Retailers looking for a quick fix to an increasingly vexing challenge—getting their web presence to look good on all screen sizes, be it on smartphones, tablets or desktop PCs—may want to turn to YouTube.
The online video goliath began rolling out a major upgrade this spring, specifically designed to ensure that a company’s website on its service—which YouTube calls a “channel”—looks great, no matter how visitors decide to view it.
“The main focus of this update is to make your new channel look great on browsers across all screens and devices,” says Jeb Havens, a product manager at YouTube.
The solution is perfect for retailers who are eager to develop a web presence that looks good on all computer devices but may not have the time, revenue or fortitude to do a complete redesign of their current website.
Essentially, retailers can use YouTube for their mobile presence on the web, and retain their current website for web surfers who use more traditional desktop and laptop computers.
“This is definitely a good change,” says Angela Hsu, vice president, Internet marketing at Lamps Plus (www.lampsplus.com). “We allocate resources to develop up our YouTube channel and video content. Having a web presence that can be viewed on smartphone, tablet or traditional PC is definitely important and a strategic emphasis for our organization. We want to be where our customers are and provide them with a strong Lamps Plus experience, no matter which device they wish to consume content on.”
Boudino de Jong, marketing director, XGISO, agrees: “Smartphones and tablets are the new gateways to the online world. As long as YouTube safeguards the unique user experience that bigger screens can create, and keeps enhancing and redefining its mobile ‘on-the-go’ experience, it will remain a prominent player and trendsetter in the video-sharing and overall Internet scene.”
The redesign, which YouTube is calling YouTube One, also offers retailers an opportunity to either enhance their video presence on the web, or finally launch that video promotion strategy they’ve been considering for months, or even years, but never quite got around to implementing.
All told, it’s a tough offer to pass up, given YouTube’s juggernaut web status. It’s the third most popular site on the Internet, just behind Google and Facebook, according to market research firm Alexa (www.alexa.com). And it’s currently averaging more than one billion unique visitors per month, according to its company stats page (www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html).
Plus, YouTube’s asking price for hosting your retail business channel on its service—free—makes establishing a beachhead there almost impossible to resist.
YouTube is able to offer a one-size-fits-all website by stripping down the home page for a business’ web channel to its bare essentials. Businesses are invited to personalize their home page by uploading a banner featuring their logo or other identifying graphics, which runs along the top of their page, but design-wise, that’s about it.
Otherwise, the rest of the home page design for your business channel—which includes a basic white background—is pretty much standardized. Perhaps most interesting about the standardization is that the home page is now dominated by a wide, middle column, flanked on each side by a much skinnier column.
The new wide, middle column—a lot like the newsfeed column on Facebook—is where the action is. Here, you can arrange its videos into separate playlists, based on categories of your choosing.
There’s also a navigation bar just below the company banner in the middle column, where visitors can click to access your videos in other ways, look at and participate in discussion about your videos, or get a brief text description of what your business is about.
The skinny column on the left actually has nothing to do with your business. It’s used by YouTube to promote other video channels on its service. Ditto for the skinny right column.
Probably the best news about the update is that getting started on YouTube is pretty much effortless. If you’re looking to establish your own business channel there, here are some tips offered by the company:
Create your own channel: Getting a business channel on YouTube literally takes a few seconds. There’s a quick sign-in, and shazam—you suddenly have your own business channel.
Upload a banner: Banners are the sole piece of artwork, other than your actual videos, that personalize your channel’s home page. So you’ll probably want to give the banner some thought. The optimum size for the banner is 2120 X 1192 pixels, according to YouTube’s online design guide. For detail on maximizing your banner’s usefulness, check out YouTube’s text tutorial (http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2972003&topic=16630&ctx=topic).
Upload your first video: This process also takes just a few seconds. Once your video is on YouTube, you’ll be prompted to title it with an easy-to-understand title, include a description for the video, and come up with some “tags” or keywords that search engines will use to direct web cruisers to your video. For more info on titling and the like, check out: (www.youtube.com/yt/playbook/metadata.html).
Prioritize appearance of critical videos: Once you’ve uploaded a number of videos on YouTube, you’ll be able to use a new feature from YouTube to position the most important videos at the top of your channel page.
Consider organizing videos by playlists: Another great, new feature, playlists allow businesses to organize videos by theme. You may want one playlist devoted entirely to breaking news from your firm—executive video announcements, company news coverage from national or local TV, etc. Another playlist might be devoted entirely to a new product line, or a new service you’ve added.
Consider creating a welcome video: Another new feature of the upgrade, a welcome video, or trailer, can be programmed to play for visitors who are new to your channel on YouTube, then disappear when YouTube senses your visitor has subscribed to your channel.
“A compelling channel trailer is the most engaging way of introducing your channel, and encouraging your viewers to subscribe, so they’ll make you part of their YouTube habit,” says Andres Palmister, audience development strategist, YouTube.
Take advantage of the global change tool: Another great new feature of the service is the ability to make global changes to the specs associated with your videos. You may decide down the line that you want to run YouTube ads before your videos play to generate some extra coin from your presence there. YouTube’s Bulk Action tool enables you to make that change to all videos simultaneously. You can also recategorize all videos with a single action, change the formats of ads that run with your videos, and more. For more info, check out: (http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2944686).
Leverage YouTube Analytics: With YouTube’s free analytics, you can find out the number views for each of your videos, see who’s subscribing to your channel, analyze how long each person watched each video, see at what point in the video viewers are leaving the videos, and more. YouTube Analytics are a powerful tool that will tell you what’s going on with your videos, and suggest ways to improve on what you’re doing.
Embed a YouTube player on your traditional website: Once you’ve uploaded all your videos to YouTube, you can embed a YouTube player on your company Web site that visitors there can use to view your videos. Simply click the “Share” button under a video you have on YouTube, then click “Embed.” You’ll be presented with a single line of code that you or your web designer can embed on any page of your traditional website and presto—you’ve got a YouTube viewer on your website that can be used to view all the videos on your YouTube business channel.
Consult the free YouTube Playbook: For the last word on how to optimize every aspect of your YouTube channel, check out YouTube’s free guide (www.youtube.com/yt/playbook/index.html).
“Everything in your online marketing should be mobile-friendly,” says Melonie Dodaro, social media specialist, Top Dog Social Media (http://topdogsocialmedia.com).