Wednesday, November 29, 2006

YouTube & Other Video Sharing Sites Are NOT Social Networking Sites ... Yet

I have observed many in the conventional press and elsewhere refer to YouTube and other video sharing sites as being examples of so-called "social networking" (an over-used term, by the way). I don't see it that way, because "social networking" means online interactivity and communication. And, there currently is very little interactivity that goes on on those sites. Sure, users share videos that move them, but they don't interact with each other or with the "film-makers" who have uploaded their content.

The current user experience on these sites also is almost entirely passive. I would guess that close to 99% of those who visit these sites come simply to view videos; only a tiny fraction of these visitors come to upload videos because it is cumbersome to do so (for most users of these sites, the prospect of uploading videos from their camcorders is daunting).

What these sites need -- and what will take them to the next level -- is to make them more "active" and to add a real social networking component to the overall user experience and menu of options. And, what better way to do this than by marrying online VIDEO interactivity with these video sites? Imagine if visitors to these sites could reach out to one another either in real-time or via a recorded video message with "click-to-call" video based on shared interests (e.g., they liked the same video) or if they could reach out to the "film-maker" who posted the video. Or, how about simply making it easier for visitors to add their own video to these sites via "one click" recording and posting. I have blogged about this before. Now THIS would make these sites active and real "social networking" sites.

On a separate, but related note, I read an interesting article in yesterday's USA Today about the band OK Go and how they harnessed the power of YouTube -- via their very cool treadmill dance video (which they somehow re-created without mistakes live and on-air at this year's MTV Video Music Awards) -- to "break out" from the pack. It got me thinking about how OK Go and other bands -- or any other creator/"content owner" for that matter -- could get the word out and create a relationship with fans and potential fans via active online interactivity (including video interactivity and outreach). Some examples? How about using live video -- click-to-call video from their web sites -- to give fans a window of opportunity to interact live and see and talk to the band "one to one" on occasion. Or, how about using recorded video in a different way than by simply posting a video to YouTube -- i.e., how about instead recording a "personal" (i.e., one-to-one) video message that could easily be posted to their web site or sent to fans via video mail (and these fans, in turn, would forward these videos to others ... and so on ....)? I have little doubt that fans (and potential fans) would clamor for these unscripted and spontaneous "slices of life."

Today, artists and content owners of all kind are using YouTube and others of that ilk to post their creations on line for largely passive enjoyment. But, another great and currently missing opportunity is for these content creators is to actively reach out and develop a relationship with fans and potential fans via the Internet (in other words, to interact with them actively online). Video interactivity holds unique promise here both for the fans and for the artists, because it "connects" in a way that nothing else can ...