YouTube for libraries

This is part of a series on social media best practices for libraries in 2022. These posts include best practices for the following platforms:

These are the top platforms used by libraries according to a survey I conducted.

YouTube for Libraries

According to invideo, YouTube is the most visited website in the world and the second most visited website in the United States. On any given day, 30 million people watch at least one YouTube video.

Here are some more YouTube statistics to consider:

  • YouTube is the second most preferred online video content source for millennials, bested only by Netflix.
  • The average YouTube viewer spends 17 minutes and 31 seconds a day on the platform.
  • 81 percent of parents in the United States use YouTube to find educational and entertainment content for their children.
  • YouTube users are three times more likely to watch online video tutorials than to read text instructions. (WOW!)
  • And here’s the big kicker: 70 percent of what people watch on YouTube is recommended to them by the algorithm.

The YouTube algorithm for 2022

The YouTube algorithm is now hyper-focused on continuing to serve videos to viewers to keep them on the platform. They will suggest your library’s videos more frequently if you can:

  • Get people to watch most of your videos all the way through.
  • Keep people watching videos (both from your library and similar videos) by getting them to click on engagement options like cards and end screens.
  • Get lots of likes and comments on your videos.

YouTube has great value for libraries. There is a lot of advice out there for YouTube creators. Much of it involves tips that are complicated and time-consuming.

But most libraries have limited staff and energy. With those constraints in mind, I’ve picked six tips to boost your YouTube engagement for 2022.

These are all tips I use for every episode of The Library Marketing Show and all my 60-Second Book Reviews. They work, and they give you the best chance at great organic reach with the least amount of effort.

Use keyword research to come up with smart video titles.

YouTube video titles must be 100 characters or less, so you’ll need to use that limited space to your best advantage. Do a few test searches to see what keywords lead viewers to popular videos.

For example, let’s pretend you’re getting ready to post a video about how to spruce up a resume to catch the attention of a potential employer. Think about the words or phrases that would people type into search to find a video like yours. For this example, I tried “Help with resume.” Here are the results.

You’ll notice the videos include words like “Winning”, “Incredible”, “Free”, and “Simple.” Those are words you may want to consider adding to your title.

Next, click on one of the videos in your test keyword list. If you’re the admin of your YouTube channel, you’ll be able to see how well the video is performing in the “Videolytics” box to the right side of the video player.

Look at the video’s SEO score, which is the score YouTube gives each video based on a scale from 1-100. If it’s high, check out the tags that the channel uses. You may want to include one of those tags in your own video’s title.

Next, consider adding a word or two to your title that will make it a bit more niche. For instance, you might want to include the name of your community or the words “at your library” or “free with a library card.”

For our resume video example, after we finish our keyword and competitor research, we might decide to call it “How to Create a Winning Resume Free With Your Library Card.”

Once you settle on a title, focus on your video thumbnail. The thumbnail is the image that will display when users search for videos or view the video in a playlist. Your thumbnail plays almost as important of a role in getting a person to click on and watch your video as the title! It should complement the title.

The best size for a YouTube thumbnail is 1280 x 720 pixels or a 16:9 aspect ratio. Uploading your own high-resolution thumbnail is the best option. This requires a bit of planning. When you shoot your video, take separate, still photos to upload later as your thumbnail.

Add text to your thumbnail using Photoshop or some other graphics program. Unless your video title is very short, you’ll need to shorten your title for your thumbnail.

For instance, if your video title is “How to Create a Winning Resume Free With Your Library Card.” your thumbnail text could be “Create a Winning Resume!” or “Land Your Perfect Job.”

Harris County Public Library did a great job with their thumbnail for this Arts and Crafts video.

Make the first 200 words of your video description count.

YouTube gives your library 5000 characters for your total video description. But to save time and get the most engagement, focus on those first 200 words. That’s because they’ll show up above the words “Show More” in search results.

Make sure you include keywords that might be used to find your video. This is the place to include those keywords which might be used by viewers to find your video.

If you have complementary resources for your video, like links to your catalog or to a database, add those to your description after your first 200 words. Viewers will need to click on “Show More” to get that information, which helps boost engagement.

The Toledo Lucas County Public Library uses this show description formula. In this how-to cooking video, they used keywords in the first two lines of the description. You have to click on “Show More” to see the recipe. Very smart!

Ask repeatedly for viewer engagement. 

