When you hear the words ‘Social Media’ it is inevitable that you are mentally accosted by the grinning mug of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook logo or the latest social misgivings displayed by your favourite A list celebrity on Twitter. However it is unlikely that you consider YouTube a cornerstone to all that is social media as well.
Social Media is usually a term associated with sites that allow synchronous communication, as well as sites that allow you to disseminate huge quantities of personal information to a wide audience. However video sharing sites all feature purely user generated content, and the recent upsurge in YouTube personalities has led to YouTube becoming a platform almost as important as Facebook and Twitter to PR practitioners and advertisers.
In 2013 it started to become commonplace to see advertisements for vets attached to thirty second clips of cats playing piano, and the occasional political plea for votes from Julia Gillard when looking up videos on conspiracy theories. This came after the simultaneous realisation from YouTube that people would be willing to pay to advertise on pointless videos, and from companies and organisations that people would watch their advertisement whilst waiting to watch a pointless video. The collaboration of both led to the YouTube we know today.
YouTube also allows companies that are not allowed to legally advertise to make their content public in spite of government restrictions, for example the link below is to campaign called Hands Off Our Packs from the group ‘Forest’ (a pro-smoking lobby) against plain packaging in the UK.
As it is illegal in many countries for Tobacco companies to advertise, YouTube provides an ideal platform for companies to communicate with their consumers without government intervention.
The ability for users to upload and watch videos they consider entertaining has also changed the manner in which companies go about their campaigns. It is increasingly important for a campaign (either advertising or PR) to be memorable and entertaining so that the video is searched and re watched numerous times. This increases exposure to key publics, as people who see the original video (and are entertained) are more likely to show their friends. This also allows brand exposure to increase, as certain tags attached to videos lead viewers to content without them necessarily searching for it directly. The user avatar next to the video allows brand exposure even if users don’t actively choose to watch the video.
As seen above, a search for mental health has us immediately presented with the brand for the WHO.
YouTube is also used frequently by Not For Profit groups who may not necessarily be able to afford large scale television or radio advertisement. Even large organisations such as Amnesty International, who generate more than enough funds to run a full scale campaign will often have appeals through YouTube.
Energy Giant AGL has also taken to the video networking site in order to gain customers in the younger generation, by advertising their product AGL IQ through an exploratory video which is also linked to their website.
With all of this taken into account it is obvious that social media is not solely limited to the proverbial ‘Twitterbook’ and that PR Practitioners must make as much use of video networking sites as they do of personal networking sites.