Hacking the YouTube ‘Creator Playbook’: Annotate, Don’t Bombard

/ Jun 13, 2014


Having focused for a while on how brands can optimize their presence on YouTube, we figured it was time to go back to giving creators some tips for navigating the digital video platform. Having left off at thumbnails, the next logical step for creators to take with their videos is to add annotations. These uniquely YouTube inventions allow viewers to take more actions on your videos, which should lead them to more of your content and hopefully wind you up with yet another subscriber.

So how do you make a text overlay on a YouTube video that promotes your content without getting in its way? Beginning with appropriate uses, we’ll explain how to create the kinds of annotations that will make your audience click.

When to use them:

Invite viewers to like. Also, you can use annotations to suggest viewers favorite or share your video. Remember, don’t sound too eager with these annotations. Begging your viewers for likes will immediately turn them away from your content.

Ask questions. To make sure your audiences pay attention, pose a question that addresses something specific from your video to make sure they stay involved. This will make your video a more interactive experience, in turn making you seem more personable.

Make a table of contents. For your longer videos, allow viewers to skip around, and make it easy for them. Clear navigation will make your audience feel comfortable perusing your work.

Link to your other videos, etc. Whether they showcase related content, evolve into a playlist, or lead viewers to a whole new channel, introducing potential fans to more of your work can never hurt. Also, annotations serve as a good opportunity to provide quick routes to your social media accounts (or websites/merch stores if you’ve got them).

Place hidden games. Throw an unexpected “Easter egg” into your video so that viewers will search for fun surprises throughout your channel, including interactive games.

Insert clarifications. If something deserving of a quick backstory that otherwise doesn’t fit into the plot/message takes place, add that background in an annotation. This will give your video extra dimension and let viewers feel like they’re getting a behind-the-scenes look at your process.

How to best use annotations:

Avoid the edges! Don’t put your annotations at the very top or the very bottom of your video. At the top, they may get in the way of titles. At the bottom, advertisements can easily get in their way.

Back off the content. Annotations should add to your content, not take away from it by obstructing images. You have control over where in the frame the annotations will appear, so avoiding faces, etc., is crucial for you to consider.

Too many annotations look like spam. Having one after another pop up on the screen will appear as if the viewer is getting spammed. Instead of looking like you’re giving your audience the gift of extra information, it’ll seem like you’re bombarding them with unnecessary…junk.

Send viewers to new windows. Only do this when appropriate. Yes, you want your audience to focus exclusively on whatever new video or social media platform you link to, but be wary of letting them click away from your video too soon. You want them to watch that one first before they click to the next one, right? That being said, annotations that pop up at the very end of your video should just open up in the same window.

Invite them to subscribe! Don’t be shy to use annotations as a way to turn viewers into subscribers. At the end of your videos, throwing in more than one solicitation to subscribe won’t hurt, as long as they don’t all read as desperate requests. Polite, or at least humorous, invitations work best.

Since annotations help lead viewers to other videos on your channel, you now have to make sure that your entire channel experience works towards a positive, overall image. We’ll go over creating a channel that focuses your self-expression as we continue hacking the YouTube “Creator Playbook.”

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  • Jessica Jalsevac

    Awesome article! I might add creating an “end card” using spotlight annotations at the end of the video. I think that’s the least obtrusive way to present CTAs.


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