Ira Belsky, Artlist Co-Founder and Co-CEO.
To put it plainly, YouTube marketing can be a little intimidating if you’ve never tried it before. There are many moving parts, a constantly shifting set of best practices and that nagging fear that your audience is going to hit “skip ad” before you can get a word in edgewise.
This is all technically valid, but YouTube marketing—done correctly—can do incredible things for your brand visibility, remarketing, new user acquisition and more. More than anything, it requires a great story, a good strategy and full commitment. In other words, YouTube marketing requires its own specific strategy and style of storytelling. No reusing a TikTok ad and calling it done.
My company, Artlist, has invested significant energy, time and money into YouTube marketing since we started, and we’ve continually reaped the benefits as a result. There’s no one perfect plan to replicate our success, but there are a number of things you can do to stand out on the second most visited site in the world. In that spirit, here are five tips for success I’ve learned the hard way from years of experimenting, failing, trying again and succeeding with YouTube marketing.
1. Don’t discount YouTube just because your product doesn’t ‘fit.’
It may seem like some companies’ products and brands are more suited to YouTube than others. Don’t fall into this kind of thinking. All types of companies can and do find real success with YouTube marketing strategies. One unconventional success story is Poo-Pourri, an odor-killing toilet spray for when nature calls but you need to be discreet. That kind of product doesn’t feel like a natural fit for any marketing platform, but the company’s YouTube ads were funny and engaging, and they leaned into the inherent awkwardness of the product. That’s what made it successful.
There is no perfect product for YouTube advertising. It’s all in the marketing strategy and the strength of the story you’re telling. Playing to your product’s strengths in an engaging and narrative-focused way is the core of any real YouTube marketing strategy.
2. Explore affiliate marketing partnerships, not just ads.
You don’t have to look hard to find people complaining about how ad-heavy YouTube has become. The unfortunate and unintended effect of this is that it has made people a bit fed up and less keen to watch any ad that comes up. This is why a good YouTube marketing strategy doesn’t depend solely on standard YouTube ads. Affiliate marketing through smart creator partnerships is a game-changer when it comes to YouTube advertising, and I believe it’s the best way to bypass viewer frustration with ads.
Collaborations with digital creators can give your product a huge boost, so offer them fair partnerships to review and discuss your product honestly. This will convey your message in an organic-feeling way through people who actually use and believe in your product.
As far as that organic feel goes, the more honest the review, the better. The demographics that watch YouTube product reviews tend to be digital natives with a nose for inauthenticity. They’re more likely to give your product a fair shake if a digital creator they like outlines both the things they loved about your product and the things they didn’t. The more creative freedom you give to your creator partner, the better your partnership will perform.
3. Invest in smaller creators with your affiliate marketing.
I’m a big believer in the “1,000 true fans” theory. A few digital creators or influencers with 1,000 fervent fans can take your product places that someone with 1 million fairweather fans may not. This is why it’s worth seeking out smaller channels and creators that are catering to a more niche audience when exploring affiliate marketing. Devoted audiences, however small, are eager to listen to creators they care about, including when those creators are talking about your product.
The subscriber count isn’t everything. There are plenty of smaller channels run by incredibly talented and inventive creators with massive growth potential. Take a chance on smaller creators while they’re relatively small, and grow together. The top thing to look for is storytelling ability. Before anything else, if you feel like a smaller creator is telling good stories, people will eventually listen. A solid baseline of technical quality and upload consistency is also key. If they’re engaging with comments and clearly working toward their own success, that’s someone your brand can approach and grow with as partners.
4. Test, test and test again.
It’s easy to think that you can spend your way to success on YouTube. This isn’t the case. We’ve had simple ads outperform ads with huge production value simply because they had a more engaging story. A great way to balance this is to make B and C edits of ads and see what resonates. Some ads are going to do more for new user acquisition, and some ads will perform better for remarketing. You never know until you try.
There’s no secret formula—only trial and error. Make the most out of every video with different edits and angles. You never know what’s going to catch people’s attention, so try lots of different things.
5. What you put in is what you get out.
YouTube can be a tricky platform for marketing. It’s a challenge to be creative but clear, genuine and true to your brand—all while maintaining best practices. Done right, however, it can yield amazing results among the many segments of your audience—and doing it right means not doing it halfway. Go all-in if you’re going to bother with YouTube at all. Then reap the rewards.