Hot social networks like Facebook and Pinterest get all the attention. Meanwhile, YouTube has quietly built itself up as the 2nd largest search engine in the world and the third most popular site on the Internet (source: Alexa Top 500). Moreover, it’s built on video, one of the most viral forms of content. Here’s how to take advantage of it.
YouTube: The Best Advertising Deal in Town
Many dismiss YouTube as a haven for bedroom video bloggers (“vloggers”). You’ve got a business to run. Try to think of it another way. Imagine if you could:
- Reach an audience of 1 billion unique users every month
- Reach more U.S. adults than any cable network (according to Nielsen)
- Play your videos 24/7 and 365 days a year
- Broadcast on a network where viewers watch over 6 billion hours of video a month
- Access a global audience–70% of YouTube’s traffic comes from outside the U.S.
(Source: YouTube Press Statistics)
Even better, imagine getting all of that advertising for FREE (or at a low cost, which we’ll talk about later). There’s another important difference between YouTube and other social networks. YouTube wants you to succeed. YouTube is working furiously to help its users to get famous, get paid, and get more out of the platform.
Just look at Next Up, a program where YouTube flew in top viral video stars to New York, gave them four days of special training with experts and a check for $35,000 (no strings attached!). Seriously, when was the last time a website did that for anyone?
Watch “YouTube Turns 5.” This video documents some of the early milestones in the website’s growth.
“An Anthroplogical Introduction to YouTube” is a lecture given by a college professor. It’s about an hour long, but well worth watching if you want to understand the YouTube community.
Video Marketing is the New SEO
“Search engine optimization,” otherwise known as SEO, is a standard skill in the online marketer’s arsenal. It’s all abut getting your site higher in the rankings to get more traffic. However, SEO is increasingly a loser’s game, as every Google algorithm change batters sites down in the rankings. Cold hard truth: Google employs people much smarter than you or me.
YouTube, despite how popular it is, is relatively untapped. Do a search on YouTube, and many times the top results can be old and out of date. If you made a video with useful content and properly optimized it, you could easily dominate the rankings.
A side benefit is Google’s “blended search.” The site now displays videos prominently in search results. If you see a thumbnail image of a video next to a search result, that’s called a “rich snippet.” Users are more likely to click on images than text links. This is a big opportunity. Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to get a blog post to rank well in competitive niches. Yet with the right video, you could jump ahead of the pack. Needless to say, YouTube is owned by Google, so that integration must have some effect on rankings.
YouTube Marketing — This resource page by Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income has nifty tricks for video SEO.
Why Aren’t More Businesses Using YouTube?
Considering all of these benefits you’d think companies would be all over YouTube, and many are. Yet you’d think every business would be on this.
I have a couple of theories why. These skeptics might think:
- Making videos is expensive.
- Making videos is hard.
- I don’t get this YouTube thing.
- We’ve always used TV/radio/print ads.
- I’m shy and don’t want to appear on camera.
This is actually good news for you. If your competition talks themselves out of competing with you, that will make it easier for you to get results.
Using YouTube Like a Marketer
Rapid Video Blogging — This free e-book by YouTube expert Gideon Shalwick is a good introduction for how to use the site as part of your overall marketing strategy. Attract users via YouTube videos, funnel them to your self-hosted WordPress site, then get them to subscribe to your e-mail list on Aweber.
The Distilled Guide to Video Marketing (PDF) — Distilled, an SEO company, created this beautiful, in-depth guide on creating videos to boost SEO and attract links.
Compelling.tv — One of my favorite sites on video marketing. He focuses on using YouTube as a platform to build authority in your niche and drive sales.
Social Video Marketing Lessons via BlendTec’s “Will It Blend?” — BlendTec is a standout example of successful video marketing. They promoted their powerful blenders on YouTube by blending popular items like the iPhone and iPad. It’s the product demonstration you’d see in late-night informercials, but re-booted for Gen Y.
How He Did It: 200 Videos, 200 Days, Half a Million Views and a Budget of $2,000 — In this interview, Antonio Centeno explains how he shot videos to promote his men’s fashion consulting business.
How to Get Famous on YouTube
YouTube Creator Playbook — This massive free book comes straight from YouTube itself. In it, they detail all the best practices of its power users and how to get the most out of the platform.
