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5 Hours of YouTube SEO and Marketing | YouTube Success Tips for Brands, Publishers, Creators




Bengü: We have just finished 10 Commandments of YouTube Content Strategy with Yellen and Niki Weeks before. It has been a really great session. I've learned a lot myself as well. I really enjoyed it.

You will be covering a session that's going to be focusing on brands, publishers, content creators, and some success tips on YouTube from various different angles from various different perspectives. Maybe I'll let you introduce yourself and your guest panelists, and then I'm going to take a step back and I will just listen to the rest of the presentation.

Paola: I'm really happy to be here today with the panelists. I'm very happy to introduce you to Anna Calciolari, who has been in a global role in iProspect for a while now, before she was in the Agency World as well, but also in Google. 

Then we have Eduardo, Global Head of Social Media Governance at HSBC. Again, super, super long experience in social media in different corporations on a global scale. Definitely worth listening to. 

Hari, a celebrity chef-turned-YouTuber, with a very amazing growth story and a lot of good food as well. So it's a pleasure to listen to her. And then, Tiago, outreach director at the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development at the London Business School. 

As you see, the panelists are very different among themselves, but they have definitely, in common, the usage for business purposes of YouTube. You're going to be able to ask questions as well. I will leave the panelists to introduce themselves to address and give you an idea of how they are leveraging YouTube as a platform, so you have a better understanding as well of their experience. 

Anna: I'm Anna Calciolari. As Paola said, I've been at iProspect for the last couple of years. I've been in the Agency World for maybe five years now. And prior to that, I was client-side for a bit. I actually started my career at Google with Paola, so it's a very small world.

In my current role, I am part of a global team. I work as director of products and partnerships, which means essentially, I'm responsible for strengthening our product capabilities and managing our product communities globally and also delivering on the global partnerships with the likes of Google, Facebook and other tech partners we work with.

Paola: Perfect. Thank you very much. Hari, do you want to introduce yourself?

Hari: I'm Hari. I run the Hari Business. I'm a chef, I'm a cook. I do a whole load of different things. Hari was born probably about six years ago and it all stemmed from my need or my want to teach everybody about great Indian food and how you put Indian food together.

I was doing classes in people's homes and then realized that I needed to reach a bigger audience. That's where it was born. It was very much about sharing recipes, sharing content, sharing dishes, and how you put them together with a bigger, wider audience, rather than me going to one person's home. 

We are primarily a digital platform across lots of social media, channels including YouTube.Now, we are the biggest Indian food platform in the UK across all of our channels.

Paola: Thank you, Hari. And now, Eduardo.

Eduardo: Hi guys. I'm Eduardo. I am a Global Head of Social Media Governance at HSBC. It's an international bank. I look after the policies and the routines that look after how we use social media. 

I've been at this HSBC seven years now. I've always been looking after digital standards and social media. I'm a bit of the go-to guy for principals workshops, vendor discussions, research. 

Paola: Thank you, Eduardo. Now, back to Tiago. Actually we go from Eduardo to Tiago, which is interesting. This is a very international panel and very diverse, I have to say.

Tiago: Thank you. Great to be here. Nice to see you all. My name is Tiago. I'm the outreach director of the Wheeler Institutes for Business and Development, which is a research center part of London Business School, which is based in London, as you can guess.

As part of my role, I'm responsible to amplify the initiatives and the activities we do at the Wheeler Institute. Youtube is one of the channels that we are currently using to promote and amplify our activities. I come from an engineering background in a previous life, and then I moved to filmmaking and successfully. 

Paola: Thank you very much, Tiago. Now, we'll get into more the key learning and the experience sharing from your points of view. I would start with Anna. What are the key learning and the key great experiences that you have seen, that you want to share with the audience?

The Importance of Consistency on YouTube

Anna: It's difficult to decide where to start from. Definitely, I think during the pandemic, we have seen more and more brands gravitating towards social media and YouTube in particular as consumer behavior changed and people started to spend more time watching videos and consuming content.

