Welcome to a series where old posts are revived for for reasons such as their subject has become topical again, they have aged well but were first posted when the site’s readership was only a tenth or less of what it is currently or they got published and the site crashed, hiding the finest words of wisdom behind an incomprehensible error message. I’ve slightly updated some information to keep it current.
It’s fairly cheap and easy to produce videos and make them available to the world via YouTube these days. But how do you get people to then watch them? Here are six tips to get you started on building your YouTube audiences.
1. Go local with YouTube
Most YouTube videos done for a political purpose get relatively few views. If you take a look at national videos from the main political parties, viewing figures are usually at best in the thousands or tens of thousands whilst it takes millions of votes to win a general election.
However, at the local level where views are often in the hundreds, it only takes hundreds or thousands of votes to win. That’s a good enough ratio to be able to make a big impact.
(There is a role for YouTube on the national stage, particularly in communicating with niche audiences such as party members, but it’s always worth remembering what the much-hyped and expensive WebCameron is reduced to these days: www.webcameron.org.uk now just takes you to the front of the main Conservative website [update – and it does not even do that any more]. All a far cry from the hype regurgitated at the time of launch by the likes of The Guardian: “Tories unveil their secret weapon … watch out BBC, ITV, Channel 4, we’re the new competition”.)
2. Get your YouTube information right
Around 45% of online video views come from people visiting a video site and then searching or browsing around (source: TubeMogul). When they are doing this, the title and description play a big part in determining whether or not people decide to watch the video. Make it sound interesting. Make it sound relevant. Don’t use political jargon. And give a clue about what the viewer will get out of watching it.
Good: What is happening to the Anytown High Street development? William Gladstone MP explains all.
Bad: Footage of Anytown Council Planning Subcommittee meeting on my new camera. Sorry about the poor lighting and the sound which is very hard to hear but turn up the volume and it might be ok.
YouTube also gives you the chance to specify exactly where the film was made. Entering a postcode means the clip will then appear on Google Maps (for people who have the option to display films on the map ticked). This can provide a nice little stream of extra traffic. You don’t know exactly who is deciding to look at your film through this route, but unless your film is at a location such as a sports ground or tourist attraction, there’s a high chance that it is people living in the area or thinking of living in the area.
3. Relate your films to popular and relevant content
The tags you set help not only with YouTube search results, but can also make your masterpiece turn up in the “related videos” panel on the right of other videos. If it turns up there on other relevant and popular videos, it is a great way of picking up extra views.
Comments and ratings can also help your video’s visibility on the site (e.g. by getting it into the list of most commented videos in the last day) but it is rare for a local video to get enough of these for it to have an impact.
4. Get your video embedded on blogs
Another 45% or so of online video views come from people watching videos embedded on blogs. Here’s a three step list for getting your video out there:
- Make sure all the Liberal Democrat “official” bloggers in the area know about it (e.g. MP, councillors, local party blog etc.).
- Make sure members and supporters who may have their own blogs know about it. Many of these will be largely non-political, but people are often willing to have the occasional political reference and these sites are a great way of getting at a wider audience beyond those heavily interested in party politics.
- Politely and sensitively approach non-Lib Dem local bloggers. If the video is about an interesting and relevant local issue, many of them are usually willing to highlight it, just as they would highlight an interesting story from the local newspaper’s website.
5. Email YouTube links
Publicising the video’s existence through all your conventional means is a good idea, but many of them are not very well suited to getting people to watch. For example, a story in a Focus newsletter requires someone to read it, go to their computer, fire up their web browser, type in the information from the leaflet and then finally watch it. And what if they picked up the leaflet from their doorstep whilst leaving to go shopping?
What really works, though, is email. If you include a link that people can click on to go direct to watching the video, you cut out all those inconvenient intermediary steps.
6. Content matters on YouTube
Even if you get all the above right, content matters. People love watching things that are excellent or awful (though awful might not quite send the message you want…). Unless you’re really skilled with the camera and editing software, excellent is most likely to mean packed full of interesting and relevant information. Artistic zooms not required.