YouTube has changed dramatically over the last five years, and the rules of video marketing are now radically different too. In early 2006, anyone in the field was trying to create viral videos. But, Google Insights for Search shows that web search interest in the term "viral videos" peaked in March 2006 and is currently just 40 percent of what it was back then.
Today, everyone in YouTube marketing feels like they're playing Calvinball. That's the game invented by cartoonist Bill Watterson in his classic comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. As Calvin once said, "The only permanent rule in Calvinball is that you can't play it the same way twice!" Other rules can "be changed, amended, or deleted by any player(s) involved."
So, what are the new rules for YouTube marketing? Let's take a look.
Rule 1: YouTube marketing is the new video marketing
According to Experian Hitwise, YouTube is the most popular video site in the U.S. YouTube gets more than 86 percent of visits to 77 video sites in this country. Hulu, the second most popular video site in the U.S., gets less than 4 percent of visits.
And according to Hitwise, YouTube is even more popular in Canada. YouTube gets about 90 percent of visits to 70 video sites in that country. MSN Video, the second most popular video site in Canada, gets less than 3 percent of visits.
So, YouTube marketing is the new video marketing.
You might continue to use the term "video marketing" without any penalty. But, six days out of seven, you can use the term "YouTube marketing" without any embarrassment.
Rule 2: You can't make it on YouTube alone
According to comScore Video Metrix, Google Sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube.com, ranked as the top online video content property in November 2010. But, even with close to 2.0 billion out of the nearly 5.2 billion viewing sessions in the U.S. that month, this means only 38 percent of all viewing sessions occured at YouTube.com.
So, you can't make it on YouTube alone.
But the functionality to upload a video to Yahoo Video was removed on Dec. 15, 2010, and all user-generated content will be removed from Yahoo Video by March 15, 2011. And all of the other video sites put together will add -- at best -- an additional 7 percent of all viewing sessions.
So, what should you do?
The answer would be found in some TubeMogul research that was published Feb. 12, 2009, if it were still posted on the company's site. Its research found that 45.13 percent of viewers discovered videos by going to a video site (i.e., going to YouTube and running a search or clicking around the featured or related videos). But 44.24 percent of viewers discovered videos embedded on blogs or other websites.
So, you should embed your YouTube videos in your website or blog because embedding will literally double the chances of viewers discovering them. You can also use Media RSS (MRSS) or TubeMogul OneLoad to syndicate or distribute your videos to other video and social networking sites. This will also increase the odds of viewers discovering them.
Rule 3: Great video content can come from anywhere
YouTube's partner program has grown to about 15,000 participants worldwide. These partners include large media companies such as Universal Music and MGM, niche media properties such as Expert Village and Mondo Media, and members of the YouTube community who have created consistently popular videos like Fred or Smosh.
And great content can come from anywhere.
A couple of years ago, Sal Khan's cousin in Louisiana asked him for some math tutoring over the web. But they couldn't find a time to get on webcams for tutoring sessions, so Khan decided to just record his lessons and upload them to YouTube. But it wasn't just his little cousin who was watching. Millions of other viewers found his lessons to be useful, and so they watched as well. So Khan made some more educational videos. And before he knew it, he had amassed millions of views.
YouTube made Khan a partner and started showing ads on his videos and sharing the revenue with him. Over a year ago, advertising was generating enough revenue for Khan that he decided to quit his lucrative job at a hedge fund and focus on Khan Academy full time. YouTube hosts videos from many educators -- including taped lectures from universities like MIT and Stanford. But Khan's videos have been viewed almost 30 million times, making him the biggest single educator on YouTube.
Rule 4: There is no premium video content, only popular video content
Today's viewers watch "popular" video content. So, why limit yourself to running advertising against only "premium" video content? Whether it's produced by amateurs or professionals, it's all just video content to viewers. Don't make a distinction without a difference.
YouTube partners produce and upload videos that inspire us, make us laugh, and move us -- and, most importantly, change the way we look at the world. Does it really matter if these talented and entrepreneurial YouTube partners are building the next generation of media companies in bedrooms, garages, or studios across the globe?
