SEMA News - December 2009

Joe Dysart

Top 10 Free Business Uses

Already a juggernaut for business marketing, YouTube is becoming the Swiss Army knife of business communications.
While YouTube has emerged as a marketing juggernaut for businesses, many firms are also discovering that the free video-sharing service has scores of other uses—all of which are also free for the taking. Company recruiting, client communications, product/service how-to’s and dissemination of company news are all increasing in popularity on YouTube as firms transform the medium into a Swiss Army knife of business communications.

“If you’ve never visited the YouTube website, you’ve missed out on the hottest thing on the Internet today,” said Michael Miller, author of YouTube for Business: Online Video Marketing for Any Business, an excellent guide.

One of the major reasons businesses are flocking to YouTube is its unbridled popularity. Just a blip on the web’s radar a few years ago, the video-sharing service has rocketed to one of the most visited sites on the Internet. During August 2009 alone, more than 120 million viewers watched nearly 10 billion videos on YouTube, according to market watcher Comscore.

Organizations also find YouTube’s ease of entry and low cost hard to resist. Virtually anyone with basic PC skills can upload a video to YouTube—for free—in a matter of minutes. And since YouTube’s videos are generally viewed in a relatively small viewing screen, there’s no reason for businesses to endure painful budgets for video production costs. In fact, the subtleties of high-end video production are generally lost on YouTube, according to Miller.

Plus, business users are saving significant coin by shifting hosting responsibilities for their videos onto YouTube. The reason? Ordinarily, a firm needs to pay bandwidth transmission charges anytime a visitor views a video hosted on its company website. But when that same video is uploaded to YouTube’s servers, businesses never pay a bandwidth transmission cost—no matter how many times that video is viewed.

All told, it’s a frothy mix of remarkable popularity, ease of entry and virtually non-existent costs that have the wheels spinning at countless organizations as they continually innovate on YouTube. So far, here are the top 10 uses they’ve forged:

Marketing: This is without doubt the most popular business use of YouTube, and it can be wildly successful. Firms with shoestring promotional budgets have become overnight stars on the service, often with zany and off-the-wall marketing pitches. One of the classics is “Will It Blend,” a campy series from blender manufacturer Blendtec, which proves the mettle of its product by “blending” some rather unorthodox items in its blender. Among the hapless victims of the series are:

Other successful irreverent takes on YouTube marketing include offerings from:

Recruiting: Given that many firms already have videos touting their businesses as inviting places to work, posting those same productions on YouTube is a no-brainer. Top firms already cashing in on the free exposure include Intel, Siemens and Google.

“Don’t limit yourself to a single, long puff video,” Miller said. “Produce separate videos for individual departments as well as to illustrate company values, employee benefits, facilities and the like.”

Product/Service How-To’s: These videos can, of course, serve a dual purpose for a business, offering detailed instructions for novice clients and customers while serving as a promotional spot for looky-lous.

Given that many firms already have videos touting their businesses as inviting places to work, posting those same productions on YouTube is a no-brainer.
I personally mustered the courage to swap in a new, faster CPU on my PC—something I perceived as akin to open-heart surgery—after viewing a slickly produced how-to video by AMD. Without the video, I would never have attempted the swap nor purchased the CPU.

Company Video FAQs: Any firm can leap over the image of faceless, monolithic corporate players with on-the-fly videos, which feature charming customer-service people answering frequently asked questions. Sure, many businesses already have written FAQs on their websites. But there is something to be said for going the extra mile and offering the personal touch inherent in the video medium. For a model video FAQ, check out AT&T’s offering on iPhones.

News Video Clips: The beauty of posting your company news to YouTube is that your information is not sliced, diced or in any other way whittled down to a mere shadow of its former glory. Jeff Bezos of, for example, recently posted an eight-minute video on YouTube detailing his company’s acquisition of Zappos.

Focus Groups: Many sophisticated users of YouTube are also using the service as a free testing ground for commercials that they plan to run on cable and broadcast TV and elsewhere on the web. Specifically, they use YouTube’s free analytical tool, Insight, to test the viewing popularity of commercials. Insight’s metrics include the overall popularity of the video, who’s viewing the video, where those viewers are coming from on the web and what keywords they used to find the video.

Client Communications: When an e-mail or friendly phone call simply doesn’t cut it, many firms are posting videos to YouTube to connect with clients concerning project updates, personalized descriptions of new products or services and the like. The medium conveys the message that the company places a special value on its client or customer and is willing to go the extra distance to prove it. Plus, such communications can be easily made private on YouTube by selecting the “private” option under its “Broadcast Options” variable. This ensures that only the viewers you select get to see the video you’ve uploaded.

Employee-to-Employee Communications: As far as Google, the parent company of YouTube, is concerned, “videomail” could be poised to become the e-mail of the next decade. In fact, Google has added “Google Video” to its Google Apps suite for businesses. Makes sense. Why not zip off a response to a thorny problem or challenge via video mail if it’s easier to do so than in another medium? At the very least, videomail is a trend worth experimenting with and monitoring.

Employee Training: Any company with multiple locations across the United States or across the world can immediately see the benefit of posting training videos on YouTube and having the appropriate employees dial in. And by using YouTube’s “private broadcast” option, those companies can ensure that the training videos stay internal. “Many companies find that YouTube is a fast and effective way to disseminate all kinds of employee information,” Miller said. “Done right, it gets information out there in near real time with all the benefits of face-to-face communication.”

Savings on Business Travel: All the videos sent to employees and clients are also enabling businesses users to rack up substantial savings on business travel. Granted, there are plenty of instances where true face-to-face interaction is irreplaceable.

But in many other situations, a video overture is a bull’s-eye compromise between basic e-mail and an all-expenses-paid business trip for one or more employees to multiple cities.

Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan, New York.
Voice: 646/233-4089




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