Welcome to Part 5 of Kahn Media’s KM 101 series, where we provide easy-to-understand information and guidelines for businesses that want to pivot to a “digital-first” model or enhance their online marketing efforts. Click on the links below to read our other KM 101 articles.

Video has taken over the internet, driven in large part by YouTube. The video platform has become the second largest search engine behind Google, with over 2 billion users. More than 80% of 18-49 year-olds in the U.S. watch videos on YouTube, reaching more people than any TV network. And by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic.

You can’t just set up a YouTube channel, upload a few videos and call it a day. You need to understand how YouTube works so you can make it work for you. We’ll help you develop a winning strategy using proven formulas for driving engagement and sales.

YouTube: A Rapidly Expanding Universe
The scale of YouTube boggles the mind. Almost five billion videos totaling one billion hours are watched on YouTube every day, and more than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute — that’s 576,000 hours of new video every day, or more than 210 million hours of new video every year. Videos on every conceivable topic, idea, product and concept are on the site, and they live on in perpetuity.

Unlike other social media platforms, video content on YouTube is evergreen. Videos are searchable and don’t get buried in a feed or timeline, so older videos can continue to get views, especially if paired with an engaging title and a good thumbnail image.

Even though YouTube videos are evergreen and searchable, because there are billions and billions of videos on the site, finding a particular video can be like searching for a very tiny needle in a very large haystack. To get views and drive sales, YouTube videos need hooks to grab the attention of potential viewers.

YouTube videos on your channel are part of your owned media, just like blogs on your website or newsletters you send to your customers and contacts. That means you have the greatest control over the content and how it’s distributed. In other words, when it comes to YouTube videos, you are in the driver’s seat.

How YouTube Influences Buyers
YouTube videos aren’t just for entertainment. As the world’s second largest search engine, YouTube is widely used to gather information and research products and services. In today’s world where e-commerce is king, 80% of people switch between online search and YouTube during the shopping process. And, remarkably, people have watched more than 50,000 years of product review videos on YouTube. 

According to Google (which owns YouTube), watch time for YouTube videos on “which product to buy” has doubled year-over-year. One out of three online shoppers say they have purchased something they found on YouTube, and 70% of shoppers say online videos helped them learn more about an automotive product they intend to buy. In other words, if your company’s products and services aren’t on YouTube, then you’re missing out on a golden sales opportunity.

In a previous KM 101 article, 5 Keys to Successful Video Marketing, we provide guidelines on how to create and distribute video content: 1) knowing your audience, 2) knowing what to create, 3) understanding the video funnel, 4) using the content cycle and 5) tracking your analytics. When developing video content, it’s also important to understand buyer motivations, as shown in the graphic below.

Video content doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to produce. Quick product reviews or simple demonstrations are a great way to get your products in front of potential customers. Unboxing videos — where someone opens a box and unpacks the contents and shows it to the viewer — have been a YouTube phenomenon for several years, with billions of views totaling tens of millions of hours. Believe it or not, Ryan Kaji, the eight-year-old kid behind the YouTube channel “Ryan’s World,” is the platform’s highest earner. According to Forbes, he earned $22 million in 2018 and $26 million in 2019 — just for making videos of opening and trying out toys.

Proven Formulas for Cold Traffic and Warm Traffic Videos
Not all internet traffic is the same. Some visitors, viewers or prospects don’t know anything about your company or its products/services — they’re known as cold traffic. Other prospects may be familiar with your brand, and they may even follow you on Facebook or Instagram or be on your newsletter mailing list, but they haven’t attempted to buy from you. They’re warm traffic.

For cold-traffic prospects, you need to introduce your brand and what it offers. This is the first level of the video funnel — building awareness. Two types of videos that work well for cold traffic are Hero Story videos and Short Explainer videos. 

Hero Story Video Example: EF Ultimate Break

For cold traffic, this type of video draws the prospect in by making him or her the hero of the story. For EF Ultimate Break, which markets fun, experiential group travel for 18-29 year-olds, the hook is set right away by telling the prospect “this could be you” and offering them a glimpse of the good life. As the video progresses, it showcases the top benefits of traveling with EF Ultimate Break, overcomes objections and closes with a strong call to action: “What are you waiting for? Jump!”

