In the last three years, marketers have taken a significantly increased interest in YouTube. Until about 2010, YouTube was rarely seen as a marketing tool, but with the current explosion in social media and social marketing, people are taking another look, and they like what they see.

YouTube now draws over a billion unique visitors monthly and piles up more than 6 billion hours of viewing each month, representing a 50% increase just since summer 2012. Uploads to YouTube now total more than 100 hours of video every minute, 24 hours a day. The 18-to-34 age group watches YouTube more than they watch any cable TV network. YouTube gives you the ability to visually demonstrate your product or service, and it lets you look your potential customers in the eye; that makes it a uniquely valuable way to connect with consumers. With more than a billion smartphone users in the world now, you can use YouTube to reach potential customers anywhere they may be.

YouTube combines several of the best elements of other marketing approaches. Obviously, it lets you demonstrate visually how to use a product, but it also lets you provide advice and answer questions (like a blog) and conduct interviews (like a podcast). You’ll want to use your blog, along with Facebook and Twitter, to encourage your audience to subscribe to your YouTube channel. Monitor your subscriptions, likes and comments to get a feel for what’s working with your audience.

Popular songs open with a “hook” to grab listeners; on YouTube, you’ll want to use some kind of “teaser” at the top to hold a viewer’s attention. Use charts and slides sparingly; you primarily want some kind of live action or talking head. If you offer nothing but slides, your audience will realize that you’re probably using nothing but Windows Movie Maker to create your videos, and you’ll lose viewers quickly. Make sure the lighting is good and that any participants in the video are reasonably attractive; you don’t have to be Brad Pitt or Megan Fox, but make sure there’s nothing that critical viewers might find fault with.

If you feel really lost when it comes to video, consider hiring outside help like a videographer or a social marketing company. YouTube is such a great resource, you really can’t afford not to use it.