In October, 161 million unique viewers watched 20.9 billion videos on YouTube. Viewers watched an average of 7.1 hours on the platform in the U.S. alone according to comScore. While these are insane numbers, this really isn’t outside of our expectations. YouTube is the 100 pound gorilla in the online video world, and certainly the leader for consumer generated content, but how do brands use it to engage with target audiences? In order to answer that, we must first understand these concepts: why do people use it? How do people use it? What’s missing? And how do brands benefit from it?
Why People Use YouTube
The key to YouTube’s success has always been its simplicity and universal integration around the web. From beginning to end, it typically takes less than a half hour to upload video and send it to your network, be it through an email, tweet, Facebook post or embedding it in your website or blog. The only hiccup YouTube has in terms of integration with 3rd party platforms is that you must download a free plug-in on a wordpress.org blog. Outside of that, anyone, anywhere in the world can view your video. The ease of use for content providers means that audiences are forced to watch the content through the YouTube player because it was shared in that format. Additionally, it’s easy for them to copy the link of the video and then re-share it to their network of friends. Because of this, it has established itself as the go-to location for uploading and watching video.
How People Use YouTube
Individuals use YouTube to watch video in countless ways, but I want to focus on how people interact with branded video. I have never searched for video from a brand (outside of work) and I have never seen anyone else do so either. Instead, the primary way most people discover branded content is through social channels, embedded on the brand’s website or owned property and by clicking on search results – either brought to the top by SEO keywords or sponsored ads.
- Social Channels
When your brand’s video is shared over a social channel, whoever is sharing your video has now recommended that his network of friends and followers watch it. It’s one of the highest honors your team can achieve. However, getting multiple people to share your video is a challenge on multiple counts. They need to not only discover your video, but also find it compelling enough to share. Luckily, YouTube has made the sharing process easy through its universal integration – including mobile. Still, getting initial views is hard. As mentioned in a previous post, there are many ways you can drive audiences to your video, but scale is limited by your budget and existing list of followers and fans.
- Embedding YouTube to your Owned Property
Often, brands use YouTube’s player to display their video on their website, Facebook or campaign site. The goals and measurements of results of video are going to be determined by the overall goals for the campaign or location of embedded video. I will go deeper into this in another post as this has more to do with campaign and digital channel than the video platform.
- Search Results (SEO)
There are five categories that drive your video up rankings in YouTube search results: title, tags, description, views and ratings. While views and ratings are relatively out of your control, optimizing your title, tags and description enables your video to show up on both YouTube and Google search results. Promoting your video and embedding your video in prime real estate will help you attract more views, resulting in higher rankings in search results. This is the primary way YouTube helps promote your video.
According to YouTube, 48 hours of video content is uploaded to the site each minute. When you put up a video on YouTube you are not just competing with your competitors, but are going head to head with videos of cats jumping into boxes and skateboarding dogs and babies laughing and so on. Moreover, you are actually competing with all other posts in all content feeds that your target viewer subscribes to. To fully understand how brands can benefit, let’s look at how they are not.
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- YouTube is not a distribution channel
Outside of SEO, YouTube is not going to put your content in front of people. It is up to you to promote your video so people can actually find it.
- YouTube does not provide a great way to browse content
YouTube recently did a complete redesign of its website. I believe much of this had to do with the fact that it is unbelievably hard to navigate through content. They re-organized the home page to act much like a Twitter feed or trending topics. The results of their efforts have been met with mixed reviews.
- YouTube is always branded
You can’t get that YouTube logo off of the player. While this may seem like a nominal point to some, many marketers and PR people care a lot about having only their brand promoted to consumer on their owned properties. And to this point, YouTube is designed to distract your audience with other YouTube content. By focusing the viewer’s eye on related content and suggested video, YouTube hopes to drives up time on site but drives viewers away from your content.
- YouTube does not permit download
YouTube was designed as a place for audiences to view video, not as a content exchange. If a journalist wants to use footage from your video, they need another solution. While you can put up a download link in the description, you will not know who is downloading your content, plus if your video is meant for international audiences you will need to find multiple links to enable NTSC and PAL downloads. Not to mention how time consuming downloads can be for servers if the content is in HD. A better alternative would be a tool like our All Media Panel, which will give you greater flexibility and power to truly distribute content to professional audiences.
How Can Brands Benefit?
The biggest benefit YouTube adds to the marketing and PR pro’s toolbox is providing a free, easy and SEO-enhanced way to display video to your customer base. YouTube gives you a customizable “channel,” where you can edit to meet brand guidelines, add and organize content the way you best see fit and even attract subscribers. In addition, YouTube has beefed up its analytics to include key statistics like audience retention, demographics and traffic sources.
Above all, the key to successfully using YouTube, or any other video platform, is having great content and promoting it properly. Without it, people will not find the video, finish watching the video, or share the video. All of which are key to getting your message across – which is the whole point of making video.
I welcome your thoughts.
- Sean Wilson