Pre-December 2012, it is fair to say that most people appreciated YouTube as a massive video library. Friends would share things with us, us with them, and when you needed to search for something random, there was no doubt about finding it on YouTube.
Channels aren’t new to YouTube, but the recent changes to YouTube are very much focused on helping video creators build up subscriptions to their channels. Having a subscriber base to a channel is obviously useful to the channel owner, but it is worth remembering how useful the channel model is to end-users. When users sign up to channels, the videos they like (or are likely to like!) are the ones that will be on the surface for them to choose from.
These changes will make the YouTube experience less random and more personalised. YouTube has around 800 million users but no information has been published about how many of these users actually subscribe to channels. What has been published is information that subscriber figures have increased by 30% since the launch of this new version of the site. YouTube know that site design is what ultimately effects how users interact with the content.
The key for creators is to make good quality content. Get this right and it seems that YouTube will do everything else… well, almost!
The recent changes to your business YouTube channel
YouTube are making it easier for users to discover channels that they might like. On the YouTube homepage, when a user is logged in, videos from channels you have subscribed to will appear first. These are accompanied by personalized video recommendations which YouTube has guessed the user will like to see, based on their existing subscriptions and viewing behaviour.
Also, the ‘recommended channels’ panel appears to follow the users around the site – it is there most of the time on the right hand side of the page.
This means that if you create good videos, with relevant content, and you have been thorough with titles, keywords, tags and descriptions, YouTube will help you be discovered by users who are likely to enjoy what you do.
It is extremely easy to subscribe to a new channel. When a channel appears in the ‘recommended channels’ panel, it is accompanied by a ‘subscribe’ button. If your title makes sense, a user can click subscribe there and then without even having to leave the page they are on.
Keeping fans plugged in to new content
The overall impact of these changes is that users are more plugged in to new content than ever before. A subscription is as good as an email address – new content is emailed to subscribers. As well as optimising your videos so that they are delivered to the right people throughout the YouTube experience, you also have an opportunity to create videos with strong calls to action, fostering their interest and moving it towards conversions on your own website for example.
Making the most of the changes
Here are some tips for what you can do to make the most of the changes and maximise the effectiveness of your channel in reaching new audiences.
YouTube Channel metadata
The new prominence of channels means that you need to have your channel metadata spot on to take advantage of this opportunity to be found! If you type your channel name into the search bar of YouTube you will be able to get an idea of how your channel looks to users. There are three main aspects to channel metadata:
1 Channel title: it is your channel title that users will see most, rather than your username. Make sure it makes sense and is grammatically correct.
2 Channel description: this is your chance to say what you do concisely! You also need to give users a hook – make them want to subscribe by mentioning a unique selling point or two. Make the first 45 characters the best possible as they are the ones that appear next to the avatar throughout the site.
3 Channel avatar: on a technical level, make sure it looks good in different sizes. On a creative level, aim for an avatar that says something about what you do. This is an opportunity to be recognized across YouTube and for users to recognise you from a visual.
The feed is going to become a more prominent part of the YouTube experience and so you need to make sure your video metadata is clear, concise and compelling. The main considerations are to include keywords in your titles that are relevant to the content of your video. Leave your branding out of the title or put it at the end of the title so that the title makes sense to the user quickly. Also, more of the video description is going to show up on the homepage than before. Make sure you include descriptive information about the video as well as links to your channel or subscribe page.
This is where your curatorial skills come in. The playlist viewing experience has been improved so that when you are watching a video from a playlist, the other videos from the playlist will be displayed on the right. There is therefore a lot of value in curating relevant playlists. You also need to make sure that you share the links to your playlists (use a URL shortener as the URLs that are generated can be too long!).
As you can see, there are simple steps you can take to encourage an organic increase in the number of subscribers to your YouTube channel. What is great about this is that users who find your channel in this way are more likely to appreciate your content – which means they are more likely to engage with it. This has to be an improvement on tokenistic subscriber swapping for example.
Now really is the time to invest in your YouTube channel. YouTube is moving away from being a host of millions of videos, to a host of lots of channels. This will ultimately provide a more organised viewing experience and a more effective video distribution tool as well as more targeted marketing platform for your brand.