YouTube And Your Business

Unsurprisingly, YouTube has seen usage skyrocket as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. More people than ever are tuning in to the video platform, including our very own YouTube channel, seeking everything from news to education to entertainment. In the first week of April 2020, viewers collectively streamed 32 billion minutes of video. As you might have guessed, this means YouTube can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool if your business knows how to to use it.

We’ll help you along in this article, where we’ll explore what YouTube is, what’s involved in building a YouTube community, and how you should handle marketing and advertising on the platform. 

What Is YouTube? 

Simply put, YouTube is the largest video-sharing website in the world, localized into more than 100 languages and with two billion global users accounting. That’s approximately 79 percent of everyone on the Internet. And every minute sees another 500 hours of video uploaded to the platform by the platform’s 31 million content creators. 

You can find virtually any type of content you could possibly imagine on YouTube, including: 

  • Original music
  • Short movies or animations developed exclusively for YouTube
  • Talk shows
  • Political commentary
  • Playthroughs of video games
  • Educational and “how-to” content
  • News 
  • Comedy skits
  • Live events
  • Product reviews
  • Video blogs, or vlogs

You get the idea. If a niche exists for a particular topic, there’s a good chance there are videos about it on YouTube. Alongside its massive global reach, this makes the platform invaluable for your marketing efforts.

How Businesses Grow Their Brand on YouTube

Generally speaking, you have a few options at your disposal when it comes to leveraging YouTube for brand awareness, each with its own benefits and drawbacks:  

  • A branded YouTube channel. 
  • Influencers and thought leaders. 
  • Business partners/competitors. 
  • Preroll ads.

Developing and Maintaining a Branded YouTube Channel

YouTube is more than just a simple video hosting site. Everything about the platform is geared not just towards content consumption, but also the creation of entire communities. If you want to see this in practice, look at virtually any of the platform’s top creators, and you’ll notice a few common threads: 

  • Inside jokes shared between audience members.
  • Shared interests and values. 
  • A similar vernacular. 

If that sounds like a dream come true for your business, you’re not alone. That level of engagement is functionally the holy grail of the internet, and the end goal every business ultimately has in mind when it pursues digital marketing.

Influencer Partnerships

Some users rely entirely on traffic to monetize their channels. Others, however, seek out income through other channels. This frequently involves a tiered subscription service through a platform such as Patreon, with higher tiers gaining access to exclusive content and privileges. 

But perhaps most frequently, it involves sponsorships.  If you watch YouTube videos from ten of the site’s major content creators, you’re likely to find that at least seven of them either regularly promote products on their channel or have done so in the past. These sponsorships follow the same beats as those on any other social site.

  • A brand reaches out to an influencer watched frequently by its target demographic.
  • Said brand offers the influencer some form of compensation, usually monetary in nature.
  • The influencer then profiles the brand and its products on one of their videos, thanking them for the sponsorship. 
  • The two may choose to work together again in the future.

Arguably the most aggressive example of this tactic in practice is the mobile game RAID: Shadow Legends. Spend a bit of time watching any content geared towards video games and the games industry, and you’ll likely only have to sit through a video or two before the sponsorship pitch. It’s actually been incredibly successful, but because the developer didn’t bother putting any focus on public relations, it’s mostly just drawn attention to some of their more unsavory practices. 

Advertising

YouTube offers businesses multiple options for advertising. 

  • Skippable pre-roll ads, which play at the start of a video and can be skipped after a set interval ranging from five seconds to five minutes. 
  • Unskippable pre-roll ads, which must be watched in their entirety. The maximum length of these ads is 20 seconds. 
  • Bumper ads, which are functionally identical to unskippable pre-roll ads except that they have a maximum length of six seconds. 
  • Overlay ads, which are precisely what they sound like – passive advertisements that appear near the bottom of a video.  

As one might expect from a subsidiary of the world’s largest search engine, YouTube provides businesses with comprehensive visibility and advanced insights into every stage of their marketing campaigns, from keyword research and ideation to final delivery. Ad targeting can be as broad or granular as necessary, and keyword research on YouTube can even be applied to other parts of your business’s online presence. 

