The Secrets of Effective YouTube marketing - how to get your customers to lean in

An introduction to YouTube mastery by video marketing expert Gideon Shalwick

Chris Trimble from The Guardian posed an interesting question recently:

"If it were five years in the future, would you be reading this article or would you be watching it?"

Trimble writes that by 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco. Video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trebled. 

To discuss the boom of video marketing, I interviewed one of the world's leading experts, Gideon Shalwick. 

Gideon Shalwick is a self-confessed YouTube junkie and loves anything to do with video marketing and building global audiences using video. He’s already helped over 200,000 people from 195 countries with their video marketing. He is the founder of and co-founder of, two startups in the video marketing space.  And he loves sharing his video marketing knowledge with the world at his personal blog at

The following transcript is part one of an audio interview.

EC (Edward Crossin): What is the trend that is driving video marketing?

GS (Gideon Shalwick): The underlying element with video is that it engages extremely well. There's not much else online that engages as well as video. Especially if you look at things like live video streaming.

You can see the proof in the pudding as well: all the big guns have jumped on it. You've got Google that bought YouTube a few years ago, they saw that trend - they say how YouTube was rising and that people were just going nuts with it, and said "hey, we want a piece of the action."

Now more recently, we've got Facebook who have gone crazy with their video as well. So the proof is there, that it's not just people saying it's about engagement and that video is cool: we see the biggest players on Earth, on the internet, who are voting with their actions - that video is huge as well.

There is a lot of really cool stuff still coming up with video. We're still at the beginning of the game.

EC: How is search behaviour different on Google and YouTube?

GS: Both YouTube and Google are search engines. The difference with YouTube is that it's more a social network. Whereas Google, they haven't quite been able to get the social part going. They’ve tried with Google+ but they have totally failed by the looks of it. It didn't achieve what they set out to do. And now with Facebook as well, video is very social.

So the key difference with searching on Google and YouTube is that it's a very different experience. On Google it is often answers that you want immediately, like ways to the closest pizza shop, or more general sort of searches.

Whereas YouTube, it's almost like you're searching there more for an experience as well: you're searching for information but also for an experience. You should know that on YouTube you're not just going to get some factual information about something, you're also going to get someone who's delivering that information to you in an entertaining way. And that changes things quite a lot.

Another difference is that the search results are self-contained within YouTube: when you click on a search result from YouTube, you go to another video on YouTube and you keep that experience within YouTube. Whereas with Google, you do a search there and you go off to someone else's website where that experience is dependent on the other third party.

Therefore the advantage that YouTube has is that they can control that experience as well, and engage people even more, attracting people to watch even more videos on YouTube. It’s a very different experience.

EC: What type of video content should businesses produce to better serve search queries on YouTube?

GS: It's important to look at YouTube as a very different kind of animal to television. I've been saying this for years but it still holds true. It's not television so it doesn't - the kind of content that works on TV doesn't in general work well on YouTube. It is a very different organism.

With television for example, it's very much a one-sided conversation: people lean back sitting on their couches and the information gets streamed at them.

YouTube is a lean forward experience. You sit forward and you interact with the site and with the videos. Thinking about that as a business, how to engage people, you've got to really think about that lean forward experience where people are leaning in towards their computers, and they want to interact with your content. When you keep that in mind, your content then changes as a result.

Instead of creating television content, you think very differently. It's not just a one-sided conversation now: now it's more about how to engage this viewer, how do I get them to click on stuff, how do I get them to share this material?

EC: Concentrating for a moment on non-promotional, non-advertising YouTube clips: what's your view on content length, and how should business structure it?

GS: The short answer is that in general, shorter content seems to get watched and spread more. But it really depends on a lot of factors: one factor is who you're showing this content to, who's watching it, who's your target audience, and also how interested they are in that content.

I'll give you some examples. There are a lot of music videos that have already reached over a billion views, and these videos normally are just a few minutes long - 2 or 4 long. Gangnam Style was the first video that went over a billion views; now there are many of them.

Some videos aren’t as short but hit an emotional trigger for people to share it. Longer videos that go viral - they wouldn't have gone viral unless they were longer. A classic example of that was Kony in 2012. It was a 30 minute long documentary that went completely viral - the most viral video of that year.

