YouTube marketing is often overlooked by social media marketers. Some think YouTube counts as a social media network. Others see it as more of an online video platform.
Either way, there are countless marketing opportunities on YouTube—especially if your audience is on the platform and your competitors aren’t. YouTube counts two billion logged-in monthly users worldwide, and ranks as the most widely used online platform among U.S. adults.
So in that sense, whether or not YouTube meets social network criteria is irrelevant. It’s more popular than all of them. But with more than 500 hours of video uploaded every minute, effective YouTube marketing is easier said than done.
Fortunately, we’ve put together this 10-step YouTube marketing strategy to get you started. Learn how to optimize your channel, grow subscriptions, and expand your reach with YouTube ads and influencer partnerships.
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals the exact steps one creator took to gain more than 23,000,000 views on YouTube with no budget and no expensive gear.
10-step YouTube marketing strategy
Step 1. Create a YouTube channel for business
Start by opening a Brand Account on Google.
You can create a YouTube channel with your regular Google account, but if you do, only you can access it. Plus, the account will be under your name and depending on your settings, may connect viewers to your personal email address.
With a Brand Account, multiple authorized users can log in simultaneously. Even if you don’t need this right now, it’s a good option to keep available as your business grows. With a Brand Account, you can also open and manage multiple YouTube channels.
Read our step-by-step guide for detailed instructions on how to create a YouTube business account.
Step 2. Learn about your audience
If you’re just starting out on YouTube, set aside some time to learn about YouTube demographics.
This includes quantitative data, like where the majority of users live (nearly 15% of site traffic comes from the U.S.), predominant age range (81% of 15–25 year-olds ), and viewing preferences (70% of watchtime is on mobile). If your audience skews younger, it might be worth noting that Gen Z viewers are most likely to search for short-form content.
Source: Think With Google
Collect whatever qualitative data you can find, too. For instance, did you know that in 2019, more than 99 million hours of guided meditation videos were watched? Or that between 2017 and 2019 viewership of videos with “thrift with,” “thrifting in” or “how to thrift” in the title increased by 10X.
With a YouTube channel for business, you have access to an Analytics tab. If you already have one up and running, use this tab to learn about your YouTube audience. Monitor watch time and the demographic stats available. Do they confirm your assumptions? How much overlap is there with audiences on your other social channels?
If viewers have left comments, read through them to see what you can learn about their interests and preferences. Visit the Community tab, too. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, this is a good place to post a question or create a poll.
Compare your YouTube audience with your other social audiences. Identify the content your audiences connect with most, and use it to brainstorm video ideas. Plan to create content for the audience you have and the desired audience you plan to grow.
Step 3. Research your competition
Next up: Competitive analysis. Like any platform, YouTube is a competitive space. By conducting an audit of competitors, you can see how your channel measures up and identify opportunities.
Start by identifying three to five competitors. If you’re not sure, try Google Ads’ free Keyword Planner to see which companies rank for keywords associated with your brand. Or see what channels appear in searches on YouTube for the same keywords. (After hitting Search, filter results by Channel.)
Record key metrics such as subscriber counts and viewership stats so you can use them as benchmarks for your channel. Look at titles and descriptions to see what keywords they use. Read the comments on these videos to see what people are saying. Chances are their audience will overlap with yours.
Conduct a SWOT
Conduct a SWOT analysis to identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats presented by each competitor. This is a good framework for spotting what’s working and not working, and where you can carve out a niche with your YouTube channel.
Pro tip: Make sure your competitors aren’t serving ads on your videos! If they are, it’s possible to block them in Google’s ad manager. More on that here.
Step 4. Learn from your favourite channels
Scroll through your subscriptions and your YouTube history. As you do, take note of the techniques and formats that hold your attention. What keeps you coming back to these channels? How do the most popular channels drive views, subscriptions, and engagement?
Take a look at YouTube’s trending videos. Even if these videos have nothing to do with your business or industry, there’s a lot you can learn from them. Are all of these videos high-production, or are they shot more casually? What is the most common length of these videos? Do they have a host? Do they add special effects or text overlays?
