YouTube is one of the most popular sites on the Internet, reaching about 20% of Internet traffic daily according to Alexa rankings.
In keeping with our coverage of video for nonprofits, we spoke with Ramya Raghavan, Nonprofits and Activism Specialist at YouTube. In this interview, she shares her insights into the strategic and the tactical information nonprofits might find useful as they consider their approach to using video to reach their communications goals.
If you're interested in video for nonprofits, keep up with us over the next two weeks because we have some great video content this month.
P.S. Our friend Colin Delany just reviewed the hand-held video camera FlipVideo Mino, at epolitics.
frogloop: what advice do you have for nonprofits using YouTube to effectively advance their mission?
Ramya Raghavan: I would definitely encourage any 501c3 U.S.-based nonprofit to apply to the YouTube Nonprofit Program . Nonprofits that apply and meet the guidelines receive increased upload capacity and branding options, the option to embed a Google Checkout button on their channels, and the opportunity to be featured in one of the promoted areas of YouTube. Also, I would pay attention to the titling and tagging of videos when you are uploading them. Often, an effective title (e.g. "This Is Why I'm Hot" instead of "Global Warming is Serious") or interesting tags can increase the number of people who click on your video.
What are some of the most important ways to make a YouTube video compelling and effective?
There really are no golden rules here - we're continually surprised by the content we see from people on YouTube and it spans a very wide variety of form and formats. Sometimes it's the most surprising content that sparks the most interest. That said, there are some basic things that might be helpful to think about. The first thing I suggest is to be genuine -- interview people who are affected by the work your organization does, record actions you are taking to solve problems in your community, ask YouTube users to sound off on why your issues are important. These tactics will resonate much more with the YouTube audience than a piece you think is hip or one that features a celebrity. The other piece of advice is to keep YouTube videos reasonably short (under five minutes is ideal). If you have a longer piece that you really love, you may want to consider chopping it up and releasing it as a series. Also, I always enjoy when nonprofits use YouTube to respond to current events. You can create a video to explain your position on an issue that's currently in the news, or bring attention to an issue that perhaps should be, but isn't. Then, you can embed those videos in an email and send them to your supporters with a call to action -- videos are generally more interesting than plain text.
Can we expect a tipping point for nonprofit use of video or have we already passed that point?
There has been a huge influx of nonprofits joining YouTube since we launched the Nonprofit Program last fall, but I don't think we've even begun to see the extent of what nonprofits can do with video. Many right now are just starting to get their feet wet and experiment so I would say that the best is yet to come.
What are some of the reasons a nonprofit might choose YouTube instead of other options?
Everyone is on YouTube. We're currently the sixth largest website in the country - every minute, 13 hours of video are uploaded to the site. I think the better question is, why not be on YouTube? We aren't an exclusive platform - you can post here and anywhere else... we just want to help you get your message out to the world's largest online video community. YouTube has an incredibly diverse and engaged global community who not only post videos, but interact with each other through text comments, video responses, and messages. YouTube provides content and a community, so it straddles the line between a media outlet and a social networking site and gives nonprofits the best of both worlds.
What are the intellectual property rights options available to nonprofits that publish their videos to YouTube?
Do you feel that nonprofits are currently maximizing online video's potential for them? Why or why not?
There are some great examples of nonprofits that are doing an excellent job with online video. One example is 24HoursforDarfur who has collected over 800 videos from celebrities, elected officials, and citizens urging Congress to do more about the genocide in Darfur. Also, the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation recently posted a humorous video about the importance of checking oneself for testicular cancer, which landed on the YouTube homepage and garnered well over one million views in three days. I do feel like these approaches (involving the YouTube community and using humor) are good ones for YouTube. Other nonprofits have been sticking to the celebrity-centric PSA model or the "annual dinner" highlight reel video, which have less of a chance of going viral than other, more creative, models.
Do you have any tips for optimizing video settings for getting the highest quality video on YouTube? For example, what are some of the best export settings with respect to frame rate, compression, resolution dimensions sample rates, etc?
Nonprofits can find tips for creating a high-quality video in the YouTube Video Handbook. The Handbook details important concepts like which formats are best for uploading, camera techniques, lighting/sound advice, and information on how to use a webcam.
What's the longest video a nonprofit can post?
We use a file size measurement -- video files must be under 300 MB.
What's the difference between Google Video and YouTube? Which is better for nonprofits?
YouTube is for uploads, while Google Video is for searching videos. Nonprofits should use YouTube to upload their content.
What advice do you have for nonprofits that are considering developing their own video content? For example, when should nonprofits make their own videos and when should they bring in expert videographers?
Developing your own video content is actually much easier than you think. The great thing about YouTube is that you don't have to produce a glitzy piece to tell a compelling story -- some of the most moving nonprofit videos I've seen are not beautiful works of cinematography but honest interviews with victims of cancer or raw footage from poverty-stricken nations. If you're interested in working with a videographer to produce a more polished piece for YouTube, make sure the videographer understands the YouTube audience, what kind of videos receive more views, etc.
How can nonprofits define and measure success with an online video? Has research been done to measure conversion rates, and, if so, what has it concluded?
There are lots of measurements, but they're all relative. It depends on what your goals are. The most obvious metric is video view counts. The more viewcounts your videos receive the more people you are exposing to your cause and message. Also, you can see a demographic breakdown of your audience by age, region, and gender if you click on "My Account" and then go to "YouTube Insight." If you are a nonprofit that is a part of the Nonprofit Program <http://www.youtube.com/nonprofits> and has embedded a Google Checkout button, you can also measure success through the number of donations you have received. Through YouTube, nonprofits also have the ability to drive traffic back to their own websites. A nonprofit partner has the opportunity to place a large banner at the top of its channel page, which can link back to the nonprofit's website or campaign page. While we don't have hard metrics at this time, I would encourage nonprofits to read your previous Frogloop interview <http://www.frogloop.com/care2blog/2008/3/3/hsus-youtube-user-generated-video-competition-grows-list.html> with Carie from the Humane Society, where she details how a YouTube contest helped add 2000 new members to their mailing list.
What trends do you foresee with respect to video use by nonprofits?
I think we are going to see many more nonprofits launching interactive video campaigns and contests. On YouTube, nonprofits are already starting to do this using the "Video Response" and "Groups" features, but I think that many more will start to realize that it's important to provide a way for users to "buy-in" to an organization through video, and provide them with incentives to do so. Also, it's very easy to package some of the best user-generated responses to a campaign or contest into a neat little video and send it to traditional media sources as a way to expand coverage. I also think that we are going to see an influx of smaller, local nonprofits using video, as it provides an easy, cheap way to get recognized by a much larger audience.