You've got 10 seconds to name as many social platforms as you can. Go!
Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Tumblr...
Wait, you've forgotten something. YouTube.
"But YouTube isn't social media," you say. No? This definition says otherwise:
Social media (noun): Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.
YouTube enables users to create and share content. And YouTube enables users to participate in social networking. YouTube is social media. Period. Not only is YouTube social media; it's the most-used social media in the world. (YouTube is the world's most visited website, after Google.)
This has serious ramifications for brands that never incorporated YouTube into their marketing strategy. The truth is, YouTube is one of the most powerful weapons in any marketer's arsenal. Still, only 9 percent of small businesses use it for marketing.
The Evolution of YouTube as a Social Media Platform
Most people still refer to YouTube as a video streaming platform, and it certainly started out that way. But YouTube is much more than music videos and old TV clips. In recent years, it's transformed into a fully-fledged social network that's just as important (and popular) as Facebook or Twitter. The only difference? Followers are called "subscribers," and influencers are "content creators."
Some users have millions of loyal followers. People have conversations in video comments sections. Status updates, Stories, friend requests, tags — these features prove YouTube is just as much a social hub as Instagram.
YouTube, at its core, has always been very social. Recently, however, it's become a meeting place for people with niche interests, who congregate in comments sections and exchange friend requests. TikTok and Vine, which combined large chunks of YouTube with other social elements, might skew younger, but YouTube is the social platform favored by almost every age group, making it attractive to marketers.
YouTube has a symbiotic relationship with Reddit, where niche communities also spring up, sometimes unexpectedly. On YouTube, though, communities sprawl around content creators, not topics. Here, the "YouTubers" are very much the "thought leaders and "influencers" one finds on Twitter and Instagram, respectively.
What Does This All Mean for Marketing?
YouTube is very rarely considered a social network by marketing directors, so its enormous reach and high levels of engagement often go untapped. This is a shame because the potential of YouTube for marketers is simply staggering:
Marketers need to overcome the misconception that YouTube is a video streaming platform. This just isn't true anymore. YouTube has the power to move prospects through marketing funnels as quickly as any other type of social media.
It also provides a greater return on investment. Research shows that YouTube delivers a higher ROI than television 80 percent of the time, while 87 percent of marketers say YouTube generates more effective results than Facebook.
YouTube vs. Other Social Media
While YouTube is certainly effective, it has some drawbacks. For marketers who want to get a message out quickly, YouTube isn't as fast-moving as Twitter or Facebook. Content creators can upload Community Posts — essentially status updates, with a link to a video — but YouTube doesn't prioritize these in the same way on users' feeds.
However, YouTube trumps over social networks when it comes to sheer reach. Unlike Facebook, where news feeds are categorized based on the users' networks — posts from friends and families take precedence over brands — YouTube content creators can reach almost any audience pretty quickly. Trending videos aren't curated to users based on their preferences; these videos are available to everyone on the platform at the same time, so it's much easier to generate millions of hits in a relatively short period.
YouTube, arguably, has the best analytics platform than any other social network. Creators can see who's watching their content from where and when in real-time with YouTube Analytics. Plus, marketers can use YouTube not just for exposure but as a secondary revenue stream. Video monetization allows creators to make money from content — and, depending on video views, dollar pay-outs can spiral into the millions.
YouTube can also reach audiences who don't use other social media platforms, including older consumers. Research suggests YouTube reaches 67 percent of 36-45-year-olds, 66 percent of 46-55s, and 58 percent of people 56 and older.
Incorporate YouTube Marketing
For novices that have never used YouTube for marketing before, the premise is pretty much the same as other social networks: The best content will generate the most interest. Sure, already-established content creators with millions of followers have more reach, but a rookie can explode on this platform with the right content. Here are some tips:
It's time to change your mindset and stop thinking of YouTube as an entertainment platform. It's much more than that — and it could revolutionize your entire marketing strategy. In an ever-shifting landscape, marketing directors should use YouTube alongside other social media for an omnichannel approach to marketing that increases brand awareness, boost sales, and engages with prospects.