BRAND STRATEGIES YOU CAN USE, creating content for YouTube to increase audience engagement


More and more brands are taking their content to YouTube.

Why is that?

Well, YouTube is the number two search engine in the world.  People are no longer just looking to be entertained by funny cat videos on YouTube, they are now looking to find answers to their questions.

And brands are providing content that answers those questions and doing so much more.

The best brands are taking a creative approach and providing content that is highly produced, highly visual, engaging and entertaining.

Are you reluctant to get onto YouTube?  Or are you unsure of what type of content to produce?  Read on...

For me it feels like a lifetime ago that this shift happened, but four years ago when I was debating whether or not to put content on YouTube it was still known primarily for cat videos and people’s random thoughts.

In 2011 I spent weeks deliberating about posting my own highly produced short video on YouTube.  That piece, Overcoming Your Fears of Urban Biking involved multiple interviews in multiple locations and it was well edited.  This was something I didn’t see on YouTube at the time.

The bike videos available on YouTube at the time were of guys doing tricks or guys standing in front of the camera in the garage or out in a field talking about the ins and outs of components and maintenance.

I was looking for tips for biking in the city, things I actually had questions about, done for people wanting to ride not geek out about cranks and derailleurs or maintenance (although I later did a video about necessary maintenance for optimizing your city ride).  

So I created my own series.  And rather than hide it on Vimeo I hesitantly put it up on YouTube.  

And to my surprise, a few months later, I checked in and found that people watched it!  It had over 10,000 hits in just a few months.  And it was a featured video on YouTube.  People were subscribing to my “channel” before I even knew what that meant.  And they were commenting and sharing.

Today, some brands are spending 10s of thousands of dollars on creating high quality documentary style videos for YouTube.

The brands that I love are companies like Levi’s, and Dewalt and creating amazing content for YouTube.  Their content is beautifully produced and equally important, their content really speaks to the customers and the customer concerns and passions.

Passion.  Does this word come to mind when you are looking at your marketing?  If not, you should be.  If you are only thinking of features, you are missing out on the main way people are connecting to companies online today.  

My own personal journey to discover this goes back to that first video I posted on YouTube.

Here are my biggest take aways from that lesson, backed up by what I see I brands doing today -

these are things the best brands are doing online to connect with their audiences:

   1.   Answer questions people are already asking.  

I was part of a growing group of people wanting to try urban cycling. So if I had this question, you bet a lot of other people wanting to try urban cycling had the same question.

In terms of brands, this is currently the most underutilized strategy.  But one company knocking this out of the park is Lowe’s with their Vine videos showing people how to videos in 6 seconds called Lowe's Fix in Six.  They now have a large series of longer form "how to" videos on the Lowe's YouTube channel.  I’ve run across a few companies doing this for technical trainings, like Adobe Creative Cloud and Rampant Design.  Adobe is getting experts in their creative fields to create free online trainings.  Rampant Design is providing free trainings on the platforms their clients use. There is a lot of space for brands to step in and start creating thought leadership content for YouTube.

Just a few ideas that I came up with as examples to get you thinking...

If you are a stock photo company, rather than just showing videos of the photos you have online, what about creating a series of videos about best practices when using stock photos including a segment on when to use stock photos versus custom photography.  

Or if you are an architectural film, could you create content that addresses people’s frequently asked questions and relating to issues clients have to take care of before they work with you.  How do clients request permits?  What are creative ways clients have used multi-purpose spaces?  What are the most overlooked elements in the planning process and how can you ensure you address them so you have a successful project?

  2.   This is your brand - production matters.  

If you wouldn’t get your kid brother to take your advertising pictures, don’t get the kid down the street with a camera to do your video.  Just because everyone else was doing an unedited one camera shoot talk in front of the camera style video didn’t mean I had to do it the same way.  I worked with a good team and we put together a well produced, multi-interview, multi-location piece.

More and more big companies are moving money they would have spent on television advertising over to YouTube videos.  The Levi’s Commuter campaign involved filming in five countries and launching 12 videos.  The documentary on the Instrument site shows a slice of what it took to create these videos.  These were big budget shorts.

Another example of the work that goes into videos on YouTube.  Check out this mountain bike video showing Danny Macaskill who climbs a ridge in Ireland.  This biking series is not actually done by a brand, but it is sponsored by brands.  The behind the scenes series shows just how much work went into the production of this video, the planning it took to get these amazing shots, and the level of attention paid to every frame.  The video shows one seamless ride up the mountain.  In reality, it was shot over one week.

  3.   Tell a story.  

Not all stories start with “once upon a time.”  For my “Overcoming Your Fear” video I wasn’t trying to teach new cyclists everything about the topic.  I picked a simple story.  We asked current urban cyclists how they overcame their fears and then asked them to share their tips for new urban cyclists.  It was a multivoice story of transformation.

Always takes a similar approach, having multiple girls talk about what it feels like to be a girl and then having them transform their thinking.  It is a powerful segment.

Other brands are sharing customer success stories.  Dewalt has a great series of men using their products.  Goldman Sachs created a series of customer success videos addressing how their funding enable business transformations.  New York Presbyterian Hospital has a powerful series of client success stories told in simple black and white interviews.

Each of these success stories highlights features and shows the real life benefits that come from these features.  It lets potential customers imagine themselves using the product and receiving similar benefits.  Each of these stories has an element of transformation.  And the subjects of the story are passionate about what they do.

  4.   Focus on the Feeling.  

Yes, people are going to YouTube to learn but they will stay if they feel something.  In my series, I work on making people feel inspired and empowered.  Those are my feeling guiding words when developing each segment.

Features don’t sell, benefits do, and transformation tops the chart.  So how can you show people how their lives will be transformed by using your product.  The stories I mentioned above are told by people who are passionate about the transformation they have experienced.  That passion alone helps build an emotional connection with the audience.

Durex created a sense of mystery with their mini-documentary style promotional spot that ended with couples expressing their genuine emotions.  It is one of the most watched YouTube videos of the first half of 2015 but if you haven’t seen it check it out here.

Some simple questions to ask yourself if you are thinking of adding video to your marketing plan.  What are your clients passionate about?  Why are they buying?  You may not know how to tell their story, but if you have powerful and interesting answers to these questions, you may have a story.  If you don’t yet have answers, it may be time to reach out to your clients and start a conversation to explore why they buy.