More Than Cute Cats: Creating Effective YouTube Content to Build Your Brand & Boost Sales

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

More than cute cats banner

By Jeremiah Link

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Canadian Music Trade

It turns out there’s more to YouTube than cute and comical cat videos. The social media giant has an astronomical number of users, making it a marketing tool with the ability to reach literally billions of people. If you haven’t considered it as a platform to promote your business yet, you may want to rethink your strategy and seriously contemplate creating a YouTube channel.

The reasons are many. Currently, 1.3 billion people use the video sharing service and 5 billion videos are viewed daily. What’s more, these numbers are steadily increasing. YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google and simultaneously stands among the top three social media platforms alongside Facebook and Twitter. Even if you’re attracting a minute fraction of those figures, the potential is massive, and in an industry that revolves around products with sonic and visual appeal, there’s really no better way to show them off than an audiovisual medium.

Of course, time and resources are at a premium when running a business and looking into the various avenues of promoting it, but consider this: people are more likely to care about and share video content than static images or text-based messages. It takes more focus and energy to read an entire article than to watch a video with the same amount of information or more.

Bill BatesA well-curated YouTube channel with good content can introduce your store culture and brand to potential customers before they even consider walking through the door. It could offer an introduction to your employees and ultimately help people feel more comfortable in the retail environment. At times, the videos could directly lead to sales; however, at the foundation, you want your channel to promote your shop, build your brand, and increase traffic to your online and physical homes.

So you’ve created a channel and named it after your business (an individual’s name looks far less professional and authoritative). Now what? There’s no more time to hesitate. Decide which kinds of videos you want to shoot and share, and then just go for it.

As far as the type of content, when speaking with our panel, the most common content categories that have yielded results are product demonstrations, showcases, and how-to videos – because who doesn’t go to YouTube when they have a problem? But beyond that, it could be an interview series with local or well-known musicians or some music-oriented comedic skits that relay the lighthearted environment and quirky nature of your store and staff. You could film musical performances by special guests or students from your music school. The possibilities are virtually endless.

So when you decide to take a seat in the director’s chair and get set to shoot your material, there are a few tricks to keep in mind to maximize the effectiveness of your content and attract as many views as possible – particularly from the viewers you want to attract.

First, the shorter the video, the sweeter. Statistics show that the majority of views on YouTube go to videos that are two minutes or less. Attention is at a premium. Make your videos concise and to the point. Take out any unnecessary footage to keep your viewers right to the end, as complete start-to-finish views help your video and channel’s search rankings.

As mentioned, your channel’s name and customized look should establish the type of branding you’re going for – probably in harmony with that of your physical store. Whether you want to be professional and authoritative, playful and fun, or credible and educational, make sure the look of your channel matches the content of your videos.

The same applies to the videos themselves – show your logo at the beginning and end of your videos, and keep the content and dialogue in line with your brand. Don’t forget to provide links in your video descriptions so that your audience is led to your company’s website and social media pages. The whole point of this endeavor is to generate traffic to your other online properties and, ultimately, your store.

As for the content that you post, be consistent with your uploads. More videos means more comments, more shares, more engagement. Engage with your newly unified community by responding appropriately to comments and questions. A two-way dialogue is far more valuable than a one-way dialogue. That said, don’t let the mean-spirited comments affect you; that’s just the internet being the internet.

Experiment with what works and what doesn’t. YouTube provides you with fairly robust analytics for your videos – who’s watching, for how long, where they come from, etc. Utilize this data as much as you can. Take a look for yourself at where your videos thrive and where they don’t, and consider this when deciding on the direction of your future content. Lastly, spread the word by sharing your videos on all your social networks and encourage people to comment and share.

“YouTube’s analytics are great; you can really dig in. We’re checking analytics and evaluating what portions of the videos people actually watch and what portions they don’t.”

YouTube timeline

To take an even closer look at how to strategically use the video sharing service, Canadian Music Trade reached out to reps from five different music stores who are using YouTube to promote their brands – and doing it well. We’re trying to find what works and want doesn’t; things to try and things to avoid. Anything that will help you get started or be more successful with your efforts.

