How to get to the top of YouTube

You’ve seen the awesome statistics that accompany each video on YouTube. Some folks can post a video in one day and see millions of views within a week. Others get only a handful to tune in.

How and why does this happen? And what can small businesses, fledgling producers and all-around hams do to increase their numbers?

YouTube, the world’s most popular video site, has distilled best practices down to a science with what it calls the “Playbook.

Ben Relles, YouTube’s head of programming strategy, travels around the country meeting with young producers to explain the Playbook and how their videos can rise to the top.

YouTube puts ads on all of its videos and shares more than 50% of the revenue with its top creators, so there’s a financial incentive for anyone making videos on YouTube to see better results.

During a recent stop at YouTube’s splashy new production space here, Relles discussed the top seven ways video creators can get better seen.

— Think viral: Ask the question before you start shooting, “What will make people share this?” Relles says. “And what is it about this video that you think people will watch and immediately want to put on their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and e-mail and everywhere else.”

— Have a great hook. On YouTube, views matter, but more important is that the entire video has been watched all the way through. The channel doesn’t want a basic click and folks turning away within seconds. How to keep them hooked? The Playbook recommends opening big. “Personalities should address/welcome the audience, ask a question, spark the viewer’s curiosity, or tease the rest of the video.”

— Take the time to optimize.”How you title the video, the thumbnail you choose and the tags you compose all play a big part in the video being discovered,” says Relles. Google-owned YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine; effective titling helps the video get discovered. The headline should use keywords first and branding (the show or channel name) at the end. Beyond the headline, tags are another tool for discovery. And a good thumbnail image of the video — which also shows up in search results — can help direct viewers to the content. When you upload videos to YouTube, after the video is processed, tools are available to change the thumbnail to your liking.

— Collaborate. One big trick of YouTube stardom is that the audience likes to see their favorites appear with other stars, just like the comic book days of yore that saw Superman interact with Batman or the Incredible Hulk meet up with Iron Man. No tool will do more to build your views and online standing than joining forces with another creator, Relles says. “If you work with somebody else on YouTube that has a similar subscription base to yours and you do something really creative together, (their viewers will) recommend others to check out your channel.”

— Subscriptions. Encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel, because that in turns builds a recurring audience.

— Connect with viewers. Social media starts with a basic question: “Will the video I’m making be shared?” and if so, “how?” From there, encouraging feedback and responding is vital. “How you create a dialogue with (viewers) goes beyond the content,” Relles says. “It gives the audience an opportunity to feel they’re part of the conversation.”

— Respond to comments. Relles suggests answering comments shortly after the video is posted. The first commenters are the core audience; keeping them engaged builds loyalty, he says. Prepare to have a thick skin — comments can be raw.

“People, especially, if they’re disappointed, will let you know this isn’t up to snuff. No matter what media it is, people are saying these things. When they’re home and watching TV, and they don’t like a scene, they tell the person they’re watching TV with. The exciting thing about online video, is you get to have this dialogue with people. If you’re open to this kind of feedback, you can use it to direct your content, or say, `That’s great, that’s your opinion.'”

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