A story of utter failure


This story, like most stories I have about failed business projects starts with a company that had the best of intentions.

Several years ago I produced a large video project for a national company based here in South Carolina. The video was to help launch a new and exciting product. I can only imagine the countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars that went into the research and development, the prototypes, and the production.

So when they came to me pitching the idea behind the video, I got really excited. We made the video, and gave it back to the client to give to their marketing people (yes, they had an actual marketing department). To date, that video has almost 300,000 views on YouTube.

“But wait,” you’re saying to yourself. “A great video with 300,000 views on YouTube—how is that a failure? We’d be thrilled if our videos were getting that kind of attention. The title says there was a failure. Where’s the failure?”

I’ll tell you where the failure was: That video should have over a million views. Here’s why it’s a failure.

This giant company that spends millions of dollars a year in marketing and advertising in traditional media had absolutely no clue or understanding of how to market a video in the digital arena.

First, they didn’t even have their own YouTube channel to host the video on. It ended up being published on an employee’s personal channel, so they had no means of controlling the video or promotions from the start.

Second, that employee isn’t even with the company anymore. There is nothing to stop the former employee from deleting the video if they wanted to and destroying all the momentum the video has managed to garner on its own.

Third, and maybe the most frustrating of all, is that it was posted without any keywords, descriptions, or tags. Let that sink in: This video managed to get 300,000 view on nothing but its amazing content.

Fourth, they didn’t brand the video in any way. It was uploaded and left alone. They let YouTube pick the thumbnail. They didn’t provide any additional information or links back to their website or product pages. They just left it there like an unwanted puppy on the side of the road, hoping someone would just stumble upon it and know what to do.

What would have happened if they had posted it to YouTube under a properly branded and managed channel? What if it had been given the proper description, tags, and keywords to help it go viral on a scale we can’t even imagine?

It’s ironic that one of the biggest video projects we’ve created, with the most views on social media, is also a project I consider a failure. It’s a failure not because it didn’t perform, but because it didn’t perform to its potential. The company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring a product to market and thousands of dollars to create outstanding content to promote their product—and yet they literally spent no money, time, or effort in marketing their content.

So here are four rules you need to have to make a video for YouTube work for you and be as successful as possible:

1. Create your own branded YouTube channel—not a personal channel, not an employee’s channel, but a channel just for your company, branded with your graphics and website, and tagged with keywords related to your business.

2. Upload the video to YouTube with and write a great description using appropriate keywords and a detailed description, providing links to your website and the product or to more information.

3. Create a custom thumbnail. Be in control of every aspect of your product, including the marketing. A video without a custom thumbnail is at the mercy of YouTube’s random thumbnail generator. Your video will also perform better if the thumbnail is engaging or impactful.

4. Tag both your channel and your video with content appropriate tags and keywords. This is how YouTube indexes videos and lets other people know it’s a video they should watch. Same with channel tags—they let YouTube know what your business is about and can recommend it to other people interested in what you do.

Remember: YouTube is the second-largest search engine behind Google (its parent company). You spend your time and money trying to optimize your website for search result. You need to do the same with your YouTube content for it to be truly successful.

This story is just one of many we have of companies and organizations failing to do basic things to make their content break through the clutter of social media. While I’m sure the video was successful in their minds, as a content creator and digital marketing expert, I know how big of an opportunity they missed. It’s like being excited they found $100 on the sidewalk, not realizing a million dollar winning lottery ticket was in their pocket. They could have had so much more—better results, better sales, better brand awareness—but they couldn’t see the potential. So they missed out on some big opportunities.

I hope you’ll learn from their mistake and failure. 

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