Look up your favourite brands and do the same exercise. Start to think about your YouTube content strategy. What type of content makes sense for your brand? Do you plan to use YouTube to tell stories, offer tutorials, or establish your brand as a trendsetter? Or all of the above?
Step 5. Optimize your videos to get views
YouTube is a video search engine. Like Google—which happens to own YouTube—videos results are ranked by titles, keywords, descriptions, and other factors. Then there’s the YouTube recommendation algorithm, which determines 70% of what people watch.
Optimize your videos so that they stand the best chance to show up in search results and get more views. We’ve created a detailed guide on how to get views on YouTube. But here are a few SEO pointers to start with:
Write a strong title
The title is one of the primary signals YouTube’s algorithm and viewers look at to evaluate your video.
Include relevant keywords. Check what words people use to find your channel in Traffic Sources in YouTube Analytics. Take a look at Google Trends and Google Ads’ Keyword Planner, too. See if any of these popular search terms can be added to your title.
But avoid clickbait. False advertising typically leads to lower retention, which in turn leads to lower ranking. If the keywords you find don’t match your topic, dig a little deeper in your keyword research. Focus on the topic and content.
Tip: Pinterest is a good place to check, too. Search a keyword like “makeup” and see what else pops up.
Put the most important keywords upfront. If you’re numbering episodes or part of a series, save that for the end. YouTube allows for 70 characters, but we recommend 60 or less. This way your title is less likely to be cut off in suggested videos, search, and mobile results. Excessive punctuation, all-caps, and vulgar or sensational language is a no-no.
Create a standout thumbnail
Even before titles, thumbnails are the first thing people see. Ninety percent of the best performing videos on YouTube have one thing in common when it comes to thumbnails: They’re custom.
With a custom creative, your thumbnail is more likely to stand out. Another advantage is that you can ensure the image and title work in tandem. If your video is a thumbnail or how-to, show the end result or a before and after thumbnail. This builds anticipation: People will watch to see how you reach the final result.
Source: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna on YouTube
Make sure your thumbnail is as high res as possible (2MB is the max size). Specs are: 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9 ratio).
Write a keyword-rich description
Prioritize the first few lines of your description to provide a brief summary of your video topic. As early as possible, plug in the keywords you’ve zeroed in on. Try not to sound too spammy. Write in coherent, natural-sounding sentences.
YouTube shows roughly 300 characters (about three lines) above the Show More button users need to click on to see your full description. This is where you should add more context for your video. For example, if you feature several products, provide links to them.
Add links to your website and social channels as well. If you’re pushing subscriptions, you can even include an auto-subscribe shortlink or like to other videos and playlists that might be relevant. If your video is long, create a “table of contents” with timestamps, so viewers can jump to sections.
Make the most of your 5,000 character and 15 hashtag limit. But remember to follow YouTube’s hashtag rules.
Source: Hootsuite on YouTube
For more tips on how to fine-tune YouTube descriptions, read our full guide.
Add cards, end screens, bumper ads, and watermarks
Cards, end screens, bumper ads, and watermarks are clickable CTAs you can add to your YouTube videos. These elements help your videos drive actions and keep people on your channel.
Here’s a rundown of your different options:
Cards: Small, transparent CTAs that expand when clicked. Up to five can be used per video to direct viewers to your website, fundraiser, playlist, and more.
End screens: Up to four clickable frames that appear in the last 5-20 seconds. Use them to promote related content, your website, subscriptions, etc.
Bumper ads: Unskippable six-second video ads appearing at the start or end of a video.
Watermarks: Custom subscribe buttons visible only to non-subscribers. To add them to your videos, follow YouTube’s instructions.
Learn how to add these elements, and other YouTube hacks, here.
Remind viewers to like, share, and subscribe
There’s a reason a lot of YouTube videos end with the host calling on viewers to “like, share, and subscribe.” It works. Asking never hurts. Sometimes people need a helpful reminder. Plus, this type of engagement earns points with the YouTube algorithm.