Top Tips for Effective YouTube Branding

  • Understand what YouTube is (and what it isn’t). Too many brands treat YouTube as a content site instead of a social network.  They’re focused on the bottom line rather than on building a community. But community is at the core of what YouTube is, and it’s imperative that you understand that going in. 
  • Go in with a plan. What are you trying to do on YouTube? One year down the line, how do you want your efforts on the platform to have impacted your overall business? Use this to inform your overall strategy. 
  • Don’t get salesy. You cannot simply maintain a YouTube channel that’s little more than a cascade of advertisements. You need to get creative, and answer the following questions: 
    • Who is my audience?
    • Why are they interested in my brand? 
    • What do they hope to gain or learn from watching my content? 
    • When are they typically most active on the platform? 
    • How do my competitors engage with them? 
  • Establish a content cadence. Figure out a schedule that will allow your videos to reach as much of your audience as possible while your content is still fresh. Stick to that schedule. That level of consistency will go a long way towards growing your channel. 
  • Respect people’s time. Don’t waste the viewer’s time with unnecessary anecdotes. That applies to your ads, as well. The shorter the advertisement, the better. 

Alternatives to YouTube

Even though YouTube is a titan of online video, it’s not the only website of its kind. There are plenty of alternatives that might fit you better, depending on your unique brand identity. These include:

  • Vimeo, which is geared far more heavily towards visual creatives such as filmmakers.
  • Dailymotion, which is among YouTube’s largest competitors and allows users to upload higher-quality videos (with the trade-off being that videos cannot be longer than 20 minutes.)  
  • Twitch, a viable competitor to YouTube Live and a great place to look if you want to capture a more millennial audience. 

As the largest video hosting site on the Internet, YouTube is an incredibly powerful tool for marketing and outreach if you know how to use it — even if all you’re doing is buying some preroll ads. 

As always, if you have any feedback or comments, please let us know. We are here to help in the best ways we can. You’ll find us on Discord, the cPanel forums, and Reddit. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And, since we’re on the subject, please subscribe to our YouTube channel as well.

Meditations On Software And UI Updates

As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, your favorite application, software, or website is going to eventually (and periodically) be redesigned. Odds are, at first, that you aren’t going to initially be a fan of the new design. It’s like when your local grocery store rearranges all the products on the shelves… why isn’t everything exactly where I want it to be?!

The simple answer is: because. But there is a much larger answer at play here as well; let’s discuss it!

What Are Software And UI Updates, Exactly?

We all know that software is (well, fundamentally code, but ultimately) an application that we utilize on a device of some sort that accomplishes some task for, or provides some value to, us. Software is what does the thing on the computer or the smartphone. It can be characterized by the functionality it provides, which can be upgraded, downgraded, or otherwise changed over time.

UI is the acronym for “User Interface” which is the largest contributor to the User Experience (UX) that takes place when we interact with software. As an oversimplification for our purposes here, Facebook is software and the Facebook app on your phone is the UI. They work in tandem to provide us the experience of Facebooking.

Sometimes the software is updated, adding new functionality (like does anyone remember when the Like button first appeared?), and sometimes the UI is updated just to change the experience (infinite scroll wasn’t always a thing, after all). The line between these two things can sometimes become fuzzy, but the software can be updated without changing the UI and the UI can be updated without any changes to the backend software, though often they can (and do) go hand-in-hand.

If It’s Not Broke, Why Fix It?

There’s just no way around it. Nothing stays the same, and the only guarantee is that change is inevitable; it’s going to happen. So really the question isn’t “when,” it’s “why.” The reasons why a company or developer may decide to update their product are vast, but include:

  • Feedback from the user base specifically requesting new (or different) features.
  • Updates to correct any bugs, security vulnerabilities, or other known issues.
  • Analytic feedback based on actual use, intended to improve the overall experience.
  • For guerrilla marketing purposes, a change to stir the pot and get people talking about the product (it does happen).
  • Overall optimization.