In the first 15 seconds of your video, ask your viewers to comment, like, or share your video. Do it again about halfway through, and again at the end.

Repeated verbal prompts will increase engagement. This is something I’ve learned from my own YouTube channel. Don’t be afraid to keep asking!

You can also use these built-in YouTube tools to prompt engagement.

Cards: Add cards to your video to encourage viewers to watch another video. A card is a box that pops up to prompt your viewers to take another action.

You can add a card in the YouTube studio. Click on “My Channel”, then “Manage Videos.” Click on the pencil icon to add your cards.

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!

Choose the point at which you want your card to appear carefully. If you offer a card option to viewers too early in your video, they may click on it and go to the next video too soon, which affects your watch time for the original video. I recommend offering cards about two-thirds of the way through a video.

End screen: You should also add an end screen to each video you post. An end screen gives your viewers the option to click on another video, a playlist, or subscribe to your channel.

YouTube lets you pick which elements you offer in an end card. Your choices should be dictated by your overall strategy for your channel. For example, if you are uploading a video that is part of a series, you’ll want to prompt viewers to watch another video in the same series. 

Washoe County Library System adds end screens to their videos to increase engagement.

Promote your YouTube videos to your email list within 24 hours of posting

Within the first 24 hours of uploading and releasing a video, send an email to promote your video. You’ll want to match the content of your video to the segmented email list that will be most likely to want to view it.

The exception to this rule would be system-wide video announcements, like the opening of a new branch or a change in service for your entire library system. You can send an email to your entire list, letting them know there’s a YouTube video available with exciting information!

Email notification about your video will alert your audience that the video exists. More people will watch the video. And the more views you get in the first 24 hours after you’ve uploaded a video, the higher your YouTube video will appear in search rankings.

Add captions to all your videos.

A few weeks ago, a viewer of The Library Marketing Show pointed out that my videos were not captioned. Frankly, I was ashamed of myself for not incorporating this important step sooner.

Captions make your videos accessible to all audiences. They also help with search ranking. And YouTube will show your videos to more viewers if they include subtitles. Community Library Network captions their YouTube videos. You should too!

YouTube says they automatically caption videos, but my channel does not have that option (and frankly, I couldn’t find a single article or help document that would explain why this is!)

If that’s the case for your library, you’ll need to use a transcription service. At the moment, I am using a free trial of Descript. It’s very easy and accurate. You get three hours of free transcription before you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan, which starts at $12 a month. My husband uses Otter AI, which starts at around $8 a month.

Or you can transcribe your videos yourself. You can do this during the uploading process. Or you can transcribe your video before ahead of time into a Word document. Then, upload the text to YouTube by clicking on the “Subtitles” option in the Creator Studio, then copying and pasting the text into the box.

Interact using the Community Tab. 

In September 2021, YouTube expanded the Community Tab option to channels with 500 followers or more. This little-known feature gives your library another way to interact with your community. It also helps to promote your YouTube channel.

If you have the Community Tab, you can post images, GIFs, polls, and even videos inside a dedicated engagement space in your channel feed. You can share these posts with your YouTube audience.

It is another easy way to get more views on your videos and keep your followers engaged on days when you’re not releasing any videos on YouTube.

One of the polls I’ve conducted using the Community Tab.

How often and when to post on YouTube

This depends entirely on your library’s available staff resources. There’s no magic number!

But consistency is a key component of YouTube success. If your library only has the resources to post once a month, pick a consistent day and time to schedule your posting, like the first Monday of the month at 9 a.m. Your audience will begin to expect and anticipate the release of your videos.

You can help boost anticipation by using the “Premiere” feature on YouTube. Here is YouTube’s easy guide for creating a Premiere.

Measuring success on YouTube 

You should regularly track the following metrics for your library’s YouTube channel:

  • Subscribers
  • Watch time in hours
  • Average view duration
  • Impressions
  • Click-through rate
  • Total views

For example, my channel gets most of its views from direct URLs that I post here on the blog and on social media. In fact, it gets more than twice as many views from direct URLs and external sources like Google Search as it does from YouTube searches.

That means my external promotional efforts are working and I should keep doing those promotions. Remember, metrics show you the successes that you can and should replicate.


You may also like these posts

Listening Is the Key: How One Woman Turned Her Superpower Into a Video Marketing Series That Changed Public Perception of Her Library

How To Write Great Program Descriptions To Drive Attendance for Your Library!

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