Something that came out of a client survey that we did a few months ago, at the beginning of the lockdown in London, one of the key highlights was that most brands realize the importance of social media as a way to keep connecting to their audience and their customers. 

In terms of best practices and tips, I think, for us being an agency, it's very important to have a consistent way of doing things. This is something that I think can help not just brands, but YouTube creators in general. 

Usually, when we work with a brand, what we do is we just go through a set of steps. The first is assess. That means basically looking at your YouTube channel from an SEO technical perspective, but also looking at your content and understanding where the biggest areas of opportunities may be.

Then the second step is to optimize. We optimize your channel by coming up with a set of recommendations that either the client can implement or we can implement. The idea is again, to fix all those small things like tags or video titles, keywords, all of those elements that can really make a difference. Also, understanding where the opportunities are in terms of content.

Then the third step is developing. Again, coming up with a content plan and understanding, for example, what your audience is interested in and what type of content they tend to engage with and how we can help you to develop the type of content. 

Finally: measurements. You want to make sure you measure and you keep track of how your channel is performing of your KPIs and understanding both wins and challenges, and opportunities and where you can develop and take your channel even further.

Paola: Okay, brilliant. Did you see any different approaches from different areas of the world because you're dealing any way with different countries with your global role?

Anna: There's no ‘one way’ of doing things, I think. It really depends on what works for that specific brand. But in general, we always suggest to the brands is to try and keep the channel as consistent as possible. If you have one strategy that works, for example, in your key market, then you might want to use that same strategy for the other markets.

Patience, Knowing Your Audience and Trying Different Video Strategies 

Paola: Very interesting. And now moving to Hari. As we were saying, you're not a born creator. YouTube wasn't your platform, you just started cooking just on YouTube which makes it even more interesting. You started from scratch; I mean, really from scratch. 

I saw your stats and you have been growing at an outstanding 500% growth rate year-on-year, pre-pandemic and then 5,000%. You've just added a zero...during the pandemic. Now, you definitely have something to share because there are some secrets there because there's not a normal growth rate, that's for sure. 

Hari: There's been lots of learnings along the way. As you said, I didn't start off being a YouTuber. It gradually happened because I was creating videos for the website and then we thought, "Hang on, let's put them on YouTube." 

It did take a long time. I'm not going to sit here and say that it was quick. It was very, very slow growth at the beginning. But once that started to happen, once we hit 10,000, then things started to change a little bit. We tried lots of different things.

Once we started to focus on YouTube as a channel, we did try a number of different things from long video content. But then very quickly, I realized that that's only one group of people that want to sit there and just watch me cook. Another group just wants to cook with me. They want quick, short, sharp videos. We then created some very step-by-step videos for the same recipe.

For each recipe, we almost had two different things going on; one nice long video where you could sit and just watch, another one, which showed steps. They both worked really well provided the right consumer goes to...the right video.

We also started to look at short, almost like series. I did a spotlight on spices and that worked really well. It was things where I'm giving information in quick, short, sharp bursts that seemed to work really well for us, but also making it quite engaging in terms of color; looking at the color of spices and trying to draw all of that in a creative way. Those were some of the things that were happening pre-pandemic. 

Then we did a number of behind-the-scenes videos, which worked when I was working in restaurants. For example, people love to see what's going on behind restaurants, so that worked really well. 

But post-(pandemic) or during lockdown, one of the things that I started to do was some live cook-alongs. Every Friday I've been doing live cook-along and that really has gone through the roof for us. It's the engagement that we're getting on those.

It very much started off as a way of trying to engage the audience who were locked in at home, "Here's something that you can do and cook along with me," and "Let's do something fun together." We're now getting something like 1500 people joining who were cooking. It might sound like small numbers, but for people to go out do the shopping, come back, log on and cook with you, it's quite phenomenal.

