Innovation doesn’t wait for anybody. It’s a constant, vital force, thriving on new ideas, new interpretations of old ideas, and a deep desire to understand the next important step. This generation has been defined by its technological advances, and the creation of a global society on the Web. This society is as complex and dynamic as any physical city or province, and has become the important battleground of ideas for the foreseeable future.
YouTube has played a vital part in this process virtually since its inception. In less than a decade it has grown into a tool for political discourse, a venue for amateur filmmakers and artists to showcase their talents, and a means by which the common citizen opposes tyranny by posting film of those abusing their station and authority. Without a doubt, it is one of the major forces in modern innovation.
Part of innovation is of course the combination of ideas. The telephone wasn’t strictly a new concept; electrical transmission of messages existed in the telegraph, and the transmission of recorded sound existed in the phonograph. Combining these two technologies is what led to the telephone. This is also the path much of the Web seems bent on taking, combining and integrating services, and YouTube seems to be no exception.
YouTube’s designers have, for example, pledged to implement more Social Networking functionality in future versions of the site. They also set up a new interface that focuses on Playlist content rather than individual videos. What other ideas may be unveiled is a mystery, but while the Web is waiting for more concrete information there are a few steps that can be taken to integrate YouTube into an existing social media program.
Step 1 – Familiarize
Whoever said ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ only had part of the story. Yes, being exposed to something consistently can cause someone to gloss over or underestimate its value. On the other hand, being intensely and exceptionally familiar with a process or a tool can open up many varied ways to understanding it.
Consider the humble knife. On the surface it’s made to cut, either as a tool or as a weapon. However, if the blade is heated up it can sterilize a wound. Knives with a strong enough blade and enough surface can be used as screwdrivers, or to pry open containers. Or think of a car engine. The average user can probably learn enough on their own to keep it running in reasonable condition, but someone familiar with the specific model type in front of them can get exceptional performance out of the machine.
To this end, become familiar with YouTube’s new layout. Learn how to put together a playlist, and look at how the rating and comments systems display themselves. Examine the interface aesthetically; does your channel warrant a flashy, playful background, or does it need something more conservative? Spending time with the site on a regular basis will begin to fill in your understanding, and allow you to innovate when it’s really needed.
Step 2 – Observe
There is a saying that, “All good ideas having already been discovered, what remains for the innovator is to borrow judiciously.” No one has all the best people, and no one has the strongest notions under monopoly. Select YouTube channels that are performing well, and try to discern why. Consider the quality of comments available, and the presentation of videos.
Note, however, that this admonition is to observe, not to imitate. Yes, feel free to borrow a good idea or a presentational technique that will work with your group. However, your group is not the same as any other. Don’t try to slavishly duplicate another organization’s technique or content. You will be called on it, and despite its penchant for hyperactivity, the Web tends to have an incredibly long memory for failure.
Step 3 – Discourse
As mentioned, YouTube’s designers intend to implement greater social networking functionality. What’s interesting is that there is already a limited sort of social networking already present on the site, in several forms.
The first is in the comments section for each video, and for channels. People can leave the feedback they feel is relevant, and they do so in staggering numbers. It’s not uncommon for even unremarkable videos to garner thousands of views and comments, some of them profitable and others drivel. The trick is to use the social media techniques that work elsewhere to cultivate the image you wish. Converse with them, share ideas and give hints about upcoming projects, and do what is needed to gather their interest in your channel.
Second is the ‘reply to’ style of video. In short, one party will make a video, and another party who sees it will create a second video and flag it as a response. This can be done for any number of reasons, ranging from tribute and commentary to rebuttal and confrontation.
This is an excellent social marketing tool, as it creates a ‘link back’ friendliness. Respond to a video you found interesting, and you will send at least some of your audience to that video, increasing their numbers. They may return the favor, or the site may simply link your video in the search function as a related topic. Either way, your traffic increases, and your message gets out.