The YouTube Laugh Factory — This extensive article in Wired magazine profiles some of the most successful viral video stars and shares their tactics.
The Secret Strategies Behind Many “Viral Videos” — Can you set out to manufacture a video to go viral? A video marketing insider shares his knowledge in this post for TechCrunch. This goes beyond the standard “Five YouTube Success Tips!” junk articles and digs deep into the shady tricks that can be used to game the system.
Budget Filmmaking Tips
Ah yes, the cost is the sticking point for many would-be video marketers. Fortunately, there is a big supportive group of filmmakers online eager to teach you how to make videos without the Hollywood big bucks. Learn the basics of lighting and sound, and your videos will be miles better than the typical vlogger.
Vimeo Video School — Vimeo is another video-sharing website, that sees itself as a YouTube for serious filmmakers. Many excellent tutorials here that will have you shooting like a pro in no time.
Indy Mogul — A fun, informative channel for independent filmmakers. The focus is on creating low-budget fiction films, but the how-to videos are still relevant for video marketing.
Curtis Judd — Another vlogger, he creates excellent tutorials on how to make professional-looking videos. He also recommends high-quality, affordable tools you might never discover on your own.
What Camera Should You Buy?
The one you can afford. The most important thing is to just get started. If you’ve got a webcam, a smartphone or a digital camera they all have video capability. That’s enough when you’re a beginner.
To step up the quality yet still keep things easy, invest in a good webcam like the Logitech C920 (or whatever the current top Logitech webcam is).
You can add a good USB mic to sound a lot better. All of these microphones plug in directly into your computer.
- MiC by Apogee (Mac only)
- Editors Keys SL150 – this is what I use to do voice-overs on my screencast videos
- Blue Yeti
- Audio Technica AT2020 USB
- Audio Technica ATR-2100 – cheapest one on this list, about $30-$40 on Amazon.
With a good webcam and USB microphone, you can record nice quality video blogs right on your computer.
Here’s a post for how to pimp out your webcam setup:
If you’re willing to spend a bit more money, I would go for a camera with an external mic input. Most cameras’ built-in mics are terrible, even on expensive high-end models. Being able to plug in a microphone will make your audio a lot better.
YouTube users don’t expect professional-level video, the authenticity is one of the charms of the site. You can get away with low image quality, but not bad audio.
The easiest way to find cameras that take mics is on the website of B&H Photo, a large photography store in New York. Click on “camcorders.” Scroll down and look at the search criteria in the left sidebar until you see “features.” Click on the box next to “mic input.” That will instantly display the cameras that allow you to plug in a mic. At the time I wrote this, Amazon and BestBuy.com didn’t allow you to search for cameras this way.
As a bonus, it’s usually the better cameras that have mic jacks. So if you get a camera with good sound, the image quality should be good too.
When considering camcorder brands, I think you can’t go wrong with Canon or Panasonic. The camcorder I use is the Panasonic HC-V700M. There are now newer models of this camera. I did a lot of research before choosing this camera, and it had the best balance of performance and convenience vs. price. It has a 28mm lens, which is wide enough to fit in everything easily, good in low light and images are sharp. The anti-shake function also works really well when you’re shooting handheld. Just an overall great video camera.
I prefer camcorders because they were specifically designed to shoot video. Phones and DSLR cameras aren’t really meant for this, and suffer from limitations.
One big disadvantage that I don’t like about DSLRs is that they limit how much time you can shoot a video for. The camera will suddenly stop recording after 10-12 minutes, which is super-annoying. With a camcorder, you can shoot until the battery dies out or memory card is full. Many DSLRs also cannot auto-focus well during recording, and have difficulty when zooming in and out during filming. Image stabilization is also very poor on DSLRs.
However, there is a growing trend toward DSLR cameras for YouTube stars and independent filmmakers. The ability to change lenses allows you to use high-quality lenses that are unavailable on cameras with built-in lenses.
Canon seems to be better for video than Nikon. One nifty feature is that they include free software to control your camera from your computer. Some models also have the ability to do this with a smartphone. I think Nikon charges money for the program to control a camera with a computer. Anyway, the Canon Rebel models get good reviews. The Canon 60D in particular is popular with video marketers.