Pre-pandemic, our audience was very much UK-based. We're now getting massive growth in the US, so we have 50/50 UK-US audience. We're getting people in Australia and New Zealand who are putting their alarm clocks on and waking up at 4:00 in the morning to cook along with me. Well, not to cook along, but to watch and then they cook it in the evening and then they're sending me pictures afterwards. 

Curating and Optimizing a Global Brand’s YouTube Channel

Paola: Perfect. Actually, just one note to everyone who was watching there, we are going to share the channels of everyone, so you can actually watch them later on, maybe not while we're talking. Now, moving to Eduardo. 

Based on your experience and your role at HSBC, which is a regulated company, it's definitely different than being in a smaller business in terms of communication. Definitely, you need to be creative in how you actually leverage the platform, but really, be extremely serious in what the regulation says.

Eduardo: I love Hari's entrepreneurial flair. It's great to hear that. But I feel like I'm more managing a museum and I've got all the rooms ready for the pictures and the sculptures and the things and the object is to look at.

I look after the global HSPC YouTube channel, and it's an important representation of the organization, its values, its projects, its innovations. It's got quite a mixture of videos and playlists. It's got thought leadership, B2B videos of global campaigns, sports partnership videos, you meet the athletes, you meet the brand ambassadors, you see the big stadium events, that's all very cool. You get tech stories and it's just managing all this.

Over the years, it's been a series of uploading and making sure everything looks good, it's tidy. But ultimately, I think I'd lead myself into believing there is a bigger and better version of this out there. I had actually identified several opportunities for a makeover over the years. My to-do list was pretty straightforward. 

I realized stand-alone videos don't help you grow in a structured way. They'll pull you over here, then pull you over there and it's not really consistent. You need a coherent unified sense of content.

I went to clean up the repository and get rid of the videos with zero views in the past six months, forgotten videos and playlists that just assembled over the years. Really, I just didn't like those YouTube-generated thumbnails, which are all mid-sentence, blurred hands and everything. I just thought, "I can't do that anymore."

I wanted to curate it better. I want to have better playlists into better segments; more comprehensive topics rather than the stand-alone playlist. I wanted to update the branding. There are so many clever little things in YouTube that you can really pull out and really make sure that people stay and they have longer session times as a result. 

Today, they can come in for one video; they probably stay for two or three, but they're more likely to come back if they feel a good experience. End screens, cards, hashtags, subscription prompts, recommended videos, lots of things like that, can help drag people in. And they really make a difference.

Finally, I wanted to grow the searchability of the channel so it was easier to come across. It was easy to be curious, see more SEO-friendly videos and playlists. That's a lot of meta stuff to get through. 

Anyway, along came an agency called BuzzMyVideos, and they really brought it to life. This is like 2500 or so different actions that I need to take. What was really interesting, they did it, started in the beginning of the year, but it really got going in lockdown. 

All these little things that we are doing to optimize the videos and the channel, were really paying dividends. We are seeing longer session times and we're getting more natural views. There was a more noticeable native style to the channel after doing all the optimizations. It's really a more curated structure. 

I think (using) that museum analogy, it is actually better, I feel proud of it. The rooms have got better content. Advertising dropped during lockdown, so it was literally organic views that were happening. And we saw growth in views. There were more suggested videos that were HSBC content. YouTube search revealed more views from search results pages and browse features were really, really doing a great job for us.

It felt like all these little things had really made a breakthrough. Now, I feel we're much more native to the YouTube experience. 

Paola: Very interesting. I think that there is actually one analogy in both your cases, even if it's not as regulated for higher and more creativity and less regulated. But I think that in both cases, they're being searchable and being really discoverable because of search terms really made you shine. That's in both cases for different completely different reasons. 

Once you actively get the searches Google and YouTube, then it becomes even more serious, the growth is there. I think you definitely have that in common on many different things, besides regulations. 

