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For those who understand it, YouTube can be an incredibly powerful tool. Millions of people visit the site every day, and many of those millions can and will share anything they find interesting with their friends and social networks. Simply put, there’s enormous potential for viral marketing if a campaign’s put into the hands of a savvy marketer.

Unfortunately, many brands don’t seem to fully grasp how YouTube works. They post boring, ‘salesy’ content that treats YouTube videos as little more than extended advertising spots. They go in with unrealistic expectations and base success on view counts alone. They make use of YouTube ads.

Speaking from experience, that last one—using YouTube ads—is probably the least useful on the list. I’ve yet to meet someone who’s bothered to interact with these advertisements in any tangible fashion, except to click on ‘skip.’ They’re simply not a meaningful way of interacting with the platform; they’re an advertising holdover hailing from another time. These ads—which forcibly interrupt a user’s viewing experience—might work on a passive medium like TV; they simply don’t function well in a medium such as YouTube, which is all about active engagement. More often than not, users either tune out entirely or sit and fume, waiting for the ad to be over.

In short, if you want to gain any meaningful benefits through the use of YouTube, you’re going to need to participate in the community. It’s not enough to just throw some money at advertising slots; you need your own YouTube channel. Not only that, you’re going to need to work at uploading meaningful, high quality content—not just sales drivel.

Trust me: YouTube is worth the effort, if you have the audience for it.

Making YouTube work successfuly for your event

Today, I’d like to take a look at how the savvy use of YouTube can enrich, enhance, and ultimately lead to the success of an event (and by association, a brand). On the surface, this seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? All you really need to do is stream high-quality video of your event to YouTube so that anyone not attending can get a front-row seat without leaving their computer. Failing that, videos of the best keynotes or discussions can go a long way.

Why not take things a step further, though? Rather than simply using the platform to provide users with footage of your event after it’s already happened, why not use it in the lead-up as well?

In much the same way as Twitter, YouTube can be used to inject some much-needed personality into a brand or organization. Use your videos to tell a story, just like you’d use Tweets on Twitter. You need ensure, however, that the story you’re telling is one that your audience wishes to hear. You could come up with the most brilliant, best-designed YouTube campaign in the world, and have it fall completely flat because you didn’t properly tailor it to your customers.

Here’s a few quick ideas that might help you on the lead-up to your event:

  • Have the founder of the idea for the event speak about the reasons for creating and doing the event
  • Get the speakers for the event to give people a quick overview of what they can expect from their talk, and solicit feedback about the topic on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook
  • Have someone on the team talk about what’s changed since the last event, and why it’ll be great to return again

Before we conclude things, there’s another thing that I should mention about YouTube: it can be a great benchmark for determining whether or not your event was a success (though it should never be the only one). There is, after all, a fair chance that you’re not going to be the only one uploading videos. Journalists, consumers, and even other professionals might all take to YouTube to share a particular keynote or announcement. Keep an ear to the ground, and an eye on the stats of these videos; pay attention to what people are saying as well. If plenty of people are watching each video, and the comments are more or less positive, congratulations are in order.

Otherwise… well, at least you’ll be able to figure out what went wrong.

There’s one last thing that also needs to be said: before using YouTube, do your homework, and figure out whether or not it’s worth the effort. It may well be that the demographic you’re targeting doesn’t really use it; remember too that YouTube’s not the only video sharing site out there. Have a look at some of the alternatives, like Vimeo, as well—they might surprise you.

YouTube is a fantastic marketing tool and a fantastic boon for any event planner. At the same time, it’s just that: a tool. It’s not going to be useful for every situation—you wouldn’t use a hammer on a screw, after all. Don’t let YouTube’s enormous potential blind you—that potential doesn’t exist for every brand, no matter how savvy the marketer.

Have you used YouTube with success for your event? Let other event planners know in the comments below. The more we exchange tips, the better everyone’s events will be.