Another example is the Big Think channel, where in general they have 2 or 3 minute clips. They interview these really smart people, such as academics or philosophers and get a 2 to 5 minute video of wisdom. Normally these videos would get a few thousand views. Once then they published a video that was about 45 minutes long which was a lecture. It just hit a chord with people, and that video just went crazy, it reached millions of views.

It definitely would have been an eye opener to realise that it's not necessarily about the length of your content, it's also about who's watching it, how engaged they are, how keen they are to watch it, and how keen they are to share it with other people as well.

EC: Looking at the advertising format of YouTube, can you talk through the challenges that advertisers might have getting past the first 5 seconds skip? 

GS: If you've been on YouTube for a while now, you probably would be quite annoyed already by all those ads that you're forced to watch for the first 5 seconds. Some of them you've got to watch for longer. But most people don’t watch ads all the way through.

The challenge for the advertiser is to make sure your video doesn't get skipped after those first 5 seconds. Two elements are critical.

The first element is the targeting. Make sure that you only show your videos to just the right people. That is the first critical thing, but it's still not enough.

The second element that is just as important is your messaging, so how well your message inside your video is aligned to that target audience.

When you get those two elements right, it can make a huge difference to how many people actually keep on watching your video, and then interacting with your video as a result.

One little shortcut that we use for increasing our engagement in the first 5 seconds is we ask the question, what is the main problem, need, want, frustration or desire that our target audience is experiencing right now?

Then we really hone in on that in the first 5 seconds. We often just start it off with a simple question: we'll say something like, "Are you struggling with..." and then X, Y, Z, or whatever that is. Or if it's more of a desire thing, "Would you like to..." X, Y, Z.

Start right at either problem or desire stage. In the first 5 seconds, grab their attention -- because we know that if we've targeted the right people and we've targeted the right pain point or desire point, they are going to respond. They're going to watch that, and within the first 5 seconds they're going to say - if we did a good job, they're going to say, "Yes, this is me, I want to - I'm not going to click the skip button, I want to keep on watching and where do I find out more?

So when you get that dynamic right, then your conversion rates go through the roof. 

EC: Can you provide an example?

GS: An example that I've often used is with one of my other businesses called Splasheo.

This business helps people basically make their videos look a lot nicer using animated video clips. The way we get people into the business is I've written a free report that tells people how to make their videos look good, made easily and quickly.

It's a compelling reason for people to opt in. In the video production industry, one of the biggest pain points is the video editing: it just takes so much time to do this stuff and it's hard to make it look nice, unless you're a professional of course. That's a big pain point.

So a place where we would start with that is we'd start - say something like, "Are you struggling with video editing?" or "Do you also hate video editing?" or "Do you hate how long it takes to make your videos look nice?" We start right at that point, and then from there we build the rest of the ad on that premise to help solve that particular problem.

EC: One of the perceptions of video production by businesses or marketers is that it’s extremely costly. What are your thoughts around those perceived barriers to entry?

GS: There has been a lot of change since I started 9 years ago. Back then it was terribly difficult and expensive to just create simple videos on the internet.

But now, with everybody carrying smart phones with cool video capabilities, you can create professional looking videos easily. The cameras on these phones are just incredible, especially when you're in a well-lit area. Sometimes all you've got to do is just make sure it's well-lit, but also add a good audio into the phone, and you end up with something that looks and sounds professional.

Technically the equipment is a lot cheaper these days; even handycams are not expensive. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money, it doesn't have to be complicated, and it doesn't have to be slow: you can do this stuff really quick as well.

Software like iMovie on a Mac and free programmes available on PC makes editing easy. If you want to, you can record the videos locally and then send your videos off to a place like the Philippines where there are many videos editors who will deliver a professional looking product. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

Even local professionals - their costs have come down too, so even engaging someone locally in your area, you can get away with something pretty affordable. It doesn't have to cost like $30,000 - $100,000 dollars just to create the video. Anywhere between a few hundred dollars to two thousand (AUD) will deliver a good job.

EC: Let's say that the content video has been made- what are the next steps that should be implemented in getting that video live and setting up the back end correctly?

