Social Media

360i Report: YouTube’s Social Redesign

January 27, 2012

360i Point of View on
YouTube’s Social Redesign

Executive Summary

In December 2011, YouTube underwent its biggest redesign to date. The makeover represents a complete overhaul of the user interface in an effort to help people find more personally-relevant videos and to provide content creators with greater opportunities for customization and community development. This redesign represents YouTube’s evolution from a broadcasting platform to a community-based network fueled by social interactions — and not just “views.”
Key Takeaways

The newest iteration of channels will encourage content creators to create more compelling long-form content and curate dynamic playlists that grab the attention of viewers for longer durations. The new channel designs will roll out on March 1, 2012, which gives content creators three months to prepare updated creative and customized templates for their channels. Brands should act on these updates by developing new types of content, such as channels, playlists, and textual status updates that generate conversation.
YouTube is now a place to curate content and interact with target audiences, more closely resembling other online communities. A new left-hand sidebar features trending and popular content, as well as content from suggested channels. This sidebar, along with the inclusion of Facebook and Google+, posts within the feeds of fellow friends and subscribers, providing a rich feed of personally relevant content that makes YouTube a destination that feels both personal and social.
All changes to media appear to be positive. Enhanced Insights will provide data on which ad creative performs better, thus allowing for the optimization of campaigns over time. Paid media will also allow advertisers to increase their “subscribability score,” which will allow effective spending to boost engagement.

This report outlines the specific ramifications that the redesign changes will have to a brand’s efforts within YouTube — from community management and content strategy to paid media performance. There is an Appendix at the end of this document that summarizes all of the updates.
Implications for Community Management

As platforms like YouTube continue trending toward more socialized experiences, it is becoming more important for marketers to carefully consider their overarching strategy for all communities to ensure that people are not delivered the same content across disparate platforms. Creating diversified content across all branded communities will allow brands to cultivate various tones and audiences across each platform, and inspire people to engage with that content in different ways.

YouTube’s redesign will shift marketers’ focus from what people are saying about content to what they are doing with it. Here’s how community managers can make the most of this trend:
Executions within YouTube now go beyond simply uploading videos, as text-based status updates become a critical component to YouTube’s more social and community-based features. We recommend that brands test these types of updates to explore how receptive audiences are to having conversations on YouTube.

Playlists are now more visible than before, providing an opportunity to draw users into long views of the content.

Subscription placement is more important than ever. Achieving top billing in a user’s feed will help attract more organic subscribers.

Optimized +1 buttons are essential to a larger YouTube presence, as commenting is now taking a backseat to actions such as liking and sharing. This allows the focus of the platform to be full brand interactions instead of pieces of content.
Implications for Content Strategy

With this redesign, YouTube becomes much more than a secondary social platform. YouTube will provide content creators with new ways to reach and engage people on a more personalized level. The intent becomes less about attaining video views and more about producing new, creative content that will drive interaction, subscription rate, shares and brand affinity among a community. Brands will be most successful if they create and curate specific content for the YouTube audience, rather than repurposing general content used in other communities. This will reduce the likelihood of publishing redundant content across multiple locations and thus devaluing the brand’s presence in the eyes of fans and subscribers.

While content curation remains a top priority within the walls of YouTube, content aggregation has never been more important. The redesign includes an improved search function within a user’s personal network as well as new opportunities for channel owners to attract new fans, so creating playlists and proper tagging can optimize content to maximize reach. YouTube will deliver relevant recommendations by curating information from friends’ profiles. This will drive fan generation within each platform and allow new fans to associate with the brand in different ways.
Implications for Media

Media Performance
YouTube has tested the new layout to ensure that its impact on media performance will be “neutral to positive.” While it is unclear to what extent ads will perform better with the redesign, Google believes that they will perform no worse than before. Below is a summary of the most notable opportunities for advertisers:
YouTube Insights provides data on top-performing creative, allowing for optimization of campaigns over time (more on YouTube Insights in the Appendix).
Paid media should help advertisers increase their subscribability scores, which measures how many viewers are converted to subscribers.
Effective spending will increase subscribers and boost engagement.
Media can target a specific tab on a YouTube Channel for greater content.
Advertisers can choose whether to run media on “popular” or “safe” channels.

