After starting mainly as an ultra addictive way to share silly cat videos and bootleg concert footage, YouTube has become a multi-purpose engine for entertainment, education and marketing. Amateur crafters can learn the ins and outs of quilting, do-it-yourself mechanics can figure out how to change their car’s oil and culinary wannabes can perfect the art of making a soufflé – all through community-posted videos from knowledge-sharing peers.
For small businesses, the video-sharing site also holds near limitless potential to become a more intimate marketing tool, with greater reach than any other advertising tools around.
While many businesses already use Facebook and Twitter to publicize themselves and connect to their communities, YouTube is still a relatively under-utilized platform for spreading awareness of products and services while also offering a more connective experience.
By creating their own YouTube channels, businesses can essentially start their own video blogs, keeping customers tuned in on the latest offerings and engaging them with the personalities that make up their favorite stores.
Brick-and-Mortar Meets the Internet
San Francisco’s Green Apple Books, one of the city’s longest standing and most beloved book stores, established its own YouTube channel four years ago, and has continued to update it with videos that showcase everything from their “Book of the Month” selections to newly hired employees.
The store even features a brilliant “smackdown” series that pits physical books (and bookstores) against the Kindle to see who reigns supreme in areas like lending books to friends, and obtaining author autographs at book signings.
A smart marketing move, the YouTube channel has helped the store maintain relevance in an age where technology is generally thought to be a threat to brick-and-mortars, especially bookstores. By embracing relevant technology rather than fighting it, Green Apple has been able to engage its target audience (existing customers and potential new ones) in a whole new way.
A Human Touch for Online Shoppers
Likewise, online sellers can put faces to businesses that might otherwise feel impersonal and anonymous by creating a YouTube series. In much the same way Facebook and Twitter have been able to breach the wall of internet separation, offering a more personal experience to shoppers, YouTube can provide an even more intimate relationship between seller and shopper, allowing consumers to get a glimpse of who they are actually supporting with their dollars.
Video journals featuring chats with an online business owner can mimic the experience of stopping into your favorite shop once a week to browse goods and chat with the friendly owners – a more personal, human touch that online shops lack.
Endless Ways to Engage
Videos give a whole new avenue for creating interest in a business. Creative entrepreneurs can take their YouTube channels beyond being glorified commercials by creating a cinematic series for customers to follow online, or can involve loyal supporters in some of their videos to further engage their audiences.
New products can be introduced over a stretch of time through a dramatic or comedic “mini-series” on YouTube – one that will draw in viewers while keeping them informed about the business. Include regular customers or local characters to make the experience even more relatable.
In a world where testimonials from the common man are becoming increasingly important in marketing (just look at the competition to get the highest Yelp ranking), broadcasting a few interviews with real-life customers may be just the kick in the pants a potential client needs to try a new shop.
Business YouTube channels can also be linked to companies’ social media pages to increase traffic and help make shopping (and marketing) a more immersive experience.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with a free savings account.