Short Explainer Video Example: Grammarly Video

Each of Grammarly’s “Write the Future” videos sets up a common problem — struggling to finish a term paper, writing a wedding toast, a small business owner writing copy for her website — and provides a clear solution: Grammarly makes good writing easier. The videos are short, they keep up a brisk pace and they’re entertaining and relatable, showing real-world scenarios of who the service is for and how it works. The engaging videos drive a lot of traffic — 7 million views for the term paper video, 49 million views for the wedding toast video and 3.4 million views for the small business owner video. 

For warm-traffic prospects, your goal is to convert someone who already knows who you are into a buyer. This is the second level of the video funnel — building interest. Two types of videos that work well for warm traffic are Testimonial and Longer Explainer videos.

Testimonial Video Example: LifeLock

We all know the power of a good customer testimonial. By having an actual customer describe a real-world situation that people can relate to — in the case of LifeLock’s video, it’s the stress of having your identity stolen — and providing a solution, potential customers become more interested in the product or service. This particular video starts off serious in tone and uses the emotional gravity of the problem (the pain of ruined credit) to draw the viewer in. When it transitions from problem to solution, it switches to more upbeat energy and a sense of relief and security: “even when I’m sleeping I have protection.” The call to action at the end is clear, and LifeLock provides introductory pricing, a website and a toll-free number.

Longer Explainer Video Example: Traeger Grills

Whereas a short explainer video is good for building awareness among cold-traffic leads, a longer explainer video builds interest in a specific product. These videos can be up to five minutes long and go into more detail with demonstrations, diagrams, research, interviews, etc. Traeger Grills used a longer explainer video to describe what a pellet grill is, how it works and why it’s easier to use than a conventional charcoal grill. And when we got done watching it, we wanted to buy one!

10 Tips for YouTube Thumbnails
Once you have made your video, the next step is to upload it to your YouTube channel. After putting time, effort and resources into creating video content, far too many companies drop the ball right before they get to the end zone. Creating a compelling video thumbnail is one of the most important ways to drive video views. Here are 10 proven tips for creating engaging YouTube thumbnails, with some good examples shown below.

1. Use numbers-based or curiosity-based titles
Potential viewers find numbered lists compelling because they’re memorable and easy to understand (which is why top-10 lists like this one are so popular on the internet). People also can’t resist a title that promises to reveal information they feel they can’t live without (FOMO).

3. Use social media to poll your audience
Remember, there are billions and billions (and billions) of videos on YouTube. When people do a search, lots of options will come up. Your video thumbnail needs to stand out from the rest, and it will do that if it has emotional or catchy text that attracts the eye or heightens curiosity.

3. Use social media to poll your audience
Another way to create engaging thumbnails is to crowd-source ideas by polling your social media audience. This is part of knowing your audience, but it’s also a way to brainstorm new ideas and to reveal triggers that may work for others.

4. Use minimal or low-key branding
Your videos will promote your company and its products and services, but no one wants to click on a video that looks like a commercial. Use a discrete logo or other minimal branding in your thumbnail so potential viewers won’t skip over your video.

5. Use A/B testing
Not every thumbnail works as planned. The best way to find out is to use A/B testing. Create a thumbnail, use it for a week, then change it and see how traffic changes.

6. Use high-resolution images
When selecting a photo for the thumbnail, you should use a high-resolution image that’s in sharp focus and uses good lighting.

7. Use high saturation and bright colors
Draw in potential viewers with vivid images that use high color saturation (intensity) and bright, high-contrast colors for the text.

8. Use a facial image with an emotional expression
Humans do the searching and watching and humans are social animals. Whenever possible, use a thumbnail image of a face that shows a smile, a laugh, a look of surprise or other emotionally vivid expression that viewers can connect with.

9. Zoom in on the face/object in the thumbnail
Thumbnails are small, so the image should be a close-up of the face or object in the photo to maximize impact. Crop the image tightly, even if that means cutting off part of the face.

10. Make sure the subject looks directly at the camera
Why is the Mona Lisa such a compelling painting? Because she is looking at you no matter where you stand in relation to the portrait. Use the same intense effect by having the subject look directly into the camera to draw people in.

Examples of engaging YouTube thumbnails:

Go For It
With a roadmap for creating video content, strategies for creating videos for cold and warm prospects and tips for creating engaging YouTube thumbnails, you have all the tools you need to use YouTube to drive sales for your business. We realize that many business owners and leaders would rather stay focused on running their companies than becoming experts at content creation or leveraging YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other digital platforms. If you need help, drop us a line at Help@KahnMedia.com for a free consultation.