“As a marketer, there’s an absolutely incredible potential with YouTube if you deploy the right strategy. Imagine each of your videos as ‘mini websites’.”

This year, YouTube celebrated its eighth birthday by announcing more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute.

Who could have predicted video-sharing platform YouTube, and its simple design that has not changed significantly since its early blueprints, would become the powerhouse it is today?

From humble beginnings in 2005, with schematics drawn up in the garage of early PayPal employee Chad Hurley (he founded YouTube with fellow PayPal workers Steve Chen and Jawed Karim), to being sold to Google for a whopping $1.65 billion in 2006, it is today the second largest search engine (after Google itself) in the world.

With more than 1 billion unique users visiting every month, YouTube has proven video’s ability to reach people across the world (it is localised in 56 countries and 61 languages) and has highlighted the huge marketing potential of video for businesses.

“As a marketer, there’s an absolutely incredible potential with YouTube if you deploy the right strategy. Imagine each of your videos as ‘mini websites’, says James Wedmore, founder of review site Video Traffic Academy. 

As its own search engine, content can be found within YouTube itself, and it then has the potential to get indexed inside Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) and shared across the social media landscape.

What’s more, you can data mine through the site: in mid-October 2012, Google released more analytics features for YouTube. The new features include the ability to see how many people are getting rid of ‘annotations’, which are messages that appear on the screen, and how many people stop watching a video within a matter of seconds.

The flood of video publishing and sharing sites emerging of late signal video’s significance: think of the success of Vimeo (an online film community founded in 2004 by a group of filmmakers who wanted to share their work and personal pursuits) and Viddy (a mobile video app which allows users to record multiple clips – up to 30 seconds each – and add creative effects like music and contrast), Flickr (which hosts videos as well as photo albums) and Veoh (an internet television service which hosts studio content, independent productions and user-generated material which can then be embedded on blogs).

Richard Parker, head of strategy at content marketing agency Edge, says a mistake many make is to emulate their television advertising model – online video can achieve much more.

“This is a mistake, because online video is a different beast. For a start, users usually seek it out, rather than being forced to sit through it. Which means that we can ask them for a little more of their time and attention (about 90 seconds, rather than 30). And this in turn means we can tell slightly more complex stories than the single-minded ad spot allows,” he says.

He adds distribution of online video also needs to be approached differently to previous television formulas, given it has so many different distribution mechanisms – brand sites, YouTube and so on. Online video also has the advantage of being a constant presence rather than campaign-based.

As a marketing tool, video can not only produce more customers for your business, but foster brand sentiment and awareness.

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