Ever since the first video was uploaded on April 23, 2005, YouTube.com has grown into the world's largest online video portal boasting hundred of millions of users. Founded in 2005 by three ex-PayPal employees, the startup's potential was recognized and the firm was consequently bought by Google Inc. for a whopping USD 1.65 billion the following year. Over 35 hours worth of video content are uploaded onto the site every single minute. That may seem like a lot (it is), but before potential broadcasters get intimidated by being little fish in such a big pond, consider the following statistics, compiled as of May 9, 2011 of the 10 all-time most subscribed YouTube channels:
• 20,725,743 subscribers
• 16,946 videos
• 7,894,746,258 views
Subscriber numbers prove the audience out there is willing to go along for the ride if they like what you have to say. The 465,877 average views per video for the top 10 subscribed channels pales in comparison with the most viewed individual videos. The current most viewed clip is a music video, clocking in over 537 million hits and counting. The most viewed amateur video - a short home video of two toddlers - has over 318 million views to date. Figures of 2 billion views on YouTube per day show people are receptive and hungry for new content. Maximising presence and especially monetising that reach is still touch and go, with many rushing - some succeeding - to capitalise on the 'Broadcast Yourself' frontier.
Alternative rock band Weezer provides a good example of leveraging the platform's popularity to reach potential consumers. The Grammy Award-winning music video for 'Pork and Beans' features a handful of recognisable YouTube celebrities and premiered on the website, reaching more than 4 million viewers in its first week of release alone. Unlike mass media, when an advertiser dangles bait for fish to admire, Weezer's 2008 single enticed millions of fish enough to react and take a bite. That's not to say traditional forms of media should be ignored - with media nowadays increasingly fragmented, consumers receive their information from an array of channels. It's a numbers game of which YouTube is merely a tool, providing a sharing platform with an ability to offer a tangible gauge of the consumer base. Again in 2010, Weezer launched 'The YouTube Invasion' to promote their new album, loaning themselves to 15 popular online videographers, and giving them free reign to incorporate the band however they saw fit into clips. The videos were then uploaded on the producers' respective channels with iTune download links, again exhibiting the potential of exploiting designated YouTube ambassadors.
On the other side of the coin, video content creators are monetising their subscriber base, much like a magazine's distribution numbers on advertising rate cards. Whether or not Weezer paid for their promotion is anyone's guess, but Philip De Franco, one of YouTube's insta-celebrities, has been quoted as saying: "… people have been able to make 100k [USD 100,000] a month a regular thing" from advertisements, sponsorships, and merchandising. De Franco doesn't say how much he himself makes, but reveals that he runs a company of five staff dedicated solely to YouTube content creation. Content creators can also get money from YouTube LLC's coffers by being a YouTube Partner, hundreds of which are already making 6 figures a year according to the site. From runaway individual video hits to media big hitters like Sony Pictures, content creators are invited by YouTube to this revenue sharing program by showing advertisements on the videos or making the content available for rent.
Granted, we're not all rock stars or branded commodity with leveraging power, but the number of talents discovered by YouTube proves that the site can catapult a nobody to a somebody. This is good news for small businesses or individuals who want to show off their products or talents. Quality will always be in demand, and the same goes for videos - invest in good content. Now comes the million dollar question of how to make your video seen. The route with the most instant results is by buying into YouTube's advertising program. Promoted Videos, like Google AdWords, are pay-per-click marketing campaigns that brings up your video alongside the search results depending on pre-determined search keywords. There are companies out there selling YouTube views and even subscribers by falsely inflating view counts using fake proxy generated traffic and other devious means, but as history has shown us, shortcuts will just get you nowhere fast (not to mention that you'll have the Google Inc. police on your case). Some seemingly innocuous videos have for no apparent reason gone viral due to some elusive X factor, but we'll leave that analysis to the social psychologists.
Once you have a good quality product or service in hand, the next best investment you can make to achieve long term YouTube visibility is by Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - a tactic already proven successful on search engines and just as effective on YouTube. Thailand-based Phuket Villas and Homes (www.phuketvillasandhomes.com), for example, is an SME engaging the high end villa rental business that has invested in this approach to achieve stellar results on the world's biggest video portal. Holidaymakers worldwide who are considering a villa vacation in Phuket might type "Phuket villa" in the search box. The generic search terms, thanks to SEO work done, result in a PVH-managed property showing as the number one result spot, concrete proof that investing in search engine optimisation pays off, and gives you a leg up above the sea of competitors.
Whether you're looking to buy, sell, or just share, there's no denying the significance of YouTube. And for those still skeptical about the site's far reaching powers, two words: Justin Beiber. Love him or hate him, but if you know who he is, I rest my case.
By Tina Hsiao