YouTube, Your Business, and 5 Myths of Viral Video

Think YouTube is just a place for funny videos? Think again. More small businesses than ever are using YouTube to drive sales and build customers loyalty.

In a new monthly series from Baljeet Singh, group product manager at YouTube, you’ll hear about how you can use the most prevalent video platform in the world to grow your business.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who couldn’t name at least one example of how a viral video has launched a person or company into fame (Justin Bieber ring any bells?). From talking twin babies to Rebecca Black, viral videos have become a part of our pop culture.

The success of these videos clearly demonstrates the ability for YouTube to build a brand. However they’ve also created a dangerous misconception among businesses -- the myth that you need a viral hit to be successful on YouTube. I want to clue you in on a little known secret: The most successful businesses on YouTube have never had a viral hit.

While this may seem counterintuitive, we’ve seen this play out time and again. This goes back to the underlying principle of smart marketing: know your audience.

YouTube has a global, diverse audience, with 800 million unique users visiting YouTube every month. 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute. If you’re trying to reach the YouTube audience in its entirety, that’s a lot of noise to break through.

Successful businesses understand they don’t need to connect with the whole YouTube audience. They just need to engage with the right audience. If you’re a construction toy company like Rokenbok Toys, for example, you care about families who are in the market to purchase a children’s toy. This means that you don’t need to create a video that has mass appeal. You need a video that has personal appeal to people interested in construction toys.

To get you started in thinking about how you can use online video to promote your business, here are a few common myths I’d like to debunk:

1) You need a viral hit to have a successful presence on YouTube. For small businesses, the most successful videos are often the ones you’ve never heard of. Let’s revisit the Rokenbok toys example. When specialty toyshops began to shutter their doors, Rokenbok had to shift sales online, and video has been vital to helping families visualize the product before purchasing. YouTube is now the No. 1 source of web traffic and half of all people that are introduced to Rokenbok first hear about it through YouTube. While none of their videos have gone “viral,” their YouTube strategy has helped them keep a flourishing business.

2) Only humorous videos are popular. Ceilume, a 40-person company that makes decorative ceiling tiles, uses YouTube to educate customers on differences in quality and price in ceiling tiles. Their instructional videos have generated more than a million views and boosted sales by 15 percent -- proof that videos don’t need to be humorous to sell a product. Instead of focusing on being clever, focus on being relevant. Videos that engage your audience by showcasing product features or explaining a difficult concept can be much more impactful.

3) YouTube is just for young people. With millions of people visiting YouTube every day, the site has a broad base of regular viewers. For example, 55 percent of all women ages 18-54 are on YouTube. When you run an advertising campaign on YouTube, you can focus on reaching the specific audience that you care most about. Similar to Google search, you can also optimize your videos by tagging them with keywords you want your video to show against, so people searching on YouTube can find your videos. Simple things like this make it easy to focus on the customers that matter most.

4) People only watch YouTube for entertainment. Videos need to be interesting, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be educational. In fact, there are more than three times as many searches for “how to” videos than there are for “music videos” on YouTube., an online retailer for grills, has created a channel focused on how to cook meals on a grill.

5) Videos need to be professionally produced to gain views. Many small businesses shoot and produce videos themselves in-house, using tools as simple as a handheld camera and the video editing features in YouTube. Since you can focus on reaching people that are most interested in your topic, content and relevancy trump production value. Orabrush, a small business that sells tongue cleaners, produced and posted their first video with just $500 and the help of a local marketing student. After spending tens of thousands of dollars trying to launch their brand with an infomercial and other traditional marketing techniques, their small investment in online video helped them sell over a million Orabrushes online, and caught the eye of Walmart.

Today, more businesses than ever use YouTube to drive sales, generate leads and build brand awareness. But it’s not too late to be early in video marketing. Online video is growing at a rapid pace, and as smartphone sales continue to grow, even more people will be watching video on the go.

In future articles, I’ll go into tactics and tips for using video to reach customers, from creating engaging content for your videos to understanding analytical tools to boost your campaigns. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to dip a toe into video!

This inaugural video launched Orabrush’s YouTube marketing campaign, landing its tongue cleaners shelf space in Walmart and CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide.

Baljeet Singh is Group Product Manager on Video Monetization at Google, responsible for enabling video advertising on YouTube. Baljeet has worked on other video products at Google including DoubleClick In-Stream, AdSense for Video, and AdSense for Games. Prior to this role, Baljeet was a Product Manager on the DoubleClick publisher products, including DART Sales Manager and DART for Publishers. Baljeet has an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business.

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