It’s not every day you hear event marketers talking about event promotion on YouTube. In fact, it’s not most days. Any days, really.
YouTube is easily the most neglected social platform for event promotion. It lacks the straightforwardness of Twitter, the discoverability of Facebook, the audience targeting of LinkedIn. Heck, you’ll see your event peeps on Pinterest and Instagram before finding their YouTube presence.
“Cool story,” I’m sure you’re thinking right now. “So why am I reading this?”
I’ll tell ya.
YouTube may be neglected, but that doesn’t make it bad. It’s actually the opposite of bad, to the tune of being the 2nd largest search engine in the world, with 3 billion searches per month. The only search engine more powerful happens to be its parent company, Google. And as you can imagine, Google likes to play nice with its own toys.
What that translates to is more discoverability juice than we, as marketers, even let ourselves dream of.
Arguably, you may have already known all of this. A lot of us do, but we skip out on YouTube anyway. Why?
Well, most of those 3 billion searches are for Ariana Grande’s Thank U Next video, so it’s hard to imagine your conference content will compete. More importantly, producing video isn’t cheap or easy, so it can be tough to part with your event budget for a platform with a questionable success rate.
That being said, your success on YouTube is entirely up to you. The whole platform is designed to get great content discovered, and if yours can engage an audience you’re set up for a significantly wider reach than you could achieve on any other platform. Tl;dr: YouTube is worth every penny, as long as you’re investing in great content.
So what makes great YouTube content? The videos that get liked, shared, and commented on the most—outside of beauty tutorials and animals who become unlikely friends— fall into two categories.
But before we get into what does work, I feel it’s important to quickly touch on what doesn’t: promotional videos.
Unless you’re throwing a music festival or cruise-ship rave, a promo video is going to fall totally flat, get 0 engagement, and significantly stunt your reach. Because, and let’s all just put on a brave face and accept the facts here, no one is heading to YouTube to learn about your conference. So do yourself a favor and cut. it. out.
So what kinds of content do work?
Of the two content buckets that inevitably play well on YouTube, emotional is arguably the harder one to achieve, especially for a B2B event.
I get it. It can be tough to link your manufacturing trade show to a particularly emotional story. That being said, when we think of emotions, we’re not really seeing the whole spectrum.
When I tell you to create emotional content, your brain probably jumps to something like those PETA videos with Sara McLaughlin or that baby who got a hearing aid (linked because if you haven’t seen this I give you permission to take a reading break and go watch.)
In reality, emotional refers to a much greater range than sadness, pity, or, in the case of the baby video, pure giggly joy.
Somewhere in your event, there are probably a ton of stories that could make great YouTube content—remember, you’re not a documentary filmmaker. All you need is 45 seconds-ish of engaging video, and you’re in business.
Take the manufacturing trade show— maybe one of your exhibitors is doing something incredible for green production or helping the environment. Bam, there’s a video. Maybe one of your sponsors has an all-female or minority leadership team. Bam, video. Maybe the venue that’s hosting you is known for creating positive change in the local community. Bam, video. Sorry, I’m getting a little Emeril here, but I’m sure you get my point.
Your event, of course, is what you’re trying to get people to attend—but all of the other things that happen in and around it are compelling reasons to go.
Tap your sponsors, exhibitors, board members, etc. to find those emotional stories, and then leverage them as people to meet. You can even end your video with something like “Register now to see [this person] talk more about [this subject].” Sure, it’s not the general CTA you’ve crafted for your event, but it may just be the thing that drives people to register.
The other type of content that works really well on YouTube is educational— think pieces that feel closer to TED Talks than music videos.
Some event marketers are hesitant to distribute this type of content since it feels like giving something away for free that otherwise, attendees would have to pay to come to your events to learn. Trying to “gate” your content like that, however, is sacrificing your greatest marketing tool.
When we think of educational content for events, the first thing that comes to mind is videos of speakers from last year. While this is a perfectly valid content type (as long as you paid for professional sound, videography, and lighting), it only works if you’re running an annual event, which leaves a whole bunch of one-off and first-timer events out in the cold.
If you can swing it, a better approach is to generate content related to this year’s speaking, workshop, or fireside chat topics. If you have a speaker who’s going to be talking about building company culture, for example, you could ask them to participate in a short-form video that hits on topics related to or building up to their main content for the event, like hiring practices and finding culture fits.
I certainly don’t mean teasers—people hate teasers. I mean real, good content that could stand alone, but happens to coordinate nicely with what’s happening at your event. People who watch that video and enjoy it are your exact target audience, so when you hit them with a CTA telling them to register to see this speaker expand on this topic at your event, they’re already engaged with both the story and the storyteller; you have a good chance at making a conversion.
Other things to consider
YouTube functions more like a search engine than a social media network, and it’s to your benefit to treat it that way. Remember to write a lengthy post description with plenty of good keywords to get that search juice flowing.
On the social media side, YouTube does use an algorithm that serves users “engaging” content, i.e. you have to keep your engagement high in order to be seen. Not only should you encourage likes and shares in your end card and post description, but you should also make sure your entire team gets in on commenting and liking action. The more people seem to be enjoying your content, the more people will actually be able to enjoy it.
All in all, of course, there will always be some hurdles to adding YouTube to your event marketing repertoire. Convincing your boss to foot the bill for a production crew isn’t always easy—but the payoff can be massive. Go into it with the understanding that, while you probably won’t go viral, you have the opportunity to get a lot of eyeballs on your event and event brand, and even if it totally bombs on YouTube, you just created quality, snackable content that you can share throughout all your social, your email marketing, and every other online destination your event touches.