I was emailing with a prospective customer recently who I had identified as a company with a good product and story to tell via video, but with an underperforming YouTube channel. I thought HEY.com could help with their use of YouTube for demand generation through channel optimization, ongoing management, and strategic consultation as to what type of videos to distribute on their channel.
B2B Cloud Services Company
This was a reasonably well-known B2B company offering cloud-based services. In large part, their YouTube channel was not following best practices for metadata or optimization. And in large part they were not posting videos that were well-suited for YouTube, although some were.
But what their marketing person said surprised me. This person said they were planning on quitting YouTube entirely and doing all their video marketing on their own website using a paid video service other than YouTube.
According to my contact, they still believed in video marketing (well, who doesn’t?), but they were essentially abandoning YouTube. It wasn’t clear if their plan was to have old videos remain public on YouTube, or delete them entirely.
Should you just give up on YouTube if it doesn’t work?
My first impulse was to tell them that they were totally wrong, but as I thought about it more, I could see their point to some degree. After all, just like any social media platform, YouTube as a company doesn’t do much to encourage companies, particular B2B companies, to help build their channels organically. This is very similar to platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, where the platforms say that you’re free to post anything you want, but we’re not going to help you much, you’re basically on your own to figure it out. Companies need to make the effort to learn best practices from outside sources, or hire companies to help them manage the accounts.
YouTube Resources for B2B Organic Marketing
Yes, YouTube offers extensive help docs and some quite good case studies via Think with Google, and now even a Content Strategy certification. But it’s far from handholding. YouTube does have an extensive Creator Playbook for Brands (pdf), that’s unfortunately not well-publicized and a couple of years old, and it doesn’t pay special attention to the needs of B2B. Other than these resources, you’re on your own. You can’t easily call someone at YouTube to help you with your organic B2B marketing. You have to find someone like myself or my friends in this niche industry of YouTube channel optimization.
YouTube is a unique platform that requires a learning curve just like any social media platform, and there aren’t a lot of independent service providers who really understand how to optimize YouTube for B2B. And besides, companies only have so many resources and have to prioritize their efforts – if YouTube is too hard or the ROI is unclear, they’ll focus on other platforms.
So why bother trying to be proficient on YouTube? It’s a lot of work.
Social Video is Blowing Up
Meanwhile, other social media platforms are expanding their video efforts on a seemingly daily basis. These efforts have a lot of PR behind them and are getting much more attention than YouTube in the media. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have native video platforms now. LinkedIn is experimenting with native video and will probably release a public solution soon. Plus there’s the various live and semi-live offerings now on Facebook, Huzza, SnapChat and others. It’s a lot to keep up with. For a B2B or any other business, the options can be overwhelming and YouTube has not really given full-force to defending how it’s still really great for B2B. After all, YouTube as a company doesn’t earn any revenue at all for hosting organic B2B videos. Free should be enough to maintain its dominant position, right?
Other Video Hosting Alternatives
YouTube does have excellent support for paid media (as do Facebook and other services). After all, if you’re interested in doing a lot of ads, YouTube and other platforms have a direct financial motivation to service your account. But otherwise, you’re on your own. Meanwhile, companies like Wistia are very knowledgeable about video content marketing (Wistia has a great blog, and many of the principles described there work for YouTube as well). Wistia’s co-founder Chris Savage makes a solid business case for his company’s focus on lead generation features in this blog post: “Building a Business in the Shadow of a Giant.” And I’m sure Wistia has excellent customer success representatives to walk you through the content marketing journey. There are other companies, too with their own various video hosting offerings: Vidyard, Vimeo, Brightcove, Kaltura, uStudio, Ramp and others.
It’s alluring to just say, “Forget YouTube, who needs it? I’ve got a new solution that’s better with someone who can service my needs.”
But coming from my own experience, I just can’t agree. It doesn’t add up for me. You can drive leads from YouTube videos just as easily.
Except in some circumstances, that is.
Here’s some questions you should ask when you’re thinking of quitting using YouTube for B2B:
The more I thought about it, there are some good reasons to get off YouTube if you are a B2B. So I thought I’d outline what they are in my judgment, and give you some questions to ask yourself to determine if you should take this course of action:
1) Are you just talking about yourself?
If the videos you’re making, or those you’re planning to make, are exclusively promotional videos, then yes, you might want to give up on YouTube.
In some ways, YouTube is like Twitter or Facebook. If you’re only posting about me, me, me, your account is going to get boring really fast, and no one is going to subscribe, view, comment, like or share. To win on YouTube without spending most of your budget on paid media, you have to take a content marketing approach, just as you do with your blog. This means posting how-to videos that are helpful to those in your industry as a whole. You’ve got to share tips that grow your followers’ knowledge and inform them about how they can improve their businesses overall, regardless of whether these tips apply to your specific services or not.
