How to Start a Successful YouTube Channel

Been thinking about starting a YouTube Channel for your nonprofit or social enterprise? if so, you’re not alone. My intern, McKenzie Bethel, is about to share some compelling stats that may move you beyond simple curiosity.

In fact, for nonprofits, it may be the perfect time to begin! Just a few weeks ago, the video giant announced YouTube Giving, which will offer expanded tools for soliciting and receiving donations. But no matter your business model, here are a few, easy ways to create your YouTube channel.

 How

It can be difficult to clearly convey what you are thinking and feeling through written text. While traditional social media sites are great for starting, growing, and expanding your organization, sometimes the human to human connection can get lost in translation. This is one reason video has become so popular. It’s the next best thing to being in the room with someone.

And when it comes to video, there’s still no one bigger than YouTube. Along with connecting to your audience, YouTube can be used as a great marketing tool.

Why YouTube?

Over two million videos are viewed on the platform each day. Just imagine how much attention even a portion of that could bring to your nonprofit or social enterprise!

A little over 10 years ago, Google bought YouTube, making it one of the most searchable platforms around. This merger is great news for your organization and growing a channel, as this allows you to appear in many more search results.

YouTube has become a powerful form of communication because it makes sharing your message incredibly simple. And unlike other social media outlets, YouTube’s content is widely consumed outside of itself, such as on other websites. Embedded videos allow users to share your content almost anywhere for more people to see.

Another perk is its longevity. Videos are often watched and shared months after they were posted, even without promotion.

Before you jump in, though, there are a few things you need to know to make the best out of your new YouTube channel.  

 

1.     Choosing a URL

As they say, the internet is forever. Well at least your YouTube URL will be. Google, the owner of YouTube, makes it very difficult to change your URL, especially if you have a young and growing channel. Unless you qualify for a custom URL, you are stuck with the first one you select.

Choose something that is synonymous with your organization and brand. It’s also a good idea to examine your other platforms. Having the same username across all of your different social media channels makes it easier for your audience to find and connect with you. Using a tool like Namechekr will help you make sure that the name you want is available on multiple platforms.  

 2.     Consistency

The key to a successful YouTube channel is being consistent! To keep an active audience, you must be active as well. One way to stay consistent is to let your viewers know when you will be posting and to stick to that promise. It lets them know that you will be coming back regularly and are committed to your work. It also gives them something of yours to look forward to.

The frequency of your uploads depends on the type of channel you have. With a vlog, you would want to post more often to keep the audience in tune with your daily life. For most other channels, posting once a week is sufficient.

Whatever upload schedule you decide on, stick to it! Your audience will lose trust in you and your nonprofit or social enterprise if you make promises that you cannot keep. 

 

3.      Optimization

If you haven’t heard yet, YouTube is going through major algorithmic changes. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with, even for the current, popular creators. However, there are a couple of ways to stay ahead of the game.

Quality, quality, quality. No one wants to watch a blurry, difficult to see video. High resolution, high quality videos will attract more viewers. More viewers will, in turn, encourage people to like, share, and subscribe. And greater interaction will increase the ranking of your video and that is how more people will see it.  

Close behind video quality is content optimization. Telling YouTube what your videos are about will help them reach more people. The title, tags, and description will tell YouTube’s algorithm how to categorize your video and make it appear in the appropriate search results.

Find the right buzzwords that relate to your video. Use them in your title, tags, and description along with other relevant words that will attract a larger audience. Shorter descriptions tend to perform better. Not many people want to read an essay before watching a video.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the description under 180 characters without forgetting the most important information. With that being said, do not use fluff words. YouTube can detect “filler” tags and will shift your video ranking lower. Use words that are relevant to the context of your video, channel, and cause-focused organization as a whole. Always include your website, social media links, and other links you want your viewers to have handy.

 4.     Thumbnail, Title, and Trailer

The thumbnail and title are the first two viewed elements of your video. If they are not interesting enough, no one will click to watch more. YouTube is considered one of the largest search engines at the moment, so having a catchy title can increase your channel traffic tremendously.

Make sure your title is short, yet engaging and descriptive. One thing to note is that video titles are not permanent! You can play around with different keywords and title structures to see what works best for you.

One of the easiest ways to gain views is by having incredibly eye-catching thumbnails. YouTube will offer random screenshots for you to use as thumbnails, but it is a much better decision to create custom thumbnails. A great resource for that is Canva. Canva has many templates, including one specifically for YouTube thumbnails. This way you always get to control what people immediately see on your videos, rather than worrying about someone’s eyes being closed or mouth being open.

