YouTube Best Practices – Five Things You Can Do Today

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You see millions of viewers on YouTube. You want a piece of the action. So you borrow a video camera, snag a GoPro from home, or just use an iPhone to get what you need. You record, upload the video and wait for the fans to pour in.

Sometimes it works. Usually… not so much.


Reality check: Throwing a few videos together and putting them up on a YouTube channel isn’t going to move the digital needle.

There’s no magic formula. But here are five YouTube best practices you can put in place today to maximize your chances:

1.) Remember, YouTube is social media.

This might sound trite and ridiculously obvious, but hear us out. We’re not trying to condescend. Over the years, we’ve worked with a lot of businesses who’ve come in with fully formed YouTube campaign plans in hand. They’ve documented everything from the editorial calendar, to paid advertising rates, to retargeting frequency caps, and more. But when we ask about their strategy and resources for participating with the audience they’re about to engage, we get blank stares and mumbles about how that’s still “TBD.”

At its core YouTube is a platform designed to let you engage with an audience through two-way dialogue. Imagine the experience without comments, social proof, or sharing. Now, big brands typically don’t have the desire to engage at this conversational level, but most of us aren’t big brands and can’t afford to drive untold millions of views through virtually unlimited advertising budgets.

As a scrappy, value-conscious marketer, have a plan ready for how you’re going to talk to your fans. Decide early on the tone you’re going to strike. How much human time will you allocate? Engaging with your audience in a meaningful, genuine way is one of the most effective ways to achieve that critical, early growth.

Pro-tip: This is one of the single best spots to get into Portent’s core philosophy.  Be Weird, Useful, and Significant.

2.) Organize and Optimize Your Channel

This sounds like something you can probably knock out in a few minutes “whenever you feel like it…” Stop! Do it now! It’ll never be easier to set and keep a plan and organizational structure that leads to scalable marketing bliss.  

Allstate isn’t a brand that’s going to get you out of your seat when you land on their channel. But they’ve worked hard to organize their videos and lay out the UX in a way that shows you exactly what they want you to see the moment you land on the page:


Allstate can teach us a lot:

  • Test the best performers. They’ve got a hero video that they rotate regularly
  • Feature those winners. They’ve put their most popular videos right above the fold
  • Link to other social networks. The rest of their social media pages are easily & clearly discoverable
  • Play up the brand. They’ve prominently placed a branded, platform-optimized image front & center

3.) Cross-Channel Integration of Videos is Not Optional

Targeting your content distribution to different –and specific– channels can be an effective tactic for reaching a target audience. But that does NOT mean that you should let content published to YouTube exist as an island unto itself. You’re leaving gads of money on the table in the form of lost reach and missed ROI on your videos, unless you’re thoughtfully and intentionally leveraging your best video content across channels.

A few ridiculously easy things you can do, which we see businesses miss more often than they should:

  • Share your videos out to your Twitter followers
  • Embed a video in a post on your blog
  • Feature hero pieces (your best, most popular stuff) on your website
  • When it makes sense, rebroadcast on Google+, Tumblr, or LinkedIn
  • Within YouTube, interlink at the end of each video to give viewers the opportunity to easily pick out and play that next, perfect piece of content. Or be lazy and let Google spirit your potential customer away to someone else’s Jingle Cats video.  

Pro Tip: Did you notice we left out Facebook?  In a “how to weave together social channels” section? Sacrilege! But before the pitchforks and torches come out, the reality is that video distribution on Facebook needs a full blog post to unpack at the time of this writing. In a nutshell, Facebook will give nearly 10x the viral reach to videos posted natively vs. external YouTube links. Meaning that unless you just don’t care about the potential audience on Facebook, YouTube links have absolutely no place on your Facebook (or Instagram) properties. If those 1.5 billion users do interest you though, you absolutely need to invest time in getting a Facebook video program running in parallel to your YouTube distribution plan.

4.) Take Advantage of Video Tools

As video content marketing continues to grow, the toolkit for marketers can’t help but grow right alongside. Keep these tool-specific tips in mind as you publish your videos:

  • Utilize YouTube Cards. They’re engaging, and are critical calls-to-action to leverage the audience you’re cultivating.
  • Properly optimize your video’s “About” section. Like any other piece of content that Google can read and index to show in Organic search, descriptive keywords and overall clarity play a huge part in getting your videos found in the enormous number of searches that begin outside of YouTube..
  • Leverage YouTube Analytics. How do you learn more about your audience? Or when you should end a video? Ever wondered if there are key moments when people stop watching your videos en masse? If you’re not using these tools, you’re leaving an enormous amount of money on the table.. Decent video content is expensive and time consuming to produce. The info you need to do it better next time, or to refine what you’ve already shot, is sitting at your fingertips.

5.) Consider Paid. Even if You Can’t “Afford” It.

The future of social as a whole lives in paid. The writing is on the wall. It’s an offputting reality for those of us who grew into these platforms organically, but it’s a reality nonetheless.

As if it weren’t painful enough that every platform artificially restricts your organic reach, remember that your competitors are using paid to gobble up that additional reach. If you’re not thinking about leveraging paid boosts to your organic efforts, you’re likely stunting your growth before it even starts.

We’re Marketing Cynics
If you’ve read many of our posts, you know we’re not immune to geeking out over shiny things. But we’re not dumb, either. As a social amplifier, YouTube is for real.

But you need to build and work a clear plan for how you’ll produce, converse, disperse, measure, amplify, rinse and repeat. That’ll help you convert these paid and earned impressions into loyal followers on platforms that you truly own.

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  1. #1 is SO solid!
    “But when we ask about their strategy and resources for participating with the audience they’re about to engage, we get blank stares and mumbles about how that’s still “TBD.””
    This reminds me of why some of the best streamers on Twitch can have fans show up in droves to watch them play video games every time they go live – they talk and develop relationships with their fans and turn them into “Insiders” with the accumulation of daily dialogue.
    Would be YouTubers would be well served to take note of this as magic happens when you recognize and acknowledge people who turn up and support the work you’re doing.

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