Canadian Rental Service

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YouTube and you

Canadian rental businesses looking for a quick fix to an increasingly vexing challenge – getting their web presence to look good on all screen sizes, be it on smart phones, tablets or desktop PCs – may want to turn to YouTube.


July 18, 2013
By Joe Dysart

Canadian rental businesses looking for a quick fix to an increasingly vexing challenge – getting their web presence to look good on all screen sizes, be it on smart phones, tablets or desktop PCs – may want to turn to YouTube. The online video goliath has rolled out a major upgrade, specifically designed to ensure that a company’s website on its service – which YouTube calls a ‘channel’ – looks great, no matter how visitors decide to view it. “The main focus of this update is to make your new channel look great on browsers across all screens and devices,” says Jeb Havens, a product manager at YouTube.

The solution could work for rental businesses eager to develop a web presence that looks good on all devices, but may nowt have the time, revenue or knowledge to do a complete redesign of their current site. Making increased use of a YouTube channel kills two birds with one stone by moving your promotional messages to video (a much more popular medium online than print web pages) and making your content accessible to mobile devices. Essentially, you can use YouTube for your mobile presence on the Web, and retain your current site for web surfers who use more traditional desktop and laptop computers.

The redesign, which YouTube is calling YouTube One, offers you the opportunity to either enhance your video presence on the web or finally launch that video promotion strategy you have been considering for months, or even years, but never quite gotten around to implementing. When it comes to video, there is no time like the present. The Canadian Rental Association is even having a contest this summer for the best rental promotion video, with a prize of $5,000 in public relations services from its PR firm (see the President’s Message, page 24).

YouTube is the third most popular site on the Internet, just behind Google and Facebook. It is currently averaging more than one billion unique visitors each month, according to its company stats page. YouTube’s asking price for hosting your business channel on its service – free – makes the number work out rather well.

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YouTube is able to offer a one-size-fits-all web site by stripping down the home page for a business’ web channel on it its network to the bare essentials. Businesses are invited to personalize their home page by uploading a banner featuring their logo or other identifying graphics, which runs along the top of their page. But design-wise, that’s about it.

Otherwise, the rest of the home page design for your business channel – which includes a basic white background – is pretty much standardized. Perhaps most interesting about the standardization is that the home page is now dominated by a wide, middle column, flanked on each side by a much skinnier column. The new wide middle column – which feels a lot like the newsfeed column on Facebook – is where the action is.  Here, you can arrange videos into separate playlists based on categories of your choosing. There is also a navigation bar just below the company banner in the middle column, where visitors can click to  access your videos in other ways, look at and participate in discussion about your videos, or get a brief text description of what your business is about. The skinny column on the left actually has nothing to do with your business.  It’s used by YouTube to promote other video channels on its service.  Ditto for the skinny column on the right.

Probably the best news about the update is that getting started on YouTube is pretty much effortless.  To establish your own business channel there, start by creating your own channel. Getting a business channel on YouTube literally takes a few seconds. It is not much more involved than registering for any other restricted-access website. Just enter some contact information, pick a username and password, select from a few options an you are done.

Next, upload a banner. Banners are the sole piece of artwork, other than your actual videos, that personalize your channel’s home page, so you’ll probably want to give the banner some thought. The art you use across the top of your web page is probably fine once you resize it.The optimum size for the banner is 2120 by 1192 pixels. There’s a text tutorial that walks you through creating and posting a banner.

Then upload your first video. Compared to shooting and editing the video in the first place, this process is a snap and takes just a few seconds. There are numerous tutorials telling you how to post the video to YouTube in the first place. Once your video is on the service, you’ll be prompted to title it with an easy-to-understand title, include a description for the video, and come up with some tags or keywords that search engines will use to direct web searches to your video.

Prioritize the appearance of critical videos. Once you’ve uploaded a few videos to YouTube, you will be able to use a new feature from YouTube to position the most important videos at the top of your channel’s page. Consider organizing your videos by playlist. This is another great new feature. Playlists allow businesses to organize videos by theme. You may want one playlist devoted entirely to breaking news from your company: new hires, new locations, coverage in local media. Another playlist might be devoted entirely to a new product line, or new service you’ve added. Still another might give customers tips on how to use your equipment.

Consider creating a welcome video. Another new feature of the upgrade, a welcome video or trailer, can be programmed to play for visitors who are new to your channel, then disappear when YouTube senses your visitor has subscribed. “A compelling channel trailer is the most engaging way of introducing your channel, and encouraging your viewers to subscribe, so they’ll make you part of their YouTube habit,” says Andres Palmister, audience development strategist at YouTube.

Take advantage of the global change tool. Another great new feature of the service is the ability to make global changes to the specs associated with your videos. You may decide down the line that you want to run YouTube ads before your videos play to generate some extra coin from your presence there. YouTube’s Bulk Action tool enables you to make that change to all videos simultaneously. You can also re-categorize all videos with a single action, change the formats of ads that run with your videos, and more.

Do not forget to leverage YouTube Analytics. Using the free analytics service, you can find out the number views for each of your videos, see who’s subscribing to your channel, analyze how long each person watched each video, see at what point in the video viewers are leaving the videos, and more. YouTube Analytics are a powerful tool that will tell you what’s going on with your videos and suggest ways to improve on what you’re doing.

You can also embed a YouTube player on your traditional Web site so your visitors can view your videos.  Simply click the “Share” button under a video you have on YouTube, then click “Embed.” You will be presented with a single line of code that you or your web designer can embed on any page of your traditional website and, presto, you’ve got a YouTube viewer on your web site that can be used to view all the videos on your YouTube business channel.

For help with any of this, consult the free YouTube Playbook. The free guide is at www.youtube.com/yt/playbook .

Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.