Late last week, CMO.com received feedback from a few LinkedIn followers regarding the exclusion of YouTube in our “2015 Guide To The Social Media Landscape.” The team got to talking, and even arguing a bit, about whether the Google property should be considered a social platform or a media play.
“I don’t think YouTube is a traditional social platform,” said one CMO.com staff member. “If we consider the sharing capability, there are so many other platforms and sites that offer the same, like Flipboard.” Others focused on the fact that video is the main content type on YouTube. Another staffer countered: “Just because video is the content type doesn’t make it any less social.”
To help settle our debate, we reached out to experts in the industry and asked what they thought.
David Berkowitz, CMO, MRY:
YouTube does allow anyone to upload content, but it’s overwhelmingly a passive experience. A few upload, and the vast majority watch. It’s an alternative to broadcast media, albeit a place where anyone does have the tools to broadcast. When our brands are interested in using YouTube, it’s overwhelmingly to drive views and then often some subsequent action like a Web site visit, rather than seeking comments or ratings. Remember YouTube’s first breakout hit? It was a Saturday Night Live sketch (“Dick in a Box”). It has been a broadcast platform ever since.
John Tuchtenhagen, SVP, Media, DigitasLBi San Francisco:
YouTube is, of course, both a social and a media platform, but how much of each has changed. It started as a social platform with some media functionality but over time has evolved into the dominant media player in the video space that still retains a bit of social functionality. The best proof point is the famous Beyonce video. Social sharing was massive on Facebook, with fans watching her live performance at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards--2.4 million times in the first four hours compared to a few thousand on YouTube.
YouTube is a destination for content, a place where people actively turn for videos of their favorite influencers. YouTube is able to sell preroll ads attached to that content at television-level CPMs to big brands. This is what media companies do. But the best proof may be the simplest one: People share YouTube content on Facebook. They do not share Facebook content on YouTube.
Matt Rozen, Group Manager, Corporate Social Media, Adobe:
YouTube is a social media platform. Its core functionality beyond presenting videos to watch is to allow for social interactions. It’s the quintessential social video platform because it reaches so many people. Compare it to plain old video players like QuickTime, and then it’s easy to see how it’s social at its core. Social is its differentiator.
Matt Rosenberg, SVP of Marketing, 140 Proof:
YouTube is social-ish. It’s content built for sharing but mainly shared on other networks that foster relationships through their platforms. YouTube’s platform is open and wonderful, but the relationship is more creator-to-viewer than person-to-person. Its other platforms then enable those videos to spread socially. YouTube has clearly enriched the others (and blogs) by being such an open platform.
Michael Collins, SVP of marketing, JW Player:
I would argue that YouTube is primarily a social media platform being used by brands to generate an audience. However, YouTube is just the start. The real trick is getting people from YouTube to a company’s owned and operated domain because the real brand conversation is happening on their owned Web site. Companies experience a similar problem with their presence on other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook: How do we move the audience from those sites to the company’s domain?
However, unlike other social media platforms, there are some economic considerations for companies. YouTube is hard to monetize on--they take half of any revenue--helping to further support the need to direct users to a company's personal site.
Brad Mattick, VP of Marketing and Products, BrightEdge:
YouTube is a powerful combination of a social content platform and a search engine. Video proves to be the richest form of content in terms of driving engagement across channels--that’s why YouTube has remained the most popular go-to destination for sharing videos online, and the second largest search engine in the world (after Google). However, beyond providing a relatively low-cost way to share video content, YouTube has also created a large, engaged, and interconnected community. It has created an avenue for brands to engage with viewers in a way that’s entertaining and less commercial.
For example, take famous YouTube makeup artist and entrepreneur Michelle Phan--she has more than 7 million subscribers who are not only devoted to her content, but also engaged with one another through YouTube’s rating, sharing, and commenting capabilities. This network is so engaged that it bleeds into other channels. Popular YouTubers have created top-ranked podcasts, written best-selling books, and thousands show up for in-person meetups and conferences every year. These are all opportunities for producing content and engaging with consumers. As brands seek more ways to drive the performance of their content, leveraging video networks like YouTube, Vimeo, and other emerging forums will become an increasingly important tool for driving measurable business results.
We also reached out to our Twitter followers, who shared their opinions:
Is YouTube a social media platform, or a media play? Please share your thoughts in the comments.— CMO.com (@CMO_com) March 16, 2015
Manpreet Jassal, Marketing Manager and Personalization Consultant, Gartner:
@CMO_com Media play with a huge social element to it since its UGC.— Manpreet Jassal (@mjassal) March 16, 2015
Peter Henebäck, Executive Director, Mediasmiths AB:
@CMO_com It's a media play. Most comments and shares of YouTube videos happen on Facebook, Twitter, etc.— Peter Henebäck (@peterheneback) March 16, 2015
Martin Tait, Marketing Executive, TenTel Ltd.:
Sonia Dorias, Head of Marketing, Beyond Technologies:
@CMO_com Social for community, convos, sharing. Media play for adverts, reach, audience, content.— Sonia Dorais (@SoniaDorais) March 16, 2015