3 Areas Where Your YouTube Videos are Letting You Down

Jamie Field, TopLine’s Head of Production, lets you in on his secrets for making better YouTube videos.

It started as the home of copyright infringement and funny cat clips, but YouTube – which celebrates its ten-year anniversary this month – quickly became something more. As of 2015, it receives over one billion unique visitors a month and reigns as the undisputed king of online video.  

If there’s a single reason for this success, it’s probably the democratic nature of the platform. Anyone can create a YouTube video, and almost everyone does: politicians use it to talk through policy, gamers use it to livestream Halo marathons, and people with too much time on their hands use it to review frozen pizza. It can break news, build careers, and drive revenue for businesses of every size – as TopLine’s corporate video team know only too well, having produced explainer films, animated films and video case studies (amongst other things) for companies across London and the rest of the UK.  

But the open nature of YouTube is a double-edged sword, and with up to 100 hours of video being uploaded per minute, it can be tough for an individual clip to stand out. Working for a B2B PR agency, I've refined this process through experience. As TopLine's Head of Production, I've found that focusing on these three key areas can help you make better YouTube videos – and massively increase your chances of being noticed.
 

Content

Slick cinematography and sound design are nice to have, but rich content is the cornerstone of any successful YouTube video.  Nobody can teach you to create something compelling and substantial – you’ll have to do that yourself – but a couple of pointers will help you on your way.

Do your homework. Two videos with similar titles and descriptions will often have a huge gulf between them in terms of view count. Sometimes there are major differences between one clip with a million views and another with a thousand; other times, the difference is fairly slight. Doing a little digging to find out why one video succeeds where another fails will help you understand what works, and what doesn’t. 
 
A good YouTube video is as long as it needs to be. This isn’t to say that you absolutely have to keep it short. For example: classic cars are a passion of mine, so when I search for a video review of a 1969 Porsche 911, I’ll take a detailed five-minute video over a 30-second overview every time. If I need a video to tell me how to change a plug socket, however, I’d prefer not to spend more than 60 seconds on it.
 

Technical

In my role at a B2B technology PR agency, I've had to ensure the technical side of things is as robust as possible. You don’t have to be Stanley Kubrick, but – as with TV and film – a good YouTube video sticks to some basic laws of production. 
 
Use a proper microphone. Many otherwise-great YouTube clips are thwarted by poor sound quality. This phenomenon is mostly fuelled by the belief that in-camera mics are up to the task; a belief people tend to hold right up to the point where their explainer video is plagued by static crackle.  
 
In-camera mics are fine for home movies, but for anything else, you want a dedicated third-party tool. If your camera lacks the right input, use a separate recorder – you can always sync the audio in the edit!
 
Record at the highest resolution possible. When you upload your clip, YouTube will create multiple copies at varying levels of quality; this gives viewers with slower internet connections the option to sacrifice resolution in favour of speed. 
 
While it can automatically generate lower-quality versions, it doesn’t work the other way around. It’s therefore best to upload your video at the highest available resolution (YouTube goes up to 4K).
 
Keep it steady. You’re probably not shooting a Bourne film, so use a tripod if you can: unnecessarily shaky camerawork only serves to distract the viewer. If you don’t have one to hand, stick the camera on a table – a little gaffer tape goes a long way!
 

Embedding

You’ve successfully uploaded your video, and you’re ready to show it off to the public. But you’re not quite done – YouTube needs some final information to guarantee that your video is found and watched. 
 
Have a catchy, relevant title. This will ensure that your video can be found in search results – and that people click on it when it is.
 
Choose an interesting thumbnail.  YouTube will offer you a selection of different images to use as a thumbnail; alternatively, you can upload something bespoke. Unless you get really lucky, it’s advisable to do this instead of using their default pick. YouTube is terrific, but thumbnail selection is not among its gifts. 
 
Describe it well. Boil your video down to a couple of sentences (with some crucial keywords). A solid description gives the viewer a better idea of what your clip is about – and helps with search rankings.
 
Tag and categorise it. Getting your clip seen is important, but so is getting it seen by the right people. Tag and categorise your video properly: not only will it climb the search rankings, but it’ll get you the audience you want and your view count will start to soar.
 
Are you thinking about producing a film for your business? Whether you need to produce an explainer video or commission the production of a video case study, TopLine's London team has you covered. Watch our showreel to see our amazing work!

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