You may have seen the popular “100 Riffs (A Brief History of Rock N’ Roll)” video posted on Chicago Music Exchange’s YouTube channel. After all, the video currently sits at more than

18.5 million views; however, that impressive total isn’t your sole motivation for sharing content. It’s more about engaging customers, and Chicago Music Exchange accomplishes this through informative, educational, and entertaining videos that work in harmony with its brand.

Shane Kinney talks YouTube at the NAMM Show

Shane Kinney talks YouTube at the NAMM Show

“I think the most important part of anyone’s YouTube presence is you’re engaging the people that have chosen to follow you. The idea of Chicago Music Exchange’s web presence altogether is just continuing what we do in the store, online,” says the store’s outgoing marketing coordinator, Andrew Wittler.

Their video offerings contain a broad range of content – everything from gear reviews and lessons to artist performances and April fool’s day gags. The idea is to make direct connections with the store by introducing and showing off their products, their place, and their people.

“It gives our sales people who do a lot of the videos that much more credibility, and obviously gets their face out there in a big way. So if someone sees a video with one of our sales guys, like Joel doing a Gibson Les Paul demo, they know that when they walk into the store, he’s knowledgeable about guitars. Often times, they’ll walk in and say, ‘I want the one that you played in this video.’”

Wittler stresses that there isn’t a perfect formula to follow that guarantees your desired online following, but being engaging, entertaining, and concise are all necessary. He suggests spending time to properly identify what your brand is all about, and then staying true to it. People will see you’re genuine and then they will latch on to your brand.

“People can’t always come to the store to hang out and try things, but they obviously have access to the internet and they know what our store’s about. Maybe they go online to purchase something, or follow us on a social media outlet. It’s just as much about sales as it is about building a community and sharing the brand with an even larger audience, but also keeping close ties to the people that know and appreciate you.”

Toronto’s Kaos Music Centre saw the opportunity and value offered by YouTube and knew it would be an effective and inexpensive way to help promote their products and push their brand awareness. Their philosophy is simple: to create a connection between their staff and their viewers.

“We want to show them the actual guitar, so they can see the actual one with the actual wood grain that we have. So we’re not just promoting a SKU, like a Fender Strat; we’re promoting that particular Fender Strat. If someone takes a liking to that particular guitar, which often happens, they’ll phone up and say they want that particular one – not that model; that actual one,” says Bill Bates, owner of Kaos Music. He explains that he actually had a customer call recently about the guitar in a video posted in 2014. “He knew it wasn’t available anymore, but he wanted that model and one that looked just like it. It was a custom guitar, so it produces results.”

Shane Kinney of Drum Center Portsmouth

Shane Kinney of Drum Center Portsmouth

Their other strategy is to legitimize their staff and establish credibility. This way, they gain trust by relaying that the employees of Kaos Music know their instruments and how to play them.

“That’s been very effective, and because we use the same three or four people to demo instruments all the time, they become synonymous with our store. So when people walk into the store, they feel like they know them a little bit. Some people feel slightly excited about the fact they are meeting someone who is a bit of a YouTube personality.”

Kaos often finds direct links between their YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter efforts and purchases made through their online sales platform.

“All of the other benefits of promoting the store, promoting the staff, and promoting our knowledge, that’s really tricky to assign an analytic to, but we know that, anecdotally, people like it and we feel it’s helping our business.”

Making videos that are unique and different works well for Kaos. For example, clips of rare pieces that few other stores carry generate the most views, yield the strongest response, and ultimately, lead to the most sales. They’ve subsequently recognized this as one of their strengths.

Kaos Music Centre’s approach to creating YouTube content has evolved over the years. They are always looking to improve their production value with better equipment, software, and techniques. They don’t use scripts, but they structure videos the same way: greet the viewers, describe the instrument, demonstrate what it can do, and then thank the audience for watching. This format was solidified over time by examining what works and what doesn’t.

Long & McQuade’s Matt Durante

Long & McQuade’s Matt Durante

“We’re checking analytics and evaluating what portions of the videos people actually watch and what portions they don’t,” Bates says. “YouTube’s analytics are great; you can really dig in.”

When asked if he has any advice for other music stores, he advises that they identify and find their target audience, and then go about creating videos that are entertaining and appealing to those people. He also stresses the importance of good audio.

