Live Blog: Harness the Power of YouTube

Sarah Dussault, one of the most viewed fitness personalities on YouTube, presents this session where attendees will learn how to create high-quality video content that will not only drive traffic to your blog, it will increase audience retention and earn money, too. YouTube has been rolling out new features to help promote fitness and health videos over the past year. It sees value in fitness partners and has been investing in its health-conscious audience. After a completely new layout in 2011, YouTube has introduced new features that are blogger friendly, with hopes to increase your traffic.

Sarah can be found at sarahfit.com, @DietSarah, and SarahsFabChannel.

Sarah Dussault onstage at FitBloggin 2012

This presentation will be about harnessing the power of YouTube.

First, why do bloggers need YouTube? 133 million Internet users are blog readers however 184 million Internet users watch 36.9 billion online videos and that was just for July 2012. These are all people you can convert into blog readers.

Why does YouTube matter? Companies pay attention to YouTube because videos influence consumer behavior. Significant numbers of consumers make purchase decisions after watching YouTube videos and companies are paying attention to this trend.

What can YouTube do for your blog? It can drive traffic to your blog and increase your SEO on blog posts. Sarah did a video on how to get rid of armpit fat which drives large volumes of a traffic to her blog – that video is the second highest driver of traffic to her blog, second only to her name. She simply made a video called “How to Get Rid of Armpit Fat,” created a blog post with the same name, and embedded the video in the post.

YouTube makes you more desirable to advertisers and brands. Companies want regular people to talk about their products on YouTube.

You will increase your revenue by adding YouTube advertising to your income. YouTube is a “cash cow” right now with some of the top channels earning over a million dollars a year and many more of the top channels earning hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How to get started? First, choose your channel name and sign up at YouTube. Go by your url or your blog name if you can.

What kind of camera do you need? If you’re just getting started, you can use your computer’s webcam. If you use a smartphone, make sure you get close up, use good lighting, and that there is no background noise. These are the two most important things – use good lighting (natural is best) and film in a quiet environment.

Sarah uses Final Cut Pro to edit but you don’t need special software. You can use iMovie or basic PC editing software. YouTube created a 90-page “playbook” that will tell you everything you need to know to create, edit, export, and upload sensational videos. You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/yt/creators/playbook.html and every video maker should read it. It is the “holy grail,” everything you need to know.

So you made a video, now what? Make sure you include the information you need to turn viewers into blog readers. Always use the very first line in the “Description” box to link viewers to your blog. The description box influences your SEO and how you appear in searches, so use it well. Make good use of annotations and tags as well.

Sarah Dussault presents a visual example of how she uses the description box, links, and annotations to drive traffic from YouTube to her blog.

Unfortunately, YouTube will not allow a viewer to click a video and go to an external blog, it will only allow you to click around YouTube. But you can let viewers subscribe to your channel, which is good. This is further explained in the playbook.

Other things people like on YouTube: show some skin! You will get a lot more views if you wear less clothing. This is not Sarah’s style and she rarely wears just a sports bra because she keeps in mind what kind of people she wants viewing her videos. But many fitness bloggers understand that less clothes = more views.

You can add a watermark to your video notifying viewers of your external website.

If you are a YouTube partner, you can make your own thumbnails, which are the still-frame pictures next to your video. If you are not a partner, you’ll get whatever the middle frame of your video is. Thumbnails that are personally created get more clicks because you can add title words and choose a quality image to attract viewers.

Your channel’s homepage skin can be professionally created with external links to your blog and your social networking sites. You can drive traffic from your YouTube channel page wherever you want. It is “prime real estate.”

Question: You can only do those custom skins if you’re a partner, right?

Answer: I think so, this is one of the reasons you want to be a partner. I think they just opened the partner program up so anyone can do it.

Question: If you’ve been asked to monetize your videos does that mean you’re a partner?

Answer: Yes, although I think you can apply to be a partner. I’ve been a partner for some time so I don’t know for sure if it changed but I think anyone can be a partner now.

Question: There is a banner above my video that says “do you want to be a partner…”

Answer:  Then say yes! That’s how you monetize! This is how you harness the power of YouTube!

So how did Sarah get all these followers (subscribers)?  She highly recommends making friends in the YouTube community. It’s one of the best things you can do. Sarah contacted Elle Fowler and asked her if she would let Sarah design a workout for her. This was in 2009 when Sarah’s channel was fairly new and Elle was popular but not as famous as she is now.  Elle said yes and within a week Sarah had gained over 10,000 subscribers from Elle mentioning Sarah’s workout in one of her videos.

Sarah shares a video and a story about how she built her channel by reaching out popular YouTube personalities like Elle Fowler.

Other channels are NOT your competitors; they will not “steal” your viewers. You should collaborate because it’s a great way to grow your viewership. There is an audience for everyone and everyone brings something unique to YouTube.

To make friends on YouTube, it is recommended that you find someone who has a similar number of subscribers as you and collaborate on videos to build subscribers together.

When filming and editing, be careful about the music you choose, as YouTube has strict rules about music in videos and you can get your channel suspended for violations.

If you do workout videos, you’ll have to choose between doing them in “real time” or doing voiceovers. You’ll also choose between doing quick demonstrations or doing an entire workout. With workout videos, it totally depends on your audience. You have to balance viewers’ comments/feedback with view counts to determine what type of videos your audience wants.

Whether or not you use a cameraman depends as well. Some people have friends or spouses who will help. Sarah got to 60,000 subscribers without using a videographer. She now has someone who helps that because it is not something she enjoys doing herself.

