What are people saying about your brand on YouTube? While television is a one-to-many medium, YouTube is one-to-one and many-to-many, so your official brand videos sit side-by-side with videos created by users about your brand. These independent creators may choose to make videos supportive of your brand, or they may act as detractors. Additionally, they may mention your brand, but care about it either way.
The perception of your brand can change quickly on YouTube. So some companies are doing "YouTube listening," much as they do "social listening" on the other social media platforms. They want to find out in greater depth what people are saying about their brands, or their competitors brands, on personal YouTube channels. Companies may or may not choose to take action on what they find, but YouTube listening can serve as an early warning system about potential public relations problems. It can also help with giving feedback internally across the company about product quality, complaints, favorite features, or trends.
User-generated Coca-Cola Videos on YouTube
One recent example is a user-generated video this month about Coca-Cola, which happens to be one of the key sponsors of the universe's largest sporting event, the World Cup, being held this month in Brazil. On June 3, pop-science YouTuber "CrazyRussianHacker," who has 2 million subscribers on his YouTube channel (and is actually a Czech living in North Carolina), uploaded the video "What Will Happen If You Boil Coke?", in which he poured some unlabeled cola into a pot and boiled it on his stove.
This is not the first experiment CrazyRussianHacker has done with Coke, and it's not the first popular video to boil Coke. But his video caught on and was picked up by news outlets as disparate as BuzzFeed, which ran the headline "This Science Experiment Will Make You Never Want To Drink Coke Again," and Salon, which said, "A Russian YouTuber shows how much sticky sweet black tar we're putting in our bodies." These are unenviable headlines for any brand. YouTube's own editors liked the video too - they promoted it on their Google+ page.
It's probably not surprising to many that if you boil the carbonated water out of Coca-Cola you get burnt syrup. In fact, the product is sold in syrup form and then mixed with carbonated water at restaurants. But watching it boil down makes for an interesting experiment. Of the 71,000 user-generated videos (and 1.3 billion views) about Coca-Cola on YouTube today, this new Coke-boiling video is now the fourth most popular video of all time with more than 14 million views, all in the last two weeks.
Coca-Cola Doesn't Respond
Coca-Cola is an enormous worldwide brand, and the company chose not to respond directly to this video. Instead, as it likely had planned for months, the company is now presenting various World Cup videos in multiple languages for multiple nations and audiences, such as Brazil (160,000+ views), Spain (135,000+ views), and Germany (600,000+ views). And the attention to their branding on TV will clearly take the attention away from this single pot-boiler.
YouTube Meme Sparks More Memes
But the meme isn't over. Other YouTube channels have jumped on the bandwagon. YouTuber "skippy62able," with 650,000+ subscribers, has now made his own video, with 340,000+ views, called
"What Happens When You Boil And EAT Coca-Cola". And BuzzFeed (1.2 million subscribers), who knows how to spot a trend, launched their own Coke video this month, "Mexican Coke Vs American Coke Taste Test," which is nearing a million views.
These three YouTube channels, CrazyRussianHacker, skippy62able and BuzzFeed, have a total reach of 3.8 million subscribers, while Coca-Cola's main channel has 250,000 subscribers.
Fan-made Video Content Isn't Always Positive
So user generated content on YouTube can help amplify a brand's message in some situations, but detract from it in others. And while CrazyRussianHacker seemed only intent on having some fun, doing some science, and gaining attention, this scenario is reminiscent of the United Breaks Guitars video from 2009, which had different intentions. In that case, a United Airlines customer was upset that his guitar had been damaged and that the airline wouldn't pay for it. So he made a music video about how he hated United. To date that video has 14 million views. It created a lot of negative attention for United, and became the top organic search result for that airline.
United didn't respond on YouTube, but a couple of years later, Delta made this video "Behind-The-Scenes: Your Bag's Journey On Delta", with 1.9 million views, which gave YouTube users an inside look at how bags move through an airport. A video like this might not have solved United's problems, and it's not as fun as a music video, but it's a step in the right direction for a company that might experience a dissatisfied customer from time-to-time.
There's another cautionary tale, the one where Tesla's stock dropped six percent in one day after a YouTube video showed one of their vehicles on fire. This video was replicated multiple times on YouTube, possibly by people who were trying to short the stock.
YouTube listening can be helpful for any company. Last year, Marina Shifrin, an employee at a company that actually makes viral videos, made her own dance music video to say how much she hated her boss and that she was quitting, called "An Interpretive Dance For My Boss Set To Kanye West's Gone." It has received more than 18 million views.
Three days later, her former employer, Taiwan-based Next Media Animation, responded with their own music video, "An Interpretive Dance From Next Media Animation Set To Kanye West's Gone." This was perhaps the best response any company has ever made to a customer or employee complaint.
Humor is of course not to be used by every company in ever situation. However with YouTube listening, you can always be aware of what is being said about your brand. And if you're already prepared, you can respond faster than you can say "Goooooaaaaaal!"