Secondary social media platforms: YouTube explained
For the third entry in our secondary social media platform series, we’re taking a look at arguably the biggest platform on the whole list! It might seem like a little bit of an odd choice, but we’d like to justify why we think it’s the most underrated tool in a digital marketeer's arsenal.
The internet is responsible for a lot of questionable things - and YouTube is absolutely not an exception to that rule - but in terms of what I personally believe to be the internet’s most positive contribution to our global culture, YouTube is right up there, not only in terms of contributing to this culture, but arguably in creating it too, as it reminds us that there are people just like us all over the world who love what we love, and that’s a beautiful thing.
In a marketing sense, YouTube is still very underrated and underutilised, which could perhaps be because of its intimidating size and much like other platforms, the nature of its content generally works less effectively when it comes across as too salesy. All this and more will be discussed here, but before we jump into how you can tame this juggernaut, let’s quickly look at how we’ve got to where we are today.
Where are they now?
We won’t dither here as most of this is hardly a secret; all that really matters is that YouTube, even in its early days, was a big deal, but in quite different ways. Numa Numa guy, Keyboard Cat, Leave Britney Alone, it’s amazing what you look back on nostalgically some 15 years down the line. YouTube, in many ways, has acted as the precursor for the most popular platforms that have followed it, with much of its original appeal lying in content that can be generally characterised as grassroots and to the point - key traits in the rise of many of YouTube’s biggest stars.
Since then, YouTube’s immediacy and accessibility have remained among its most powerful attributes. Whether it be for the purposes of raw breaking news, new music, video essays/documentaries on the most seemingly obscure subjects that even Netflix would be hesitant to pick up, education seminars such as TED Talks, or slice-of-life and other reality TV-esque content. Whatever way you’re tuning in, the common thread that exists between them all is a desire to maximise views. Although finding the formula for stuff that really connects can be tricky, it also allows for a fairly level playing field, and for truly great content to shine on any budget. So let’s talk about how that affects your digital marketing strategy.
How to make it work as part of your digital strategy
Being so gargantuan in scale, it’s easy for those making their first forays into marketing on the platform to be discouraged, but within this incredible diversity we find a number of approaches and content pillars, which can be broadly categorised as:
Particularly among Gen Z and Millennial viewers, celebrities, thought leaders and YouTubers in particular play a huge part in the platform's appeal. These personalities post content, often very prolifically, on subject matters from their personal life, to subject matter-specific limited series, to interviews with other similar content creators.
What connects all of these creators is the strength of their personal brand, so if you’re already creating content regularly on other platforms and you feel you’ve got the personality, creativity and temperament for video, tell the story behind those images and words on YouTube. Even if you don’t, there are plenty of creators who are voice only! Speaking of which, if your business has its own podcast, increase its reach by posting here. Including live video (or even animation if you’re feeling spicy) is ideal, but even if you don’t, plenty of people use YouTube as background audio while tasking or relaxing, so it’s a fairly low effort way of increasing your audience - a monetisable tactic that has been used to incredible success by the likes of Joe Rogan and other talk show podcasters.
Further to this notion if you’re a business that uses Instagram Reels and TikToks, reupload to YouTube Shorts - working in a similar fashion to the aforementioned, they’re a proven way of building traction early on when you’re still figuring out your channel-specific voice, while also functioning as a way of teasing/drip-feeding longform content to casual viewers such as the aforementioned podcasts.
While we’ll cover live streaming as its own thing at some point in the near future, its potential in a general sense should be fairly apparent by now given the events of the last two years. While there’s no substitute for face-to-face connections with your customer base, interest and awareness of the practical advantages of streaming remain, even if numbers aren’t quite what they were during the pandemic. Uploading streams from elsewhere to YouTube increases the shelf life of moments in time, increasing the likelihood of prospective customers getting the chance to see what the fuss is about. This kind of content could be anything from demonstrating how your product works to a behind-the-scenes look at your internal processes, which brings us to…
Finally, YouTube is huuuge for education. Whether it’s a tutorial on how to tie your shoelaces, a TED talk on building your self-esteem, or a video essay on how the latest Adele song may or may not use microtonal melody in her latest single, there’s an endless wealth of knowledge to be found in literally any niche. If you know a lot about a certain topic, you’ll find people with the knowledge, or at the very least, interest to match you in your own niche who are ready to engage with you.
By adding your own voice to the conversation, not only can you establish yourself and build a portfolio as an industry thought leader, but by talking about adjacent topics within your field, you can draw attention to what makes your business unique as your audience grows. Even if you don’t feel like you can compete with those who have been using the platform for longer with more in-depth insight and a higher production budget, I’d riposte by pointing you in the direction of this meme:
That all sounds great in theory but can you give me an example?
Definitely! While larger businesses will likely find it easier to find their audience through their own established pedigree, I’ll give you an example of something smaller. One of my personal favourite small channels just now is Transformers Reviews Done Quick/TRDQ - a toy review channel. There are hundreds and hundreds of videos on this subject matter (often from far larger channels), but I like this particular channel because the reviews are compact (the channel’s USP), well-scripted, uploaded regularly, and the guy who does it (who doesn’t even show his face on the channel if that’s a turn off for trying it yourself) is, like me, Scottish. Not only is the subject matter specific, but even with this niche, this channel is the only one that works for me because of exactly these characteristics together, and it’s one that I engage with extremely frequently. I only found out about it because I follow one of their mutuals on Twitter and they liked a tweet - I didn’t even have a casual interest in the subject beforehand. But now I’m invested. I chuckle at the channel-specific in-jokes, and I can even name upwards of ten transformers just by looking at them.
To speak to the channel's wider success, it has less than 10k subscribers and is only promoted on the person’s own Twitter of a similar size, yet each video has an extremely consistent viewership that’s also highly engaged, with people commenting within seconds of uploading. This is no mean feat of course, but it very much speaks to the idea that success can be defined by the community that already exists around it, no matter how small it might be. To me, content like this is one of the most effective ways to keep people thinking about what you do while effectively avoiding the elephant in the room.
So, when it comes to implementation in terms of posting times and the like, there’s not a whole lot to say that doesn’t also apply to other channels that you’ll probably already be well aware of. However, one aspect that can be harder to keep a hold of is consistency, whether you’re creating content in-house or using an agency to really nail your visuals, YouTube content in particular can be very time-expensive and so this should be considered well in advance to ensure this is achieved. If your business is time-poor, and you want to learn more about how YouTube can be used in your strategy, consider employing an agency with the skills and expertise to implement this correctly and efficiently.