Build a thick skin. If you cannot handle being called names or being criticized, YouTube may not be for you. Additionally, everyone’s an “expert” – viewers will post “expert” opinions, arguments will happen, and you have to just ignore them.

As far as content goes, make videos you would want to watch and share with friends. Make haul videos talking about products you like – videos for products are far better than blog posts because you can show so much more about the product in a video.

Demonstrate your expertise. Do what you’re good at.

Question: Are they actually called “haul” videos?

Answer: Yes, people will search for them that way. I also do things like “Favorite breakfast foods” or something like that.

If you have camera anxiety, just talk into the camera like you’re talking to a friend. If you have a cameraman, ask them to leave the room if you are nervous. You want to be yourself, but the perky, bubbly version of yourself. Nobody wants to watch low-energy videos so do whatever you need to do to be comfortable and high-energy. Before filming get happy, get excited!

Keep filming and you’ll finally figure out your niche and your voice.

To increase your views and start making money from YouTube, crosspost your videos on your blog. Consistently upload videos, just like you consistently do blog posts. Consistently upload on the same time on the same day so viewers learn when to visit your channel/blog. Keep videos 3 to 5 minutes unless you’re doing a real time fitness video. You may find your audience prefers longer videos.

Look at your analytics and use that information to create content.

Promote your videos to potential advertisers. Companies are looking at YouTube for promotion and the fact that you do video will make you more attractive to your blog advertisers.

Question: Do you recommend posting more than once a week?

Answer: Yes, if you can do it. I try to consistently post once a week on Wednesdays and then do a bonus video on the weekend.

YouTube will put you on their homepage if you post a video and it gets a certain number of views within the first 48 hours. So the time to promote your videos is within tht first 48 hours. That’s how you’ll get new subscribers.

Send links for your videos to people sites who may help promote it.

Sarah took several questions.

Question: What time of day is the best day to upload? How does monetizing work?

Answer:  Time of day depends on your content type. For fitness I prefer mornings. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are good traffic days. It depends on your audience. If you have a lot of moms, their schedules are going to be different than teenagers in school. That’s why you should use analytics and  you can learn a lot more about that from the YouTube playbook.

Monetizing works simply. When you upload a video YouTube will ask you if you want to monetize it.  I am part of a network so I have a network that sells ads on my channel. If you’re just starting, YouTube will put ads on your channel and then you’ll get a check from Google. You can also “double dip” and you can sell companies advertising and produce content for them on your channel. You can decide if you want to do pre-roll ads. You have control over which ads you do and do not want. Pre-roll ads make more than the pop-ups because more people click on them but a lot of people won’t watch pre-roll. It’s a balance. Also, YouTube  is always changing and always adjusting their options.

Question: So if a viewer stops watching a video during the pre-roll ad, does the YouTube person get less money?

Answer: You get more money if someone clicks on the ad.

Question: Do you ever do live-streaming straight from your phone to YouTube? Why or why not?

Answer: I personally don’t but some people do. I don’t because if I have the time to do a video, I want to edit it and have it look good. Most of my videos are professional and that’s the style I prefer. I also haven’t had time to do more live-streaming, vlog-like videos although I may start. Do any of you watch live-streaming videos? [Nobody raises hand.]

Question: What is livestreaming?

Answer:  It’s when you open up YouTube and Twitter and let people know you’re doing a live session and you can answer questions from followers on Twitter on your YouTube channel in video in real time. It can be overwhelming.

Question: How do you interact with you viewers? Do you comment with them or tweet them?

Answer: I try to say thank you or retweet people if they’ve tweeted one of my videos. If someone makes an interesting comment I will respond but it can get overwhelming especially if a video has hundreds of new comments. I also have my YouTube comments linked to my Twitter which will tweet my comments and that’s another way I drive traffic to my videos.

I highly encourage interaction with viewers by posing a question at the end of the video, that way you ensure people will spend 15 seconds you need to get to the monetized view. You need to keep them for 15 seconds – don’t be boring, be engaging, be in their face, ask them a question.  Intros should be quick and engaging, never boring.

Question:  When you started YouTube did you have anxiety about your family and friends seeing your videos and asking you about it?

Answer: Yes. It took a long time to get over. It wasn’t until I’d been a full-time blogger for several years that I got okay with it. It was super embarrassing and it still is at times. It takes a while to get used to. I try to separate it and make certain things like my Facebook page remain really private and separate from what I do with my blog and channel. I don’t promote my videos on my Facebook page so I’m not promoting my video stuff to my friends as much. After a while you get comfortable with it and now I talk it up and people are really interested.

Question: Do you see any [fitness] companies or brands doing a really good job with YouTube?

Answer: Befit and Livestrong are doing well. They are part of YouTube’s promotion of fitness videos. I cannot think of any brands with channels but I would rather see brands work with real people like me and I’ll promote their product.

Question: What do you think about workout videos where you get so winded and it’s hard to talk? Should you just do voiceover for those?

Answer: For yoga it works great because if you think about it, when you’re in down dog you just can’t talk to the camera. But I try to talk during workout videos because that’s what I like. My viewers are more beginner/intermediate so my videos allow me to talk; I don’t do anything too intense. You can do voiceover but it’s a little awkward. For yoga it works, but otherwise just talk to the camera.

Sarah Dussault stayed a while after her presentation to talk one-on-one with fellow fitness bloggers.

This session was live-blogged by Amber Holen who blogs at Amber’s 101 in 1,001 and who hopes to harness the power of YouTube sometime in the near future.