Being a part of YouTube is no longer something franchise businesses can control. Chances are, you're there, whether you created the content or not.
First, how do you use this channel to your advantage? Second, and more important, how do you ensure consistent, positive branding when you are no longer exclusively in control of the messaging? And third, should you even try?
These are common questions. And while the first two don't come with black-and-white answers, there are proven guidelines to follow to make YouTube a positive and profitable marketing initiative for your business franchise. The answer to the third question, of course, is Yes.
It takes more than television commercials and crazy cat videos.
Since YouTube's launch in February 2005, companies around the world have been attempting to profit from it. Who can blame them? After only one year in existence, YouTube had hosted 100 million views per day; today, it boasts more than 2 billion.
Your prospects are there, your customers are there, and they're watching. The question is, watching what?
The average person spends 15 minutes a day on YouTube--that's 5 to 10 times longer than most people spend on your website. Better yet, people are spending more time engaging with video content than with any other type of online content. A YouTube brand channel offers your customers an exclusive view into your world. If you're looking to win fans and generate a groundswell of upward financial mobility, it's going to take more than your television commercials and a laugh. Make sure your video content serves at least one of three purposes: 1) provides entertainment; 2) provides utility; and 3) is relevant to the user's specific time and/or circumstance.
For example, if you're an oil change franchise, consider integrating video content relevant to the car symptoms your audience may experience, with advice on what to do next. It likely won't generate 4 million views and become a viral hit, but that isn't what it takes for your business to use YouTube to its advantage.
Having a dated, poorly functioning website turns buyers away. The same goes for the quality of your branded YouTube content.
On average, YouTube videos are around two minutes long. While people are willing to interact with homemade, amateur content if it's good for a laugh, they expect a higher level of production and content quality if the video is branded. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't run it on local cable television, don't use it on your YouTube brand channel. Invest enough resources in the production of your video content to adequately represent your business.
When your viewers are impressed by your message, they will talk about your brand, use your brand, and will create a financial wave for your brand that had not existed before. This, in its simplest form, is the power of a YouTube brand channel.
The quality of your YouTube page itself matters, too. For example, take a look at the Carl's Jr. YouTube Channel (boasting nearly 8 million views).
It's a communications tool, and not just in times of crisis.
We're all familiar with a popular (here unnamed) pizza chain's 2009 saga. Being able to answer and counter negative YouTube press before it severely damages a brand is just one of a branded channel's many benefits.
Social media is your direct line to your customer base. For a business franchise, building an image on a store-by-store basis can be important. Connecting to your community and your customer base on an individual level, showing off your unique voice, and building your own brand awareness is certainly one of the most beneficial parts of creating and maintaining your own YouTube brand channel.
As a franchisee, you understand the challenges of being perceived as a big box store or chain restaurant. Trying to gain a local feel and local support is a daily battle that YouTube can help you win.
Optimize your content for the search engines.
Less than five years ago, Google launched Universal Search, making videos, blogs, social profiles, and images part of their search engine results page. Others followed suit, making the appearance of multimedia content a regular and welcome search result. Maximize the potential of your YouTube channel by optimizing your branded content for the search engines. This includes tagging your content (keeping keyword research in mind), using optimized video titles, and keyword-dense video descriptions.
Perhaps the most important tip for successfully integrating YouTube into your marketing mix is just that--integrate! Like banner advertising, paid search campaigns, and radio spots, YouTube is a marketing channel. Integrate it into your overall strategy to reap maximum benefit for your business.
Lisa Wehr is CEO and founder of OneUpWeb, a leading digital marketing agency. For further information on how to successfully brand your franchise on YouTube, send her a tweet @LisaWehr. Or contact OneUpWeb at oneupweb.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.