Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has evolved from a video hosting website to one that comprises original TV, user-generated content and its notable algorithm, which recommends content based on a consumer’s watch history.

“It basically recommends videos that it thinks you will like in the attempt to drive watch time, because that is the key metric for YouTube,” said journalist, author and Promax Europe speaker Chris Stokel-Walker. “The more you keep watching, the more ads they can serve, the more money they can make, the happier they are.”

YouTube has transformed into a business that helps shape conversation, society and the consumption of content. That’s why Stokel-Walker, whose reporting centers on internet culture and making the world more “media-literate,” believes marketers should rethink how they use YouTube.

“This is the world’s second most-visited website, and it’s something we all use, pretty much. Yet we often treat it as if it’s an extension of TV, which it isn’t,” he said. “It’s enormously different, or we just ignore it entirely, in which case people are leaving money on the table. [Marketers] need to engage more with YouTube and understand it.”

Most marketers are accustomed to using YouTube as a video hosting space. Instead, the platform should be used to engage with audiences and develop what he calls “the power of social relationship” — giving audiences, who are essentially consumers, a sense of friendship.

“The comment section is an enormous part of YouTube. You are interacting with your audience and asking them for information, input and advice. If you don’t have that, or if you’re a marketer who uses YouTube as a video repository—a big vault to host whatever you want for free—you’re not going to build up that community or get that audience engagement and no one is going to watch your videos.”

Social video platforms such as YouTube and TikTok are increasingly becoming more powerful tools for marketers. TikTok, in particular, has grown exponentially among young audiences and is largely referred to as the next major social media platform.

“Then you have things like Triller, which people haven’t yet really acknowledged the power role, but it is similar to YouTube and TikTok in that there is great potential [for marketers] to get in on the ground floor, because YouTube kind of sailed that ship,” Stokel-Walker said.

And where does Quibi, the forthcoming short-form video platform, stand in all of this?

“I see Quibi [to be] more like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video,” Stokel-Walker said. “It feels like it’s a premium video content platform where the producers, who are organizations or production companies, do professional content rather than user-generated content, which admittedly, is becoming less and less commonplace on YouTube and TikTok.”

Stokel-Walker will share more of his YouTube knowledge during Promax Europe 2020, held 16-17 March in Madrid, Spain. In addition to his session, Stokel-Walker will be featured on the Premium track as a moderator. Both general and premium registration are now open.

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