I understand that some advertisers might be nervous about running advertising against unknown user-generated content. But, your advertising will only appear against the videos of YouTube's tried and trusted content partners. Each partner goes through a thorough vetting and is regularly checked to ensure that they are uploading appropriate content.
Although YouTube is selective about the content its partners can upload, there are still a huge variety of partners, with content to suit all users and most advertisers. And more than half of YouTube video views are for videos that are more than six months old. So, why limit yourself to running advertising against only scripted content?
Rule 5: YouTube ads can be popular video content too
On September 19, 2008, Suzie Reider, the head of advertising at YouTube, gave a presentation entitled "Marketing with Video" at The Edge, a creative event thrown by the Boston Ad Club. One of the concepts that she shared with the luncheon crowd was that marketers need to "create ads that work as content."
As an example, she showed "Amazing Ball girl catch," a Gatorade commercial directed by Baker Smith of Harvest Films. Uploaded on June 20, 2008, this video now has more than 2.7 million views. If you go to YouTube and look at the video's statistics, you'll see it has more than 3,600 "likes" and fewer than 300 "dislikes."
Hundreds of advertisers around the world are following Reider's advice. Uploaded on July 1, 2009, "Evian Roller Babies international version" now has more than 32.8 million views. If you look at the video's statistics, you'll see it has more than 36,500 "likes" and fewer than 3,500 "dislikes."
A third YouTube ad, "Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like," was the fifth most watched YouTube video of 2010. Uploaded on Feb. 4, 2010, it now has more than 27.9 million views. If you look at the video's statistics, you'll see it has more than 102,000 "likes" and fewer than 2,000 "dislikes."
Rule 6: Keep to a schedule and theme when publishing video content
Expectations are important. People want to know what type of videos they will be watching week after week on a particular channel. They like a recognizable topic and show format for the videos.
That doesn't mean that producers can't mix it up, but consistency definitely counts. The top partners, like Sxephil, also highlight when they publish new episodes in the header banner of their channel so fans know when to return for fresh content.
Rule 7: Think about the next action and viewer engagement
YouTube is an interactive medium. What do you want someone to do after watching your video? As Calvin said in the 3,160th and final strip that ran on Sunday, December 31, 1995, "It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy... Let's go exploring!"
You can ask viewers to rate, comment, or share your video. You can ask them for their opinions. You can even ask them to click on a link and purchase your product. Top partners often respond to previous comments in new videos. This also provides a great opportunity to get to know your fans and build deeper relationships.
Rule 8: Cross-platform promotion and the first 24 hours are huge
As soon as partners upload a new video, their YouTube subscribers are automatically notified when they return to the site and log in. Partners should also notify their fans via Twitter, Facebook, and other sharing options. They can also email influential blog editors and traditional media outlets that are relevant to the topic or that have featured them in the past.
Leverage every distribution channel you can to promote your new video. There are a lot of ways people discover videos, so leveraging as many outlets as possible increases the chances of discovery. Advertisers shouldn't forget about using paid media to launch new videos either. Both Promoted Videos and traditional display advertising can provide lots of additional views.
Rule 9: Don't watch comments too closely, but obsess over Insights
Comments can provide valuable feedback and additional information about your videos and your audience. Viewers will tell you what they like and don't like about your videos. But you need to have a bit of a thick skin since there will always be haters and trolls; don't take them too seriously. Good content will always get plenty of positive comments as well.
Focus on watching YouTube Insights to determine where and how people are finding your videos and if any external sources are directing a lot of traffic. If you do discover that a particular blog is sending you a lot of referrals, reach out and say thanks. Then add that blog to your notification list for the next time you publish a video. Hot spots will also tell you when people start to lose interest in your video.
As of early 2011, these are the nine new rules of YouTube marketing. But as I mentioned earlier, these rules can "be changed, amended, or deleted by any player(s) involved." What should you do then? As Watterson once replied when asked how to play Calvinball, "It's pretty simple: You make up the rules as you go."
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