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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is YouTube a Social Network?

I had an opportunity to visit YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, California last month to participate in a user study. While spending time there, I learned about a few new developments which will be rolled out in next few months that will make YouTube more of  Social network, and put more tools at the disposal of anyone who is involved in social commerce.


First, YouTube has now added to its site a video editor, which allows users to upload their videos first, then edit later. So what’s so great about this feature? Well, it allows even the non-techies among us to produce better-quality videos to share with the rest of the world!


And this brings us to the next new YouTube feature I found: now that the users have a video worth sharing, YouTube has also made the videos easier – and legal! – to share, by allowing their users to easily put a Creative Commons (CC) license on their uploaded videos.


What exactly does this mean?


If you put your videos under CC license, then other users can, in good conscience, embed these videos in their own websites without fear of being sued for copyright infringement. Even better, the CC license could also make it legal for other people to improve your video or combine it with their own, to add music, subtitles – anything that the portal-provided video editor will allow them to do!


In effect, you are allowing other users to gain ownership of the video you uploaded. Is that a good thing? Definitely, yes, especially if you look at it in terms of social commerce, because we are always looking for ways to spread our messages – virally, if possible.


Now imagine uploading a video with your message in it, and then allowing other people to gain some ownership over that video. Wouldn’t these people then be more willing and eager to promote that video to their own networks?


And speaking of networks, let’s note the unique social networking possibilities here. YouTube can now be a vehicle for users to engage other users in collaborating over a video and then distributing the finished product to the rest of the world!


The even-better news is that YouTube is blatantly maximizing its social networking potential, by incorporating so many social networking tools into its platform: The subscription feature of the website allows users to subscribe to the video channels of other users. You can “friend” other users and allow them to send you messages. YouTube has even departed from its previous five-star scoring system and moved to the more socially engaging “Like” and “Share” system, mimicking Facebook, arguably the king of all social networking sites today.


In fact, YouTube has just completed its largest site redesign project in the company’s entire history. Today, YouTube’s homepage features a newsfeed wall that quickly allows visitors to view what’s popular, what’s trending, and what’s new in music, entertainment, sports, films, politics, science, style, travel, gaming, etc. There is a very prominent link inviting you to sign in, to subscribe to channels (no, it’s not just videos anymore, but channels). And with one click on a large button, you can now easily connect to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Orkut.


All these new features, which encourage collaboration, sharing, and network enlargement, are excellently designed to engage the computer users of today. The end result is that you, the social entrepreneur, will have a very efficient and effective way to send your message to your target market.


In fact, if you’re too lazy to upload a video, you can still benefit from all the activity and audience targeting that these developments create, simply by posting your product’s advertisement on the site. The way YouTube is now, it is practically guaranteed that your static ad will reach your target market, and it will reach a lot of them.


I, of course, would suggest that you go for the more engaging and effective advertising method: upload a video with your message on YouTube, make it free to modify and share, build and activate your network, and reap the benefits of this excellent new social marketing tool.


Yash Talreja, Vice President, Engineering, The Technology Gurus.

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