Many indie filmmakers and vloggers like to install a software called Magic Lantern (Canon only). This adds a bunch of features and more controls to Canon DSLRs, making them a better tool for videomaking.
Here’s a description off their website:
Magic Lantern is a software enhancement that offers increased functionality to the excellent Canon DSLR cameras. We have created an open framework, licensed under GPL, for developing extensions to the official firmware.
Magic Lantern is not a “hack”, or a modified firmware, it is an independent program that runs alongside Canon’s own software. Each time you start your camera, Magic Lantern is loaded from your memory card. Our only modification was to enable the ability to run software from the memory card.
ML is being developed by photo and video enthusiasts, adding functionality such as: HDR images and video, timelapse, motion detection, focus assist tools, manual audio controls much more.
If you’re choosing lenses for your DSLR, I’d recommend getting wide-angle prime lenses, like a 35mm or 28mm. This will allow you to fit more into the frame. If you’re only shooting yourself, this will allow you to bring the camera closer to you, yet still fit your whole face into the shot.
Cheaper, entry-level DSLRs have “cropped sensors.” This means that the lens image is magnified by the sensor 1.5x or 1.6x. The problems is that a lens like the 50mm on a cropped-sensor DSLR actually become 70mm 0r 75mm, which is more zoomed-in than what you’d expect. DSLRs with “full frame sensors” don’t distort lenses this way, but are much more expensive.
“Prime” lens means it is a fixed lens that cannot be zoomed in or out. The advantage is that prime lenses can collect more light and have much higher image quality. The lower the f-stop, the more light the lens can gather. For example, I’d go with lenses that are f2.0 and below, like f1.8 or f1.4.
So when it comes to shooting with a DSLR, it’s best to get the widest-angle lens you can. I once recorded with a 50mm lens on a Nikon D7000. I had to put the camera really far away from myself to fit my face in the shot. The distance from the camera was so far that I nearly stretched out the wire on my lavalier microphone.
A popular lens to get is the Canon 50mm f1.8, since it only costs around $100 yet is incredibly sharp and has brilliant image quality for the price. It’s often called the “Nifty Fifty” and “Plastic Fantastic.” However, like I said earlier, this might not be the best for video, since you have to put the camera far away to get your whole face into the frame.
My dream lens for DSLR video would be the Rokinon Cine CV35-C 35mm T1.5 Aspherical Wide Angle Cine Lens with De-Clicked Aperture for Canon EOS DSLR 35-35mm, Fixed-Non-Zoom Lens. It’s designed specifically for the needs of low-budget independent filmmakers. You wouldn’t use this for photography, only for video. It’s full manual, no auto focus. Not cheap at around $500, but a bargain compared to the $1,000+ you would pay for an official Canon lens.
When researching video cameras, I highly recommend looking on YouTube to find sample videos shot with the cameras you’re interested in. Do a search for “[camera model] video test” and you should get some results. For example, search for “Canon T5i video test.”
Hot tip: also do this to search for DSLR lenses! For example: “Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 Lens Video Test.”
How Do You Get Good Audio?
Pros say, “60% of video is audio.” People literally cannot hear you if you don’t have a good mic. For a typical vlogging (video blogging) or video marketing setup, you just need a lavalier mic (a.k.a. lapel mic) that you clip to your shirt. A cheap model widely used by vloggers is the Audio Technica ATR-3350 ($22.37 on Amazon).
Important: A lot of lavalier mics record in mono. Check to see if the microphone jack in your camera is “mono” or “stereo.” If you plug a mono mic into a stereo jack, your sound will only play back on one channel (usually the left channel). The quick, cheap way to fix this is to buy a 1/8″ Stereo Plug to 1/8″ Mono Plug Adapter (Model number 274-0374) from Radio Shack for $2.99.
Another solution is to buy a stereo lavalier mic like the Pearstone OLM-10 Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone ($22.95 on B&H Photo).
I got a lavalier mic from Giant Squid Audio Lab, based on some impressive reviews on YouTube. The company is a small independent business and the owner seems to be a true audiophile. The owner was quick to answer a pre-sale question about compatibility.
I ordered one podcasting stereo mic, as he said that was his best mic for vocals. However, since the business is run by just one guy, it took longer to get the microphone than from a big vendor like Amazon. It was worth it in the end. The Giant Squid is powerful. It makes my voice sound richer and fuller than how I sound in person!
