Is YouTube a Social Network?

Most people don't seem to consider YouTube a social network, but they ought to. The overwhelming majority of views of brand-related content come from user-generated content.


By guest columnist Matt McGowan, Google

Most of us are familiar with YouTube. More than 84 percent of us tune-in at least once a month and many much more often to get our daily dose of news from channels such as Vice or The Young Turks, recipes and cooking shows from the The Food Network and SORTED, or even beauty and fashion advice from the likes of Michelle Phan, LKISStyle and more.

In February, Val Maloney of Media in Canada wrote a piece entitled, “Do Canadians still like Facebook?” The answer to that question is of course. But what I found most interesting about the story, which was focused on Social Media, was that while Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, SnapChat, WhatsApp, and Tumblr were included, YouTube was not.

I was curious. Is YouTube a social network? Why might that be important? If it is, media teams could start including the platform in their Social Media plans more often, allowing them to capitalize on the exponential growth and captive, socially engaged, and hard to find audience that is readily accessible on YouTube.

Moreover, due to YouTube’s relatively new and unique advertising products, like TrueView, advertisers only pay when the consumer chooses to watch the entire ad or the first 30 seconds of the ad, whichever comes first, and because of that they often receive a large amount of added value around each campaign. For instance, in addition to the delivery of paid impressions, advertisers get free partial and organic views (both of which drive awareness and recall) in addition to engagements like subscribers to their channels, also known as fans and shares.

In fact, top videos often receive many more more organic views then paid views. If potential customers potentially skipping your ads is not your thing, other formats exist including Google Preferred, which was only launched in Canada last month, where advertisers can buy specific audiences and channels, and Mastheads, where advertisers can take over scarce inventory like the YouTube Homepage at a daily rate.


Now back to the question: is YouTube a social network?

Visitors and logged-in users, very much like those on the other social networks, subscribe to channels that interest them. They like, or in YouTube speak, thumbs up (or down!), videos that they find interesting. They can also share and comment.

Content recommendations are based on user behavior and the social graph/connections, similar to how social networks recommend friends and their content.

YouTube’s “newsfeed,” which shows video from the channels a user has subscribed to, plus recommendations, is very similar to a social network’s “Wall.” In fact, they are almost identical.

Visitors can build profiles, upload a headshot, and follow, or subscribe in YouTube-speak, their friends.

Ninety five percent of all views of entertainment content comes from consumer uploads, not official videos. This means that 95 percent of the time, when someone watches a clip from movies like The Dark Knight or Anchorman, or TV shows like Black Sails, they are watching a video uploaded by a fan and not the official Paramount, Warner Bros, or Starz channel. But don’t worry, because of YouTube’s proprietary tracking algorithm the copyright owner still gets paid.

Ninety percent of all views of brand-related content comes from consumer uploads, not official brand videos. This means that 95 percent of the time when someone watches a clip about a Kia test drive or a L’Oreal Mascara tutorial, they are watching a video uploaded by a consumer or expert, and not the official brand channel.


Nine percent of all 18-34 year-old visitors to YouTube share or comment on videos each month.

YouTube influences purchase intent and decisions among more than half of all consumers. Fifty three percent of consumers in the U.S., for instance, say YouTube has influenced their purchase behavior. Compare that to traditional Social Media and you see some similarities, where 55 percent of respondents engaged with brands on Facebook, followed by 21 percent who have done so on Twitter, and 10 percent who have done so on Pinterest. One in three visitors share a YouTube video after watching.

There are many reasons to classify YouTube as a social network. In fact, you could argue that it is one of the largest social networks online. Some like Richard Raddon, co-founder and chief executive of ZEFR, even feel it is the future, having recently said: “If Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are a part of Social 2.0, then video networks like YouTube aptly will be coined Social 3.0 – in other words, the future.”

For additional YouTube trends and stats check out the Insights Report and learn more about YouTube as a platform to reach your customers at ClickZ Live Toronto.

At Google, Matt McGowan heads up strategy for the America’s Advertising Agency business, where he works with the major holding companies and their performance, media, and creative agencies. In addition, he is an active adviser to, and the

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