When I was asked to write a piece entitled: “How to Succeed on YouTube” I was forced to admit that the success I have enjoyed online has been due more to the actions of others than my own. I set a goal of achieving 1 Million video views in my first 100 days on the site and was lucky enough to hit that goal on the 83rd day (which was ironically Christmas morning — Thanks Santa!) and by the time the 100th day came around, I had over 1.5 Million combined video views! I credit the YouTube community for having supported me in achieving this goal, but there are some little things you can do to better the chances of your videos being seen by those who will help you achieve your own goals. Because I have spent more time than I am willing to admit on YouTube, I have a few thoughts on what makes for successful videos and channels. I have broken down this article into two parts. The first part touches on what I consider to be the most popular videos, and the second will cover little things I think you can do to help your videos get the views you are hoping for.
Part I: Popular Videos Elicit A Reaction.
All popular videos have something in common: they elicit a reaction from the viewers. These videos make you laugh, make you smile, make you sing and dance, teach you something, or just simply make you say “Wow, that is amazing!” Such videos come in all forms and lengths, and include the following:
Funny Videos. The funnier we find a video, the more likely we are to share it, and the more likely the recipients are to do the same thing. Humorous videos such as pranks caught on tape, babies laughing, stand up comedy routines and musical parodies are examples of videos that you get as forwards in your inbox on a regular basis, send to your friends because you think they’ll get a good laugh by watching, and even pull up on your computer at home (and, lets face it, also at work) so that you can make your family, friends and colleagues laugh as well.
Music Videos. Many of us wake up to the radio or to our favorite songs, listen to music during our daily commutes and are otherwise fueled by our iPods on trains, buses and at the gym. So, its only natural that music videos get a ton of views online. The record labels provide free “music-on-demand” by posting videos of songs that are dominating the radio waves and topping the billboard charts, and we get the benefit of being able to listen to them whenever we are at a computer. The more we hear the songs, the more likely we are to buy them for our personal collections, and the videos also often include links to other songs or to websites the artists wish for the listeners to visit.
Vlogs. Video blogs are extremely popular as well. But, why would someone want to hear your thoughts on any matter? You may be very informative, funny, shocking, or some mix of all of the above. Again, if you are able to elicit a reaction, people are likely to come back for more. The beauty of Vlogs is that you can jump from category to category, though you are probably likely to gain popularity if you cover topics that are generally of interest to a similar audience (i.e. covering all entertainment areas such as popular music, TV shows and celebs is okay, but covering electronics, history and bird-watching in one video probably isn’t going to get you very far).
Teach Me Videos. In today’s digital age, we have the answer to just about any question at the tip of our fingers. Gone are the days where people invest in an Encyclopedia Britannica collection for information; replaced by an era where ‘Google’ is a verb, as in the following sentence: “Yes, Encyclopedia Britannica is still in business, I just Googled them and found their website.” The only thing better than finding a website with step by step answers to your “how to” question, is finding a video of someone actually showing you how to follow them.
Amazing Videos. This is my catch-all category for videos that I see and immediately hit the “replay” button to watch again. Regardless of what these unique videos are about, they always leave you with a look of shock on your face, saying something like “that’s so cool” or “WHAT???” as you start the video over again, calling everyone around you to watch as well. For the purpose of this article, I’m dropping everything from sports highlights to home footage of hurricanes caught on tape in this category with the crazy snooker shots, animal tricks and amazing human feats that seem to defy the laws of physics.
Regardless of which category you think your videos may fall into (even if they do not fall into the limited categories listed above), if your content is not able to elicit a reaction from the viewer, then short of YouTube putting you on the front page your video will not get too many hits, no matter what you do. So please understand that the following are only helpful points that can help videos that are capable of eliciting reactions reach the eyes of those who will appreciate them.
Part II: Tips for Your Videos
The name of the game when it comes to YouTube is ‘Searchability’. I have no secrets or shortcuts for you, only a few simple points that may seem obvious to some, but are surprisingly ignored by many. Hopefully following these tips will help get your videos in front of people that are interested in your content, and who are likely to leave you a comment, rate your video, and share it with their friends – all of which are important in increasing the likelihood of your video climbing the ‘search ranks’.
Titles, Tags and Descriptions. I am amazed at how often I come across a video that I think is fantastic, and am surprised by the limited number of views the video had received. Then, I look at the Title, Tags and the video’s Description and it all starts to make a little more sense. I pay close attention to all three because I honestly don’t know if any one is more important than another. Just focus on all three! Be sure that your Title is accurate. Being a singer, if I do a cover of a song, I always include both the name of the song, and the name of the original singer as well. Similarly, the Tags to the video should include words that someone looking for your content would search for (including the title of the song and the singer’s name as well). You should also include additional keywords related to your content. Finally, use the Description space to include information you want to share with your viewers, and to provide links to your other videos, your website, etc.
