“YouTube is the world’s most popular online video
community where anyone from heads of states to aspiring filmmakers can connect with people all over the world. YouTube’s mission is for YOU to discover and shape the world through video.” – YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing social networking site that was founded in May 2005 by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim, three former PayPal employees. The founders noticed that people were capturing videos, but there wasn’t an easy way to share them (YouTube). By the end of 2005, YouTube was officially a corporation based in San Mateo, California, and the staff grew from a few employees to 65. A year later, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in stocks (Reuters, 2006). After the deal was announced that “two kings have gotten together,” the founders created this message:
In 2011, Google+ was integrated with YouTube and the Chrome browser (Whitney, 2011). Now every Google+ user automatically has a YouTube account. What better way to tell the history of a video-sharing website than through videos? Here’s “the history of YouTube as told through 10 iconic videos” (Epstein, 2015). Quartz published this article Feb. 15, 2015, on the 10-year anniversary of the site.
Although often categorized as a social network, YouTube is more so a content community where people go to share videos or simply watch them. Users generally do not know each other, but come together on this platform and share their love of music, videos, or some other niche interest. For example, fans of Maroon 5 can go to the band’s channel and comment on the videos or other users’ comments to start a conversation.
YouTube has a variety of features that allow companies to customize their channels and support their brand. Any user can view videos on the site whereas only registered users can upload videos. Here are the list of features that a company can enable as long as the account is in good standing, which is measured by abidance of community guidelines and copyright compliance. There are also many resources YouTube offers to help creators get started, such as its Creator Blog and Creator Hub page.
1. The first feature, monetization, allows companies to earn revenue from the videos posted by displaying ads. They could do this by linking their YouTube account with their AdSense account to start getting paid. Learn how to get started.
2. Perhaps a company wants to upload a how-to video, but it’s more than the 15-minute limit? By simply verifying the YouTube account, a company can then upload longer videos. But shorter videos are typically better to maintain users’ attention.
3. Annotations help make your videos more interactive and engaging for viewers. These are the little boxes of text that usually pop-up during videos and can be used to simply explain something further or direct users to your website to buy your product. Companies should use annotations to provide viewers with their website link and remind them to subscribe to their channel/connect with them on other social media.
4. Similar to Pinterest, YouTube lets you choose the thumbnail for your video, which is what users see when they initially click on a video. A thumbnail can be a deal breaker because it has to be visually appealing for the user to want to click on it. As an example, here are the thumbnails for Maroon 5’s YouTube channel (sorry, I love the band and I saw them on Wednesday!).
5. A company can also charge users a subscription fee to watch videos. I would deter companies from using this feature because users probably won’t pay to watch content, especially if they can find it elsewhere.
6. A company can submit a content ID claim is they believe someone is violating its copyright and then a user can either accept or reject it. If the claim is rejected, then a company can appeal to protect its content.
7. Uploaded videos are automatically set to public, but a company can choose to have a video private or unlisted. Not sure why a company would do this, but maybe if a video is still in progress, the video can be uploaded, set to private and tested on the platform to make sure everything looks good.
8. Companies can have live events streamed to YouTube. This is one of the coolest features in my opinion. They can “control [the] event production and manage [their] own encoding settings using [their] preferred platform.” This is something more channels should take advantage of; fans would love it.
9. The next feature allows companies to edit their videos’ content right on the platform. There’s also a channel customization option where companies can customize the banner (just like a Facebook cover photo; see SoulPancake below).
10. By enabling the fan funding feature, a “Support” button will appear on a company’s YouTube page for users to donate money. This is great for start-ups, but users will support you if you have engaging and interesting content. SoulPancake is a website that I really like and has the support button on its channel (blue button on the right side).
11. Companies can also enable Google+ hangouts on their YouTube channels. This is similar to having a live event streamed, but it’s quicker and can be done right from a laptop.
There are also plenty more features YouTube offers companies, such as creating playlists to share with users. These could be musicians/songs/brands a company recommends mixed with some of its original content. Also YouTube Channel was launched in 2013 with the main goal being customization, instead of all channels looking the same. It was meant “to make your new channel look great on browsers across all screens and devices . . . [and] convert more visitors into subscribers with a slot for a channel trailer” (YouTube Creator Blog, 2013). As a result, companies could create a channel trailer to hook users, create Channel Art, which would look good on all devices, and organize/curate their videos and playlists to make it easier to users.
Not surprisingly, YouTube has its own built-in analytics software that a company can use to measure its channel’s performance, engagement and most watched videos as well as see who its viewers are. This is great for brands to understand what they need to improve upon and their audience.
