For many people, YouTube is the new TV. it's where they go to be entertained, to kill time, to learn things, and even to shop. YouTube boasts a regular audience of over 800 million people, is free to use, and is growing in scope all the time.
That's why it's baffling to me that only 9% of small businesses maintain their own YouTube channel! While some businesses pay an arm-and-a-leg for a small commercial spot on some dusty cable channel nobody watches anymore or rub elbows with used car pitches on the local radio station, there is a free, modern, popular alternative just sitting there, waiting to be used!
That said, before you strap on a GoPro and start uploading, you should determine if a YouTube channel is right for your business, what you hope to accomplish with one, and how you plan on maintaining it in the long term.
Is YouTube a good fit for your business?
Some businesses are just better suited to the social media world than others. If you run a manufacturing firm that builds pieces of equipment for use in other manufacturing processes, a YouTube channel might not be a huge priority. Broad brand awareness isn't a concern and you have more direct ways of reaching potential clients (although I'd still argue that there could be value in having an easy to link to demonstration of your services available on the web).
businesses though, a YouTube channel could be a perfect fit! Say you run a salon, that's a personality driven business where you need to connect with customers on a very direct level. A video that shows off your sweet location, awesome
décor, and charming stylists would be an excellent way to reach out to customers! Or maybe you run a custom bakery where you sell ornate wedding cakes and premium treats. Getting some footage from a wedding where the bride and groom go all teary-eyed and stupid-happy over one of your cakes would be a much more powerful way to flex your cake decorating muscles than just a picture in a product catalog.
Set realistic goals
The tantalizing lure of the "viral video" that manages to somehow catch on, snag millions of views, and catapult a fairly small name to national renown overnight is an appealing fantasy. Much like dreaming about winning the lottery and buying a yacht is an appealing fantasy. Both are
fun, and technically possible, but neither make great business strategies.
Don't chase after viral success. While there are no end of snake-oil like formulas and shady social media coaches that will promise up and down they know how to take a brand viral, the results just don't back them up. Not only that, there is increasing evidence to suggest organic viral potential barely exists (most "viral" successes are the result of large, carefully concealed, ad spends). Even if a million shares overnight were possible, is your business in any way, shape, or form prepared to deal with that kind of sudden, massive interest? It may sound like "a problem I'd like to have" but the reality is that suddenly fielding 100x your normal flow of emails, calls, and orders is more likely to cripple your ability to do business than anything else.
Instead, focus on more attainable goals that will help grow your business.
If you're looking to increase sales, a decent YouTube video is a great way to demonstrate your products or expertise. Just like a commercial, you can show off what you do best, exciting new products or services you offer, and make a direct appeal that way.
But, that is a fairly limited look at what a properly maintained YouTube presence can do for you. There is also value in creating brand awareness, trust, and demonstrating your personality. These qualities are more difficult to measure than straight up sales conversions, but can prove invaluable to a business in the long term. A properly maintained YouTube presence can help cultivate a community, demonstrate your values and unique voice, and make your business a name people turn to when they have a need.
What are we going to do with this thing?
That's a great question. You have to ask yourself what you plan to do with a YouTube channel, what kind of content you plan on hosting, and if you're capable of producing it. A quick YouTube video doesn't have to look like some kind of super slick ad production, but it does have to be clean, technically professional (no shaky cam or audio that sounds like it was captured in a wind tunnel please). What you're capable
of - and comfortable with - doing is going to determine what kind of content makes it onto the channel.
Whatever you do, try to make it entertaining. Ideally, your video should provide a value to the viewer, a reason to watch. It should answer a question, solve a problem, elicit a giggle. Would you voluntarily sit down to watch a commercial for its own sake? No, so why expect other people to?
Depending on your business, tutorial videos and how-to's can be a major source of content. Take the salon example, tips on how to maintain a hair style, how to tame a wild head of hair when running late for work, or executing an old fashion straight razor shave not only helps people who may be searching for those topics, it lets you show off your skills and expertise!
Interviews, event footage, and behind the scenes clips can help you stand out from competitors and create a more personal and direct connection to customers. For small businesses, this can be a huge bonus! People love to see how things are made, to find out more about who makes them, to see things in action. Once you make that connection, customers will go looking elsewhere.
A YouTube channel represents a tremendous opportunity for a small business, but it isn't something you want to jump into without thinking it through. The last thing you want is a shoddy YouTube channel that only embarrasses your business and makes you look like an amateur. But, if it's right for your business, you're honest about what kind of content you can reasonably produce, and know what you want to achieve, a YouTube channel can be a huge asset for a small business.