This is the fourth in a six-part series on social media best practices for libraries in 2021. Learn about Facebook here. Get the guide for Twitter here. And read everything you need to know about Instagram here. I’m researching the most up-to-date tips for posting on LinkedIn and Pinterest. I’ll share my findings on Mondays.
YouTube for Libraries
According to Omnicore, YouTube is the second most visited website in the world, bested only by Google. However, it’s technically the busiest search engine in the world because it processes more search requests.
On any given day, 30 million people around the world watch at least one YouTube video. YouTube has one million paying subscribers as of October 2020. And the average person watches videos on YouTube for 40 minutes per session.
Here’s another great YouTube fact to keep in mind: 37 percent of viewers on the platform are between the ages of 18 and 34. There’s that key demographic for libraries!
The YouTube algorithm for 2021
The YouTube algorithm has two goals: to make sure the right video is shown to the right viewer and to keep viewers on the platform watching videos for as long as possible.
YouTube uses two tactics to reach these goals. First, as mentioned previously, the platform has a robust search engine. Second, YouTube is constantly recommending new videos to followers.
For your library videos to show up in search and get recommended to followers, you’ll need to optimize all videos uploaded to YouTube. There are eight things you can do to make sure your videos are watched by lots of people.
Step-by-Step Guide to Optimize Your Library’s YouTube Videos
Produce quality videos.
By this, I don’t mean that your library videos must be perfectly lit and edited with amazing graphics and top-quality animation. Rather, you must make your videos engaging, fun, and interesting.
The optimal video length on YouTube is between seven and 15 minutes. However, you shouldn’t restrict yourself to this time.
If you are explaining how to do something, like sew a skirt or laser-cut an ornament, it’s okay to go longer. Story time videos often run longer than 15 minutes, but they are filled with interesting content like songs, crafts, and games. And that’s okay! Make whatever video you post as fun and interesting as possible.
Monitor your channel insights to see how long your viewers stick around. If you notice people drop off at a certain point, you have two choices: create shorter videos or purposefully plan to do something incredibly interesting at the point when people usually stop watching.
Create keyword-focused playlists.
On your channel page, you can make playlists of your best videos. Each playlist can appear in a different section, with up to 10 sections total.
When you name your playlists, think about what keywords people would use to search for the content you provide. Use simple names like “Baby Storytime” or “DIY in the Makerspace.” You may even try typing your potential playlist names into YouTube search to see what responses come up.
Choose a video title that contains keywords.
The title of your video impacts your views and ranking. It also serves as the primary trigger for viewers to click. It should give your viewers instant insight into your video’s content.
YouTube will automatically import your file’s name as the video title, so you’ll need to change the title of your video. Include keywords to help users find it in search.
Write a great video description.
This will be displayed underneath your video when someone views it. Include a short paragraph detailing the content of your video. Again, use keywords to make your video easier to find in search.
You may also want to include links to anything you talk about in your video. For instance, if you do a story time video, put a link to the book in the description so viewers can place a hold. You may also include links to several read-a-like books.
Create an eye-catching thumbnail.
The thumbnail is the image that will display when users search for videos or view the video in a playlist. The best size for a YouTube thumbnail is 1280 x 720 pixels or 16:9 aspect ratio.
YouTube will automatically generate a thumbnail image from your video. You can choose to edit the thumbnail YouTube provides, pick one of your own from a screenshot of your video, or to upload your own thumbnail.
If you decide to use the YouTube-chosen thumbnail, or if you pick a screenshot of your video within the YouTube studio, you can add text and graphics to it. Hit “save” and you’re done!
Uploading your own high-resolution thumbnail is a best option. This requires a bit of planning. When you shoot your video, take separate, still photos to upload later as your thumbnail. You can do this with a still camera, but I find using portrait mode on my iPhone works as well. You can add text using Photoshop or some other graphics program.
Regardless of what type of image you choose, you should strive for consistency in the appearance of thumbnails. If you have a playlist of story time videos, try to make sure they all look similar so people will recognize that the video comes from your library.
Add YouTube Cards to all your videos.
A card is a box that pops up to prompt your viewers to take another action. Cards keep your viewers engaged with your content.
There are three types of YouTube cards. The first drives people to another video within your YouTube channel. The second lets you suggest another playlist from your YouTube channel. The third lets you promote another YouTube channel altogether.
You should only prompt people to go to another YouTube channel if your library has more than one YouTube channel. You don’t want to lose viewers! For most of your library videos, pick another video or playlist within your library’s own YouTube channel to promote using a card.
You can find the place to add a card in the YouTube studio. Click on “My Channel”, then “Manage Videos.” Click on the pencil icon to add your cards.
One important point: carefully choose where you want your cards to appear within your video. You can choose that point by moving the blue bar in the card editor (see screenshot above). YouTube will default the card to the first second of the video unless you move it. I place mine about three-quarters of the way through the video. That way, people will not be tempted to jump to another video before they’ve seen most of the video they are currently watching.
You can go back and add cards to any previous YouTube video in the YouTube Studio. It’s a good project and can help drive new viewers to your older content!
Add tags to all your videos.
Tags are the SEO of YouTube. When you tag your videos with descriptive keywords, you’re helping YouTube recommend relevant content to viewers (think: “DIY family tree” or “family history research”).
Everything I know about tags I learned from other YouTube creators. If you are logged into YouTube as your library channel’s administrator, you can look at any other video on YouTube and see what they use for keywords and how those keywords rank in the YouTube search. This can help you figure out which keywords to use to tag your library’s videos.
To add tags to your video, scroll down in the editor. You’ll find the tag box below the question about whether your video is made for children.
You can go back and add tags to any previous YouTube video in the YouTube Studio. Like adding cards to older videos, this can help new viewers find your older content!
Add captions to all your videos.
YouTube can automatically caption your video but be sure to edit the captions because they may contain errors. You can type them in and add them as a file after you upload or use a free program like Camtasia or Pinnacle Studio.
How often and when to post on YouTube
This depends on your library’s available staff resources. Post videos on a consistent basis. Your audience will begin to expect and anticipate the release of your videos.
Measuring success on YouTube
You can monitor your YouTube channel by tracking the following metrics:
Subscribers: The number of people in your channel’s viewership.
Watch time: The total amount of minutes users spent watching your channel’s content.
View duration: The average amount of time people spend watching your content.
Audience retention: The percentage of people who return to your channel again and again.
A view is counted anytime someone watches your video for at least 30 seconds. YouTube will tell you the average total watch time for every video you create.
Let’s say you post a 10-minute video on YouTube. You might have 500 views, which means 500 people watched at least the first 30 seconds. Then you’ll have an average watch time of say, 5:33, which means most people watched at least five minutes and 33 seconds of your video.
YouTube will also tell you the percentage watch time for each video, which can help you better compare your videos.
I can tell you from my own experience posting The Library Marketing Show to YouTube each week that it’s rare for someone to watch an entire video from start to finish. When I see that a video gets a longer watch time, I watch it myself and try to figure out what made it so interesting. Then I try to replicate that for future videos!
As always, you want to record likes, comments, and shares of your videos, as you would with other social media posts. These metrics can tell you how many people were compelled to act based on your video. You can help boost these numbers by actively asking your viewers to like, comment, and share.
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