The Wheeler Institute’s YouTube Success Story

Let's move to Tiago. Definitely brand new to the platform; I mean, the Wheeler Institute is brand new, which is interesting because in most cases, we all know that YouTube takes a long time and that's it. It's not that you go on YouTube and then boom, you get millions of subscribers. We all know it and definitely, I see that it doesn't happen. So it takes time.

You went viral immediately. You went viral because definitely, the quality of the content. Do you want to share a bit more of your learning? Again, it's education and it's a completely different type of content, which I think it's very interesting. 

Tiago: Basically, the Wheeler Institute is one part of London Business School. For our audience, imagine that my team and the Institute I represent, it's like a business unit as part of a big corporation, if that makes things easier for you to understand.

We didn't have a presence in terms of YouTube. Obviously, the school; London Business School has a very wide presence for a number of years, but we never created any content for YouTube before.

Then at the beginning of our stories, is an interesting innovation story because two of our professors at London Business School, at the beginning of the pandemic, they just decided to craft, to film a series of lectures about the pandemic, trying to understand COVID-19 and how good their research support the understanding of the pandemic. They just created five videos, filming themselves, from Zoom, from their house. 

Those videos... they just became viral basically. The Wheeler Institute was supporting those videos. Certainly, our first piece is, they were generating lots of interest and we had lots of media and PR interests. We just thought, "There is an opportunity here. There is an opportunity to start to promote content that normally is not traditionally promoted via YouTube. 

But yeah, there is an opportunity to engage with an audience that currently spending more time in front of their computers than it was before because they have more time because they are not commuting and because they want to read and to see things about COVID-19. That was the beginning of our story to start working with multimedia. 

We created a series of conversations about COVID-19, which is called the Wheeler Institute COVID-19 Series. Our focus is very much on developing countries and understanding how business can impact, and so some of the problems that developed with countries. We started to invite a number of distinguished guests to be part of these conversations, building upon the experience of our two professors.

We started to create pieces of 20, 30 minutes and to post them on YouTube. YouTube started to be a platform for us. Please have in mind that my Institute does not try sell a product or a service. That's not our purpose. Our purpose is to engage with people, is to influence, is to generate awareness about the importance of business, especially in developing countries.

YouTube for us, it's a promotional channel perhaps, yes, but also a platform where we will invite different people. Every person has their own branding. We want to be seen as a place where different people come together. Obviously, being on that platform will help them with their branding as well, to generate interest about their research, et cetera.

We start to see YouTube, not just as a vehicle for people to know about the Wheeler Institute, but also to give light to our invitees; to the people that we were inviting. That is an interesting concept for us that we are keen to explore further. 

Now we have YouTube, we have our platform, how does this work? It's like, the terminals and hashtags and closing screens and these scriptures and going through the best practices. 

The number of views was not the same as we had initially. We still have a very interesting number of views. We're very happy with it, but obviously you cannot go viral every time that you post a new piece of content. 

For us, that moment of reality, we start realizing, "Okay. The quality of the content is not directly related with the number of views and being viral or not, but it is important for us to craft it and to optimize it well because we are reaching different audiences a bit." 

Then there's our second stage, we personalize videos and where we are at the moment, just trying to understand who our audience is. Perhaps, our audience is not really the people that saw the five initial videos that went viral. That's not our core audience. Perhaps, our core audience is the one that we are nurturing at the moment. We are now trying to understand who they are by geography, by demographics.

We are looking at numbers and understanding who is our core audience, who are the people that will be continuously looking at our content and perhaps, the others that will come once or twice a year, or maybe will never come again. 

At the same time, it's for us to realize that there is no relation necessarily between having a great piece of content in our hands and going viral. That's not how things work. Some content is topical and because it's topical will generate more attention at the content is not as topical. 

Tips for Educational Content on YouTube

Paola: There's a question from the audience, from Mahim Mar, but yeah, I hope that I didn't mention the name incorrectly, and he says, "What are your tips for the educational videos?" Which I guess is definitely a question for you, Tiago.