Hit more subscriber milestones with these 17 tips.
Step 6. Upload and schedule your videos
Now that you’ve created and optimized your videos, it’s time to schedule them for publication.
For most 18-34 year olds, YouTube has replaced traditional network television. But it hasn’t necessarily replaced expectations. People still expect videos—especially webisodes and series—to be available on a reliable schedule.
Check your channel analytics to see if there’s a day or hour that tends to have a high amount of viewership and engagement. Once you’ve pinpointed the best time to post, aim to publish regularly within this window.
Scheduling tools let you maintain consistency on auto-pilot. You can upload and schedule your YouTube videos in advance from the Creator Studio, or with a tool like Hootsuite, which allows you to cross-promote your video releases with posts on other social channels all from the same dashboard.
Learn more about how to schedule YouTube videos.
Step 7. Optimize your channel to attract followers
Make it easier for people to find and follow you on YouTube by optimizing your channel. Here are a few ways to prime your account for search, views, and follows.
Complete your YouTube profile
If you haven’t yet, add finishing touches to your YouTube profile. Fill out or add some polish to the following areas:
Channel description: In the “about” tab of your profile, provide a keyword-rich overview of what people can expect when they subscribe to your channel. Include links to your website and social accounts here, too.
Channel icon: Upload a high-res version of your logo.
Channel art: Use this banner space to welcome viewers to your channel. This area is a good place to promote your channel schedule, or an upcoming exhibit, product launch, or service. Master channel art and nab free templates with this guide.
You can also add a list of Featured channels to your profile. Feature your other owned YouTube channels, or give subscribers easy access to other YouTube resources they might be interested in. By doing this, you align your brand with complimentary companies and add value to your page.
Source: Tate on YouTube
Add social media links to your banner
Your YouTube banner is a prime position to add a few key links. Use this area to link to your website, other social channels, or even an auto-subscribe prompt. Put what matters most to your company upfront.
Create a channel trailer
Just like a movie trailer, your YouTube channel trailer is an opportunity to preview your channel. Channel trailers auto-play when an unsubscribed visitor lands on your page. So it’s best to assume they’re new to your page, and possibly your brand.
Introduce your brand to new viewers. Offer a sneak peek of what viewers can expect from your channel. Build intrigue and anticipation that leaves viewers wanting more. Make a bold brand statement. Most importantly, give viewers a good reason to subscribe.
Organize videos into playlists
Don’t leave things up to YouTube’s algorithm. YouTube playlists auto-play a series of videos—so viewers can keep watching your channel without being diverted elsewhere.
Design your playlists so to be cohesive and have a logical progression. Organize a series of tutorials from beginner to advanced skill levels. Think like YouTube’s algorithm. If someone likes your first video—what type of video would they want to watch next?
Playlists can be created with your own videos, or include partner videos. Similarly, if you’ve started networking with other YouTubers, see if you can persuade them to add your videos to their playlists.
You can build playlists on YouTube, or you can manage them with Hootsuite. Remember to include relevant keywords in your playlist titles to boost your YouTube SEO.
Add captions and translations
Only 33% of YouTube’s most popular videos are in English. And more than 60% of a YouTube channel’s views originate outside the creator’s country. Expand the reach of your videos with YouTube’s built-in translation tools.
Start by adding captions to your videos. This will make your video accessible to non-native speakers, people with hearing impairments, and people watching with sound off. YouTube also offers automatic captions, but the result is never perfect. If you use them, make sure to edit transcripts for errors.
Check YouTube Analytics to see top locations and the top subtitle languages people choose to watch your videos. From there, translate your title, description, and transcript so you can provide subtitles. You can either do this yourself or crowdsource translations from your community—but again, this option isn’t foolproof.
If you’ve put the effort into creating a video, it’s worth the extra effort or fee to have your transcript translated. Don’t let audiences think your business cuts corners or doesn’t value their business.
