Starting and growing a YouTube channel takes a lot of time, effort, patience, and often money. You have to create good, compelling videos, and they have to capture an audience at the right time. If you’re lucky, something will go viral and will end up on peoples’ related videos and recommended videos for months. If you’re not lucky, you’ll languish with sub-100 view videos for the indefinite future, hoping to be discovered through sheer volume of content. With 300-500 hours worth of video uploaded to YouTube literally every minute of every day, you’re not going to have the volume to flood the market like you want.
There are two ways you can try to get around this. The first is to embark on a campaign of extreme social and growth-hack-style casual marketing. We’re talking social media posts, a blog, a mailing list, a Facebook page, the whole nine yards. You’re going all-out with the free strategies to force a brand presence and try to encourage viral exposure.
The other method is to suck it up and spend some money. You have to spend money to make money, most of the time, and a little investment can go a long way towards kick starting the popularity you need to become self-sufficient. You won’t have a positive return on investment, at least not right away, but you’ll certainly get the subscribers, viewers, and engagement you need to get the ball rolling.
What I’ve done is put together a list of possible services you can pay to get you some exposure on your videos. Some of them are obvious, some are a little less so, and some you might never have heard of before. I’ve split them up in a few categories for easy browsing.
Social media is the bread and butter of many advertising campaigns. There are a lot of different social networks, but some of them don’t really work with YouTube unless you have a specific type of content.
For example, LinkedIn ads won’t really work for YouTube content unless you’re heavily focused on business, marketing, or job search content. If you are, well, you’re good to go, and you can consider this a free entry on the list.
Facebook/Instagram Ads – Facebook and Instagram are both covered by the same system. Facebook is the largest and most targeted ad system available, which makes it an excellent choice. Instagram is highly visual and, if you’re in a visual niche like beauty or fashion, can be a great place to advertise.
Twitter Ads – Twitter is another good ad network, though it doesn’t have the engagement or the targeting options of Facebook. Twitter is great to advertise using short gifs or video clips of funny moments from your content. On the other hand, you need to produce a lot of ads, because content gets stale very quickly on Twitter, and your YouTube channel is unlikely to trend.
YouTube/Google Ads – What better place to advertise your YouTube channel than on YouTube itself? Using Google ads, you can get web ads, ads on blogs all over the web, and ads on YouTube natively. Google also has fantastic website integration and analytics, if you’re into that kind of thing. It depends heavily on whether you’re building a website or just a channel, to determine which elements of AdWords you want to use.
StumbleUpon Ads – Normally I don’t highly recommend StumbleUpon, because it’s the epitome of short attention span, no engagement views. However, highly visual content is what hooks people from Stumble, and YouTube videos have a way of going viral when they’re exposed to enough people through the platform. Give it a try.
Pinterest Ads – Pinterest has many of the same benefits as Instagram for visual, crafty, DIY and other graphical forms of content. The only downside is that promoted pins don’t have nearly the same sort of variety and control as Facebook/Instagram ads, so you’ll have to work a little harder to reach your audience.
Reddit Ads – Reddit is an excellent community for basically anything if you can find the right sub. However, it’s pretty resistant to blatant ads or ads for sub-par content. Basically, I recommend posting your content organically a few times to get the feel of the place, and if they like it, invest in ads to get it circulated more.
Traditional Ad Networks
Traditional ad networks will make up the bulk of this list, but I’ve tried to angle on the side of video-focused networks. On the one hand, this means you’re going to have to make some video ads most likely, but for a YouTube creator, that’s not necessarily a problem. A video trailer or a simple video ad can go a long way where a text ad can’t. However, it does also means more work, and you may be competing with some very high quality producers.
One thing to note is that I haven’t actually personally used most of these networks, so exercise caution before you invest heavily.
Outbrain – Outbrain is one of the high end native advertising networks, which means your content will show up as “related content” on a lot of mid-to-high-end blogs. It also does pretty well with clickbait-style content, at least with sensationalist headlines or video titles, so experiment to see how you can get more clicks that way.
Taboola – The primary competitor for Outbrain, Taboola is much the same in pretty much every way other than the sites the ads appear on. They have different display networks, so if you can get into both of them, you can double up on the variety of sites you reach. Of course, you want to test to make sure you can get anything valuable from them before you invest.
BrightRoll – This ad network is typically for larger players, but if you have the cash, they’ll certainly let you spend it. Publishers are required to have at least five million views per month on their videos or three million on their sites or apps, so you know you’re getting on some relatively large sites.
One by AOL – Adap.tv was a pretty great video ad network that was acquired by AOL a few years back. Surprisingly enough, it’s maintained AOL’s relevance in the online sphere, and they didn’t even have to send out demo disks to do it. They even have a private marketplace for publishers you can use if you have the right kind of content.
