Video Essentials

5 Tips For Creating an Engaging YouTube Channel Trailer

YouTube has more than 1 billion daily users on its platform, so it’s probably safe to say that all of us have some kind of a customer base on the channel. The question is, how we do find that target audience? Best practices like consistent publishing schedules, interactivity, and quality content can all engage returning viewers on YouTube, but what about those who haven’t heard of your brand yet?

This is where creating a compelling YouTube channel trailer can help. In a nutshell, a channel trailer is a video that is shown to new visitors when they visit your YouTube channel for the first time. This is your chance to hook viewers and turn them into dedicated subscribers. Here are five ways that you can create an engaging channel trailer for your brand:

Find Inspiration In Hollywood

A perfect place to start with the creative side of producing your channel trailer is to think of it as a movie trailer. Ask yourself, what are the elements that make you want to go see a movie? While many of us may not have that big Hollywood budget, we can still take note of the more basic layers that go into movie trailers. For example, dynamic sound is always something that is used to emphasize keywords and provide an overall energy to the story. There are countless royalty-free music libraries like audioblocks and audiojungle that offer big cinematic scores and tracks for all types of budgets. Find one that gives your trailer a heartbeat and motivates viewers to keep watching.



Another common trait that Hollywood trailers share is their length. Typically, they’re no longer than 30 to 60 seconds. This is the ideal length for your YouTube trailers because people on this channel often have short attention spans. One thing we do is start by creating a complete 60-second trailer and then forcing ourselves to edit that version down to 45 or even 30 seconds. This approach really narrows down the most important and powerful items in your content.

The last note you can take from big-screen movie trailers is that they use extremely powerful visuals. This is especially important on YouTube, where we really need to hook viewers with content because they have so many other viewing options. While it’s preferable to show your talent, host, or spokesperson to put a face with your brand, you need to show this new audience all of the supporting footage (B-roll) that tells your channel story. Do this at the beginning or early on in your videos to hold your audience. Make sure to pull from your full library of content and use visuals that are really going to pull them in. Keep in mind that these are most likely new visitors who have never seen your channel before, so pulling from older videos is perfectly acceptable.


Make Scripts Short and Sweet

Keeping in mind that the trailer is going to be short, marketers should write a script that’s concise and to the point. Use your best elevator pitch to tell this new audience what your channel is about and the type of videos you produce. The Slow Mo Guys do a great job of this in their channel trailer.



Within the first few seconds, audience members know exactly what this channel is about. It’s a filtering process that helps both the creator and the viewer. Show examples of your videos with powerful visuals as mentioned above, and make sure they support the messaging in your script.

One common mistake we have seen is that some publishers leave out critical information. Be sure to include information like when you post new videos and how often you upload. This helps turn new visitors in returning viewers because they know when to expect fresh content.



Use Interactivity

YouTube has a lot of interactive features that are often overlooked. Items like annotations and cards can do wonders in getting your viewers to take action while watching your videos. Try using annotations as buttons and clickable areas when subscribe graphics appear in your trailer.

Graphics can be created in your post-production workflow and then annotated on the YouTube backend to become clickable. You can see an example of annotations in action with Refinery 29’s channel trailer.



When viewers hover over those words, they can click and be taken to a subscribe option. This example from the Gays With Kids channel uses the YouTube cards feature, which works on mobile devices, as well. Use cards to link to videos, playlists, and even associated websites that you mention in your trailer.



These interactivity features have less to compete with in the channel trailer as opposed to a regular video that you upload. That’s because YouTube prevents ads from displaying on trailers in the homepage view so they don’t distract viewers from learning about your channel. Overall, these features can be really powerful calls-to-action for your trailers.

Add it to the Content Mix

While a YouTube channel trailer will serve as a demo to new visitors, it also can serve other purposes. Marketers can use trailers as regular pieces of video content and add them to their publishing calendars. This is ideal when you may have slower periods of production. Rather than trying to come up with something completely new, look at your past content and create a trailer with it. Recaps of your existing content can help expose current subscribers to videos they may have missed or content that was published before they became subscribers. You can turn trailers into end-of-the-year recaps, best-of videos, or blooper reels that all audiences can enjoy.



Update Your Trailers

A trailer should never be a one-off piece of content. Active YouTubers know that their channels and videos change over time, so the trailers should always reflect their current voice, brand, and content. Refreshing the trailer will depend on your publishing schedule, but a best practice is to update your trailer annually or even quarterly if you’re publishing more than one video a week.

Another idea is to use themes or seasons to guide content for the YouTube trailer, if that makes sense for your brand. You can emphasize location or time of year—if it’s important to your audience—by using imagery that reflects the right setting. This can show viewers that you’re creating videos in current event situations.



Taking these steps in creating a trailer for your YouTube channel can help with gaining subscribers and increasing watch time. Having an effective trailer shows that you care about the user experience and that you’re active creator on YouTube.


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  1. Interesting tips, currently working with a client to do short video clips. Although is YouTube the right platform for short videos, or should they be placed on Vine and Instagram? The advantage of YouTube is universal integration and embedding.

    Posted by Ravi Jay | December 1, 2015, 9:21 am
  2. Thanks Ravi! It depends on your definition of short videos, I would suggest that you use the platform that your target audience is using. YouTube does have many benefits, but it also is not meant for all publishers because of privacy, monetization and other things.

    Good luck and thanks for your comments!

    Posted by Stjepan | December 2, 2015, 4:30 pm
  3. The problem I’m having, is keeping the video under a minute while being able to post really awesome, epic gaming content. Like, do I add in text as well between clips to make it better? Ugh, this is a nightmare to have to go through.

    Posted by MMOByte | July 10, 2016, 5:45 am
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