If you're looking for an inexpensive way to add video to your dealership website — complete with analytics on who is viewing that video — YouTube.com has an enticing offer: we'll do it for free.
In a move to become the defacto platform for video on the Web, the dot-com company has rolled out a series of free tools that essentially enables any dealership to edit, post and analyze viewership of a promotional video at no cost.
It's an offer worthy of serious consideration, given that by 2012, 88% of all U.S. Internet users are expected to be watching video online, according to Web research firm eMarketer.
Indeed, a number of auto dealerships have already taken YouTube up on its offer. Metropolitan Lincoln Mercury, based in Garden City, MI, has a promotional video up on YouTube. So does Bergstrom Automotive, based in Neenah, WI, whose video features New York Jet quarterback Brett Favre.
Other dealerships with YouTube videos include Harrelson Toyota in Rock Hill, SC; White Oak Ford Lincoln, based in Mississauga, ON, Canada; and Tri-Mac Toyota, based in Port Hawkesbury, NS, Canada.
While YouTube has been courting the Web-at-large with its free tools for awhile, it's most recent introduction of free analytics tools, dubbed “Insight,” is what has really begun turning heads in the business community.
“Uploaders can see how often their videos are viewed in different geographic regions, as well as how popular they are relative to all videos in the market over a given period of time,” says Tracy Chan, YouTube's product manager.
“You can also delve deeper into the lifecycle of your videos, like how long it takes for a video to become popular, and what happens to video views as popularity peaks.”
Essentially, whether you're looking to experiment with Web video for the first time, or you're an experienced user looking to cut costs while increasing the sophistication of your Web video promotions, YouTube's free solution is tough to beat.
Here's a breakdown of how the service works:
YouTube's “Video Toolbox” Tips: Once your raw video footage has been shot, YouTube offers a helpful editing tips section on its site with advice on how to get the lighting, transitions and sound just right.
There's also specific detail on how to upload a video from a cell phone or other mobile device, and a forum you can use to ask others to help brainstorm a particular editing problem.
Embeddable Video Player: Once you've posted your completed video to the YouTube site, you can cut-and-paste a snippet of YouTube-provided code that will enable you to create a YouTube player on your Web site in seconds.
The player, which is also free, can be quickly dropped into your dealership blog as well, onto a your Web site's social network, or into virtually any other web-based environment.
You have the option to post the YouTube player “as is,” with its familiar chrome border and YouTube logo.
Or your Web designer can customize the player with its own “skin.” That customized look can feature your dealership's logo, as well as a look and feel that's distinctive to your website. (With either option, a faint, YouTube watermark appears in the right-hand corner of your video.)
The player creation tool lets you to optimize your video for the search engines by allowing you to include titles, descriptions, ratings and viewer comments associated with your video.
The beauty of the player is that the technology enables you to offer a window on your dealership's videos on your own site, while shifting the hosting and transmission costs associated with the viewing of that video to YouTube.
The reason? While the player is embedded on your website, your actual video is uploaded onto YouTube's computer servers. That means every time someone views the video, it's YouTube's servers that are actually transmitting video — not your company's Web servers. So it's YouTube's servers that are picking up the bandwidth transmission costs.
That scenario is especially ideal for small businesses that are interested in reaching out to Web video viewers with a number of offerings, but have little or no budget to do so.
It's also an excellent insurance policy for any company that happens to produce a video that goes “viral” — i.e., a video that becomes an overnight sensation on the Web that is viewed by hundreds of thousands or even millions of viewers.
For most dealerships, the onslaught of that kind of massive downloading generally results in crashed servers and countless missed sales/public relations opportunities. For YouTube, it's nearly an everyday event that the firm has learned to easily accommodate.
“Insight” Video Analytics: Once your video and player are in place, you'll also be able to use YouTube's free video analytics service to glean insight into the popularity of your video, who's viewing the video, and where those people are coming from.
A fresh analytics report is issued each day. So you'll be able to track spikes in viewership against your roll-out of new marketing campaigns on any given day, or any media coverage your dealership happens to receive on any given day.
You'll also be able to see how viewers found your video — whether by searching on YouTube or Google, browsing under ‘related videos’ on the YouTube site or via a link to the video from your own email marketing campaign or from another website.
You'll also be able to tell if viewers are watching your video from the YouTube site, or from the YouTube player you install on your site.
Another metric that Insight offers is the ability to identify the search queries visitors use on the search engines to find your video — information that can be used to make informed decisions on the kind of keywords you may want to bid for on Google sponsored links and similar sponsored links programs on other search engines.
Plus, you can look for even more analytics features from Insight in coming months, according to YouTube's corporate blog.
YouTube users with a free account can find the Insight tool by clicking “My Account,” then “Videos.” You'll find a button there labeled “Insight.”