Ask any group of American kids what they want to be when they grow up, and a few are bound to shout out, “YouTuber!”
The popularity of the internet’s most powerful video platform (and its superstars) among Gen Zers and millennials has eclipsed that of all other social media sites, streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and even TV.
In May 2018, YouTube parent company Google reported that the social network had 1.8 billion monthly active users. That’s more than Gmail (which has roughly 1.4 billion active users) and just behind Facebook, the biggest social network in the world, which has approximately 2.2 billion active users.
For today’s youth and young adults, streaming video is huge. As a culture, we watch more than a billion hours of YouTube videos a day. And according to a recent study by comScore, audiences are around 10 times more likely to engage, embed, share, and comment on video content than on static photos and other types of social posts.
Big consumer brands know all of this, of course. Which is why 61 of the top 100 brands now embed YouTube videos on their websites, according to comScore. Major jewelry and watch brands such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and Rolex all have a presence on the platform, most showcasing big-budget videos that they also repurpose as actual ads.
But fortunately, YouTube is a fairly egalitarian tool. Small brands and retailers have ample opportunity to capture audiences—not through pristine cinematography, but by posting useful, shareable, and/or hyperlocal content. That’s because YouTube isn’t Instagram; users typically don’t visit the platform purely for pretty visuals—they’re looking to learn, verify, and discover, not marinate in artsy camera angles.
“The best thing is, you don’t have to have a crazy professional camera or production setup to produce great content,” says Stephanie Cartin, cofounder and co-CEO of New York City–based social media agency Socialfly. “You can use an iPhone and apps to make some really cool videos: how-tos, behind-the-scenes content, videos that showcase partnerships with influencers. All these low-cost content types can deliver measurable results. You can really establish your brand’s personality, and build trust and recognition on YouTube.”
Ready to get going on the video network? Keep these realities in mind:
Useful Equals Popular
YouTube is the internet’s second-largest search engine and is owned by the web’s largest search engine, Google. So brands and retailers who post regularly to the social network rank higher in search queries in both engines.
One way to create content that rakes in views (which, in a perfect world, builds your brand’s social equity and reputation) is to create videos that answer popular queries—e.g., “how to clean your engagement ring” or “how to size your finger without a ring sizer.”
Videos that answer common questions, and are labeled and tagged properly for searches, are all but guaranteed to be found by users.
Jewelry influencer and e-commerce retailer Danielle Miele, founder of the popular jewelry website Gem Gossip and its well-followed Instagram feed (@gemgossip), says her most-viewed YouTube video, “How to Clean Gold Jewelry With Gem Gossip,” was the result of researching common jewelry-related searches, then creating and tagging the video for maximum views.
The video’s evergreen subject matter means users will be bumping into her video for years to come. “You should definitely strive to create content that’s relevant no matter what,” says the influencer, who’s since created a well-viewed video on how to clean jewelry with an ultrasonic cleaner. “I found out it was something people search for all the time.”
YouTube clips and pics: 1. A collection of GemGossip’s figas pendants; 2. An IWC ad starring Bradley Cooper; 3. A diamond polisher in Gaborone from a YouTube video by Forevermark; 4, 9. Videos by Bulgari on their Serpenti Tubogas timepieces; 5. From Hearts On Fire’s video The Evolution of the Perfect Diamond; 6. GemGossip gives a peek at the book Fancy Color Diamonds: The Pricing Architecture; 7. DJ Paul Oakenfold at Hublot’s FIFA World Cup closing party; 8. Supermodel Doutzen Kroes in a new Piaget campaign; 10. Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe, DJ Snake, and singer Julian Perretta showing off their Hublot watches at the FIFA World Cup Finals
Pay-to-Play Is a Good Way
Optimizing videos for search “is the name of the game with YouTube,” says Jonathan Miller, a freelance social media consultant and founder of Brooklyn-based music agency Pancakes and Whiskey.
Miller even offers clients a step-by-step plan for getting videos viewed and ranked well (this plan involves a small investment, but there are no effective social strategies that don’t these days).
“Let’s say you sell engagement rings for people on a budget, and you’ve made videos highlighting your products,” he says. “If you go to YouTube and search ‘engagement rings on a budget,’ you’ll see that the top videos on page 1 have around 10,000 to 100,000 views. You can buy ads for your video for cheap.” One view typically comes out to 1 to 2 cents per view, so for $200 you could buy around 20,000 views, Miller adds.
“The chances of these paid views converting to sales are slim, but now you’ve gotten 20,000 views,” he says. “And YouTube will reward your video with better search rankings.” When users search “engagement rings on a budget,” your video actually shows up, and you start racking up organic views at a faster clip.
But bear in mind that none of that works if you haven’t tagged your content properly for search engine optimization. “It’s important that you identify key words you’re looking to target and use them in your video’s title,” Cartin says. “Then repeat those words in the text and in the script. You’ll find your ranking goes up, and you’ll get more views if you do those things every time.”
No Network Is an Island
Your YouTube channel should never be a stand-alone entity. Instead, ensure that the content you post on the platform is tethered in various ways to your other social sites, Miller explains.
“YouTube is great because it allows for longer-form content; for companies looking to explain their products or services, having full versions of longer videos on YouTube is great,” Cartin adds. “But you should also cross-promote that content onto your other channels. You can create a shorter version of the video to post on Facebook or Instagram that links back to the longer video.”
That free-flowing mentality also applies to potential partnerships with other brands, influencers, and content-makers for potential grist for your YouTube feed.
“A great way to find a following on YouTube is to find those niche influencers in your area and build relationships with them,” says Cartin, who’s seen small brands with no video experience produce beautiful content courtesy of camera-savvy influencers they’ve teamed with for short-term campaigns.
“These people have the ability to produce high-quality video and are looking to expand the portfolio of brands they work with,” she says. “The results can be really amazing.”
Must-See Jewelry YouTube Channels
1. Tiffany & Co.
This Tiffany Blue–swathed treasure trove of videos showcases the brand’s many collections through the art of short filmmaking. Its polished clips include interviews with influencers and tastemakers both legendary (Vogue’s Grace Coddington and Lady Gaga) and young and cool (dancer Fik-Shun and actress Zoë Kravitz).
2. IWC Schaffhausen
The watch brand has invested in video big-time, and it shows: how-tos on watch winding and other care-related topics, ongoing series (including the celebrity-interview #IWCTalks), and behind-the-scenes videos at events including the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie and the Cannes Film Festival.
Globe-trotting jewelry influencer Liza Urla, aka Gemologue, posts beautifully captured vlogs (video blogs) and snippets of her endeavors in the fine jewelry world—e.g., her favorite pieces from a Sotheby’s auction and collection previews with designers.
Swiss watchmaker Hublot maintains an engaging feed documenting the brand’s partnerships—particularly its adventures as a sponsor of soccer’s governing body, FIFA. Videos include watch reveals, behind-the-scenes clips from Baselworld and the World Cup, and quickie interviews with world-class athletes.
Much like Tiffany, Bulgari is banking on creative and eye-catching (and high-budget) video. Popular videos include a four-minute documentary about the history of Bulgari, a beautiful animated featurette on giftable holiday items, and an ode to the 0th anniversary of its iconic Tubogas designs.
(Top: Tiffany & Co.)