5 Steps to Branding on YouTube: Building a Community

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Ever wonder why some channels on YouTube seem to get hundreds of comments on every video? Is there a reason why some channels with subscriber counts in the hundreds of thousands get just a few hundred views per video while smaller channels consistently get thousands of views each video?

It’s all in developing a community and associating your channel with a brand.

And if you’re ever in doubt of the power of community, try commenting with anything even remotely in disagreement with something Dave Ramsey says on one of his videos…you will be torn to shreds!

Brand building is one of the best opportunities you have to growing your YouTube channel, partly for the fact that so many channels neglect it.

To be honest, I’ve never been good at branding my blogs or using my personality to write something that builds a community around the websites. Something is different about YouTube though.

YouTube opens up a whole new world of visual branding, of building a community combining visual and audible elements. Learn how to use the opportunity and you’ll create an army of cheerleaders that will support and follow you in everything you do.

What is Branding and Why it Matters on YouTube

Branding is the message people get when they see your product or even think about your company. Some branding is obvious like a slogan while other messages may be almost sub-conscious.

Your brand is important for two very important reasons:

  • It sells your product or service. If people see your company as a quality provider that shares their values, they’re more likely to trust your sales message.
  • It creates an army of cheerleaders. Your brand creates a community that will happily spread the message and support you.

There are two things to remember when thinking about how you’re going to build your brand, the message you want to deliver and how you’re going to deliver it.

We’ll spend most of the time talking about the message you want to develop but spend a little time in each section thinking about how you can deliver that message including through visual cues, written word and video.

Delivering the same message in different formats will not only reach a wider audience but it will also reinforce your message for people that see it in different forms.

What’s Your YouTube Brand?

Your brand isn’t just about the quality of your product or the immediate needs it satisfies. Your brand should encompass deeper values and benefits.

Brand Example: At a cursory glance, Coca-Cola is just a soft drink. A carbonated, sugary beverage that tastes good and satisfies your thirst. Branding it around that idea might be enough to sell a lot of bottles but it wouldn’t create a $215 billion international powerhouse.

When you think about Coca-Cola, I bet you think of a lot more than just those basic ideas. You might think of happiness, smiling, you might even think of Christmas.

The company has created these associations through branding for over 130 years and sells more than 1.9 billion servings a day because of it.

Brainstorming the brand you want to build isn’t a five-minute task or something you can do once and be done. Give yourself some time to really think about the message you want people to get when they think about your company but don’t be afraid to let your brand evolve. Coca-Cola has used more than 40 official slogans and countless commercials in its history.

  • What’s the brand message around products or companies similar to yours? What do you think about when you see their commercials or content?
  • What are the most obvious benefits from using your product?
  • Looking beyond those obvious benefits, what are the deeper needs satisfied like happiness, belonging or security?
  • What do you want people to think of and feel when they see your company or product?

Want to see how to use your brand to make money on YouTube? Check out this article on how I make money on YouTube.

Developing Your Brand on YouTube

YouTube is an excellent medium to develop your brand because it brings together so many ways to deliver your message; through your words, visual cues and even through a music track.

We’ll spend the rest of this chapter on five components of developing your brand, ways of creating that message for potential customers. These five components can be used on any medium whether it be a blog, YouTube channel or a podcast.

Sharing Your Creation Story

Every superhero needs a creation story. It makes them more human and helps people empathize with the hero. It also breaks down any initial cynicism as to why the hero is helping people. The creation story provides an easy reason to trust the hero and their actions.

A creation story isn’t just for comic books either. How many stories have you heard about the early lives of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or other famous people?

The greatness we see in some people seems so far from our own lives that these tales help humanize them.

But you don’t have to be bitten by a radioactive spider and lose your uncle in a traumatizing robbery to have a great creation story. Even the most normal routine of our daily lives can be spun into a creation story that makes your greatness relatable.

  • Work backwards from the message you want people to get or the shared beliefs of the community you want to build. What in your past has helped you develop those beliefs?
  • What have been the major turning points in your life?
  • What are the points you’ve experienced pain or hardship in your life? How did you come out of the experience as a better person?

My creation story involves lessons I learned in the Marine Corps and mistakes I’ve made with my money. My time serving in the military developed a sense of duty and integrity to serve. The mistakes I made with money early in my life and the mistakes I saw my parents make affected me deeply and at an emotional level. It’s the memory of those emotions that guides me in helping people avoid them by making good financial decisions.

brand building on youtube

Building my Brand on YouTube

What are the Community’s Shared Beliefs?

Shared beliefs are what binds a community together. These are deep values that mean more to your community than anything else, ideas that are bigger than any single person.

Beliefs and values are generally rather vague concepts like patriotism, honesty, loyalty, respect, the value of hard work and adventure-seeking. The ideas are pervasive enough that you don’t have to define them. Everyone’s definition of each might be a little different but the overall idea and feeling is the same.

It’s through your community’s shared beliefs that will help each individual relate to you and the rest of the community. Not only will this give them a sense of belongingness to the community but members will feel compelled to protect the community against threats.