Forester Research determined that every dollar invested in UX brings $100 in return, or a 9,900% ROI. That alone can actually very much help explain the why.

Yes, Software and UI Updates Can Be Frustrating

Just like walking into your local grocery store only to find that everything has been rearranged, opening a newly-updated app on your phone and finding an unfamiliar interface can initially be bothersome. Some people even get mad. And some people even threaten to no longer use the app.

As humans, we aren’t always immediately accepting of change. Rest assured though, these updates are designed with you in mind and aim to make the given application more user-friendly and/or powerful and intuitive. A ton of research (and money) goes into these updates, and no business is in the business of losing its customers. So, next time you open that app and are greeted with something unfamiliar, just take a moment to understand that change is there to better serve you. Remember, change is inevitable.

As always, if you have any feedback or comments, please let us know. We are here to help in the best ways we can. You’ll find us on Discord, the cPanel forums, and Reddit. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Discord And Your Business

In the last year, millions of people experienced the transition from office work to remote work. There are many upsides to working from home, but it takes some getting used to, especially where communication is concerned. If you’re used to chatting with your colleagues, remote work can leave you feeling disconnected. 

Fortunately, there are tools to help solve that problem. We’ve all heard about Zoom’s meteoric rise, but it isn’t the only voice and video communication platform that surged in popularity in 2021. Discord also saw a huge influx of users, and in this article, we’re going to explore some of the ways organizations are using Discord for business communications and community building. 

What is Discord?

Discord is an instant messaging and voice chat service.  It is a web-based platform that provides a wide variety of communication options, including group and direct text chat channels, voice and video chat, and screen sharing.

Discord’s instant messaging features are similar to Slack’s, but its unique spin on voice and video is the main attraction. In contrast to Zoom meetings or Skype calls, Discord voice channels are persistent; they behave like instant chat channels, but for voice rather than text. Users can drop in and out at will, providing a more relaxed and spontaneous experience than standard online meetings.  

For example, the members of a remote team might join a Discord voice channel and leave it running in the background while they work, participating in conversations and responding to co-workers’ questions. The combination of text, voice, and video chat with screen sharing makes Discord a powerful tool for business communication and collaboration. 

Discord was launched in 2015 as a Voice over IP (VoIP) platform for gamers, who would join audio chat channels to socialize and coordinate strategies while playing multiplayer games. It soon became popular beyond the gaming and esports world as software projects, businesses, and communities embraced the platform as a free alternative to Slack and a more modern alternative to the venerable Internet Relay Chat (IRC).  

If you’d like to see Discord in action, feel free to join the cPanel Discord server, where you can chat with members of the cPanel team and our community of partners and users. 

What is a Discord Server?

The server is Discord’s top level of organization. Discord servers are similar to Slack workspaces. They are not servers in the traditional sense, but collections of channels administrators can independently configure with topics, integrations, privacy settings, and moderation preferences. Servers can be public or private, and users can launch multiple servers. 

How Companies Use Discord for Business

Although Discord started as a gamer-focused platform—much like Twitch—it has since focused on general-purpose communication and collaboration. Businesses who want to keep their newly remote teams talking were happy to find a platform that encourages the informal interactions that fuel office-based productivity.

Discord for Teamwork

Discord’s private servers are ideal for a range of internal communications, especially for remote teams. The platform’s persistent audio channels and video streaming features work well for casual chats, formal and informal meetings, webinars, and mentoring. 

In addition to the many benefits of public and private instant chat messaging, Discord removes much of the friction and organizational overhead of other voice and video platforms. Workers don’t have to coordinate schedules or add meetings to their calendar; they can just drop into a channel and start talking. 

Discord channels are also flexible;  while they can be long-lasting, it’s just as easy to create temporary channels to bring together a specific group of people to discuss a topic or project. The platform incorporates privacy and moderation tools that allow organizations to limit channel membership, so it’s easy for managers and employees to create working groups that include only relevant team members. 

If the idea of an always-on microphone and the ever-present risk of interruption doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll be happy to hear that you have complete control over your audio and video. It’s straightforward to join and leave conversations, mute your microphone, and mute incoming audio. 

