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Getting the Most Out of YouTube: 4 Companies Offer Best Practices

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According to legend, someone once asked the famous thief Willie Sutton why he robbed banks. Said Sutton: “That’s where the money is.”

Similarly, most video producers would probably tell you that they publish on YouTube because, “That’s where the eyeballs are.” YouTube also encodes your videos, creates an engaging player, allows you to embed the video into your own website, ensures compatibility with a range of target platforms, and pays all transport costs. If video distribution is integral to your marketing strategy, YouTube is an incredible bargain.

However, as countless producers have already learned, simply uploading videos to YouTube is no guarantee of marketing success. You have to upload the right videos, ensure they get found, take steps to ensure click-throughs back to your own website, and integrate these leads into a comprehensive marketing pipeline to ensure maximum value. In this article, I explore these issues with four publishers that have used YouTube to maximum effect.

Amerifirst Home Mortgage

AmeriFirst Home Mortgage specialize in FHA loans, VA mortgage loans, USDA Rural Development loans, home improvement loans and Conventional lending and has offices in 12 states. When the company hired Dan Moyle, a senior news producer from the local Kalamazoo news affiliate, it signaled that video was going to become very important to their marketing efforts.

Why are your videos on YouTube?

It’s a no-brainer. Our target buyer persona is the first-time homebuyers who is typically 25-35. When folks in that age bracket have a question, they go to Google. Once there, YouTube results seem to appear in Google more than any other video service.

And we only use YouTube, we don’t syndicate to other sites, which I think waters down the SEO impact. When I first started, we experimented by putting one video into over 100 channels, and saw no benefit in driving traffic, leads, or viewership. Since then, we’ve decided to keep the content focused, to not spray and pray.

How do you identify topics for your videos?

We identify questions that our prospects and customers are asking. One of the first steps I took when I got here was to ask the loan originators what questions are the prospects asking most often. We took the top ten questions and created videos that answered them.

We’ve also created a couple of series. One series is 60-second mortgage tips, which answer questions, responds to comments on the blog, or input from the sales team. Another series is the weekly housing market update, where we’re trying to become a thought leader reaching agents and other lenders, which was a longer term project. We also tell client stories, not so much in testimonial mode about our products and services, but to show what they’ve accomplished, like improving their credit rating so they could buy a house, and buying a fixer-upper and converting it into a beautiful home.

We try to produce at least two videos a week--the two series--and one longer video a month, whether it’s a client story, a topical story, or just a story interesting to potential customers, like what happens when you buy house at tax auction. We also produce occasional in-house corporate videos that aren’t really for marketing purposes.

What’s the target length for your videos?

In the broadcast world where I came from, the average length was 1:45 - 2:15. On the Internet, everyone says you have 6 seconds to grab a viewer’s attention, but our most watched video (on HomePath loans) is 11 minutes long and has over 15,500 views. That said, we try to keep most videos in the 2-3 minute range, though if the story deserves breathing room, we’ll go longer.

How do you get YouTube visitors back to your website?

All videos have a call to action, in both the description and the video, usually to a very context-specific link. We track how many viewers visit us from YouTube, and how many turn into leads. If you watch a video and click that deep link, you’re much more likely to become a lead. the effectiveness of this traffic blows social media traffic away, and beats organic traffic as well.

How did you bone up on your YouTube related skills?

We engaged a company named Pixability (a consultancy that helps their customers succeed on YouTube) that taught us the best practices for tags, creating actionable titles and writing headlines for video. They also showed us other techniques to improve our SEO, and provided much better analytics for our videos than we get from YouTube. They’ve been a great asset.

What other techniques did you learn?

The hierarchy of SEO importance is titles and tags, which in YouTube are more important than the descriptions. When creating titles, we focus on the main idea conveyed by the video first, and get that to the front of the title. We don’t shoot for cute and snappy titles, but functional and helpful.

Though there are no limit to tags, we learned very early to put the most important tags first. We put our brand-related tags well to the back, since few potential viewers ever search for us by name or product name. 

What’s the best background for video production?

You don’t want to hire a high school kid to do your videos, you need someone with an eye for video and talent for storytelling, though they don’t have to be a TV journalist. Find someone who’s a good writer and good storyteller, and they should be able to produce good videos.

Tell me about your production gear?

Though I came from a television background, we started out with a little Panasonic consumer grade HD camera; nothing fancy, but it does have manual controls, which my cameraman uses. We also have a $300 compact fluorescent light kit and a couple of wireless lapel and shotgun microphones, not super high end, just good gear. The technology has come down so much in price, you don’t need a Red camera to make high quality video. What’s important is to have lights, mics and have a tripod - do it professionally - don’t just grab your iphone and expect people to come back.

Any other advice?

Keep it simple and answer questions. Screw sexy, be helpful. Understand that what you have to say is interesting, and don’t be afraid to leave in a little personality.

Amerifirst’s Valentine’s Day video sought to convince renters it was time to buy a home.

Ceilume Ceiling Tiles

Ceilume manufactures ceiling tiles and has been displaying videos on YouTube since around 2005, accumulating over 2 million overall views, with one video, Can I afford a Coffered Ceiling, garnering over 446,000 views. Where some hopeful marketers see YouTube videos as a panacea, Ceilume president Ed Davis sees it as just the starting point of the typical customer buying process.

How long have you been producing videos?

We’ve actually been producing videos since the 90’s, primarily for training new employees. We started with ecommerce in about 2000, and then started posting videos online in 2005/2006.

Why did you start putting videos online?

Videos started as educational tools. Our ceiling tiles are thoroughly innovative products, and we wanted online customers to understand what they are buying. You can do a pretty good job of this with text on a product page, but we wanted to show it being handled, twisted and installed.

I liken it to the early, historical Sears and Roebuck catalogs I saw when I was a kid. The first 20 pages were on watches; not which one to buy, but how to understand what a good watch was. That’s what we try to do with our videos, to educate our customers and help them make better decisions.

Where does YouTube fit into your overall marketing mix?

It’s a critical component, but only the starting point. We track how prospects get to our site and their path through the site. Our average customer is a do it yourselfer, with about $1,000 to spend to replace the ceiling in a basement or small retail operation, to change the look without spending a lot of money. They might start by searching for ceiling tiles on Google or YouTube, which might lead them to our videos on YouTube. A video there might get them interested enough to visit our website, and if they’re watching a product-specific video, an annotation or link in the video will usually take them directly to the product page.

On the website, we have to fill out the story, perhaps showing them how the tile is installed. We know that they’ll probably visit our site, and others, several times--they hardly ever buy during the first visit. We try to give them a little information each visit so by the time they decide to buy, they are thoroughly familiar with the product. In fact, if they try to buy the product without watching some of these product-related videos, we ask them to watch the videos, so they know exactly what they are buying.

Ceilume president Ed Davis is the Ceiling Tile Guy on YouTube.

What does YouTube give you that you can’t get anywhere else?

In our view, YouTube is the second most popular search engine, and if people are searching for your product class, you have to be up in the rankings. That said, Google still rules the roost; it’s where people really go first when searching for a product. If we had to give up YouTube or Google, we’d give up YouTube.

Describe your video production process.

I’d call it guerilla production. We’ve got a camera operator who’s also the editor, and the actor who also wrote the script. So we can make a video very efficiently, for well under $500 considering wages and other costs.

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