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Is YouTube overlooked?

YouTube is far more than a place to derive some comic relief from neon cats dancing on pianos. It has become a key marketing tool for businesses that can get it right.

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Reshall Jimmy, NATIVE VML, says video ads allow you to pay only when viewers choose to watch them, rather than when an impression is served.
Reshall Jimmy, NATIVE VML, says video ads allow you to pay only when viewers choose to watch them, rather than when an impression is served.

Over 4.5 million South Africans visit YouTube every month, making it one of the most frequently visited Web sites among local Internet users. At a time when attention spans are short and Web surfers flit ruthlessly between platforms, YouTube's ability to attract and retain eyeballs represents a major opportunity for brands and businesses to gain much-needed exposure. Yet for many businesses, and particularly small to medium-sized companies, YouTube remains a relatively overlooked marketing tool.

"Regardless of the focus, YouTube is one of the most important social media platforms available and it's shaping online behaviour and Internet culture in a way never before possible," says Matt Brown, senior strategist at digital media agency Glooburg (Gloo, Johannesburg). "In the context of SMEs, perhaps the biggest driver for the use of YouTube as a marketing channel is the fact that it gives small business owners the means to compete with the big brands on an equal playing field. This is possible because the barriers to entry are few (if any at all)."

Targeted reach

Reshall Jimmy, a search and performance specialist at digital agency NATIVE VML, agrees that YouTube has vast potential, citing a 36% online reach. He says there are several ways in which businesses of any size can leverage the platform without racking up a huge marketing bill.

"Video ads, for example, allow you to pay only when viewers choose to watch your ad, rather than when an impression is served," says Jimmy. "Available across all devices, the ads let people watch the ones they find interesting, and skip ads they find less interesting. By taking advantage of the low cost, relative to other media, a small business can use links on the video, with a specific call to action, to get visitors to their Web site."

He adds that once on the Web site, the usual path to conversion can be followed. In addition, banner and text ad advertising is also a viable option on YouTube, and can achieve similar results strategically executed.

Quality content

Gloo's Brown emphasises that successful marketing on YouTube, and on any other social media channel, for that matter, is largely dependent on the quality of the content.

"When it comes to content marketing, you can literally fill an entire ocean, so one of the things you have to decide as a small business is how much you can bite off - because once you bite it off and start a content marketing strategy, you have to be able to sustain it. This can often be challenging for an SME with constrained budgets and limited resources," says Brown.

Justin Spratt, MD of digital agency Quirk, warns while costs for video production and content are coming down, poor video content is all too common.

"There still has to be some investment in taking raw footage and making it compelling," says Spratt, noting that videos need to be shareworthy and authentic.

YouTube is one of the most important social media platforms available and it is shaping online behaviour and internet culture in a way never before possible.

Matt Brown, Gloo

For brands and businesses looking to up the ante, YouTube is certainly shaping up to be one of the most powerful marketing platforms on offer.

"Posts with videos attract three times more inbound links than plain text posts, and viewers spend 100% more time on pages with videos on them," adds Brown. "As more South African consumers become connected through smart and tablet devices and as the price of data gradually decreases, the demand for video content will increase organically, compounding current video consumption, which stands at an average of four hours of video per month on mobile alone."

First published in the November 2014 issue of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine.

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