The Unfulfilled Promise Of Online Video

Companies With YouTube Channels Increased 39% Last Year

Screenshot - Google+ Hangouts

According to a Burson-Marsteller study of Fortune Global 100 companies:

  • 4 billion videos are viewed a day, while 800 million unique users visit YouTube a month; that’s up from 2 billion views a day in 2010
  • 79% of companies have a YouTube account; that’s up from 50% in 2010
  • Companies are managing an increasing number of video accounts, averaging 8.1 YouTube accounts; that’s up from 1.6 in 2010
  • Each corporate YouTube channel averages 2 million views and 1,669 subscribers.
  • Companies average 173 mentions a month by consumers on video/photo sites

THOUGHT: The fact that more people are consuming more video online is no surprise. Nor is it a surprise that the business world has caught onto that fact and is adopting online video as a communications channel.

Still, despite statistics that show increasing adoption, I think the promise of the medium remains largely unfulfilled.

The average of 1,669 subscribers per corporate channel feels low to me; especially considering these numbers are for Fortune Global 100 companies that would have the resources to create a robust online video presence.

What this tells me is that the video content is simply not compelling enough to prompt people to subscribe. And by compelling, I don’t necessarily mean entertaining. A product demonstration video can be compelling if it satisfies the need of the customer.

I think what is likely happening is companies are posting their TV ads to their YouTube channels and failing to optimize them to get the most mileage out of the video they have uploaded. The problem with that approach is that most TV commercials, frankly, suck. But even if they’re good, many companies don’t capitalize on great video content by not making them findable enough through search optimization, multichannel distribution and/or video advertising.

A big obstacle impeding the promise of online video is the very same thing companies are struggling with in other areas of online communication: Most are not equipped nor have any experience or expertise in creating content, in this case video content.

YouTube grew to the juggernaut it has become on the backs of user-created content and as a result, it appeared the future was citizen video. Companies therefore attempted to convince consumers to create videos about their brands but that largely failed because relatively few people actually create video content. That’s because creating a video is a bit more involved than writing a status update, or a blog comment, or, often, even a blog post.

Two Google products, however, offer tools to help online video fulfill its promise.

Google Hangouts are a feature of Google+ that let anyone host a video chat with up to 10 people and even to broadcast that chat live to the world and record it, all through your YouTube channel. I think the tool is vastly under-utilized. I can see companies using it for a whole host of purposes, from customer service to product demonstrations to recruiting and media relations.

Google’s Project Glass, on the other hand, offers hope for the more ubiquitous spread of citizen video by making the process of capturing video nearly effortless. Rather than having to pull out your phone, find your video app, wait for it to load, and then press record in order to spontaneously capture a scene on video, Project Glass has the potential of letting you give your glasses a simple voice command–Record–to prompt that process.

I’m not going to go out and buy a developer’s version of Google Glass anytime soon but I do plan on doing some Google Hangouts, if only for experimentation. Email me at if you’re interested in trying it out.

Burson-Marsteller’s Global Social Media Check-up 2012

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