“I’m a stay-at-home mom raising our three boys, homeschooling and helping my husband run the farm – if it were a complicated process, it wouldn’t be possible for us.”

That refrain is echoed by many farm and small business owners. In 2023 it’s never been more crucial to stand out. But it can still feel overwhelming and out of reach for many.

It doesn’t have to be, though; that was the focal point of a recent Penn State Extension webinar, part of a partnership called “Grow with Google” and helmed by Google digital coach Joshua Miller.

According to data that Miller shared, more than 2 billion monthly users watch 1 billion hours of video per day – and 85% of viewers turn to YouTube for fresh content. A majority of shoppers (70%) say they purchase a brand after encountering it on YouTube. These statistics firmly cement YouTube’s legacy as a must-use platform for any business owner.

But where to begin? The basics include setting up a Gmail account and naming the channel.

Channel customization is also important. Options like a video trailer and customized playlists allow you to hook your audience and offer a visual experience that is unique to the brand and its content.

The visual aesthetic of your channel’s landing page is crucial, tempered with an operational mindset of consistency, visibility and simplicity. You don’t need to overwhelm with detail – the goal is to make an impression and hook viewers.

It’s important to make sure the correct sizes are utilized for both profile and channel banner artwork. Templates can be found online and through resources like the Canva artwork platform. You want to ensure your channel artwork will translate well from desktop to mobile device. Keep graphics simple but engaging – pictures, bold colors and easily digestible text.

The “About” section of your channel page is a great resource to provide additional details about your farm or business and link to other channels, websites or resources. As Miller noted, “You want to give your viewers all of the resources you possibly can to allow them to connect with your business.”

Now that the channel is largely set up, you’re left with the production aspect. Don’t be overwhelmed – this part of the process has never been more accessible.

Gone are the days of needing professional camera setups. The average smartphone is capable of recording and processing high definition video footage (and offering great storage solutions through platforms like Apple’s iCloud).

As for a camera setup, work with what feels most natural. You can make yourself the star, holding your camera in selfie mode. You can use a tripod or stand to film against a backdrop. You can point and shoot, working on moving and filming a subject in front of you. For those who aren’t comfortable showing their face on camera, a voiceover approach can be preferable.

Space and lighting are also important considerations. You don’t need professional light rigs – natural lighting is more than sufficient, either indoors or outdoors. It is a good idea to test your lighting on camera to make sure it doesn’t lean toward either extreme. Low lighting can cause your subject to be blurry; harsh lighting (like direct summer sunlight) can wash out your subject.

Lean into your light source, and be conscious of any shadows. You don’t want any hard shadow lines in your final product if possible. Make sure your primary shooting space is free of clutter. Visually, it’s ideal if you can incorporate your logo or brand identity in your space (i.e., filming against a backdrop with your logo).

Need music or sound for your video? You can access a full library of free music and sound effects in YouTube Studio’s Audio Library. You can also find additional free assets through several third-party applications.

Once you have the basics of your production process planned out, all that’s left is deciding what kind of stories you want to tell on your channel.

You can tell a “business story” – highlight who you are as a business, what you do and why you do it.

You can tell a “product or service story” – explain the benefits of your product or service, detail how it works or show it solving a problem.

You can tell a “promotional story” – share timely information with your audience, announce new products or services or promote special deals.

Miller used the examples of business tours and behind the scenes footage to give your audience a look “behind the curtain.” The possibilities are endless.

Once you have raw footage, all that remains is to edit and post the video. In addition to the built-in editor in the YouTube Studio space, there are several other applications for editing – CapCut, InShot and Canva, just to name a few.

When you go to post the video in progress, YouTube will largely walk you through the entire process, beginning with the “create” button and ending with the copyright check and final progress screens.

Make sure a detailed title is chosen. Point to what’s happening in the video but also be mindful of your audience and how they will search for your content. It’s a balancing act. Save very technical language for the description. Keep the title in broad terms.

For the description, use keywords and very descriptive language above the “show more” line – this is your hook. Below the fold, you have a lot more to play with regarding word count.

Utilize thumbnail artwork to add another layer of visibility. Templates for thumbnail artwork are also available via various third-party apps. Hashtags still work well, but limit your usage of them; they are not used as frequently on YouTube as they are on other social media platforms and overloading with hashtags can fill up your description unnecessarily and overwhelm viewers.

You can take advantage of some of the premium features that can elevate your videos – adding subtitles can make your content even more accessible. You can manually edit them via YouTube Studio or you can upload them from a third-party app. You can also add a customized end screen to play after the video or cards to prompt viewers to visit other videos.

Like so many other things, YouTube is what you make of it. Approach each video like a conversation with your purchasing community and audience. That’s all this experience boils down to – and those conversations are an excellent tool in your toolbox when it comes to widening your business footprint and promoting your products to new buyers.

Don’t feel like you have to wait to become an “expert” or to stockpile content or build playlists. The key is to just dive in and see where this adventure takes you.

by Andy Haman