quick search of YouTube's offerings, for example, turns up a range of marketing: Tsukiji Fish Market, showing the world its array of fresh fish; real estate agents hawking homes in all price ranges, and Master Lock touting the benefits of its Bumpstop security products. But how does a company go about setting up a notable presence on YouTube that not only looks good, but that also conveys its message and attracts the necessary eyeballs?

Author Michael Miller sheds some light on the challenge in his new book YouTube for Business (Pearson Education, 2008), and says the first step is to make sure the nascent medium is part of an overall marketing plan. "Too many companies see YouTube as being separate from the rest of their efforts," says Miller. "For it to be most effective, however, firms have to make YouTube part of the whole, and integrated with a marketing plan centered on a consistent message."

Here are five strategies you can start using right now to reach that goal:

Use YouTube Channels
On YouTube, channels are also known as "user profiles" and basically comprise the place where you will upload all of your videos to. The first time out, YouTube will automatically create a channel for you, and will then add all subsequent videos to the same place. On it, you can control the way videos are featured and presented to viewers. "Channels are a great tool because anyone who likes your videos can subscribe to your channel and receive notifications when new videos are posted," says Miller. "Think of it as your home page, and treat it as such by creating a unifying message that your loyal customers will return to again and again."

Personalize Your Channel
A YouTube channel page is actually a profile page, which means you'll want to customize the page to reflect your business' image and brand. It can be personalized from your My Account page, where you can edit channel info (such as a new title and description for your channel page); channel design (the overall look and feel of your channel page); personal profile (business name, description, link to your company Web site, and so forth) and location information (city, state and zip code). "Don't forget to put up a logo," says Miller, "and to always use text that reinforces your marketing message."

Use a Video Log:
YouTube offers companies the unique opportunity to post video blogs online in a way that doesn't scream "Hey, we want your business!" Depending on what type of business you're in, a video log that features a CEO, manager or other person discussing a topic of interest to viewers (an event marketing firm, for example, might produce a 5-minute video previewing an upcoming marathon) can be an effective way to spread your message. "It allows you to put a human face on your products and services," says Miller, "in a cheap, quick way that doesn't require a studio, lights or makeup artist."

Get Viewers Involved
Miller says some of the biggest corporate YouTube success stories involve firms that used contests to attract attention to their YouTube channels. Product marketers, for example, might run a contest that entices viewers to submit their own video commercials for one of their newest products. Or, a firm could provide the necessary video components and allow viewers to "mash up" those elements into their own video. "It's about moving viewers from simply being observers," says Miller, "to truly getting them involved with your products and services."

Manage Viewers and Comments
By default, all YouTube videos allow comments unless the feature is disabled, which in turn reduces viewer interactivity. "Many companies don't even think about how to manage this aspect of the campaign until they hear something nasty," says Miller. "The best strategy is to accept that there will be negative comments, and devise a plan for dealing with them."

To companies looking to up their impact on YouTube, Miller says "take advantage of the freedom to experiment," and don't spend too much money or time on your efforts. "If you're spending a lot of money on YouTube, you're doing something wrong," he adds. "Throw a few things out there and measure the results. If something isn't working, just get rid of it and start again."

Timothy R. Hawthorne is chairman and executive creative director of Hawthorne Direct Inc., a full-service DRTV and New Media ad agency founded in 1986. A 35-year television producer/writer/director, Hawthorne is a cum laude Harvard graduate.
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