How to Expand Your Reach on YouTube

Mar 26, 2014

Guests from YouTube recently joined stations for a talk on how to expand your reach on YouTube. Jason Hwang, Global Programs Manager for YouTube News, and Marina Abayev, New Partner Development for YouTube News, covered how to get started with the platform, the lifecycle of a video on YouTube, and shared information about YouTube’s partner program. Although the talk wasn't recorded, we've compiled some notes from what we found useful below.   

Why Use YouTube?

If you're asking why use YouTube in the first place, Jason and Marina shared a few interesting statistics about why it could be worth your time if you're going to explore web video.

  • Audience: YouTube has 1 billion unique viewers each month. The audience skews towards a younger 18-34 demographic. 
  • Technology:  YouTube is accessible by almost all modern devices (including phone, tablet, desktop, TV, laptops and gaming consoles.) YouTube’s traffic is almost 40 percent from mobile devices. (source: YouTube)
  • Creator: Anyone with a smartphone can be a YouTube creator

Expand Your Reach By Following the Five Steps Below

There are five steps to keep in mind when thinking about how to expand your reach on YouTube. 

  1. Building a home
  2. Content
  3. Search and Discovery
  4. Promote and Retain
  5. Measurement and Analytics 

1. Build a home for your videos

Your channel is your video and brand’s homepage. It is where your viewer can learn about who you are as a company and whether they should watch your videos or subscribe to your channel. Before you post any content, you should optimize your channel page. Check off the pieces on the list below to make sure your page is optimized.

  • Channel icon: The icon is shared with your Google+ page and shows up across YouTube when your channel is presented. 
  • Banner : The banner travels across every device. It is often used to communicate a schedule or new programming (for example: "tune in every Wednesday at 8 p.m. for our show on sharks")
  • Subscribe button: Use calls to action to get viewers to click that subscribe button
  • Welcome video: Use to introduce a new viewer to your channel. Keep it short and include a reason why people should subscribe. Only an unsubscribed viewer will see the welcome video.
  • Sections: These are useful organizational tools of your channel. Create sections using video tags, and group videos together by genre, series, and theme. If your sections are organized well it can help create a lean back experience for the viewer where they watch more of your videos.  

Credit Russ Gossett

2. Content

Jason and Marina recommend using NPR Digital Services' nine types of local stories that cause engagement as a guide for what type of content will do well on your YouTube channel. Keeping those types in mind, here are four examples of possible formats that could work on your channel.  

The Daily Roundup

These are 30 to 60 second pieces which highlight the day in news and use annotations like a table of contents as a way to skip to specific sections in the video. For example, VICE news uses annotations as part of their daily news capsule. 

Long Form
Content on YouTube can continue to be valuable and discoverable for a long period of time. Having a few long form stories that are evergreen will provide a longer tail of content for your channel. 

Audio Podcast
This is a new format that some channels are exploring. Audio can be uploaded to a YouTube video with one or more images. Videos can also be time stamped and annotated, allowing your viewer to skip to the sections they want to hear. For example, Grantland Podcast uses annotations to show when certain parts of conversations start so listeners can get to the stuff they want easily.

Live Stream
Livestreaming works well for breaking news. For example, the Texas Tribune had over 100,000 viewers when they livestreamed the Wendy Davis filibuster. 

3. Searching and Discovery
Now that you know what kind of videos to upload, don't forget to think about your settings and how to optimize your metadata for search and discovery. YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google, so make sure your content can be found with these tips.

Four search and discovery influencers: 

Metadata includes things like your video title, description, keywords, custom thumbnails, and transcripts. In the video description you should embed links to your website and Twitter. The first keywords are weighted as more important, although there are up to 500 characters for them. Also, categorize your video and include location and date, especially if you are out in the field or working on a breaking story. Lastly, if you are able to upload the full transcript of your story, do so, the key benefit of a transcript is automatic speech recognition technology which matches captions with the video's spoken word.  

New videos on trending current events topics, and/or updates to an ongoing news story will surface higher in search. For example the video: KTLA news anchors during earthquake. Because KTLA uploaded this video 15 minutes after the earthquake, included great metadata and shared it on social media they came up first in any search for "earthquake" during that time period.

Watch Time
The amount of time users spend watching your videos is a great quality indicator, and is the backbone of YouTube's video recommendation algorithm. All recommendations are ranked by watch time, according to Jason and Marina. The ideal is that a user stumbles across a video and then watches more due to the lean back experience you have created on your channel. Playlists can help create this experience. Check out the playlists on WNYC's Know Your Neighbor and Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt.

User Generated Data 
User Generated Data is based on view counts, shares, comments, favorites, likes and dislikes. To increase these stats you will need to utilize YouTube as a social platform.  The Young Turks Twitter Storm encouraged  users to tweet at The Young Turks and they respond in the YouTube comments; this boosts their audience engagement which assists with video ranking. 

4. Promote & Retain
You've built a home for your content, you know what type of content to upload and you've optimized the metadata so your videos will get discovered. Now you need to promote your videos and turn viewers into subscribers. A few ways to do that are by sharing on your other social channels, using annotations to ask viewers to subscribe (as YouTube Nation does), and allowing your video to be embedded. The more your content is embedded, the more likely your audience is going to find it.  

5. Measuring Your Success
This is the last step in the lifecycle of your video. Pay attention to your analytics and consider the following every time before you upload your next video:

  • Who are your viewers/what are the demographics?
  • What videos are they watching and why?
  • What part of the video are they watching?
  • How did they found your video?
  • Where are they watching your videos?

BONUS: YouTube Partner Program
A partner channel monetizes their content by placing ads against it and entering into a revenue share program with YouTube. Learn more about if the partner program is right for you.

Want to learn more? Here are some useful resources: 
Creator Hub
Partner Playbook
Google News Integration
9 Types of Local Stories That Cause Engagement