In recent years, much has been made of the troubles facing the YouTube world: for instance, the declining flow of ad revenue, the abusable copyright strike system, and the responsibility of the recommendation algorithm to meet whatever standards critics want to hold it to. But make no mistake: it’s just as dominant a platform as ever.

When you consider the creative opportunities it presents, and factor in its position as the second-largest search engine out there (despite not having search as its primary goal), it’s clear that has the potential to be your most potent marketing channel. You just need to it use it well.

In that vein, let’s say that you’ve decided to use YouTube as a promotional tool, but you’re not sure how to get started. You just need some basic guidance — so let’s get to it. Here’s a beginner’s guide to creating effective YouTube content:

Invest in equipment (but not too much)

While it’s true that it’s important to make videos that are high-quality from a technical standpoint — which is to say, featuring crisp imagery, clear audio, and stable framing — you don’t really need to do anything more than meet basic expectations. This is because you quickly reach diminishing returns. Resolution is a good example: going from 480p to 720p will be a huge leap for most, but 720p to 1080p won’t seem so consequential on the average display.

For recording, a smartphone with a decent camera should be suitable, or get a fairly-priced digital camcorder. If you’re using something vaguely modern, it will inevitably be capable of managing 1080p at 30fps, so stick with that as your baseline. As for audio, you can use the built-in mic if it’s decent, or get a standalone mic for a modest price. Throw in a simple tripod, plus a lamp and a backdrop, and you’ll have everything you need for basic recording.

Deliver on simple hooks

The videos that are most effective on YouTube have very simple hooks to draw people in. I’m not suggesting that you fully embrace clickbait and start titling every video with superlatives, hysteria, full capitalization, and several exclamation marks — I’m simply noting that each video needs to have one core selling point which is clearly defined.

For instance, you could do a comparison video taking people through the differences between your products and/or services and those of your competitors, and use a title like “[X] versus [Y]: an in-depth comparison”. Think about someone browsing through their YouTube feed, trying to choose something to watch: the simpler you make your hook, the more likely it will be to earn some spur-of-the-moment clicks.

Give each video a specific purpose

Simply making videos with no goals in mind isn’t a good idea. You want to extract maximum value from each video, so work towards a defined purpose with each recording. For instance, if you were an ecommerce seller, you might give one video a goal of promoting one of your products — you’d then need to think about tailoring it in the following ways:

  • Leading up to a final push to convert. Even if you showcase your product very effectively, it won’t be optimally effective if the video just ends very suddenly. Ensure that you conclude with a last call to action so that’s what the viewer takes with them.
  • Matching the aesthetic to the store theme. If you want to embed videos in product pages, which is fairly simple using plugins (users of the Shopify builder can use Easy Video, for example), then it’s a good idea to match the aesthetic (of the video and the static image) to that of the CMS theme. That way, the video will feel like an integral part of the page.
  • Featuring high-quality product images. The glossier, the better. One of the core shortcomings of ecommerce is that the shopper can’t review the product up close. The more you can show it off visually — and the better you can make it look — the more effective it will prove.

When looking back at previous videos, simply review how effective they were at serving their specified purposes. You should be tracking your videos through analytics, so take that into account, and use that information to make your next videos better.

Show humanity and personality

YouTube is so powerful for businesses because it allows them to show that they’re more than profit-driven organizations. If you’re going to spend time making videos, make sure that you don’t simply come across as bland and generic — take advantage of the chance to be personable and transparent about your business.

Talking-head videos are generally quite good for this. You look directly into the camera and record whatever it is you have to say: the viewer gets to see your facial expressions and body language, helping them to trust you (and by extension your company). Another good option is to record unedited behind-the-scenes footage: for instance, recording your team in the office on a typical day, asking them to comment on company updates. Facebook Live is good for this.

Connect your videos to your broader marketing

In today’s complicated digital landscape, the best marketing strategies are those that are multi-faceted, spanning various platforms and channels. Because of this, you should connect your videos to other elements of your marketing strategy wherever possible.

How do you do this? Well, firstly, you can give each video a title card featuring annotation links to your main website and your social media profiles. Additionally, you can include regular links in your video descriptions (or even explicitly state certain links in the video dialog). And secondly, you can get the most value from each video by posting it across distinct platforms: first on YouTube, but then on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Wrapping up, getting started with YouTube content isn’t too tough: just cover the basics and experiment as you get to grips them. If you can achieve each of the above things, you’ll stand a great chance of getting a lot of value from your promotional videos.

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