YouTube Marketing: Is It Worth It?

30% of the videos on YouTube are viewed fewer than two dozen times in their first month. Only half get more than 100 views. A mere 1% of the videos hit the 500,000 mark. (Data from YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day.) And of course most viewers at YouTube are pretty casual — watching the cool car ad with friends at a party doesn’t mean you’ll buy the car.

So if you’re talking about spending thousands of dollars for a video ad about your upcoming sale, then you may hesitate, and you’d be right to do so.

It isn’t always that simple. Here are some things to consider:

How good is your video? I’ve known for some time about the dismal stats on affiliate marketing (most sites earn nothing), but it wasn’t until I got access to an affiliate marketing forum that I discovered that most affiliate sites are rotten. You don’t know this because you don’t visit them. Equally, you don’t see the vast majority of YouTube uploads, and lots of them are pretty bad, just as most blogs are pretty bad. User-created content is largely created for the users by the users. They want to upload it, so they do. If you’re creating content with the user in mind, and making a real effort to make something your audience will find useful or entertaining, you have better odds of reaching people than someone who is uploading home movies for friends to enjoy. On the other hand, our most viewed video so far is a low-quality slideshow on how to make a football shaped cake, so you can’t always predict reactions. What else are you doing with your video? If you’re making a video about your product, uploading it to YouTube, and hoping that people will see it and flock to buy from you, your chances may not be very good. However, if you use YouTube to produce content, that’s another story. We make videos for people’s blogs, thus jazzing up the blog, and publish them to YouTube as well. A little Twittering and Facebook Effort, and you can get significantly more mileage. The FreshPlans video “Beauty and the Beast” had more than 100 views in a week (not legendary, we know, but remember that only half of YouTube videos get that in a month) after we tweeted it and posted it at Facebook. Serious efforts at promotion should get better results than that. And of course time is your friend. I’ve listed the average figures for the first month after uploading, but your videos can stay up for years if they’re not so timely that they get dated. How much is it costing you? I think we’re still in the stage where it’s possible to get good mileage from a fairly amateurish video. Alex Reads Twilight, for example, is a series with half a million views for each episode, and it’s a casually filmed chat from a guy who didn’t even make his bed before he started filming (I love it, actually; I’d use it in my classroom to discuss critical reading if Alex weren’t such a potty mouth). This seems to me to be an opportunity for small businesses to use low-cost homemade videos. I’ve recommended before that you pay for a good intro in order to give an overall look of quality to the footage you record with your phone, and that’s what we did for FreshPlans. We experimented with a variety of cameras, editing software, and workflow systems, and have now settled into a steady schedule of two videos a week on the site. They’re blog content, and while we are working to improve them, we’re currently going with quantity over quality and our costs are about the same as for a written blog post.

If you balance cost and quality (good content is the key, I think), make good use of the video over time, and put some effort into promotion, you can benefit from YouTube. Think about adding it to your collection of strategies.

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