  • Beliefs and values need to be broad enough to be shared by many but exclusive enough that they aren’t held by everyone.
  • Shared beliefs don’t necessarily need to be anything related to your product or service. Is there anything really tying Coca-Cola and Christmas together other than the company’s brand messaging?
  • If you know your target customer, what are the beliefs and values shared within their culture or common experiences within their demographic?

Your creation story helps relate how you developed your own set of beliefs. Sharing this story, visual cues and other experiences will help associate your brand with these beliefs.

For example, the backdrop for my videos includes a picture of the Statue of Liberty and my shadowbox with my rank insignia and other effects from military service. The banner to my YouTube channel shows the slogan, “Creating the Financial Future You Deserve.”

What are my beliefs that I’m trying to display here?

Patriotism and service are easy ones but also a sense of loyalty and trust. I’m also hoping to attract people to the community with a sense of entitlement in their financial well-being.

Using Rituals to Develop a Brand

Rituals are a fun way of building community and developing your brand. These are consistent acts, slogans or behaviors you associate with your product.

Of course, you’re no stranger to rituals. You have rituals you do every day like maybe brewing your morning coffee, those you might do once a week like taking the family out for dinner or those that happen less frequently during holidays. Religion is built around rituals and ceremonies.

Rituals provide order and structure to our lives. They also give us that sense of community with those that share our rituals.

If there’s any doubt as to the power of rituals, look no farther than the ritual of lining up to be first to the premiere of a new Star Wars movie. People will wait in line for hours, even days, dressed up as their favorite character and they have fun doing it.

Using rituals on YouTube typically come in the form of a welcome message, what you call your community or frequent gestures you make.

For example, one of my favorite YouTubers calls her community bosses and regularly asks them to comment with the word “Boss” to show their agreement with an idea.

I make it a point at the beginning of every video to thank my subscribers for taking a part of their day to join me.

Keep these three ideas in mind when thinking about the rituals you want to use in your videos:

  • The ritual should be specific to your audience to really build that sense of community. It’s like a secret language that only they know.
  • Your ritual should be consistent, something you do in nearly every video or that your community can do regularly.
  • The ritual should be easy. Oreo cookies never would have gotten away with a nine-step process for the cookies rather than simply twist, lick, dunk and repeat.

Creating Community through a Common Enemy

Creating a common enemy could be one of the most effective but also the most difficult parts of building your brand.

Nothing binds a community like the acknowledgement that there is a greater power out there out to get each individual and the only way to beat that enemy is to stick together. We’re not just talking about emotions like fear and self-preservation here but also positive ones like courage and a duty to protect those you love.

To be clear, I’m not talking about pitting your community around a specific person or a group of people. The most obvious uses of this community-building tactic are from some of the most horrific episodes in human history like Hitler’s use of the Jews to drive the Germans to war. Lately it seems both political parties have taken the idea of a common enemy to dangerous extremes as well.

how to build a brand on youtubeYour community’s common enemy will likely be more ideological.

For companies in the personal finance space, the common enemy is the lenders, loan sharks, and other power-players that keep people ‘poor’. The ‘Haves’ versus the ‘Have-nots’. The 99% versus the 1%.

Other examples of common enemies might include:

  • People keeping you from being as successful as possible
  • People that want you to be as miserable as they are
  • People that hurt other people or animals

Developing the common enemy of your community starts with brainstorming their deepest fears, real or perceived. What are the major hurdles keeping your community from being successful and happy? You can then develop a personification of those fears into an enemy to rally against.

Building Your Brand Around a Leader

Great brands are built around a leader, somebody that represents the entirety of the shared beliefs and what people in the community want to be.

Understand, you are not your community’s leader. You’re too humble for that. The leader is someone you aspire to be just like the rest of the community. By associating yourself and your brand with the symbolic leader, those beliefs and values embodied by the leader are coupled to your brand.

A couple of points in deciding whom to adopt as your symbolic leader:

  • It’s best if the person is already deceased. This minimizes the risk some information will come out to tarnish their name or reputation.
  • The beliefs and values people attribute to that person should align with those you’re trying to develop for your brand.
  • Don’t be afraid to pick a leader that isn’t universally-loved. You might be limiting your community a little but this kind of exclusivity will bind the group even closer.

A Few Notes on Branding

Just a few more points to developing your brand and building a community around your business or YouTube channel.

Don’t feel like you have to use every brand element in every video. There will be visual cues to parts of your brand you can get in each video but it would be silly to think you could repeat your creation story every time. Most of the time, you might only reference one or two elements of brand building.

This is fine. You’re not trying to turn every single person that views a video into part of your community. Over time and as people see more of your videos, they’ll see more of these brand elements and associate themselves closer to your company.

Again, don’t be afraid to let your brand evolve or even change abruptly. It’s not easy to build a recognizable brand or a strong community so it’s not something you want to change often but every brand changes a little over the years.

Be authentic in the beliefs and other elements you use to represent your brand. Trying to pull one over on people and be someone you’re not will either come across as sleazy or will eventually unravel as your true nature comes out. Ultimately, your brand and community is about building trust. You can use that trust to grow your business but never betray it.

Building a brand, whether it’s on YouTube or for any business, requires a lot of thought and effort but cannot be neglected. Even more important than a traditional business, YouTube channels need to build a community that will support them with time, comments and sharing. This means actively creating your brand and nurturing what people think of when they watch your videos.

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