We recently achieved a milestone – over half a million views on the Veracity YouTube channel. Not bad. Almost half of these views are down to one simple little “How to” film – “How to Buy a Used Car”, featuring former BBC Top Gear presenter Steve Berry.
The film was professionally shot, with a crew of 5 plus Steve in approximately an hour, to a draft script that Steve adapted himself. It was then edited in less than half a day. It was made for the Co-operative Group back in October 2011 and is currently generating around 15,000 views a month, with viewers watching for an average of 4 minutes per visit. Over its lifetime that is now around 1,250,000 minutes of watching time. Nearly a third of viewers stay with the video right until the end (at 6 minutes 57” it is a comparatively long web film)
The ratio of “Likes” to “Dislikes” is approximately 10:1 and the film has been watched by almost as many people in the USA as in the UK, as well as people in 212 other countries from New Caledonia to Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan to Burkina Faso. It has gained our channel 109 subscribers, and lost only 2. We know all this because YouTube’s constantly updated analytics say so, (as well as a lot more besides).
So what does all that tell us? Well, first and foremost it shows the incredible power of YouTube to reach an audience effectively over a long period of time. It also shows that there really are no hard and fast rules about web film running times – if a story is worth watching people will watch it on YouTube just as they would on TV. Dove’s brilliant and subtle 6 minute Real Beauty Film has had around 6,000,000 views. Admittedly the 3 minute version has had over 37,000,000 – but that just shows the strength and lasting appeal of a story well told (the muscle of the Dove brand and Unilever’s online marketing budget probably also helped). If media people say “it has to be no more than 2 minutes” they are either wrong or the story is really not that strong.
Steve Berry and the Top Gear connection have also encouraged a lot of visitors. Steve is a known, trusted face, he has credibility, so mentioning him and the network programme that he is best known for in the title made sense.
Proper production values help too. Our film is planned and put together with care and attention to detail, just like a piece of broadcast TV. People trust it because it has an air of authority and stands out amongst a plethora of semi-professional and unashamedly amateur films purporting to do the same job. YouTube thumbnails and descriptions are incredibly important in this context – it’s a crowded environment and your film has to stand out as something worth watching. The thumbnail you choose reflects directly on your brand. . Next time you check out your business channel, just see how well chosen the thumbnails are. If you have let YouTube choose them for you, you are immediately diluting your brand and lowering the channel’s impact.
The shared/viral success of “How to buy a used car” (Which Magazine’s equivalent film has just 57,000 views) has been entirely down to the quality of the content, the way the film is presented and the YouTube community’s response to it. There has been no online PR, no paid online marketing. We have no intention of “monetising” the film, so there are no ads accompanying it. It is useful information with a wide appeal, presented well.
The advice given is also personal, which again works well to encourage people to watch it carefully and trust it. The overwhelmingly positive comments it receives reinforce this. More businesses need to be prepared to think laterally about the impact they have and what they do and use YouTube to encourage a dialogue with customers that will help raise their profile and enhance their brand reputation.
As well as promoting their brands and products with extended ads, video case studies and so on, to make the most of the opportunity YouTube offers they really need to “give something” – something practical and useful that people will want to engage with. That may be a simple guide to recycling for a plastics manufacturer, a series of “How To” save money films for an energy company or a guide to getting a better night’s sleep for a bedding company. The trick is to forget about selling to people and focus instead on starting interesting conversations with them. Then do it with a professional edge every time, so your channel stays consistently coherent, alluring and authoritative, just as you like your brand to appear. Build it and they will come – but only if you build it well.
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