The last solution is to fix the audio in your editing program: duplicate the sound on the left channel onto the right channel. I think it’s easier to just have an adapter or stereo mic. Saves you one step in post-production.
How to Look Good on Video: Good Lighting!
Many people obsess over buying the best camera. In reality, the single best way to make your videos look better is with cheap lights you could get at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or any hardware store. It’s easier to improvise good lighting than good sound.
The secret: clamp lights. They have aluminum reflectors, they can be mounted on anything and are directional. Ninja tip: put a clamp light on a flat metal L-shaped book end.
Go for compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are cheap, bright and cool. That last factor is important. You don’t want lights that will make you hot and sweaty while filming. I use Ecosmart 14-Watt Daylight Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Bulbs (60-Watt Incandescent Equivalent). They have a color temperature of 5000K.
Look for “daylight” light bulbs with a color temperature of 5500K or 5600K (K stands for Kelvin). This kind of bulb produces a nice, even, white light that works well for video and photography of people.
One way to soften the light is to use white baking paper from the supermarket. They work as a “diffuser,” making the light less harsh. You can tape the paper to hang over your clamp light. Baking paper is also meant to withstand high temperatures from being in an oven. They won’t catch fire like if you used white paper meant for the printer or copy machine.
Wistia, a company that offers paid video hosting, covers lighting in this video: The Down & Dirty Lighting Kit. They talk about how to assemble a cheap, effective lighting kit from things you can buy at Home Depot.
Some low-budget filmmakers swear by halogen work lights, but I’d avoid them. They put off a harsh light and burn so hot they’re actually a fire hazard. They also consume a lot more electricity.
Want Hollywood style? To get that glamor look, you’ll need a ring light. They can be expensive to buy, so many people–including pro videographers–prefer to build their own ring lights. Here’s are some helpful video tutorials.
DIY Ring Light – Good step-by-step instructions.
See a ring light in action on a shoot for a music video
Converting Videos Off Your Camcorder for YouTube with HandBrake
Video conversion, compression and encoding can be a vexing issue for people new to this. All those confusing acronyms and codecs to know! I’ve tried to simplify things in this section.
Smartphones, digital cameras and pocket cameras record in MP4 or .MOV, so you don’t have to worry about conversion. You might still want to compress the file, so you can upload to YouTube faster. I once uploaded a raw, uncompressed video file from my digital camera. It took and hour and a half to upload!
On a side note, your Internet speed might not be as fast as you think. Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) only tell you the download speed, for example 100 Mbps. Yet the upload speed is only 10 Mbps. Typically, your download speed is much higher than the upload speed. When you’re uploading to YouTube, it’s the upload speed that matters. By the way, there’s a difference between MBps and Mbps/mbps (Megabytes per second vs. Megabits per second). Whether the “b” is capitalized or not has a big impact on your Internet speed. Megabytes are much bigger chunks of data, but most ISPs quote their speeds in megabits.
If you use a camcorder, then you need to convert your video files before you can upload to YouTube or import into a video-editing program. Or you need to compress the video because it’s too big and slows down the video editing software.
Some camcorders like Sony, Panasonic and Canon record in .mts (AVCHD) format, which is high quality but cannot be played on devices or cooperate with video editing suites. These camcorders were meant to make videos to be played on TVs, not on computers and mobile devices.
Most free video-editing programs–such as Windows Movie Maker and iMovie–cannot work with .mts files. High-end editing software like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere can edit .mts files natively.
The solution is to convert your .mts files into a more compatible format. MP4 is a universal format that you can use with anything. Luckily, there’s a great free program for video conversion called HandBrake. I created this video HandBrake tutorial that teaches what you need to know.
Another big benefit of using a program like HandBrake is that it will shrink the videos to a smaller file size, making them easier to manage. Smaller files means you can upload to YouTube faster.
To get a better understanding, watch this video of Professor Compressor.
The humor is goofy, but the information is solid and will help you avoid common problems with video compression. To get more details on what the different terms mean, read this accompanying post from the YouTube blog: Uploading 101 with Professor Compressor.
Over to You
What products have you bought based on watching videos? What made their videos so persuasive?
Photo: Chad with his Flip camera. Gwen Harlow / Flickr.