According to YouTube, the site has more than one billion users who spend an average of 15 minutes on the site and view approximately five pages every day (Alexa, 2015). Three hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, which is up from 100 hours per minute in 2013, according to Forbes (Enge, 2013). In a single day, hundreds of millions of hours of video are watched. But where are users watching these videos? Half of the views on YouTube come from mobile devices. The platform has an app and a mobile-friendly site, which are extremely easy to use. According to Alexa, an analytics company controlled by Amazon, more than half of users are browsing during school, meaning that most users are younger. YouTube says that 41 percent of its users are 18 to 24 years old, its largest demographic. Alexa also reports that this site is the third most popular website in the United States and the world. Most of YouTube’s users come from the U.S., India and Japan. In the U.S., 78 percent of users are male whereas only 23 percent are female (YouTube, 2015).
The site is available in 75 countries and Hong Kong as well as in 61 languages.
However, YouTube is currently blocked in a few countries for a variety of reasons, from violating national copyright laws to fear of political activism or rebellion against the government (Liebelson, 2014). On the map below, the countries in green have local YouTube versions; the countries in gray have access; the countries in red (China and many in the Middle East) are blocked; and the countries in pink previously blocked the site.
Three brands that are doing it right on YouTube:
1. In 2014, Budweiser “wanted to ‘win’ the Super Bowl by creating the most popular ad. To get started, it turned to Google’s BrandLab for coaching on consumer insights and advertising trends around the big game. Based on what it learned, Budweiser executed a digital strategy that involved releasing and promoting its ‘Puppy Love’ spot on YouTube six days before the actual Super Bowl. In the end, Budweiser scored big time, winning more than 50M views—and the accolade for the #1 ad of the 2014 Super Bowl.” Harry Lewis, the company’s senior director of media, talks about Budweiser’s strategy and how it wants to become the best company in the digital world.
And here’s the ad:
How could you not love this ad to begin with? Budweiser has a smart marketing team that put the time and effort into doing research beforehand to ensure the ad’s success. By working with Google and learning about consumer trends, Budweiser hit it out of the park. The company has more than 115,000 subscribers and about 14.6 million total views. Videos are regularly posted to the channel to provide users new content often. All of the videos have thousands of views, with some even having millions. In each video’s caption, the company includes its other social media links for users to connect with the brand.
2. Not surprisingly, GoPro is one of the best brands on YouTube. I say not surprisingly because its products produce videos so it just makes sense. AdWeek also created its own list of the 10 best brands on YouTube with GoPro in the top spot. The company has five different YouTube channels, all with a consistent look. The main GoPro account has almost 3 million subscribers and 722 million views. Between the five channels, there are close to 766 million views, 3 million subscribers and 2,600 videos. On the channel’s banner, a user can easily locate the company’s website and other social media. I’ll focus on the main GoPro page from here on out.
The channel uploads at least one video every day so there is constantly new content for users. The page is organized very well: Users can easily find videos that have to do with snow, animals, music, or people. This video uploaded last week of pole vaulter Allison Stokke is extremely cool and has received just more than 4 million views.
One GoPro employee said, “YouTube and GoPro are very much aligned.” In the video below, the company’s staff talks about how it uses YouTube and how the platform has been instrumental to its success as a brand and on the video-sharing platform:
3. For the last brand, I’m going to choose the most subscribed to channel on YouTube with about 35 million subscribers (Socialblade, 2015): PewDiePie. This is Swedish producer Felix Kjellberg’s page, known for his Let’s Play video game commentaries. This YouTube celebrity/personality joined the site in April 2010 and has uploaded 2,260 videos that have been viewed more than 8 billion times!
According to Sven Grundberg and Jens Hansegard from The Wall Street Journal, Kjellberg makes $4 million a year from his videos (2014). Not my kind of thing, but I can see why they’re so popular: He is candid, entertaining and energetic. The videos are extremely low quality though — Kjellberg edits all his videos himself — but perhaps that’s the appeal. Commenting on this, he said, “Unlike many professionally produced shows, I think I’ve established a much closer contact with my viewers, breaking the wall between the viewer and what’s behind the screen. What I and other YouTubers do is a very different thing, it’s almost like hanging around and watching your pal play games. My fans care in a different way about what they are watching.”
In every video’s caption, he provides a list of ways users can connect with him, download his app, or buy his products, as you can see below. A couple videos are uploaded every day, which I think is pretty impressive, but I guess PewDiePie is Kjellberg’s full-time job now since his page been so profitable. There seems to be a cult around this guy. Similar to how Lady Gaga calls her fans little monsters, PewDiePie calls his fans bros and started the brofist. His videos receive thousands of comments.
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