While you want to make your thumbnail interesting, avoid click-bait! Click-bait is using a provocative title or photo in order to get someone to click on it, only to find out the topic is not related to the content at all. Click-baiting is very deceiving and will make your current followers, and new viewers, lose trust in you.

Your video titles should be short, sweet, and clever but not to the point where they are difficult to understand. They should hint to the biggest point in the video without giving too much away.

Your channel trailer may be the first video your growing audience will see when they visit your channel. It’s a short clip that promotes your channel and hooks your audience into wanting to see more. The best trailers show the highlights of your page and display your businesses content in a fun way. Instead of sitting down and talking about your channel, show us!  

If possible, use clips from previous videos and compile them into your own little story reel. That is a creative way to explain what your channel is all about. Keep your trailer short and sweet, too. YouTube analytics predict that trailers under 40 seconds perform better than longer ones. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to make the viewer subscribe. If you were a new viewer, what is something you would be excited to see?

 

5.     Content

Content is the heart and soul of your channel. Ultimately, it’s what draws viewers in and keeps them coming back. Your channel is the perfect place to introduce your work or cause, share ideas, and promote upcoming launches. The most common and successful videos for small businesses and organizations are product explanations, customer testimonies, and tips.

It sounds daunting to create so much new content, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Repurposing video and content is more than welcome in the YouTube community. For example, if you are already producing a podcast, try taping it and posting that footage to your channel. People would love to see the mannerisms and facial expressions that go along with their favorite podcast.

Another way to repurpose content is by using footage from a previous event and adding to it. Show snippets of the event and add in your commentary so the viewer is engaged. Of course, the type of content you choose to post will depend on each organization, but a good rule to follow is to mix it up. Switching it up between sit-down videos and “in the field” type videos will keep your audience looking forward for your next upload.

 

6.     Be social, share, and collaborate

Popular videos are promoted more often by YouTube and that’s all thanks to engagement levels. More subscribers and more views will place your videos higher in search results. It’s a huge plus if someone subscribes to your channel right after watching one of your videos, according to YouTube.

The easiest and most organic way to generate growth is to ask for it! Share your channel and videos on your other social media channels and website, tell your friends and colleagues, and collaborate with other entrepreneurs and organizations. Using a Call To Action (CTA), is a great way to get the word out about your cause and YouTube is no different.

Each one of your videos should have a CTA at the end to further engage your audience and encourage them to take action. Tell viewers exactly what you want them to do whether that’s subscribing, liking, or sharing your video. 

Last but definitely not least—become a part of the YouTube community. Find channels that correlate with your organization, cause, or personal brand and engage with them! Even leaving a simple comment on another creator’s channel can connect you with the right person.  

Contributing to discussions will attract new viewers to your channel as well. Leaving thoughtful comments will grab the attention of passer-by and encourage them to check out your content. Avoid spamming others’ comment sections, however. That gives of an insincere vibe and will not yield great channel traffic results. 

 

Would you like to see this advice in action?

Here are four examples that showcase the tips above. The first two are nonprofits, and the latter are for-profit organizations.

The Task for Global Health has a wide variety of videos. Some explain who they are and what they do, and others are stories from communities they have served. And Dosomething.org caters to young people, so they have a more laid-back approach to their channel. The incorporate interviews, challenges, and some public service announcements into their content.

The Body Shop is a cause-oriented brand. They use their YouTube channel to show tutorials for their products and on occasion, have serious conversations. Finally, most of us know about Tom’s Shoes and what they stand for. Their videos range from completely creative content to their newest shoe to showing off their charity work. These four organizations can be great inspirations for your own channel.

Does your organization have a YouTube channel? If so, leave your link in the comments, and we’ll check it out!


 McKenzie Bethel

I’m McKenzie Bethel and I’m a fourth-year Economics Major at the Georgia State University with a minor in Journalism.

I have many hobbies but writing, filming, and creating content hold a special place in my heart. I hope to use economics to advocate for caused-focused organizations in the future.

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 It can be difficult to clearly convey what you are thinking and feeling through written text. While traditional social medias are great for starting, growing, and expanding your organization, sometimes the human to human connection can get lost in translation. Along with connecting to your audience, YouTube can be used as a great marketing tool.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.