YouTube is for so much more than just music videos and annoying oranges; they can be valuable tools for businesses on a budget.
Next to Google, YouTube is the most searched website on the Internet. When people want to learn something new, watch movies, or just waste some time, they turn to the video-sharing site. As with any popular social media network, smart business owners are taking advantage of this tool to reach audiences that may otherwise be out of reach.
Unlike some other social media sites, YouTube is famous for producing viral material. When something goes viral, everyone knows about it. It is all over social media, TV, and even the news. Video catches an audience’s attention more easily than any other media. Often, this viral material is unexpected, and it can have some amazing effects.
Examples of Unexpected Viral Marketing
- Mythbusters Viral Hour- Giant Lego Ball
This episode of the popular Discovery Channel show, Mythbusters, tests whether the viral video of a giant Lego ball rolling around San Francisco could actually happen. Millions of bricks later, the myth was “busted,” but The LEGO Group gained great (and free!) publicity and a dramatic increase in sales.
- Diet Coke and Mentos Fountain
Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, the creators of this video (originally posted on EepyBird.com) were just having fun and had no intention of generating sales of Diet Coke or Mentos, but that is exactly what they did. The video went viral and everyone wanted to make their own fountains. Mythbusters even tested several myths related to the chemical reaction between the two products. Mentos seized the opportunity and pushed the phenomenon even further. They temporarily redesigned their homepage to reflect the new attention, added a scientific explanation of the reaction to the FAQs on their site, and held a contest for people to post videos of their own soda fountains. As a result, over 150 videos were submitted and there are over 5,300 video search results for “Mentos and Coke” (notice that the original video name was Coke and Mentos). Coca-Cola was a bit more reluctant to join the craze, and they missed out on an amazing opportunity. Read more at SiteLogicMarketing.com.
- “Friday” by Rebecca Black
Though the quality of the music is much debated, it is clear that Rebecca Black owes her career to her YouTube hit. Black was a virtual unknown before her “TGIF-Themed” song became the most watched video on YouTube in 2011. Since then, the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber recorded covers of her song, Katie Perry performed with Black, and she won Best Web Star at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards.
- “Somebody I Used to Know” cover by Walk Off the Earth on Ellen
Since their hit, Walk Off the Earth has been approached by several music labels and has created several more videos and singles. In an interview shortly after the media craze, the band discusses how social media, and particularly YouTube, allowed them to create a name for themselves and make a living playing music.
In the first two cases, companies gained some amazing, unexpected (and free!) advertising as their products became the center of a YouTube sensation, while unknown artists Rebecca Black and Walk Off the Earth became household names. YouTube’s amazing popularity and pass-along value have made it a critical resource for businesses to reach millions of people.
However, that huge audience can cause problems for unobservant businesses. Some of the most popular and viral videos are parodies and criticisms of companies and famous individuals, and often companies are unaware of the negative words associated with them. For example, search “Walmart” on YouTube and see what results you get. Most of them are very critical and damaging of Walmart’s image. Some of the first search results are clips from the documentary, “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices,” which highlights several problems with the company including dissatisfied workers and environmental pollution caused by Walmart’s negligence–not exactly what Walmart wants people to see.
Even with YouTube’s notoriety for creating over-night sensations, not every video can reach five million views. So, if viral marketing doesn’t always work, how can YouTube help a business or organization? The White House YouTube channel is a great example of how digital video can be used to build a positive image. The White House provides several playlists including stories from behind the scenes, weekly addresses from President Obama, a series of remembrances of 9/11, and specific issues such as the Affordable Care Act and Wall Street reform.
What makes the White House channel so much of a success compared to Walmart?
- Quantity Media presence is very similar to market share. Of all the information and media available (market) only a percentage of that is owned or produced by the company (share). Companies should strive to produce more positive material than there is negative material already floating around the Web. This is strictly a probability approach: of all the possible media you can find, companies want you to have a greater chance of finding something positive they produced. To test this, I conducted a very informal experiment to show how important this market share theory is. I typed “Walmart” and “White House” into the YouTube search box and of the 20 results, I calculated the percentage of how many videos or playlists were produced by the organization. The results were very interesting.
- Interesting Content Take a look at what videos Walmart and the White House post on their channel. The majority of Walmart’s videos are television ads and employees reading customer letters. This content is not particularly conducive to presenting the voice of the company or helping viewers gain an understanding of “who” Walmart is. Honestly, if people want to see a Walmart ad, they will turn on the TV; they won’t search for an ad on YouTube. YouTube serves as a tool to publish content the public will not see everyday; companies have the benefit of publicly publishing content that, for the viewer, feels exclusive. Even though the life of the President is extremely public with reports of his actions appearing on national news and in newspapers, the White House still manages to post content the news media doesn’t share. The channel has a video of the inauguration from behind the scenes, a special on the history behind using numerous pens to sign legislation, and even a clip of the President shooting a marshmallow cannon in one of the hallways during a science fair. All of these videos reveal the character of the White House which the public will not see anywhere else but the White House YouTube Channel.