Discord for Building a Community

Discord was originally created as a platform for building communities around games and common interests, so it has many features that make it effective at bringing customers, clients, and users together to talk to team members and each other. 

We’ve already talked about Discord’s text, voice, and video messaging features, so in this section, we’ll focus on features that are useful to businesses that want to build a community on Discord. 

They include:

  • Server invites: Discord servers are invite-only, but it’s straightforward to generate invite links to share on social media or your website.
  • Moderation: Server administrators can limit membership to Discord users with verified emails or phone numbers, as well as giving trusted users moderation tools that allow them to delete messages and ban or suspend users. The platform includes configurable content filters to remove unsafe content from channels. 
  • Welcome screens: Welcome screens are displayed to new users when they join a server. They can show brand information, guidance, and links to channels that communicate the server’s rules. 
  • Community server configuration: Discord can automatically configure community servers, including turning on safety checks, creating rules and updates channels, and configuring notifications so that community members aren’t overwhelmed by unnecessary information. 

In addition to the built-in community-building features, you can augment servers with Discord bots. Bots are third-party programs added to channels to provide features such as automatic moderation, announcements, and custom commands.

Discord Alternatives

Discord is an incredibly popular platform with over 250 million registered users and nearly 7 million active servers. But, depending on the needs of your business, you might prefer one of these alternatives:

  • Slack needs no introduction. It’s the most widely used instant messaging platform for businesses. Slack and Discord have many of the same features, but they handle voice communication differently. Slack provides more of a traditional “conference call”  experience that some companies prefer to Discord’s voice channels. 
  • Microsoft Teams is the Redmond giant’s entry in the business messaging category. It offers many of the features we’ve discussed in this article, including voice calls. Teams may be a better option than Discord if your company is a heavy user of Microsoft’s productivity and cloud services because it provides superior integration.
  • Telegram is a free messaging service that includes group text, voice, and video chat, as well as file sharing.

As more people work remotely, the number of organizations using Discord for business increases. In the first four months of 2020, the platform experienced a 50 percent growth in voice chat users. Discord isn’t right for every business, but it might be right for yours if its laid-back approach to voice chat fits how your team likes to work. As always, if you have any feedback or comments, please let us know. We are here to help in the best ways we can. You’ll find us on Discord, the cPanel forums, and Reddit. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Social Content And Your Business

Social media. Before it existed, no one needed it. Now that it does exist, everyone needs it… including your business. Fundamentally, and for better or worse, social media is literally just content. But what separates the good from the bad, the appropriate from the inappropriate, and the viral from the run-of-the-mill? More importantly, how can you apply the answers to these questions towards a more successful social media strategy for your business?

Content is king. It always has been, and always will be. But content isn’t content isn’t content isn’t content isn’t… well, you get it. There was a time when any content was good content, but those days are long gone. Now it’s all about quality content that is also findable.

Quality content is something that your audience will want to see, read, watch, or experience; even better if it’s something they’d want to share with their friends or network. 

Findable content is something that can be located easily-enough by someone who’s either looking specifically for it, or looking for something close enough to whatever it is. Basically, we’re talking about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) here. This could be specifically geared for Google, or a different platform such as YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram.

Social Media And Online Content

There is a wide spectrum of content that a business would choose to publish online, for a variety of reasons, ranging from engagement to brand recognition to general marketing or promotion. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of content that exist today:

  • The Written Word – This is the tried and true, old school, proven method of conveying information online. Included here would be things like white papers and blog posts, which some people even consider to now be the vinyl albums of online content.
  • Still Images – The gold standard of sharing images online has become Instagram, though Pinterest could also be included here. An image is worth a thousand words, after all, but even better is when images are combined with compelling words to present multi-faceted content.
  • Prerecorded Video – This includes most content uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, and even things like Instagram Stories, basically anything that isn’t streamed live. Which brings us to…
  • Livestreamed Video – The newest format for sharing content online, pioneered by online gamers but now inclusive of any industry or niche, this accounts for platforms like Twitch as well as Facebook Live. Our very own cPanel LIVE certainly falls into this category.

