There was a fantastic piece by Dennis Nishi yesterday over at the Wall Street Journal.  It’s called “How to Sell on YouTube, Without Showing A Video.”  (Bonus points for the catchy title, Mr. Nishi).  The crux of the article is that businesses can find great potential for growth via the YouTube community even when they’re not actively uploading videos.

From my own personal consulting experience, there are two kinds of companies in the world:

  1. The kind that is willing to get their hands dirty, do the hard work required to build a business, and takes nothing for granted.
  2. The other kind, well… they think they can just put up a website or upload a video and sit back while the cash rolls in.

If you’re the second kind, then Nishi’s article will probably sound like too much work for you.  You’ll ignore his advice and avoid YouTube community interactions, and five years from now you’ll still be wondering why nobody watches your clips.

But if you’re one of the first types of companies, and you see the value in hard work and understand that good things take time, then Nishi wrote this article for you.

Leveraging the YouTube Community to Engage

It seems that more and more companies are turning to YouTube comments as a way to reach out and engage existing and potential customers.  We’ve been giving you that advice for some time, but it’s always nice to have a trusted media company join the battle cry.

See, a lot of YouTube viewers don’t want to be marketed to.  Not overtly at least.  There are plenty of companies sending daily spam, or uploading boring sales-pitch videos.  But real people… interacting with real customers?  That’s something YouTube users can respect.  The trick is to be patient, and stick with it.

The Wall Street Journal article profiles a few companies following this strategy, including a hair care company and a knife company—both of whom have actively engaged users in a variety of ways.  They’ve answered questions posed in videos and in comments, they’ve left comments on other users’ clips, and they’ve generally tried to be more helpful than sales-driven.  And the impact is that users appreciate the sincere efforts at community-building, which in turn leads them to make videos or comments about the company or the product, which drives awareness and potential customers back to the business.  Both of these profiled companies have gotten over 5,000 video-bloggers to demonstrate or review their respective products.

Community Participation is Inherently Part of Video Marketing

What Nishi is really talking about here is so much more universal than YouTube, though.  I spent many years working with a web development firm that specialized in websites for small and medium businesses.  And an alarming number of them acted like launching a website was the only step necessary for making money online.  A few even tried to threaten us with nonpayment since we’d designed and launched the site they asked for, but they hadn’t yet made a single sale.

Operating a business takes hard work and lots of time.  Growing a business takes even more.  If you’re not going to put the effort into it and have some patience to let it grow, then you’re doomed to failure.  And this is true of brick-and-mortar businesses, or company facebook pages, or corporate blogs and twitter accounts.  If you’re not going to participate in the community… and put in the time necessary to establish yourself as a community member and authority… then you’re probably going to wind up thinking all this online marketing hullaballo is junk science.  But if you have patience, and a lot of free time, there’s a lot to be gained by patiently working your way into the community.

And YouTube is no exception.  Sure, you can simply upload videos and get views and maybe even build your business some buzz.  But if you want to tap the real power of YouTube—referrals, reviews, leads, actual sales—you might consider setting up camp and planning to stay for a while.  Because the real power of the site is in its community, and you can’t take advantage of it if you’re just an outsider.