YouTube prepares to expand beyond video with more social features

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YouTube is said to be preparing new non-video features that will allow content creators to interact with their viewers through photos, text posts, links and polls.

According to VentureBeat, which first reported on the news, YouTube is internally calling its suite of new features Backstage, and plans to launch on desktop and mobile with select content creators later this year.

VentureBeat’s Harrison Weber says that Backstage’s features will “live alongside the Home and Videos tabs within individual YouTube channels,” and content posted through Backstage will be included in channel subscribers’ feeds and notifications.

Backstage will also give subscribers new ways to interact with content creators, including through “rich replies,” which are comments that feature multimedia content, including photos and videos.

According to Weber, “Video sharing and watching will remain the primary function of YouTube, but Backstage may help make YouTube a better place to talk about those videos, too.”

That’s important given the fact that other popular social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, have been adding video features of their own and are increasingly becoming video destinations.

Facebook and Snapchat are said to generate more than 8 billion video views per day, and Facebook Live has taken off in a big way this year. Even Twitter, which rose to prominence as a text-based platform, is investing heavily in video.

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Good news for brands?

Interestingly, Twitter’s deal to live stream the National Football League’s Thursday night games was based largely on the social nature of the company’s platform.

At the time the deal was announced, NFL executive Brian Rolapp revealed that Twitter wasn’t the highest bidder for the Thursday night broadcast rights, but the NFL was intrigued by what Twitter was capable of.

“[Twitter] is built around live events already. We want to see how they use the unique platform, and syndicated tweets all over the Internet is going to be interesting.”

If YouTube is to remain a dominant platform for video, it will realistically have to build out more social features to ensure that Facebook, Twitter and others don’t become more attractive because of the way they are using their non-video functionality to make their video offerings more compelling.

YouTube has not yet confirmed the existence of Backstage, but if it does bolster its functionality beyond video in the near future, it could make YouTube a much more interesting and productive platform for brands if and when this functionality becomes available to them.

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