Tiago: It's a very broad question. I think in our case, YouTube, it's a channel, but it's not an isolated channel. We do have a blog, we do have social media. We do have a website where we publish different reports and articles and other types of content. 

I think when it comes to educational content, it's hard to have great content in 20 minutes. I think we need to see the video as a short engagement tool eventually. If the person will listen to it, we'll pull up the source of some of the content. Then in case of interest, redirect them to another channel or a contact point where they can learn more about it. 

Look at educational from an integrated perspective and make sure that the video is not just the beginning and the end of the experience, but then it has links and it can be connected to different pieces in our website and the people, they can look for more information. That's my first part of the answer. 

The second one is the delivery. The making of the film is very important. It's not just about having the film in a great channel and having a great optimization. We are all creating films from home, but there are basic tools in terms of video making and production and storytelling that is important to know about.

We have more than 30 films uploaded to the London Business School YouTube channel over the last two months. Some of the films, we knew from the beginning that they would be more successful because they are very well crafted; the web cameras were working better, the person is a better communicator, the lighting, the sound was working. 

We knew that and that worked really well in terms of engagement with the audience because sometimes, in the first couple of minutes of the film, if much, if it's not easy to observe what's going on, the person may jump to another film.

I think that's my second. If you want engagement for 20 or 30 minutes or an hour, you need to make sure that the quality delivery is there. It's important to do some work and preparation in terms of film, how to record, how to edit the videos and that can be even more important than a great optimization.

Eduardo: Can I just add something, Tiago? If you get your peers in other companies and other institutions to reference your videos, they bring their own audiences to you as well. We found that with sports videos, all the related sports fan sites were coming to the HSBC challenge to look at sports videos.  Allowing people to use your videos as a source or just extra information for them to reference, does a great job as well.

Tiago: Yes, totally. In social media, when we are doing a parallel promotion of the same videos, you have a number of influencers like retweeting and posting about it. People, they obviously fall into YouTube again.

One of the most successful videos we had was actually about Russia. The video was very focused on Russia and the reality political economical business reality in Russia, and that video had a huge penetration in Russia, just because there were a couple of influencers from Russia posting about it in social media. 

What Strategies Don’t Work on YouTube?

Paola: Let's do a round table now about what didn't work or what is just not to do, or at least it didn't work in your experience. I think that in general, in social media and the platforms, it's really important, it's very trial-and-error also. It's really learning from the experience and trying to change as much as you can, but learning from your experience because you're also diverse. 

You might have somebody that is potentially in your area, in your industry, not to do the same mistake again. Starting from Anna, what would you suggest not to do from the experience that you have with your clients?

Anna: Something that we noticed several times is that usually if the video is very salesy, if it's too promotional, then it doesn't work. You need to make sure that your video delivers some added value that you're actually creating content that people resonate with.

Unfortunately, I think this happens maybe more with brands than with other YouTube creators. But sometimes the content is just very salesy or it's just not tailored to YouTube, which doesn't mean that you need to have something created specifically for YouTube. You might be able to repurpose something that you already have, but you need to think about your audience. 

I think in general, something that's pretty important is just to understand what your brand stands for or what your channel stands for, and what your audience would be interested in and what type of content they engage with, and then trying to find the sweet spot; so trying to find something in between that usually works.

Other mistakes that we see, I think it's just not getting to the point usually of best practices. If you're launching a video, make sure you introduce the content, make sure you're engaging the viewers from the beginning, don't leave the call to action to the very end.

Make sure your video is well structured as well. Usually, it works best, for example, if you have single-focused videos instead of just rambling on about several different contents; several different topics. I think in general, it's just nailing the small things. 

Paola: Brilliant. Thank you very much. And now, Hari. What's the thing you would never do again? 

Hari: As you can imagine, I've tried a lot. I've tried lots of different formats and so on. Just echoing a little bit of what Anna said that salesy bit. I don't know whether that's because of my specific type of channel and they're coming to me because they want to cook recipes and they want to find information about specific dishes, but that just never worked for me.