Looking for more ways to promote your YouTube channel? Find them here.
Step 8. Try YouTube advertising
YouTube advertising can be an effective way to expand your reach beyond your channel. Looking to grow your channel? Target an audience you think might be interested in your content.
Want to promote your brand, an event, or a new product? YouTube ads are good for that, too. People are three times more likely to pay attention to online video ads versus TV ads.
YouTube ads are available in these four categories:
- Skippable in-stream ads
- Non-skippable in-stream ads (including bumper ads)
- Video discovery ads (formerly known as in-display ads)
- Non-video ads (i.e., overlays and banners)
For more info on YouTube’s ad formats and how to use them, check out our detailed guide to YouTube advertising.
Step 9. Try working with an influencer
One of the best ways to showcase your brand and reach a wider audience on YouTube is by working with an influencer.
According to Google, 60% of YouTube subscribers are more likely to follow shopping advice from their favourite creator over their favourite TV movie personality. Why? It’s often a lot easier to relate to creators. With the right partnership, creators can transfer that reliability and trust to your brand.
When it comes to these partnerships, let the influencer do the talking. The more control you try to exert over the partnership, the more you’ll impact the influencer’s brand. This makes the whole effort less genuine—and their followers will see it from a mile away.
To promote the launch of a new razor, Schick teamed up with MsVaughnTV and other YouTube influencers. Each influencer was given leeway to create a concept that felt natural for them. This approach made for more natural product discovery, too: 50% of the campaign’s organic views came from people browsing content on YouTube.
Step 10. Analyze and adapt
With your YouTube channel up and running, it’s time to start measuring your success. And failures. Getting YouTube marketing right involves testing and experimenting. Not everything will work, and that’s okay as long as you learn from it.
Use YouTube Analytics to monitor the growth of your channel and track the performance of your videos. When you publish a new video, keep an eye on:
- Significant changes in subscriber count
- New or changing audience demographics
- Video playback locations and traffic sources
- Device reports (mobile, desktop, smart TVs, etc.)
What you find should inform your YouTube marketing strategy moving forward. Don’t undervalue qualitative metrics, too. Read the comments to learn exactly what people think about your video. Visit the Community tab often to see what people are talking about.
5 YouTube marketing tools for business
Step up your YouTube marketing routine with these tools.
YouTube Audio Library
Just about every successful YouTube video is backtracked with music and sound effects. But that doesn’t mean all songs and sounds are free to use. Avoid infringing on copyright by sourcing directly from YouTube’s free audio library.
Create channel and video art with pre-sized templates from Canva. This tool offers access to an expansive stock photo library, and features that allow for full customization and branding. The best part is you don’t have to sweat the specs. Canva takes care of that for you. Bonus: the app can be integrated into the Hootsuite dashboard.
YouTube’s platform includes built-in scheduling and analytics tools. But if you manage multiple social media channels or work with a team, Hootsuite takes a lot of work out of the workflow.
With a central dashboard, it’s easy to keep track of content calendars and assign tasks to different team members. Schedule videos for YouTube and your other social networks simultaneously, and see how your YouTube marketing fits into your broader social media strategy.
Want to save even more time? You can also moderate comments on your YouTube videos from the Hootsuite dashboard.
Hook Mentionlytics up to your Hootsuite dashboard and start tracking every mention of your brand on YouTube. With this tool, you can keep tabs of videos created about your brand, comments that mention you, and more. Show your appreciation for positive comments, and show up for negative feedback, too. Customers appreciate it when companies take their feedback seriously.
Channelview and its companion tool Channelview Insights monitor up to 10 different YouTube channels. This is ideal for YouTube marketers who manage multiple clients, or for brands that have multiple channels for different verticals. Channelview lets you streamline your workflow and measure your YouTube marketing efforts across the board. Get the full picture on how your YouTube channels work in tandem so you can refine playlists and boost subscribers.
With Hootsuite, you can easily upload, schedule, and promote your YouTube marketing videos across multiple social networks from one dashboard. Try it free today.