How You, Too, Can Use YouTube

So you think you might… possibly… want to consider… maybe… placing your brand on YouTube? Why not? After all, it’s one of the most popular sites online. In fact, in July, YouTube had over 16 million unique visitors.

Recently, Lee Gomes from “The Wall Street Journal” estimated there are more than 6 million videos on YouTube and the amount of time people have spent the site since it launched last year adds up to 9,305 years. Which means not only do you have a huge audience, it’s also a highly engaged one.

So, how do you leverage YouTube for your brand? First, consider whether you want to go with one of the packaged YouTube offerings it just announced or take a grass-roots approach.

When you consider YouTube, be prepared to break out of the way you’ve traditionally approached advertising, offline and on-. “This new medium requires finding a balance between traditional online advertising and new creative approaches that engage consumers in an active way,” says Chad Hurley, CEO and cofounder of YouTube. “Advertisers now have a highly targeted opportunity for aligning their brands alongside the entertainment experience people are enjoying on YouTube.”

Participatory Video Ads

The new Participatory Video Ad (PVA) is a user-initiated video advertisement with all the YouTube community features enabled. Consumers can rate, share, comment, embed, and add as a favorite advertising content. Rather than interrupt a consumer’s experience, YouTube feels it’s created a model that encourages engagement and participation.

The example I saw was a trailer for the movie “Crank.” User comments varied from praise for the trailer and excitement about the movie to negative opinions about the trailer and the commercialization of YouTube. If you go this route, be prepared for the good and the bad user participation brings with it.

Brand Channels

Brand Channels include all standard community functionality, helping brands become an organic part of the YouTube’s fabric. Key aspects include:

  • Customized channel appearance through a self-service tool. Access to the enhanced design and channel functionality is free to advertisers who meet predetermined spending levels.
  • Special promotional and media opportunities to help engage users with channel and video content.
  • YouTube “Subscriptions.” When a brand adds new videos to its channel, subscribers are notified, helping build audience.
  • An autoplay video on the main channel page.
  • Ability to host contests and encourage users to submit their own content.

I viewed the Paris Hilton channel, which I didn’t find too interesting. It was sponsored by Fox’s TV show “Prison Break.” That’s not to say a Brand Channel couldn’t work, just that I see a disconnect between Paris Hilton and “Prison Break.”

Grass-Root Approaches

There are unofficial approaches you can consider, too. Recently, Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” issued a challenge to his audience. He shot a video of himself on a green screen for fans to download and edit in any way they wanted. He asked people to submit the videos to his fan site. Many of the videos have also shown up on YouTube. The result has been phenomenal. One video alone on YouTube has been viewed almost 700,000 times, as of this writing. Giving assets to consumers to make the brand their own is just another way to potentially get your brand on YouTube. But this, too, can be risky.

Some brands are simply uploading TV spots and seeing what happens. A couple of ads that have gained enormous popularity on the site are Volkswagen’s Pimp My Auto spots and the Sony Bravia Bouncy Balls ad.

As I said a few weeks ago, advertising within social media isn’t for everyone. You may have concerns about inappropriate content surrounding your brand. But it’s worthwhile to at least explore how it might work for you. The audiences, and their levels of engagement, are hard to ignore.

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