Since its inception as a cross between a dating site and an online version of ‘You’ve Been Framed’, YouTube has evolved into one of the biggest social platforms and a massively important marketing tool.

YouTube has been owned by Google since 2006 and it is now fully integrated with its Chrome web browser and the Google+ social networking site. This means that videos can be searched from and viewed directly from Google+ pages.

Its value as a marketing tool is largely due to its popularity (3 billion hours are spent on YouTube every month) and the way in which links to videos can easily be embedded in websites or e-mails and shared via social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

A YouTube page is known as a ‘channel’. Each account is allotted one channel automatically and it can be customised to match corporate colours, brands or themes. The layout can also be customised and changed easily, whenever required, with just a few simple clicks. When sufficient content has been uploaded, it can be split into various ‘playlists’ if desired.

There is no limit to the number of channels a user can create. One particular function that can prove very useful to businesses is the optional ‘featured’ section, which can be set differently for every channel. This can be set by default to start playing automatically when a visitor lands on that channel.

Videos do not necessarily have to be professionally made; they can even be created from still photographs or presentation slides, edited using a simple software programme like Windows Movie Maker and uploaded with voiceover or background music.

YouTube is a great way for an e-commerce outlet to promote its products but in more creative ways than just plain advertising. Videos are an ideal way to engage clients and to give them something useful to watch, creating a whole library of ‘How To’ tutorials, for example.

Another way to get some content is to ask social networking followers if they have any odd, unusual or funny videos of products being used, or misused! When they have been uploaded, ask for people to view them and vote for their favourite, perhaps with a small incentive for the winner.

YouTube is a very good starting point to create further interaction with potential clients. One way to do this is by suggesting that if they liked what they saw, they may wish to see more videos or read some articles in a blog and so on.

Another way to interact is by making use of the comments facility. This can be set in various ways:

    Everyone can automatically comment
    Friends can comment, others need approval
    Only friends can comment
    Everyone needs approval

The setting chosen will be dependent on how much time can be spent on approving and responding to comments left. As with most other social networking or blogging sites, it is polite to post some sort of reply, even if it is a generic daily one rather than an individual one.

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