YouTube is more than a venue for cute kittens and dancing children. It’s a powerful social search engine with an engaged audience. Any company, with any size budget, can use YouTube to market its products.
Google is the undisputed champion in terms of worldwide search engine market share. But YouTube is the second largest search engine. True, it’s not apples to apples because YouTube is video specific; its primary mode of discovery is search. And because it’s a Google-owned product, YouTube is afforded special placement in Google search results when video content is relevant to the search query.
A recent study by research firm Ipsos and Google found that “67 percent of millennials agree that they can find a YouTube video on anything they want to learn.” Smartphones are also increasingly playing a role in both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar shopping. Google and YouTube are at the forefront of that shopping experience for consumers who know what they want as well as for those who are researching products.
Many marketers think that they need a creative agency and a professional video shoot — not to mention a large budget — to produce successful YouTube videos. That certainly doesn’t hurt. But it shouldn’t hold you back.
Northern Tool’s Pedal Tractor
For example, Northern Tool has an extensive array of professional quality videos demonstrating its products. But it also has some fun. Three years ago, Northern Tool’s marketers shot a low-quality hand-held video — shown below — of a kid on the Kettler CAT Backhoe Pedal Tractor. It’s still their most watched video at 5,207,579 views. Only one minute and 34 seconds long, it depicts a boy demonstrating all the cool features of the toy backhoe. The video, transitions, and background music could all be put together today on a smartphone in, perhaps, 30 minutes.
How did they get so many views? Northern Tool has 8,351 subscribers on its YouTube channel — not a huge audience. And it stands to reason that it was smaller three years ago. Search “Kettler CAT Backhoe Pedal Tractor” on Google and you’ll find that Northern Tool’s video on YouTube is in first view, with a nice thumbnail to draw the eye. The video even outranks Northern Tool’s own product page.
Northern Tool ranks well in Google for “ride on backhoe” and other more generic phrases as well. All together that’s several hundred searches a month over last three years — not bad for a homemade video.
Organic search is a driver to this video, enhancing its viewership and potentially earning more subscribers, shares, and clicks to the product page on Northern Tool’s site to purchase the product.
This YouTube video is a social asset, yes. It’s cute, demonstrates the product’s features well, and is sharable. But it’s also an organic search asset. As an owned media piece, it has the potential to steal clicks away from the better ranked toy stores based on its visual appeal. This video gives Northern Tool the chance to win new customers who might never think about buying a toy from a tool company.
Blendtec’s ‘Will It Blend’?
Blendtec is another example of low-budget YouTube success. Its “Will It Blend” campaign has gained over 830,000 followers by making interesting videos about expensive blenders. Today, its video production quality is much higher and its budget appears to be much larger — it has even done co-promotional stunts like blending in the backseat of a new Ford Fiesta. But nine years ago, Blendtec’s first video simply showed the company’s founder blending marbles. That video, shown below, now has over six million views.
Most of Blendtec’s successful videos blend modern mobile devices that everyone wants — iPads, smartphones, and the like. But it also blends golf balls, lighters, glo-sticks, silly putty, and other odd items. The latest video even takes a swipe at the more visible presidential frontrunners.
But it all started when someone in marketing saw founder Tom Dickson testing his blenders by pitting them against supposedly unblendable items like marbles. It’s just something Dickson did ordinarily in the course of testing his products. It became a video sensation because someone thought to put that first video on YouTube.
Each of Dickson’s blenders sells for hundreds of dollars. Every view his videos receive exposes more people to his brand and demonstrates just how powerful his products are. Every share his videos earn widens the radius of his viewership to reach more consumers who may never have heard of the brand but will be curious to learn more about these blenders and perhaps even buy one.
A blender is not the most exciting product, and its functionality is universally understood. Don’t use “But my product is boring…” as an excuse to bypass YouTube. And clearly we’ve seen that budget doesn’t have to be a limiting factor, either.
Video can be as simple as a series of still images with text overlaid and some background music. It could be your own employees demonstrating how a product works in the office with a video camera on a tripod and a wireless microphone. It could be testimonials from your most loyal customers.
The most important thing to remember, though, is to give the viewers something they want or need. The video isn’t about you and your company. It’s about what your shoppers want or need. Don’t market, give information. Teach them how to use a product or how to clean or care for a product; show silly things to do with your product that people would actually find entertaining. Take a poll around the office or among friends to ask if an idea your team comes up with is really useful or educational or funny. If the response is lukewarm, try again.
Only the luckiest handful strike YouTube gold on their first try. Most need to work at building a following consistently for months or years before it pays off.
Need Help with Beards?
At Practical Ecommerce’s Ignite 2015 conference last month, Beardbrand founder Eric Bandholz said that it took him a couple of years of weekly postings to build up a following that he feels is more of a community than a one-way marketing vehicle. Bandholz is passionate about beards and it shows.
He’s been posting for two and a half years about an extremely niche set of beard-grooming products and the bearded lifestyle. Today, over 66,000 beard-interested individuals follow his quirky informational videos, which feature Bandholz sitting in his office talking to the camera. That’s it. But his passion and the quality of information he offers, in addition to the recent boom in beard culture, have earned him a strong following and a strong customer base.
Like Bandholz, what information can you offer your customers? What product questions come through the customer service lines most frequently? Are there goofy ways people use your products? Does your company stand for something unique, such as a cause or underlying passion? Does your company have a natural spokesperson you can tap into? What questions do searchers ask Google or YouTube that will show up in keyword research? All of these are valuable sources of ideas for video content.
Start today on the road to improving your search and social performance with YouTube. Even if your budget is low and your product is boring, a creative marketing team passionate about its products should be able to come up with some interesting ideas. Jump in, cross promote with your other marketing channels — email, Facebook, Twitter — and start to build both a stronger organic search and social media presence.