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10 top small business uses of YouTube videos

Thursday, 3 May 2012 | By Oliver Milman

feature-shop-video-thumbUsing video as a marketing channel is increasingly attractive to cash-strapped start-ups, mostly due to its expanding consumer reach, plummeting cost and simplified production processes.


But how should your business use video? Should you simply slap a straight video advert online, or approach it in a slightly smarter way?


The answer could be to create your own “how to” video.


YouTube revealed this week that its “how to” channel has risen to become the third most popular section on the video sharing platform, with businesses starting to realise the potential of educating viewers before selling to them.


So who out there is adopting this approach? Here are 10 of the best ideas that your business’ marketing strategy could benefit from.



1. Etsy



If your business lends itself to video, half the battle is won. Etsy, the US online marketplace for handcrafted items, runs regular video profiles of its members, such as this look at a regular business day in the life of entrepreneur and mother, Ursula Dean.


The Etsy branding is subtle and gives the impression the business genuinely cares about its sellers – an important asset if you have a membership base of any sort. Etsy also runs ‘How to Tuesdays’ where its members share their advice, via video, with other users.



2. Epic



Luke Nicholas is the founder of Epic Beer, a small Kiwi beer brand. Since starting making the product on a small scale in another company’s brewery, Nicholas is priming the product for major growth, recently securing a listing deal with UK pub chain giant JD Wetherspoon.


Nicholas makes liberal use of video via Epic’s site and social media channels. As well as behind-the-scenes clips and explanations of Epic’s point of difference over other beers, Nicholas also personally hosts explanations of the brewing process itself.


Epic’s story is a great example of how video can expand consumers’ knowledge of an entire industry, thereby indirectly benefiting a certain brand.



3. The Gents Place



If you’re a retailer, it can pay to make the brands you stock the ‘hero’ of your marketing.


In this video, San Francisco bar The Gents Place cleverly piggybacks off the well-known Bacardi brand by holding a “how to” cocktail mixing event and filming it.



4. Valencia Property



Graham Hunt was doing nicely selling properties in Spain to British expats until the global financial downturn hit.


After shrinking his business down to a one-man operation, Hunt began to make short videos of properties for sellers’ perusal.


But he then realised the potential of video as a way to sell the lifestyle of Spain, rather than merely the properties. That, after all, was what people were essentially buying from him.


In the course of four days, Hunt put together 100 video tips on buying property in Spain, giving an invaluable insight to Spanish law, customs and culture to potential customers. As a result, Hunt claims his client visits increased by 225% and sales and rentals more than doubled.



5. Canine Obedience Unlimited



The starting point for any viable business is identifying a consumer need or inconvenience and offering an effective, cost-appropriate solution.


American dog training school Canine Obedience Unlimited makes good use of video by illustrating the problems caused by unruly mutts, as well as their remedy. A good way of sparking recognition of a problem, swiftly followed by an effective solution.



6. The Khan Academy



Online video can provide the basis for a business in itself. In February, Craig Silverstein, who is credited as being instrumental in building Google’s search engine, defected to Khan Academy, an education platform that uses web videos to teach children.


Silverstein’s move was a vote of confidence for the concept of building a venture around online video, something that Khan Academy has fully embraced. The organisation has video channels on YouTube explaining everything from algebra to organic chemistry.



7. Surface Screen



The simplest, and arguably most effective, way of driving sales through online video is via a product or service demonstration.


Aussie brand Surface Screen has put video front and centre of its website, succinctly showing how its product – which protects surfaces such as leather and textiles from spills and dirt – works.


“We’re growing pretty rapidly, with over 65,000 YouTube views... Recently, we’ve had bloggers reposting our videos and providing a commentary on the products, which has been tops,” says Christian Le Loux , founder of Sydney-based tech company Fourteen92, which owns the Surface Screen trade mark.



8. Heart Fitness Center



It wasn’t so long ago that every celebrity worth their salt was releasing a fitness DVD. This gravy-free train has slowed in recent years, however, as the public realised they can get their video workouts for free via the web.


This shift has benefited businesses in the health and nutrition sectors, which are able to dispense nuggets of advice while driving customers to their products. For example, the US-based Heart Fitness Center regularly runs "Workout Wednesdays" videos.



9. You Suck at Photoshop



In 2005, ad execs Troy Hitch and Matt Bledsoe quit their jobs to start-up creative agency Big Fat Institute.


Rather than taking the traditional approach to wooing clients, they launched a series of YouTube videos entitled “You Suck at Photoshop”. Narrated by the misanthropic, and fictional, Photoshop expert Donnie Hoyle, the comedic series has attracted more than eight million views on YouTube and won numerous Webby Awards.


Using video in this light-hearted way had tangible business benefits for Hitch and Bledsoe – they went on to create My Damn Channel, which provides a platform for others who want to replicate Donnie’s success.



10. Do the Flip



OK, so a flashmob isn’t exactly a ‘how to’ kind of affair. And the whole genre has become a little tired.


But this dancing explosion on Bondi Beach in 2009 delivered a genuine surprise to sunbakers and provided the makers of the new Flip camera acres of free news print as the media lapped it up.


Whether your business wants to be embodied by a gyrating man in red Speedos is another matter, of course.