What Type Of Online Content Is Right For Your Business?

A number of factors go into answering this question. An Oil & Gas Energy company probably isn’t going to be marketing to the same demographic as, say, an Energy Drink company. You’d likely find the former publishing white papers and the latter perhaps livestreaming. So the first step to determining the right type of content for your business is to consider your niche and target audience. 

In what format would your ideal audience consume their media? If you are unsure about this, then by all means do some market research and poll your existing customer base to ask them. The only other option would consist of trial and error, however investing time and money into the various content options available over a long enough timeframe to quantify results is likely not the best use of resources.

Once you have determined what type of content is best for your business, be it Instagram or YouTube or something else entirely (while always keeping in mind that a company blog can pay dividends in SEO value alone, so you’ll likely want to utilize that format in conjunction with any others), then there’s only one thing left to do…

Be The Best At It

Not all content is created equal. Nor are all audiences. When you optimize the right content delivered via the right platform for your specific audience, you’ll then have reached the promised land where your efforts and investments deliver returns beyond what you may have thought was possible. Also, it’s totally satisfying as well, like placing the very last piece into a puzzle. Of course a few moments later you’re going to start an entirely new puzzle, but still…

As for what’s best for your business, it really comes down to your niche and your brand voice and the way in which you market your business, or want to market your business. Maybe pinboards on Pinterest make sense, or maybe that idea would be ludicrous for your particular business. Generally, you’ll need to narrow it down to whether you should be more focused on the still image side, the prerecorded side, or the live video side of things.

No matter which of the above directions you choose, having well-executed and thoughtful copy to go with your content is always paramount. If you allow for typos and bad grammar, then your audience will feel as though you don’t think they deserve your best effort, and they’ll seek out a competitor of yours they feel is more aligned with their needs.

Good copy makes good content. Building upon that foundation with what makes your brand or business unique and engaging is what makes great content. Great content that appeals to an audience within as well as beyond your target audience is what makes for viral content.

As always, if you have any feedback or comments, please let us know. We are here to help in the best ways we can. You’ll find us on Discord, the cPanel forums, and Reddit. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Twitch And Your Business

We have all become very familiar with live video over the last year. Whether you love or loathe video meetings, there’s no denying Zoom and its peers kept the world turning in 2020. But meetings are just the tip of the live video iceberg. Last year, people watched over 600 billion minutes of live video on Twitch, a platform that has rapidly become the live streaming venue of choice for influencers and businesses alike. 

In this article, we’re going to explore what Twitch is and how businesses can build a Twitch community, engage with customers, and market their company. 

What is Twitch?

Twitch is a live video streaming platform. Creators stream video and audio to viewers, who interact with each other and the creator on an instant chat associated with each stream. The platform, which has been owned by Amazon since 2014, was founded in 2011 as a special-interest streaming service for gamers to live broadcast gameplay and audio commentary.

Today its reach goes far beyond gaming and esports. It hosts content on a broad range of subjects, including music, lifestyle, entertainment, DIY, cooking, technology, and general interests. In contrast to traditional YouTube video hosting and social media services like Instagram Stories, immediate audience interaction is key to live streaming’s appeal. It’s all about the live experience and real-time engagement.

Twitch is particularly compelling to businesses focused on reaching a younger demographic. It receives 26.5 Million daily visits and hosts over 400 million unique streams each month. Over 70 percent of users are under 35, and 41 percent are younger than 24. Because of its gamer heritage, the platform’s demographic mix skewed heavily male, but by last year 35 percent of its audience were female, and there are many female creators among its top-performers. 

How Do Businesses Grow their Twitch Community?

There are three primary ways businesses can leverage Twitch to increase brand awareness and build a community: 

  • Branded content.
  • Influencer sponsorships.
  • Display advertising. 

