Happy Birthday YouTube.

The LA times just posted a recent article that highlights YouTube’s meteoric rise over the last five years.  Google’s $ 1.6 billion purchase of the site in 2006 is still being debated but few people are betting against Google eventually turning YouTube into yet another money making machine.

All hype and controversy aside, YouTube’s numbers are impressive:

85% online video market share in the US
#4 site globally in terms of overall traffic
#2 site globally for search
20 hours of video uploaded every minute
5 Billion video streams a month
#2 time suck behind network television

The folks at ReelSEO posted a great article in the fall that compared the options of ‘Hosting’ your video versus ‘Posting’ (placing it on a free hosting site like YouTube) and considered nineteen variables that should influence your decision. Their conclusion: “Unless your business is dependent on monetization of content (you are Hulu), chances are that the odds will be in favour of posting video.

The biggest complaint about YouTube is that it is a big messy sandbox where you can’t control how your video is being presented. That’s true, but it’s important to remember that YouTube is more than just a place to post your video for free – it’s also a marketing platform. Here are five reasons why you should place your marketing video on YouTube (regardless of whether you also host them on your own site):

1. Sharing
Yes, you do lose some control over how your video is presented on YouTube, that’s the down-side of social media – the single biggest issue for companies deciding if and how to engage the great social media experiment. The upside however is huge. YouTube was built for the express purpose of sharing. The reality is that your website isn’t as important as it used to be – it’s no longer the exclusive or final ‘destination’ for all things about your products and your brand. More than ever people are discovering content wherever they happen to be (physically or virtually). You need to create content that is intended to be shared and consumed in many different ways and YouTube is the world’s biggest content bizarre – open 24/7.

2. SEO
Google is prioritizing video in it’s universal search algorithm. Every SEO article I read tells me that Google is explicitly looking for video content. Does Google have a bias toward video on it’s own website? It’s hard to say but you know that Google is certainly aware of it’s own video and is reading the meta data that you have tagged on your YouTube channel. Ideally, if you have a video sitemap on your website with proper mRSS feed Google should be able to find and promote your video as well. Why not do both? As well, you benefit from metatagging your video content on YouTube and linking back to your own website to help improve your site’s pagerank.

3. Content marketing and getting noticed
Content marketing will have the greatest potential to influence your brand in the future. Traditional marketers will argue that it’s a waste of time to place their videos on YouTube because no one is looking for them and no one is going to find them. That’s true. No one is looking for your traditional marketing video because it talks about you and your products and no one cares much about you or your products. If instead, you post a really informative video that solves a specific problem that your customers are facing your video will not only get found, it will get shared. ‘Yes, but we can’t just give stuff away,” you might respond. If you don’t someone else is going to.

4. Reach.
The long tail gets longer every day. YouTube has the greatest reach in the world (thanks to Google). Your audience may be huge or it may be very, very small. It doesn’t matter. There is no more cost effective way to reach your potential audience than on YouTube. Sure, the person typing in “Lolcats” into YouTube is not your customer, but the person typing in “North East Bolivian Pitted Kumquat Ripple Delight” just may be. Your customer may not frequent YouTube but I would bet that someone who knows and is trusted by your customer does.

5. It’s free.
Chris Anderson explains in his new book ‘Free – The Future of a Radical Price’ (a great read btw) that free is the inevitable price for many things online – you just have to figure out something else to charge for. Free doesn’t necessarily mean cheap either. YouTube continues to upgrade it’s service every month with things like better support for HD video, interactivity, metrics, mobile integration (i.e. the only easy way to get video on an iPhone at the moment) etc.

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