GS: The strategy that I've been following and teaching over the last few years is mainly to focus on one or maybe two gorillas. It used to be sort of just YouTube. I'd say, "just go after YouTube and build your following there."

Today, Facebook is really into the game in a really big way as well, so then definitely have Facebook as part of the strategy as well.

Get the video onto both YouTube and Facebook, and of course they're different animals so you've got to treat them a little bit differently. YouTube is both social network as well as a search engine, whereas with Facebook they're more social than search, you can't really search for videos really easily. They might bring that in in the future, I'd be surprised if they don't. But at the moment, search is not really happening on Facebook. So it's a very different kind of environment between the two different platforms.

There are a lot of things you can do there to promote it: on YouTube, you've got the added advantage of if you optimise with the right keywords, you can start ranking for those keywords and start getting extra traffic from that as well.

Of course it's not just about optimising for the right keywords, it won’t just magically send you traffic: you've got to play the game, you've got to build your community there on YouTube and then regularly update your channel with good content and build your audience there over time.

You can, of course, complement your video audience with paid advertising. So on YouTube you can send paid YouTube video traffic, where you add traffic to your videos to build up your views and build up your subscribers.

Similarly on Facebook, you can post that on your channel - on your page or your business page, on your Timeline, and just let it go organically. Also you can, of course, boost it with some advertising: Facebook video ads or just boosting the post just through the normal advertising method.

So those are two ways. On YouTube you've got other cool things like people - if you create a good video, other people start embedding it on their sites as well.

Facebook's has embedding happening now as well, so that'll start happening more and more. That's more of an organic kind of a growth for your videos.

Certainly what I'd think about is when you create the content, create it for a specific audience, get it up onto YouTube and on Facebook, and then let it run its  course organically, but then also promote it with paid advertising to help boost those numbers.

EC: What advice would you give around setting up the annotations, the cards, and the custom thumbnail on YouTube?

GS: If you're creating a content video here on YouTube, then it's going to be a different kind of video. It's probably going to be slightly longer in general than an ad, and potentially a different call to action as well: it might be the same kind of call to action, but it depends on the purpose of the video.

If you're out to build a subscriber base on YouTube, your content video might have a call to action that gets people to subscribe to your channel. Or you might want to get more people watching more of your videos, in which case your call to action might be to get people to click on an annotation that links back to another video on your channel, or link to another playlist on your channel -- or all three: maybe you get people to subscribe and watch a video and watch a playlist at the end of your video for the call to action.

You can do this with clickable annotations.  You can do that with cards now too, you can link to - with the card's call to action, to anywhere on YouTube as well, and to your associated website.

So it depends on the purpose of that video. Often the past I would mix things up a bit: so for one video I would get people to subscribe to my channel, my YouTube channel, build that subscriber base there and build authority on YouTube as well because there's value in that.

Other times I would send people off to my website and start building my email list off. So I would either do one or the other, I wouldn't in general do them both at the same time because I just found that I got a better result when I just had one call to action.

When it comes to ad, it's a very different kind of video: it's often a much shorter video, maybe about 30 seconds long or 40 seconds -- a minute at the most.

The call to action is much more aggressive there. And the call to action can lead to anywhere on YouTube, to watch another video or to subscribe to your channel -- but then of course you can also send people straight to your website and get them to sign up for your newsletter or sign up as a lead or a software trial or even buy a product -- as long as your landing page is Google Adwords compliant.

So it really depends on the strategy behind the video as to which call to action you would use.

EC: Who is doing video marketing and YouTube marketing really well at the moment?

GS: The guys of Digital Marketer are doing a great job – via

Tommie Powers has been a great thought leader in the space on video advertising and YouTube video advertising in particular – find more here

Tom Breeze from is one the thought leaders in this space -

Jack Larson is another great in video advertising as well – find him at 

From the body building industry, Mike Chang is worth a look at

The other way of doing it is to look at the clients of people that I've just mentioned, and see what they're doing. They have case studies of their clients doing really well and what they're doing to make it work.

This is a big, growing industry.  We're right at the beginning of it, especially when it comes to YouTube and now more specifically Facebook video ads.

It's a great time to be in this space, it's very affordable to get traffic from these sources.