Branded Content on Twitch

Perhaps the most impactful way for businesses to use Twitch is the creation of branded content. Successful streamers host original and entertaining live streams in a variety of formats. Some of the first businesses to appreciate its potential played to the platform’s strengths, hosting gameplay streams and tournaments. 

More recently, Twitch has become the go-to platform for digital events, from conferences to meetups to talk shows. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses moved to a digital streaming model for events they would once have held in a live venue. 

Twitch can also augment current audio and video content strategies. Live streaming adds another dimension to podcasts, webinars,  how-to and support videos, educational content, interviews, and roundtables. The “live” aspect is anxiety-inducing for many of us, but the upside is access to a massive user base and input from a highly engaged community. 

Branded content created while streaming can be repurposed. The platform saves videos for later restreaming, and they can be exported and uploaded to your other platforms, including YouTube.

Sponsoring Twitch Influencers

Influencer sponsorship on Twitch works in much the same way as on Instagram. Brands identify influencers—streamers with a significant following in the relevant niche—and sponsor their streams. In return, the influencer highlights the brand’s products. They may also highlight the brand via their other social media platforms. 

Although the follower counts of the most popular streamers are smaller than their YouTube equivalents, influencer marketing on the platform is effective because it encourages interaction between streamers and followers, helping to build a more trusting and engaged relationship. 

As you might expect, game studios like EA are among the most active influencer sponsors, but companies as diverse as KFC, Nissin Noodles, Mastercard, Turtlewax, and Chipotle have sponsored influencers and game tournaments. 

Advertising on Twitch 

Twitch offers various ad options via its in-house advertising platform, including both on-page display ads and unskippable video ads. Ads can be targeted to specific communities, and they are displayed on all channels to which users don’t have a paid subscription. 

Tips for Effective Twitch Branding

As with all brand social media strategies, it’s essential to understand the platform’s quirks and characteristics. Here are our top five tips for growing a brand community on Twitch:

  1. Respond to your viewers:  Interaction is a key aspect of streaming culture. You can’t expect to find an audience if you broadcast without taking the time to engage with viewers. When you stream, make an effort to respond in real-time to the chat. 
  2. Avoid the hard sell: Prioritize entertainment and education in your streams. Twitch users aren’t opposed to sponsorships and advertising when they are associated with streamers they trust, but they don’t respond well to branded streams dominated by sales and marketing content. 
  3. Know your niche: Twitch isn’t the right venue for every company. It’s a powerful community-building platform for brands targeting young, irreverent, and technically savvy people. If that doesn’t fit your company’s profile, other platforms might be a better investment, as we’ll discuss in the next section. 
  4. Stick to a schedule: Twitch is primarily a live-streaming platform. It’s not like YouTube, where you can watch uploaded videos whenever you want. You and your community have to meet at a predetermined time. If you’re consistent, followers will integrate your stream times into their schedule. 
  5. Invest in decent equipment: Cheap earbuds and your laptop’s built-in webcam might cut it for Zoom meetings, but streaming audiences won’t stick around for low-quality audio and video. Buy a decent microphone and camera. 

Finally, don’t forget to promote your streams on other social media platforms. Twitch is hugely popular among some groups, but there’s no guarantee that all of your customers are users. 

Alternative Live Streaming Platforms

Twitch is the largest video live streaming service, but it’s far from the only one. Depending on your brand, its products, and your existing social media following, you may find it easier to build a community on one of these competing platforms: 

  • YouTube Live offers the same basic functionality, but with the opportunity to reach YouTube’s more extensive and varied audience. 
  • Facebook Live is the social media giant’s built-in video streaming platform. It’s well integrated into the News Feed and, as you’d expect, prioritizes live interaction with followers. 
  • Instagram Live is part of the image-sharing app’s Stories feature. It’s not as configurable or feature-rich as Twitch, opting instead for a low-friction streaming experience.

Live streaming is a daunting prospect for many, but if you need a platform to help your business build and support a loyal and engaged community, Twitch could be just what you’re looking for. 

As always, if you have any feedback or comments, please let us know. We are here to help in the best ways we can. You’ll find us on Discord, the cPanel forums, and Reddit. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.