The best approach is to just run the search you hope your video will respond to once its uploaded, and look at the top videos that are recommended as a result of your search. Pay close attention to which of these videos has received a lot of views (sometimes in a short period of time) and read the Titles, Tags and Description used for that video. Then, keep this information in hand when creating your own Titles, Tags and Description. So, if you are singing or doing a parody of a popular song, it is to your benefit to include language in your Description, and keywords in your Tags that relate to the original version. People may love your versions even more than the original, and paying close attention to the information used to describe the original video can help put your version in front of people looking for the original. Even f you have caught something amazing on tape, that you are pretty certain nobody else can upload, you should still be descriptive so that when the word starts to spread on your amazing video, people can just run a search for the keywords that come to mind and easily find it.
Vloggers should especially pay attention to descriptions because you are uniquely positioned to take advantage of media buzz and in any area and discuss it with your viewership. If you are good at what you do (i.e. your viewers continue to support you), before long you will find yourself with a steady following of individuals who come to you to hear what you have to say. Be sure to drop in celebrity names and buzz words of the day in your descriptions and watch your views climb from one video to the next!
Annotations. YouTube now allows you to include annotations on top of the video while its playing to your viewers. I think it’s a great idea to use this tool to increase the popularity of your videos by engaging your audience (i.e. explain what that weird noise in the back was that startled you in the middle of the video), linking to another of your videos, and providing further information like your website, MySpace, Twitter or other social media information you’d like your viewers to have, so as to be able to easily connect with you outside of YouTube.
Be a Part of the YouTube Community. Again, there are many videos on YouTube that have been viewed millions of times, and that were uploaded by users who have no other videos on the site. Such individuals have had videos go ‘viral’ simply based on the content of the video, which is the most important aspect. However, for the majority of YouTubers, the videos being shared need a little help getting off the ground, and being a part of the YouTube community can help. Subscribers are individuals who get an email every time you upload a new video. Your subscriber base is the foundation of your YouTube account, and people are more likely to subscribe to your YouTube channel if they like the content of your videos, and also see that you take the time to interact with other users online. This interaction comes in the form of uploading videos on a regular basis (a rule that I am guilty of not always following!), responding to emails and comments on your YouTube page, along with responding to comments on your videos. While I don’t think it is necessary, and after a while not even possible, to read and respond to all of the comments on your videos, when you do read them, if a particular comment calls for a response that you are willing to share, then do so. People like to be a part of your development on the site, and that’s rightfully so, because these are the people watching, rating, commenting and sharing your videos and thus increasing your popularity on the site. The more people do so, the more popular the video, and the more likely it is to come up in response to searches for the keywords you included in your video.
Invite People to Be a Part of Your Community. Not everybody has a YouTube account, so there may be plenty of people who watch your videos on a regular basis, but who do not want to create an account on the site just to receive an email every time a new video is released. Give people the ability to sign up to a mailing list so they can get alerts directly from you, rather than through YouTube alone. There are various companies that offer mailing list services at no charge, and it is to your benefit to be able to reach your fans directly. Then, be sure to include a link or information regarding your mailing list on your YouTube page and in the videos so people know where to go for more information. I personally include www.sheenamelwani.com in all of my videos now, so it is easy for the viewer to find more information about me if they are so inclined.
After all that, I once again remind you that truly amazing one of a kind videos will spread like wildfire by means of email and forwards even if the video was simply called “INAWLEMANEEHS” and had no Description or Tags. Similarly, you could have the best Title, Tags and Description, but if people aren’t interested in your content, your video will not gain any popularity. The points I have highlighted above are to help those in the gray area in between. If you are going to upload funny videos, do some research as to which Funny Videos have gained popularity, and how they are described. Same goes for the Teach Me Videos, see if someone else has already provided a solution and do your best to make yours even better, all the while keeping your descriptive language similar to that of the individual who’s video seems to be the ‘authority’ on the point. In the music world, look to the language used by the original artist or label that has uploaded the official music video. And you Vloggers, keep your ear to the ground and jump on every opportunity to discuss what Apple is releasing next, or what Brittany wore (or more often failed to wear) with those that come to you for that sort of information. I’m sure you get my point! These are my general thoughts on the subject of YouTube success. Of course, this piece will not answer all of your questions, so feel free to contact me directly if you have specific questions pertaining to your own concept and page. You can reach me through www.sheenamelwani.com, or on Twitter, I’m @SheenaMelwani.
Sheena Melwani is the quintessential ‘next generation’ multi-media artist, with roots as a singer and songwriter. Sheena inspires by using a powerful blend of New Media technologies and contemporary music to globally communicate and influence with a positive spirit. Her travel and life experiences in Canada, Japan, India and USA have allowed her to develop a diverse international fan-base. What began with the posting of her video on YouTube in November 2007 has in the short period of seventeen months since resulted in over 8 Million views of her videos, and has given birth to SheenaTV—a weekly live internet TV broadcast that features Sheena’s musical diversity, and provocative interactive discussion with the audience (currently made up of approximately one thousand viewers per episode).
Sheena is presently hard at work on her much anticipated debut album, along with a companion iPhone application, both of which are expected to release this year. While attracting a wide audience demographic, her increased popularity among young women is of particular importance as it has given Sheena the unique opportunity to demonstrate that high ideals and personal integrity do not have to be compromised in order to be successful. Sheena truly believes the adage;”actions speak louder than words.”
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