This perceived barrier to entry, where a lot of companies and people think it's hard, expensive and slow. But if you know what we know, then you know it's not quite the case. You can get video ads created very quickly, affordably, and it doesn't have to be complicated at all.

EC: What are your thoughts around Meerkat and Periscope?

GS: At the start of 2014, I had an interview with someone. I remember they asked me, "What are your predictions for video in the future?" And I said, what's going to be really interesting to see is that the following three things cross paths: video advertising, live video, and mobile.

Now, 18 months later, we're looking at that and we've seen Meerkat's come on scene, mobile live streaming. Periscope has probably overtaken them now.  

Google Hangouts on the air and YouTube live hasn't taken off in comparison with Meerkat and Periscope. But it's still there nonetheless.

But we've got those other two things on - Periscope and Meerkat, they're on mobile. So you've got all these things coming together into one big trend.

The most engaging medium online is video; and to take it a notch up, it's live video.

Now that it's on mobile, it's so easy to just press a button and boom, you're live, and you have an audience around the world that can watch you instantly. It's incredible for keeping people's attention and building audiences.

Once again, we're right at the beginning of it, there's still some really cool stuff that's going to come up and it's a tremendous time to be living in to see how these technologies develop.

EC: There's an increasing focus on content marketing. Where do you see the relationship between video and that content marketing priority?

GS: I see it as the same thing, really. Video marketing is really content marketing. Content marketing is just a fancy word that's been applied over the last three years from the bigger companies like HubSpot.

Content marketing in a different form has been around since the beginning of the internet.

It's always been about content: the catchphrase has always been, "content is king." And content all types: there's text-based content and there's audio-based content, there's video-based content.

Anything with a combination of all those sort of things. So video is just another form of content marketing.

For example, I started a channel with a friend back in 2009. We started a magic tricks channel together. He was a magician, a local Brisbane magician, I did the video marketing. We created a new video every week called Free Magic Live -

In the video we'd have JJ go into the streets of Brisbane, we'd go and follow him doing a magic trick in front of a live audience. Then afterwards we'd record how the trick was done and then put that into one video and submit that to the channel. So we did that week after week.

Within a month we started seeing some great traction, we knew that there was a potential there; we kept on doing that. That channel now, through regularly and consistently creating content for that channel, week after week over the last six years, has now got close to 330,000 subscribers on YouTube. There have been millions of views.

That's all content marketing. All of it was pure content, and through that content we've been able to build an audience. Then once you have that audience you can do magical things, because through that method of content marketing, you build the audience but not only that: you build a really good relationship with that audience.

Once you achieve those two things, an audience and a relationship with them, well then you can start influencing that audience to take part in your course, to join you on your journey, to buy your products, to sign up for your newsletter. Because you've got them there with you and you've got a relationship with them, they're much more likely to take action when you ask them to.

The whole of YouTube is full of that: every channel is really a content marketing channel if you look at it.

Video falls under the bigger umbrella of content marketing and enriched media.

With any piece of content that you get out there, if you can include video and incorporate a video into it somehow, that's going to create a much better experience for your audience as well and strengthen that relationship with your audience as well, which in the end will help you have more business.

EC: Any final thoughts?

GS: When it comes to video, sure it is these days easy - much easier, much faster, much more affordable to do. It still requires time and effort though.

That's a good thing because it means that it gets rid of all the tire kickers, all the lazy folks. So that's like a bit of effort to make that happen, and persistence and consistency. But it's like that with any business: you've got to apply persistence and consistency throughout.

So it's no different with video. But I think that you've got the added benefit there, when you target places like YouTube and Facebook, there are already big audiences there and likely the audience for your business on there already -- perhaps not directly searching for your part of the service, but perhaps in the evenings after work they might go and hop on there just for relaxation, and you can still get them - access them there, especially through advertising and remarketing even if you can't advertise directly to them.

Apply persistence: if you think longer term it's not just about the campaign, it's about the bigger, long-term picture and building a long-term relationship with just the right people for your business.


Article resources and links:

Gideon Shalwick resources and links:

Article references and resources:

Digital Marketer -

Tommie Powers -

Tom Breeze -

Jack Larson -

Mike Chang -

Free Magic Live -

How to be the puck and dominate

If content is King, then conversion is Queen. And she rules the roost.