YouTube is more than just a platform for publishing video content.
It’s a community of dedicated users.
That means that, if you want to engage YouTube users, you need to do more than just blindly publish content to the channel hoping some of it will stick with your intended audience.
You need to participate in the bustling – and unique – community that is the world of YouTube.
Why YouTube is different
It’s hard to believe these days. But it WAS possible to publish video on the internet before YouTube.
It was just difficult, required a lot of bandwidth and created a poor experience for the user.
Then YouTube came along.
Suddenly, users around the world had access to a platform that allowed them to quickly and easily upload video content that anyone could access.
Somewhere along the line, though, YouTube’s defining characteristic shifted.
It remains a place where anyone can quickly and easily upload video content.
But now it’s much more than that.
Little known fact about YouTube: One of its creators’ inability to find this iconic Super Bowl halftime moment spurred his decision to create a platform for easily publishing content.
What does that mean for content creators?
Many brands assume that YouTube is little more than a clearinghouse for publishing video content.
Anything that a brand creates – from a produced television commercial to a speech from a CEO at a conference – has to be posted on its YouTube channel.
The end result is that their YouTube channel becomes little more than a dumping ground for video content.
But this is a misplaced conception of how YouTube can be used to engage users.
The real power of YouTube resides in using the tool to build a connection with audiences.
How do you do that?
By building a community.
The YouTube community
Today YouTube is a thriving community.
And like any community, it has its own customs and rules of engagement.
Just as users are expected to act a certain way on Reddit, Twitter and Facebook, there are best practices for brands hoping to become a part of that community.
That’s why videos such as product unboxings, vlogs and Q&As are such a major part of YouTube culture.
Think these are just for users? Think again.
Many brands have successfully used these video formats to engage with audience members. Consider this video of NBA basketball player Andrew Wiggins unboxing his own Adidas sneakers or this quirky product demonstration from BlendTec.
An example of a product demonstration from Blendtec.
You too can turn your channel from a dumping ground for video content to a place where your audience can engage and interact with your brand.
Engage and reward your followers
Your YouTube videos don’t need to just be about pushing out new content to your audience.
They can also be about engaging and rewarding followers.
Asking your audience to submit questions and then answering them in a video is a great way to engage your users.
Running contests and giveaways are an ideal tool for rewarding your audience for engaging with your brand.
Responding to comments is also a great way to deepen engagement.
An example of a product giveaway as a means of rewarding fans for subscribing.
Know your audience
Discovering and defining what your audience wants is the foundation of any YouTube strategy.
Does your audience enjoy product demonstrations the most?
Or will educational content resonate the most with them?
What types of information are they looking for?
Finding out what your audience wants is the first step towards creating content that will engage and delight them.
Regularly publishing video content is a centerpiece of building a community on YouTube. Publishing for a few weeks then going dark for several months is a sure way to obstruct any momentum you might have had with your audience.
The best way to stay on track is to create a schedule and then stick to it. This helps ensure you don’t go dark for too long a period of time.
Or, even better: Post your schedule so your audience can see when you’re going to be publishing.
That will let potential new followers know how engaged you are in maintaining your channel.
An example of a published schedule from the banner image on Osmosis Health & Medicine’s YouTube channel.
Avoid dumping video content on your YouTube channel
Just because someone happened to film your president speaking at a conference or taking questions from reporters doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to appear on your YouTube channel.
Publishing video content at random is a sure way to disengage users. Resist the urge to publish something on your YouTube channel just because it exists in video form.
Instead, focus in on designing and creating the sorts of video content that will resonate most with your audiences.
That means you need to develop video ideas that will work specifically on YouTube.
Bringing it all together
YouTube has come a long way since it was first invented in 2005.
These days it’s a thriving community of users.
Which means that, if brands want to engage with those users, they need to play by the rules.
Mark Brownlee is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Banfield.
Banner image art: Ben Marley