The YouTube Effect

Much has been made of the YouTube effect – suddenly what you say in private can be captured on film and broadcast to the world.  Information is made available to millions of people online in an instant – with both positive and negative implications.  It came up as part of the US Congressional campaign, has had an affect on foreign policy and has impacted TV networks.

A couple of weeks back I met with Darren Waters, ex BBC Technology Editor and now Managing Director of Monument PR, and we discussed the YouTube effect in terms of digital media.  Darren stated that sites such as YouTube and others that enable and facilitate user-generated content fundamentally changed the way the BBC had been packaging their material.  Content had become lazy and generic with producers repurposing other people’s news.  There was a lack of investment in original content due to the high costs involved.  The same content had been appropriated across different channels without an understanding of the specific features and functions of these channels, and the reasons behind why users were engaging with them.

The plane crash on the Hudson River was an example of the power of social media – and in particular where a photo posted on Twitter, despite being grainy and of poor quality,  rapidly went around the world.  The immediacy of this kind of coverage has forced new agencies to adapt and incorporate user-generated content in order to be more agile and provide relevant and meaningful material to their audiences.

However, it also brings me to the downside of the YouTube effect.  Ppeople start to think that being on YouTube means creating poor quality material and getting it online as quickly as possible.  What they forget is that quality succeeds – people WANT quality.  Whilst speed, relevance and timeliness are key, if poor production means that people lose the point of your message then it’s irrelevant if you got your video online lightning fast.  You only need to go onto YouTube to see the thousands of videos with a handful of views to realise that speed isn’t enough.

Everything starts with value in digital.  Quality, value, timeliness and relevance are key.  And the quality needs to be fit for purpose on the platform that the user is on.  Audience-led engagement will happen, if you give your audience a reason to engage.  Whilst people will put up with poorer quality if your message is relevant and timely, they will quickly lose interest if poor production efforts dilute your message.  And with the abundance of information out there, it’s key that content producers don’t lose sight of this.

Many brands have posted material on YouTube with cheap production quality.  Even if your message is entertaining and unique, without relevance and timeliness you may as well have saved yourself the effort. Google itself was falling victim to this phenomenon.  As it grew it was losing it’s consistency of message and quality.  This led to the creation of the company’s new in-house marketing unit, Google Creative Lab, with a remit to protect and build the brand across a variety of platforms and improve the quality of their comms.

Beware you don’t fall victim to the other side of the YouTube effect.  Remember quality, value, timeliness and relevance are crucial.

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