More Than Laughs: Utilizing YouTube for Social Success

YouTube is, in no uncertain terms, a cultural phenomenon.

The site is visited by millions of visitors from around the world every hour and has become the primary source for sharing video content on the Web for everyone from major global corporations to aspiring singers with nothing more than a webcam and some heart. In fact, it's become so ingrained in our culture that people use the term "YouTube" to mean looking for videos in much the same way we use "Google" to mean performing any sort of online search (which is fitting, since YouTube is owned by Google).

But not only is the video-streaming site a great place to watch "teething English babies" or listen to the "greatest song about a day of the week ever produced", it's also a wonderful social media tool for brands to share content and connect with consumers in the digital world.

Of course, every brand takes a unique approach to the kind of content they share on YouTube and how they present it, so here are five branded YouTube channels and a brief look at how they utilize the site for social media success:

Starbucks has long been famous for its distinctive lack of advertising, mostly letting its coffee speak for itself. However, it has also been one of the companies most willing to embrace the social media boom, and it has helped them develop into a highly successful Web brand. Its YouTube channel is a great example of this, as it takes a unique approach to sharing content that is effective in creating a sense of community and brand loyalty that requires little traditional advertising. For example, the company has long been applauded for its interest in the arts, specifically music, and it appeals to that segment of its customer base by offering videos of special exclusive performances by artists like Jakob Dylan. The channel also hosts a wide variety of videos on topics like the company's charitable campaigns, "behind the scenes" videos about the daily operations of the company that include employee interviews and information about the company and the cultivation and creation of its coffee, all of which is part of the company's goal of creating a distinctive communal relationship with its customers.

Old Spice
When your brand boasts one of the most popular advertising campaigns in years, moving to YouTube is a natural step. Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" video ad series has been a huge viral hit since its inception, and the company has maintained, and probably increased, its popularity on YouTube (after all, humor works in social videos). Not only does the channel host the original television commercials, but it has also included some Internet-exclusive content like the Old Spice Guy's "Mano a Mano in El Baño" voting competition against Fabio, and his video responses to user questions posted on various social networks. While their popular ads made creating a successful YouTube campaign easy for the company, few brands employ YouTube as a supplemental social media source as well as Old Spice, which is what really makes it stand out amongst its peers.

One of the industries that has really utilized social video well is the non-profit sector. It makes sense, as YouTube provides a free platform for these companies to share their content and spread their messages to millions of new users every day, which is a great way to garner support for their causes. UNICEF USA, which provides food, healthcare and provisions to those in need, utilizes the site especially well by sharing videos explaining its cause, videos of volunteers in action and celebrity endorsements. What makes UNICEF USA's strategy work so well is that it presents a clear and holistic branding message through the sharing of information, both about the group's goals and what it is doing to achieve them.

Urban Decay
Many social video strategies are, in some way, rooted in traditional advertising models. At the end of the day, these companies are around to sell a product and that is the ultimate focus of their YouTube channels. Makeup company Urban Decay decided to go a different route by presenting a creative model for cultivating social relationships using video content. Rather than ads, the company's YouTube channel hosts a series of videos that give users various tricks and tips on how to best use its products. These tutorials allow the company to show authority and help out users at the same time, which ultimately establishes a strong sense of brand loyalty. It's clear that the company's focus is on creating engaging content that will keep users coming back and increase interest in the products, and that is exactly what brands want their YouTube campaigns to do.

Epitaph Records
The plight of the music industry has been well-documented, and it's safe to say that the majority of its problems come from the rampant accessibility of digital media. And while many major record labels are fighting to maintain the status quo, independent labels are working hard to embrace the future of content consumption. California-based Epitaph Records (and its sister labels) is a great example of using social video strategies to meet the demands of the digital age. Not only does Epitaph share artist music videos, but it also provides great exclusive content like live performance videos, non-single album tracks (which is especially rare for many labels to provide), exclusive behind-the-scenes content, artist interviews and much more. In understanding the way that users want to consume content on the Web, Epitaph was able to craft a social-video strategy that embraces, and builds upon, these new avenues and provides fans with great content to foster brand loyalty and user engagement, which is an ideal strategy for any type of media company these days.