In the previous chapter, we looked at how to publish a blog post that encourages action and engagement. One of those actions just happened to be video: encouraging either a video view or a visit to YouTube. Let’s take a look, now, at how we’re publishing those very videos with the same aim, to drive action. This is where we start to leverage YouTube in building our engagement stack.
I’m going to talk solely about YouTube because, really, that’s where our video value is at. That’s not to say you can’t republish your videos elsewhere, like Vimeo or Wistia. But, YouTube has the audience and the tools to engage them, so that’s where we start. Plus… just a little thing here… it’s FREE!
In talking video, there are two contexts:
- Those who find you, for the first time, via video
- Those who know you already, but engage with you more, via video
Each context is very different, but the end result is the same. Let's look at them in turn.
YouTube as First Contact
We’ve already talked about the fact that YouTube is a good place to be found. It’s position as the 2nd largest search engine in the world means that you can attract new audience members into your ecosystem.
As a result, we need to think about what to tell a brand new viewer. How do we hook them in and encourage them to dig deeper into your content?
In the default stacking approach, our first step would be to encourage them to view the next video on this topic. For example, Introduction to theory, or theory to actions.
Next, you might direct them to the blog post, for more detail. That also directs them to the podcast episode which is included on your blog post. All of these lead to a deeper delve into your content, the reader taking one step after another to engage with you and what you do.
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Just One Step
Your job with these first-time viewers is to encourage that next step. That’s all you need. Just one step.
If they take that decision to look at one more thing, then you’ve done your job.
YouTube as a Fan Builder
The next context we're working in is that of existing readers. In this case YouTube acts as a fan builder, creating more and more engagement with your existing audience.
We covered the full engagement stack in Chapter One: What is Content Stacking?, and showed that video can be the next stage of engagement, following text. Text is first contact for many, and from there you want to deliver some personality. That’s where media comes in.
If you can capture a reader via your blog, then encourage a video view, you increase engagement with that reader. They get to know you more deeply. At that point, it's possible to kick-start a binge through your entire video library.
Again, this relies on encouraging that ‘next action’ within your videos, much the same as with a brand new viewer.
So, whether it’s their first visit to your content, or their 100th, the task is the same: how do we get someone to take an action based on viewing a YouTube video?
How To Encourage Action on YouTube
I wont delve into how we create video content itself; that’s not the job of this series. But, of course, viewers will only take action if you create compelling YouTube content! If you want to learn the craft of video, I’d recommend checking out the most excellent Amy Schmittauer over at Savvy Sexy Social.
Content Stacking does give us a head start in one important aspect of great video, though: it encourages the creation of short, sharp, focused episodes. YouTube thrives on quick content, focused on solving one problem and getting to the point right away. Your aim is to help your viewer, then finish up, no waffle. If you record a 20 minute podcast episode on video, then splitting that video recording into 4 video segments, then that’s what you’ll end up with.
The downside to this is that you wont push any YouTube-specific actions during the content itself. You can’t say, “Visit the next video in the series,” within the show if you want to re-purpose it as a Podcast episode.
That’s where video overlays come in. These elements are going to encourage the ‘next action’.
Let’s look at the YouTube tools which encourage that action, whether it's to view another video, to read the blog post or to listen to the podcast.
Annotations have been around for a long time, acting as the default method for adding Calls to Action to your videos.
With annotations you can add speech bubbles, titles or notes to any video, and these can link to your website, to other videos or to your channel. To see an example of this, have a look at the end of this video on using Hootsuite.
While annotations are useful, it’s important to note that they don’t work on mobile. If you have a user watching your video on the small screen, they simply wont show up. And, as we know, the world is moving increasingly to mobile… so that’s quite a big issue.
Don’t worry though, we have a couple of mobile friendly options.
Cards are a more recent addition to YouTube: a type of ‘annotation’ which designed to be mobile friendly.
Cards allow you to pop up a notification on the top-right of the video at a set time-point. It’s a simple little (i) for information icon. If the user clicks this, it opens the card: either text or an image, and both can be linked.
Cards offer really nice calls to action related to whatever you’re saying at the time. They’re more attractive than annotations, but a little less compelling on desktop since they’re more subtle. But, if you want mobile CTAs within videos, then this is the way to go.
Their success depends a lot on how you tie it in with the action on-screen. Make sure you mention non-media-specific actions during the recording and place a card at the relevant point.
YouTube End Screens
Next, we come to End Screens. This is a hugely valuable tool because it allows you to add a Call to Action right at the end of each video. Exactly when your viewer is looking for something else to do.
In the example opposite, I’ve overloaded the screen with every option, just to demonstrate.
You can add a ‘Subscribe’ icon (bottom left) to encourage a subscription to your channel. You can add a ‘visit website’ option (top left) to link to a resource, a tool or anything else on your website. And you can link to a ‘next video’ (bottom right) either a specific one on YouTube, or to your most recent upload.
In the olden days, YouTube presenters would often have a custom made graphic with simulated buttons included for an end screen.The presenter would use annotations to activate buttons and encourage the click.
Now, though, if you want to stay mobile friendly, the official YouTube ‘End Screen' is the way to go. As a bonus, it's easier and more flexible than the old method, plus I think it looks good. Certainly better than most of the ‘end graphics' that used to litter YouTube.
Finally, we have the much maligned description. Don’t underestimate this. It’s tucked away at the bottom, far less flashy than the in-video effects, but people do look at it.
The description should include an introduction to the video, and a call to action in the form of a naked link, http:// included. The description is cut very short by YouTube, so if you want the link to show, include it within the first couple of sentences.
It's also an idea to include a general set of links to your other content below the custom message. That means that if someone's really interested, they can expand the description and get a wider view of your work.
Let's continue the example started in the blog publishing chapter. My latest content idea has been caught on tape and I've now split it into three videos. I publish all three on YouTube – the introduction, the theory and the actions – and I add End Screens to each.
The end screen of the introduction video will include:
- A ‘next in the series' link: the Theory video, which leads on from the intro
- A ‘more details' link: the Theory blog post (which includes your podcast episode)
- A link to subscribe to your YouTube channel
You should also include, within the video, YouTube Cards which link to resources. For example, in a microphones tutorial, I might mention that we’re going to cover dynamic microphones today. At that point in the video I can include a card that links to our Dynamic vs Condenser microphones article.
Finally, we have a description, something along the lines of:
“This is an introduction to Dynamic microphones and where they work best. Visit: https://www.thepodcasthost.com/mics/ to find the blog & podcast episode for more detail. And to view the next video in the series, go here: http://youtube.com/…”
Each of these Calls to Action – annotations, cards, end screens, description – lead to other resources within our stack of content. And each action the audience member takes places another block of engagement on the stack.
The Bottom Line
Just keep one thing in mind: always look for the best possible next step, and make it easy for the viewer to take it.
Ideally, you’ll be sending them to the podcast episode to really entrench their engagement. But, in many cases, actually, the blog post is a better bet. That’s because a big part of your audience aren't in the habit of listening to podcasts.
There’s a danger in offering too much choice. But, over time, you develop a sense for the best next step in any context.
Split it, test it, refine it. But, above all, do it.
Next, on to Podcasting.