Make the best YouTube videos

You’ve gotta see this!!!

Remember when you’d get an email or text with those words in the subject line every couple of months or so? Then it became every week. Now these must-see edicts come in so fast you can hardly keep track of them. And they all contain links to the latest viral videos making the rounds on YouTube.

It’s easy enough to shoot some footage and stick it on the net. But how do you make a YouTube flick good enough to click?

“The success of most YouTube videos is mainly due to a mix of timing, talent and luck,” says Howard Wilmot, director of London based, a digital communications company specialising in social media, public relations and branded online content. “But there are things you can do to position your video so it stands the best chance of exposure.”

According to Wilmot, production value isn’t really an issue. There’s no point in hiring a professional film crew or paying for a sound studio, because what people really connect with is authenticity. In fact, using a basic video camera and your dad’s vegetable plot as a backdrop might actually work better. A good example of this is a YouTube video entitled Guitar 90. It’s just a guy in a baseball cap and a T-shirt playing a guitar in his bedroom. Yet it has received more than 76 million views.

“Before you begin, ask yourself who your audience is,” advises Wilmot. “Think about why they’d want to spend five minutes of their day watching your video and how it will add value and be relevant to their lives — give people a reason to tune in and pass it on and you’ll already have put yourself ahead of the pack.”

After you’ve uploaded your masterpiece, you’ll need to make sure your intended viewers can find it. “Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a critical first step. SEO is like sat nav -- it tells the search engines where your site is, what it’s about, which pages do what and how you can be found,” says Sally Walker, a pioneer of social media management and the director of Sally Walker Media Labs. “SEO is the foundation on which your marketing plan is built.”

Keep in mind that the YouTube search platform is similar to Google in that it relies on tagged keywords and descriptions to sort and deliver content to users. The better your tags, the more easily your video will be found, and the more traffic you’ll get. And take advantage of YouTube’s subscription feature by encouraging people to subscribe to your postings. Subscribers are automatically notified whenever you upload a new video, which gives you the advantage of having a built-in audience for your future productions. Plus, subscribers are more likely to view new material, become fans and increase your overall number of views. 

But if you really want to get your creation out there, it’s going to take some extra effort. The Internet is about collaboration, and a good place to start is to look for a likeminded blogger who’d be open to working with you. “Blogs rule the social media world at the moment, but what they are also good for is showcasing and linking to your YouTube videos,” adds Walker. “Attach their links to suitable forums, message boards and all of your social media profiles (such as Twitter, Facebook, Bebo and LinkedIn). And add links to your email signatures, to press releases and to all your online and offline marketing strategies.”

It sounds like a lot of work, but the gamble can mean a big payoff. Nevertheless, don’t worry if you haven’t ‘gone viral’ and the views aren’t piling up by the millions in the first few days. Even for the pros, getting eyeballs in front of screens can be a challenge. “In any medium it’s very hard to create something that jumps right off the page and attracts mass interest,” concludes Wilmot. “Consequently, I think viral marketing is a myth. The best you can do is to be highly strategic about your use of social media.”