2) Do you have a content marketing strategy for YouTube?
To succeed organically on YouTube with video channel that’s not personality-driven, you need to take many of the same techniques that are used on content marketing blogs. You need to upload videos on a regular content schedule, and they need to be mostly about how to do things in your industry in general. These videos are not about you, per se, but about what you know about what you do.
Think about it as the difference between the content you post to your main website and services pages vs. what you post to your content marketing blog. Do you just post press releases to your content marketing blog? No way! People wouldn’t read it. Same with YouTube video – unless you’re helping someone learn how-to do something, forget it, just do video on your own website and forget YouTube.
3) Are you willing to share and promote your YouTube videos on your blog, on social media, and in your email newsletter?
YouTube doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Simply uploading videos doesn’t bring success. Just like a blog post, you have to share your video content marketing everywhere. If you find yourself unable to do this, forget it, dump YouTube.
4) Are you only posting 60-minute videos from conferences?
I love going to conferences, because I get to meet great people and hear the best of the best in my industry speak on panels. But for whatever reason, nobody on YouTube watches hour-long panels on YouTube except the people who are on the panels. And every video on your channel that gets low view counts lowers the ranking for all the future videos on that channel within the YouTube algorithm. The only way to use videos of conference panels is via tightly edited, short, closeups – and even those don’t work very well.
YouTube is not a video file storage system – you might like to try Dropbox instead for this. If YouTube is just a dumping ground for all your unedited conference videos, please quit YouTube.
5) Are you following best practices for optimization, aka video SEO?
You’re spending money on video production, but are you also investing in optimizing your discoverability on the platform through video thumbnails, titles, keywords, descriptions, playlists, transcriptions and so on? Unless you’re PewDiePie, you’re going to have a tough time getting the YouTube platform to find your videos without optimization.
6) Are you willing to learn what kind of videos work for YouTube?
YouTube has a very interesting metric called “Audience Retention.” Audience Retention is a heat map that shows you when the audience gets disinterested and quits your video. Often this is because many videos are shot and edited using best practices for television, rather than YouTube best practices. Fortunately the Audience Retention graph shows again and again that, for instance, you shouldn’t open with a logo or establishing shot, or without narration, or by just doing a music intro. You need to start with a close-up of a face of someone speaking directly to the camera/audience. And there are many other good tips on video production – ask an expert in online video, and have them work with your video producer who is coming to the project from a TV background.
7) You only do paid media.
Paid media on YouTube works great on YouTube when it’s highly targeted and is in a format that promotes engagement. But you don’t need a public YouTube channel to make that happen.
8) You’re worried about being adjacent to videos from competitors.
One reason you might not like YouTube is that it’s not a controlled environment. Your YouTube video’s “watch page” might have a suggested video of a competitor, and you’re concerned that this might make others bolt for the competitor. But is this a rational argument? After all, the first place many clients go is to begin their research is Google, where your results are right next to theirs.
Also, are you willing to cede an entire platform to your competitors? And, for instance, when a potential client is following both you and your archrival side-by-side in their Twitter feed, will you quit that as well?
And remember, if the client does research on YouTube (or Google, where the top YouTube video often shows up on the first page), are you willing to not be one of the options? Your web page will come up in Google, to be sure, but will it be as eye catching without a video icon that pops out? Either because YouTube is a partner of Alphabet or because Wistia videos are harder to archive, they don’t show up as much.
And what if people go specifically to YouTube to watch videos about how your product works? Many people do this, after all. They won’t find you.
In addition, you know that situation where your competitor was one of the many videos suggested in the right column of your videos? Well, wouldn’t you want to be suggested after their videos? This can happen, too, and be very beneficial. A good YouTube optimizer can help you make the most of this feature.
9) You just want people to visit your website because that’s where you make sales.
Clearly your website is the place where any real conversion and demand generation has to take place, eventually. And that’s where you have the most control. So why fuss with an off-platform video provider, even if it is free?
Well, it’s important to know that you can embed any YouTube video into a web page with a number of customizations to make it look basically like any bare bones player with no suggested videos shown at the end, and it can exist both on YouTube and your website, and rack up views while it’s embedded.
Also, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are also off-platform – should you abandon them as well. YouTube, when done properly is just like these options. It’s simply social media for video.
So I think these are all pretty good reasons to quit YouTube if you’re a B2B marketer. But if these statements don’t seem right to you, then you might want to stay on YouTube and devise a new and improved strategy.
Please comment below and let me know what you think.
Dane Golden is CEO of HEY.com, a video content marketing agency. His mission is to help brands get viewers to come back to their videos again and again through use of helpful how-to content, driving loyalty, conversion and ROI. Please connect with Dane on social media using the links below: