Library employees, including men and women, sorting film canisters in the 1960s.
Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

This is the fourth installment in my series on social media best practices for libraries in 2023.

These posts include best practices for the following platforms:

YouTube for Libraries

According to SEMrush, YouTube is the second most visited website in the world, bested only by Google. YouTube gets more website traffic than Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Reddit, Instagram, and Amazon combined!

Here are some more YouTube statistics to consider, according to

  • On any given day, 122 million people watch at least one YouTube video, an increase of 300 percent from this time last year.
  • 81 percent of adults in the United States use YouTube.
  • The average YouTube viewer spends 18 minutes a day on the platform.
  • 37 percent of Millennials are binge-watching YouTube daily.
  • YouTube is the primary source of video for 78 percent of users.

Here’s the most compelling reason to consider a library marketing strategy for YouTube: Google owns YouTube. YouTube videos are automatically integrated into the main Google search. So, if someone is looking for something that your library provides, and you’ve optimized your videos, it improves the chances that a non-cardholder will discover your library!

I did a Google search for “How do I get a library card?” and among the results was this video posted on the Cincinnati Library’s YouTube account.

The YouTube algorithm for 2023

The YouTube algorithm focuses on one, core goal for the platform: to keep viewers watching videos for as long as possible. To do this, YouTube weighs three specific factors:

  • Past viewer history: YouTube considers how many videos a viewer has watched in the past from a particular channel. If the viewer seems interested in a channel’s content (which is demonstrated by subscribing and watching many of the available videos), then YouTube will show new content from that channel to that viewer. Your library will want to cultivate loyal viewers so that your content is shown to those viewers every time they visit the platform.
  • Watch time: YouTube wants people to watch at least half of each video you post.
  • Consistent posting schedule: If you upload library videos regularly, you’ll be rewarded with more organic reach.

Here are four ways to get the best organic reach for your library’s YouTube videos in 2023. I’ve included a fifth bonus tip at the end of this post.

Customize your channel for ease of use and discoverability.

This year, take a good look at your library’s channel and organize it with your viewers in mind. What will they be looking for?

Organize your existing content into playlists that contain keywords your community will use when hunting for content. Then arrange the playlists on your channel’s main page so the most popular content is first. That will increase views and engagement for your channel.

You can do this by clicking on the Customize channel button. Use this tab to pin two existing videos or “trailers” to the top of your channel: one for people who haven’t subscribed and one for returning visitors.

Next, use the Featured sections tab to organize your videos and put playlists, live streams, or popular videos at the top of your channel.

Create a consistent thumbnail look for each of your playlists. Use the same color palette and design to help your viewers recognize your content.

Check out how the Clearwater Public Library uses a consistent thumbnail to tie its playlists together and increase brand awareness.

When you are ready to upload your video, do the following:

  • Be creative with your title. Try to add some emotion to make it compelling.
  • Include one or more keywords in the title. That helps your videos get shown in search and suggested to potential viewers.
  • Consider adding the date to the title, using emojis, or both!

Here are some YouTube channels to check for organizational inspiration:

The most popular YouTube channel is T-Series, an Indian music label and film studio, with 230 million subscribers. Check out how their channel is arranged, including the links, playlists, and video titles. There is always something to learn from successful accounts.

Here’s an easy way to figure out what videos to create in 2023: Search YouTube for two or three words that describe the video you are considering creating. You’ll get a list of the most popular search terms and lots of ideas for videos. You can also use this technique to decide what keywords to add to the title, description, and tags of videos you have already created.

Focus your efforts on increasing your watch time and click rate.

YouTube specifically wants people to watch at least half your videos. They will also boost your videos if you can get people to subscribe to your channel or click on another video on YouTube.

I learned how to structure videos to make sure viewers do both of those things from a YouTube channel called Brian G Johnson TV. Here’s what he advises:

  • The first five to ten seconds of your video are incredibly important. You want to hook your viewers right away. Say what the video is about or give your viewers an action to take right away.

