Video Media, the Next Great Frontier of Food and Nutrition Education – Part 2 of 2: When “Viral” and “Food” Go Well Together


When it comes to video media, the king of the hill is YouTube, which is far and away the most popular platform for user-generated video content. Visited by more than 1 billion unique visitors per month, it sees 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. People with little more than a camera phone have millions of subscribers, the kind of fan base that would be the envy of any cable TV channel. If used correctly, video can be a gateway for nutrition communicators to reach and educate key audiences with nutrition, health, and food safety insights, encouraging more healthful lifestyles.

There are a few best practices and techniques that have been employed by successful “YouTubers” that help them break through the clutter and connect with people—or even go “viral,” the secret desire of everyone who uploads video content.

These tips can help nutrition communicators reach their goal of YouTube stardom:

1. Content, Content, Content! Just as in real estate it’s all about “location, location, location,” there is no substitute for good, compelling content on YouTube. A little personality and razzle-dazzle can help, if it’s not over the top. But bells and whistles aren’t necessarily a must, if you have content that people find useful, especially if it’s the kind of information they can’t get anywhere else.

2. Post early and often. Being the first to post a video on the food topic du jour will garner your video more views than others who are late to the game. Also, the more videos you produce and the more regularly you upload them, the more your audience will grow. Your subscribers receive emails when you post new content, so get them in the habit of visiting your channel—just don’t overwhelm them. One well-structured, informative video per week is better than daily videos that don’t really provide any new or interesting insights.

3. You Don’t Have To Be Cecil B. DeMille. Don’t worry if you don’t have a high-end camera and studio gear. Some of the most popular YouTubers are little more than people with a passion for their topics, speaking straight into a camera phone or modestly-priced camcorder. For example, Bethany Mota skyrocketed onto the YouTube scene with her homemade fashion videos, a gig that led her to compete on the latest season of Dancing with the Stars, and Michelle Phan’s makeup tutorial videos gained her notoriety and landed her a makeup line of her very own. See Part 1 of this series for a list of fact-based food and nutrition video sources.

At the same time, a little production savvy can go a long way:

  • Be sure there is ample light. While some studio and photographer-quality lights are quite affordable, if you don’t have them, shoot your videos in a well-lit room. Natural lighting will work for many purposes.
  • Sound quality is also important. Some cameras have inputs for external microphones, such as the “lavaliere” kind you see on TV, many of which won’t break the bank. But more typically, video creators will rely on the camera’s built-in microphone. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you’re close enough to the camera to be heard clearly, with minimal background noise. Video editing and graphics are becoming more and more accessible to the average person. However, if you’re not comfortable with them, it’s best to use those techniques sparingly, as poorly done edits will be more distracting than leaving the video as is.
  • When using a camera phone, it is best to position it in landscape mode (horizontal) instead of portrait (vertical). Tripods for camera phones are available for those with shaky hands.

4. “Optimizing” Your Full Potential. “Optimization” can be a daunting term, but it basically means using specific tools that will make your videos easier to find on the web. For example, predict the keywords people might enter into search engines to find your video and then use them in your video title, description, and tags. Access more tips on optimizing here.

5. Note to Self: Annotate. YouTube allows you to annotate your videos, in which you can link to other videos or encourage people to subscribe to your channel. Another great use for this feature: When posting a series of videos, link to the others in the series by including links in the annotations.

6. Play Lists: Along those same lines, playlists allow you to sort your content into categories to make it easier for viewers with specific interests to find videos grouped around topics. Think of it as a channel within a channel. This is a great feature for nutrition communication professionals, who can have separate playlists for various topics, such as “Eating Plans,” “Recipes,” “Protein,” “Whole Grains,” etc.

7. Engagement Isn’t Just for Happy Couples. There are few other sure-fire ways to increase your following than by engaging—with your own subscribers, commenters, and other YouTubers. In your videos and descriptions, ask people to comment or give you feedback.

However, YouTube comment sections, compared to many other social networking sites, can be a little rough and tumble due to the shroud of anonymity, ranging from people posting unauthorized advertising and spam to people hijacking your comments section to push their own agendas. If a comment crosses the line, you can choose to delete it. You can even block the most nettlesome commenters.

8. Communities: YouTubers often congregate around common interests. It isn’t uncommon for someone with a bigger audience to feature or link to someone else they find compelling, but who might not have a huge following.

Other social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, are excellent ways to cross-promote your content and further engage with your subscribers.

Taking Your Temperature

YouTube offers several analytical tools to help you gauge the success of your channel and videos. You’ll be able to judge a video’s popularity by measures such as number of views, likes/dislikes, shares to other social networks, and the average viewing time. These statistics can help you tailor your content strategy going forward. (e.g. Is no one viewing or sharing your video on anchovies? Research your target audience and post on a topic that is more appealing to them.)

Happy Uploading! Don’t forget to subscribe to the IFIC Foundation’s YouTube channel, FoodInsightTV, at

Read Part 1 of this Series: Video Media: The Next Great Frontier of Food and Nutrition Education

matt-raymond-communications-director Matt Raymond is Senior Director of Communications at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation. Prior to joining the IFIC Foundation, Matt worked as a communications director at the Library of Congress and was director of speechwriting at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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