The other thing that I think is quite surprising that has never really worked for me is, everyone always says, "With YouTube, in particular, to grow your channel, you've got to do collaborations. You've got to do work with, if you can, with celebrities and this, that, and the other," just to increase sort of engagement and increase your substance, so on.

I've worked and I've done videos with a number of celebrities over the years, and none of them have worked. None of them have done anything. Again, I think that does come back to the fact that it's my specific channel and it's about the audience and they want to know about food and cooking and that kind of thing. Or is it that it's just a misnomer that actually you get celebrities in and it's all going to boost your subs and so on? I don't know what the right answer is, but it's never, ever worked for me.

Other things that haven't really worked for me are vlogs, so trying to be a bit cool, trying to get down with the kids and do all the vlogging things, that never worked for me. Again, I think it's all about knowing your audience and it takes time. It takes a bit of time to get to know who your audience is and who those people are, and what they're after and what it is they want. 

Paola: Okay, brilliant. Eduardo, what are, "Never do again" moments of your experience?

Eduardo: I think, be episodic in your videos, that's one thing I wish I'd pushed more when we're getting the videos is that there are all these stand-alone videos, which don't really connect with each other, as I've said it earlier. If you can actually construct the story, as Anna was saying, you don't go big in one video explaining various topics, you say, "Break it up in small topics," and then there's more continuity. There's a more coherent way of expressing them.

I think another thing... is comments. Are people curious about you? I would look at Google queries about your brand and see what sorts of questions are coming. We look at customer service queries that are happening over on our main website to see how can we answer them with videos. 

I think that is a very useful way of saying, "We are creating content that's in demand." You launch a new app or a new version of an app and the app, how you install it, how you use it to make a transaction, you need to do videos like that would show easy ABCs, one, two, three. If you can get them right to show your style, that's great. I think those are very valuable.

Paola: Now, moving to Tiago. What are the, "Never do it again" in your short experience on YouTube, but very intense?

Tiago: I would bring another issue: speed. Try to be quick. Because in my case, that's important. We try to bring relevant content sometimes relate it with issues that are affecting the world at a certain point in time. It's important to produce content quickly and try to optimize it and to go live as soon as you can in order to be relevant.

Sometimes I feel that many organizations, they go through these very long processes of video production and the approvals and the reviews and approvals and edits. Certainly up there. Two or three months or more, you are still in the process of going live with your film. Sometimes it's okay, but other times, it's just you wish to have months of wasted time, perhaps.

The second one, the pace of uploading things. At some point, we were uploading five videos a week. We started to use YouTube relatively recently, and we are uploading five videos a week. Each one of the videos is a long interview with 30 minutes, sometimes more than that. So obviously, you need to give time to the audience to consume the content. You don't want to overwhelm them.

Wrapping Up

Paola: Okay. I think we just have one minute and then if anybody wants to add anything else or I'm going to choose another question from the audience. Anybody want to add anything?

Hari: I was just going to say for somebody like me, so a small business only because Eduardo mentioned comments, I answer every single comment that comes through on all of my channels, not just YouTube, every single, I will always respond. And it takes forever. Especially if you're at the beginning of your journey, it's the only way to engage. 

There's no point people putting comments and things on there and you're not responding to them. You've got to see each person as a human being who is asking you a question that you've got to respond to. So I think it's very, very important from my perspective that I do that. I think it is for a lot of smaller businesses and content creators that they do that.

Paola: Wonderful. Thank you. I think we need to say goodbye to the audience. I want to really thank every one of you as panelists. It was a pleasure to have you here. I want to thank as well, SEMrush who co-organized with us these events. I think that sharing is really caring.

Hari: Thank you.

Eduardo: Thanks, guys. Thank you, everyone.

Anna: Thank you.

Tiago: Thank you.

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