Here’s a sample script: “Download eBooks or listen to audiobooks for free! I’m going to show you how easy it is to use the Libby app. Hello, my name is Jane Smith and I work for the best library in the world. And I’m going to show you how to get all your next favorite books anytime, anywhere, for free. First, click on the Subscribe button to make sure you never miss a video for our library. “

  • Within your video, break down content into sub-topics. It will make it easy for your viewers to understand and will keep them interested throughout the video.

Here’s a sample script:First, we download the Libby app. You just head to the app store and type in Libby. Then install it. It should only take about a minute. Next, you’ll create an account using your name, email, your library card number, and your library card PIN.

  • Leverage your end screen. You want to keep viewers watching your channel so, try to lead them into the next video.

Here’s a sample script:Now that you’ve got lots of books right at your fingertips with the Libby app, you will want to manage your holds, so you get the books when you want them. Click on this video for a quick tutorial and I’ll see you there.

Promote your videos to your email subscribers as soon as you publish them.

Within the first 24 hours of uploading and releasing a video, send an email to your cardholders to alert your audience that the video exists.

This technique is the easiest and quickest way to get views on new video content. 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.

Use Shorts to lure new viewers

Traverse Area District Library posts Shorts to attract new subscribers to their channel.

YouTube Shorts can help you attract new subscribers to your library’s YouTube channel. It’s a newer feature and YouTube is really focused on increasing the use of Shorts. So, you’ll get an organic boost simply because YouTube wants the feature to become more popular.

Here’s the cool thing: your Shorts do not have to be related to the videos you post on YouTube. If you are creating Reels or TikTok videos, you can upload them natively to YouTube (without a watermark from other platforms) as Shorts to help grow your channel. No extra work is needed!   

Shorts can be up to 60 seconds long. As with your regular videos, the titles are important. Be as compelling as possible to draw in new viewers.

How often and when to post on YouTube

Consistency is a key component of YouTube’s success. If your library only has the resources to post once a week, pick a consistent day and time to schedule your posting, like Mondays at 9 a.m. Your audience will begin to expect and anticipate the release of your videos. Influencer Marketing Hub has a cool calculation tool that determines the best time for your library to post videos based on your location.

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

How much text should be in the YouTube description box?

YouTube allows you to write 5,000 characters of text in the description box. But, YouTube only shows the first 100 characters before the viewer has to click to see more. So, focus your efforts on those first few sentences.

In your 100-character intro, be sure to briefly describe the main idea of the video and include as many keywords as possible. You should also include a few related hashtags to improve discoverability.

For the rest of the description box, you’ll want to add anything the viewer needs to know about the video. Include information related to the video like downloadable resources and links for the viewer to learn more or take an action. And speaking of action, be sure you have a call to action to drive those engagement metrics.

YouTube video and thumbnail best practices

YouTube videos should be full screen, recorded horizontally, and at the highest resolution possible. The video thumbnail should be 1280 x 720 pixels or 16:9 aspect ratio.

Measuring success on YouTube 

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

  • Subscribers
  • Total views
  • Watch time in hours
  • Average view duration (both in percentage and in minutes)
  • Impressions
  • Impressions click-through rate

YouTube has lots of other metrics! One of my favorites is Key moments for audience retention. This will show you which parts of your video are interesting to your viewers and where you lose their attention. That can help you create more engaging videos!

Also, check out How viewers find your videos. You can get a good idea of how viewers are coming to your channel: is it through external links, YouTube search, or some other location? You can also see what YouTube search terms led people to your videos.

Bonus tip: Get TubeBuddy

TubeBuddy is a Chrome browser extension and I’m not kidding when I tell you it has been invaluable in my YouTube success. The free account has everything you’ll need to optimize your library’s YouTube channel. (No, they don’t pay me to say that!)

TubeBuddy supercharges your analytics. It adds insight and context to the analytics YouTube provides. And there is a separate dashboard that will help you to further optimize your channel.

I recorded a little demo video to show you how this extension helps you to optimize your library’s YouTube channel.

More Advice

Was It a Fluke? What a Viral Instagram Video Can Teach You About Library Social Media Promotions

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

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, enter your email address and click on the “Follow” button in the lower left-hand corner of the page.