57,000 corporate channels (and nothin' on)

Some online channels seem tailor made for corporate communications. SlideShare is ideal for sharing investor relations presentations. Twitter can be great for spreading company news. LinkedIn is, of course, a powerful recruitment tool. But other channels don't always prove to be such a natural fit.

For example, we at Bowen Craggs spend a lot of time looking at corporate YouTube channels – and most are either awfully uninspiring, or awfully awful.

We know that we’re not alone in this assessment: you can tell this by looking at the low number of views on most companies’ YouTube pages. Almost no one is watching.

Why is this? And what should companies do about it?

To answer the first question: most companies are simply not geared up to producing the kind of material most likely to gain traction on YouTube – videos that are not only informative, but also entertaining.

Historically, companies’ efforts in this area have been focused on producing television commercials. Indeed, when they put these onto YouTube – if they are good enough - they often get large numbers of views: look at this P&G ad, as well as this one from Google, for examples.

The Google video is particularly interesting, because it was part of a campaign designed to work on both television and YouTube (a channel that Google owns).

Most companies’ YouTube channels are unfocused mishmashes of videos drawn from elsewhere – employee profiles from the Careers section of the website; executive interviews from the investor relations section; case studies from the sustainability section. Pulled out of its original context on the corporate site and assembled on a YouTube channel, such material is doomed to failure: users must work hard to find footage on the channel relevant to their interests – and when they find it, it is often too dull to hold their attention.

So what should companies do about this?

One option is to focus efforts on promoting embedded – and therefore appropriately contextualized – video content on the corporate site (YouTube is undeniably a good format for this) – rather than promoting the corporate YouTube channel itself. If your company’s YouTube channel is not yet an attractive destination in its own right, don’t bother encouraging visitors to visit it. 

Another option is to focus more effort on producing video output that is genuinely attractive – in terms of viewability and shareability. For some companies, this will be time and money well spent – especially if it spent as part of a campaign designed to work over television and other channels, as Google’s was. But for other companies, producing videos that go viral on YouTube is likely to be a lower priority than using video in more modest – but no less effective – ways on the corporate website.

- Scott Payton