On that note, recognize that outside of the products you’re specifically showcasing in the video, you can also be promoting the equipment you’re using to create the video. With camera products from the likes of Zoom and GoPro appearing on MI store shelves alongside mics and recording accessories for smartphones and pro cameras from all kinds of manufacturers, you can actually be showcasing some of your products indirectly through the quality of your content and plugs at the end of your video or in the description.

Long & McQuade recently explored the possibilities of using their YouTube channel to bring new products and happenings from the annual NAMM Show to their customers at home, essentially taking advantage of exclusive content that few can access. It was a perfect opportunity to create some buzz around the latest products soon to come to their stores – and even get input on what people want to see.

“Our subscriber base pretty much doubled within that week,” says the chain’s New Media Specialist, Matt Durante. “The idea is to put up the video in a timely manner and keep it up throughout the year so that we can gain subscribers. Then next year, when we do a whole bunch of new videos, there’ll be that many more people ready and primed to get that content.”

Before the creation of their channel, Long & McQuade admin was noticing a change in the way their customers were buying equipment. Prior to the proliferation of YouTube, customers would spend more time interacting with the sales associates as they were one of the best sources of (accurate) information.

“These days, a lot of the time, people come in and say, ‘Hey, I saw this on YouTube. Wrap it up!’ Like it’s an instant sale, because they have done all the research that they need. If we can provide a resource on YouTube or online with all these videos there, it just really informs the customer with deeper detail than we can sometimes offer on the sales floor.”

When Durante explains the format behind their videos, he focuses mainly on the branding. “We really want to make sure that our branding is consistent across our videos. You know you’re watching a Long & McQuade video because there is a sense of being familiar with our brand; it complements the in-store experience.”

That familiarity is fostered through consistency – the same introduction, title screen, presenters, and background. The only aspect that changes is the content.

Long & McQuade has noticed the traction of their videos turning into tangible sales results – either customers coming in to purchase specific items they’ve seen promoted in the videos, or to ask questions about and compare those items with others.

Durante has also noticed instances where customers have requested to speak with a particular employee because they had seen them in a particular video. They suddenly become a recognizable face and ambassador for the company and the specialist of a particular product. For Durante, the best content mimics the customer experience on the sales floor. He calls them “shootout” videos, which involve comparing two products side-by-side and delving into commonalities and differences in their feature sets and performance.

He also suggests inviting guests or popular musicians to make an appearance in your videos. Having a special guest who people admire or would be searching for can offer a significant boost to your view totals.

The repetitious idea of being relevant with your target audience is once again brought up when talking with Robert Piperni, the buyer for L.A. Music, located in Mississauga, ON. Their strategy when it comes to video content is to not only engage their core customers, but include them in the process, whether that means posting a video on a topic requested by a customer, focusing on a popular or new product that people have gravitated towards, or documenting events like clinics or road shows that customers would attend if they had the means.

“If you have some how-to tips on your channel [on topics you know are relevant to your customers], I think that’s going to help,” says Piperni.

For a business to flourish on social media, it’s about all of the little aspects fusing together – being on the right platforms, creating the right kind of content, posting the right amount at the right times, and so on.

When he was first getting his store Drum Center off the ground, Portsmouth, NH’s Shane Kinney jumped right into YouTube and took advantage of its uses as a virtually free marketing tool. He realizes that people are drawn to YouTube for far more than just entertainment.

“It’s incredibly important to us. It’s basically a part of our culture; it’s who we are,” says Kinney, and that’s the right attitude.

Kinney’s video snare drum demonstrations, for instance, have developed a strong following and actually made his customers feel a close connection with the brand – a place that isn’t just trying to sell you a product, but the right product for the right applications.

“Basically, we try to create a mom and pop experience, no matter where [the viewer is]. So if you’re in Belarus and you want to hear what a certain snare drum sounds like, it’s almost as if you are trying it… They can get closer to the product. I’m a drum store that just makes videos for my customers and people who are enthusiastic about drumming. I’m not trying to get too serious about promotional campaigns or anything like that.”

That’s exactly how you can utilize YouTube. It’s not just about popularity or making a video go viral; it’s about bringing your brand to the consumer and complementing what you do in store through a different medium. (And yeah, it’s also about watching some cat videos at the end of the day.)

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Jeremiah Link is a writer who likes to colourfully capture and tell stories. When he’s not writing, you can catch him at the theatre watching a good movie, at the park playing some soccer, or capturing the beauty of the world through photography.