Next Steps

This biggest YouTube redesign to date represents a significant shift towards social for the video platform. Below are several action items marketers can employ to make the most of these new opportunities:
Rethink creative. Take advantage of emphasis on longer viewing times and audience retention by orienting creative toward channel and subscription engagement.
Optimize content for YouTube. Consider the unique tone of the YouTube audience vs. Facebook or Google+ and avoid overlap when developing cross-platform messaging strategy/content calendars.
Stay cognizant of the broader architecture. Craft a content strategy for YouTube with a full multi-platform social strategy in mind. Post YouTube content on other social channels to draw people to the YouTube community.
Enrich experiences through curation. Marketers can expand the reach of their channels by curating content that aligns with the audience’s interests beyond a specific brand.
Make the most of new channel options. Choose the channel type that best fits the brand’s needs and help content become more accessible by designing for the new layout.
Capitalize on new analytics. Marketers can now derive powerful insights and use new reporting features to discover what truly resonates with their community.

In light of Google’s investment in these extensive changes, we believe that this round of developments represents a significant shift towards social for YouTube. By applying these insights early, we can quickly adapt and provide the type of engaging content that can stimulate the new community that YouTube is becoming. Contact your 360i strategic advisor to discuss what the new YouTube updates mean for your brand.
Appendix: Under the Hood of YouTube’s Latest Redesign

The homepage redesign features a number of prominent new elements:
Central Feed: Central column aggregating all updates from the people and brands to which one subscribes, including video uploads and any other publicly shared actions on the site

Sidebar: Left-hand sidebar which links to “trending” videos and content from suggested channels and includes access to videos shared through Google+ and Facebook

Right-hand Rail: List on the right side of the page highlighting recommended videos (based on user ratings and social account content)

New Channels Design: As of March 1, 2012, all channels will be switched to a new design, giving owners a three-month window to prepare for the following changes:

More flexible channel templates customizable to the needs of different types of content creators

Ability to post status updates through channels (updates can be text only or another channel’s videos/playlists); opportunity for channel operators to act as curators even if they have little or no video of their own

Tabbed interface for content with the ability to buy media driving to a tab
Other changes include:

New Channel Options: Prior to the redesign, there were only two types of channels available — basic user channel and brand channel. Brand channels were customizable with the option to purchase special features and paid media. The latest redesign presents several more channel options for owners:
User Channel (free) – Includes all the functions available to any YouTube user, including engagement with subscribers, basic customization and measurable results via YouTube Insights

Brand Channel (free for managed customers) – All elements of a user channel, plus opportunities to brand the page and the ability to add impression tags for remarketing

Custom Brand Channel (additional cost) – All elements of a brand channel with additional opportunities for customization with gadgets and interactive applications

Mobile Brand Channel (free for managed customers) – Hosted on m.youtube.com, offering the same level of customization and engagement, including the use of gadgets

Free channels – Templates include Creator, Blogger, Network or Everything (see graphic below)

More robust analytics: YouTube Insights was also overhauled to mirror the interface and general functionality of Google Analytics, making it easier for channel owners to extract YouTube data. The updated Overview section now provides top-level metrics on Views (Demographics, Playback Locations, Traffic Sources, Audience Retention) and Engagement (Subscribers, Likes/Dislikes, Favorites, Comments and Sharing).

The new interface also lists the channel’s Top 10 videos, including data on likes and comments for a given time period. This new feature enables users to save time, where as in the past various resources like YouTube Insights and third party metrics software had to be consulted in order to determine overall engagement with different videos over time. Now, top videos are ranked by views, likes and comments. Location data and demographics are similarly improved and now allow for segmentation of engagement activity by continent and country.