Almost every Internet user has visited YouTube, or at least watched an embedded video on a Web site or blog. Maybe they've read how Google purchased it for $1.65 billion?
This is user-generated content at its best...and worst. Self-made memes vying for views of video blogs (vlogs), gaining their 15 minutes, attaining the height of post-modernist references in places like "South Park," and quickly sloughing it all off into trite obscurity. (e.g., "Chocolate Rain," "Leave Britney Alone!" and that "Star Wars" Kid). YouTube is ubiquitous, and therefore necessary.
Still nothing? Why not watch Adam Savage from "Mythbusters" inhale sulfur hexafluoride?
As mentioned above, this is user-generated content. That means you, me, and everyone else in the world with a video camera -- or just a Web cam and microphone -- can be part of the nebulous social monster that is YouTube.
Getting involved is easy. Verify that you're 13 or older and set up an account with a username and password just like you would set up an online e-mail account. Once your login is verified, you're welcome to upload your video to show the world. And the content can be just about anything. Start a vlog, be an unproductive video flamethrower, or show us how you mastered "Bionic Commando Rearmed," Challenge Room 51. Seriously, that room sucks.
Basic guidelines for videos: they can't be copyrighted material -- unless you own the copyright (video above is from The Discovery Channel's Official YouTube page). Anyone can make a claim that something you posted is copyrighted and it will be removed. It should be original content and no longer than 10 minutes. Upload, and wait for the fame to arrive. View other videos, favorite other posters, and comment in text and video responses.
YouTube as Learning
Millions of altruistic people all over the world have posted on YouTube so you can benefit from their knowledge. From learning how to play guitar to making a burning laser to solving a Rubik's Cube to dropping a bunch of Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke.
And, yes, a rudimentary search on "how to SEM" brought up almost 500 videos. So you can educate yourself on SEM, get involved in the conversation and the community. Also, don't miss the Top 10 Videos on YouTube from SES San Jose.
YouTube in Marketing
Western Governors University's Internet marketing manager wrote to say, "I wanted to share a recent contest that Western Governors University sponsored to influence students and prospects to share what a degree from WGU can do to influence or improve their lives. We received 37 videos and over 55,000 views so far."
Being a nonprofit online university, WGU is leveraging YouTube as a marketing tool by holding a contest that gains exposure for the university in an all-round positive manner.
Back in January, Swiffer sponsored a contest for homemade music videos about breaking up with your mop. Again, YouTube was used to pull in viewers who could see the good, the bad, and the ugly entries, all the while being inundated with a positive impression of the product line. Oh, and the winner took home $15,000.
OK, so you're not a major brand or university, but you want to get in on the action? Then do it. Be the expert. If you're an SEO expert, do a brief video on the importance of content. Post it and visit similar posts, constructively commenting and linking to your video. Get involved in the community, post more videos, and before you know it, you've got SERP results for your business and SERP results for your expert videos page (which would, of course, link to your site, and vice-versa), and suddenly you've leveraged YouTube and stepped into social marketing yourself.
Now, if you only had a blog with those fries. But we're wearing out our space, and that's a post for another time.
Have you used YouTube to learn something? To teach something? To get more hits on your Web site or promote your business? We'd love to hear from you!