SpotXchange – One of the more traditional ad networks on this list, they have over a thousand publishers in their network and billions of video ads each month. There’s a lot of viewership to be had here and their costs are surprisingly low for what they offer.
Adobe Primetime (Formerly Auditude) – Another good old network acquired by a major company, this one was completely rebranded and added to part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, which is their name for a swarm of various web apps, SaaS offerings, and services. Because of the control they offer publishers, you tend to get higher quality views from this network.
Exponential Interactive – The video advertising hub of this network is AdoTube, and it’s pretty good for what it is, at least as far as I’ve been able to see. Plus, they tie in well with web ads if you’re splitting focus on a website, because they’re part of the same group as Tribal Fusion. Take advantage of both if you can.
Videology – Founded by the same guy who founded advertising.com, so you know it’s big and focused. This one is excellent because it’s primarily focused on sites and viewers in the U.S., which makes it great for higher CPM rates on your YouTube ads.
YuMe – A network that focuses on programmatic purchasing for ad fill, and gives you access to multi-screen video audiences, which may or may not be a benefit depending on what you actually get out of it. Your content will largely be pre-roll ads on other videos in locations other than YouTube.
Undertone – Banner and pre-roll video ads with a high impact, they boast pretty high CPM rates for publishers, which means pretty high ad rates for advertisers. However, they have a good cross-screen presence on apps and mobile devices as well as desktop viewers.
YouTube Promotion Networks
These ad networks specifically work with YouTube creators to promote YouTube content, generally in terms of views and engagement, not conversions or revenue. I’ve seen some good reviews and some bad reviews for all of them, I haven’t used any of them personally, and as always, my recommendation is only as good as your experience.
Test them out and see if they provide adequate returns, and only then consider going all-in with a sustained ad campaign.
Promolta – This one is sort of a hybrid between traditional ads and view buying. They’re focused on promoting YouTube videos, and they have a network of display sites to show your video around. I’ve seen some controversy about them using a Swagbucks-style display that doesn’t get much engagement, though, so test before you invest.
Virool – Somewhat similar to Promolta, this one isn’t too bad, and has strived to be on the good side of the law – Google – in their dealings. They had a public issue with their own marketing a while back, leading to delisting and subsequent appeals that got them reinstated, but as far as I know they never used shady techniques for their actual ad promotion.
Emerse – Not to be confused with the electronic medical record search engine, Emerse has been a relatively small but potent network since 2007. They’ve worked with Coke, Microsoft, Visa, Disney, and a bunch of car companies, as well as working with the Obama election campaigns.
Viboom – A smaller network, this one has generally outstanding reviews and is considered safe by the people who both use it and post about it publicly. Their cost is a little high — $30 for 1,000 views on average – but the views tend to be pretty good. They guarantee real views that won’t be purged in an audit, which is more than many will say.
Sprizzy – This is a newcomer to advertising, and they have approached it with a very media-centric viewpoint. In addition to helping promote YouTube videos, they do Kickstarters and other crowdfunding campaigns, which makes them a favorite of many indie groups and small developers.
FameBit – This is a media-centric network that works with brands as a sort of paid influencer marketing. You pay for exposure and they hook you up with large brands for various partnerships and promotions. Due to the high value and limited availability, however, they have strict entry requirements.
There are some very good freelancers with excellent promotion skills. Some of them have their own connections or their own channels they can use to promote yours. Some of them are simply very adept at running campaigns on various ad networks like those listed above, making their service basically outsourcing ad management. Some of them, however, are likely botnet view spammers or other black hat services.
I highly recommend caution, particularly when an offer seems too good to be true at the cheaper price points. Do a very small test and focus analytics on the before-and-after comparison before you buy a large package. Also, I recommend waiting a bit to make sure YouTube doesn’t audit and remove fake views after you make a purchase. It’s better to have a few views removed than it is to have your AdSense account closed on you.
SEOClerk – This is like Fiverr for social and search marketing professionals. You can find people willing to promote just about any kind of content, using a wide variety of both legitimate and black hat techniques. Make sure you vet your freelancers carefully.
Freelancer – One of the largest global freelancing hubs online, this site will put you in touch with a lot of potential marketers, but at the same time you have to avoid a lot of low-effort, low-bid contractors from third world countries.
Upwork – The Frankenstein golem of what remains of Elance and oDesk, this site has had some public backlash recently, but you can still find some high quality freelancers around. Many of the best moved on to their own private websites, though.
Fiverr – The prototype for a lot of small payment microservices, Fiverr can be good or terrible depending on who you pay for what services. Avoid straight view buying – you’re likely to end up paying for bots more than anything.
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