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If you’ve spent any time on YouTube before November, you’ve probably heard several different answers to that question, all of them less than savory. The YouTube comment section has long been known as a terrible place, and for good reason. If you go to pretty much any video on there and read down far enough, you’ll find nearly every belief you hold sacred insulted. If you post a comment in reply, you’ll only add fuel to the fire and find yourself personally insulted. It’s a no-win situation, and it’s the reason behind Google and YouTube’s recent change, a change that has many people up in (virtual) arms, calling for either a change back or all-out abandonment of the platform. Let’s take a look at what’s going on and how it may affect your marketing.
The big change came earlier this month when YouTube switched the way they handled their comment section. Instead of using their old, mostly anonymous accounts, YouTubers suddenly found themselves needing a Google+ account to comment on videos.
This has caused an outrage, because, frankly, people don’t want to use Google+, not even a little bit. Since its launch Google’s social network has floundered and despite herding customers towards it at every opportunity, it just isn’t catching on. And now, Google is using it’s most powerful weapon of all, YouTube, to try and drive subscriptions and create an active user base, and people do not like it.
People hate it so much, they’ve created a change.org petition against it, a petition that has already manager to garner 175,400 signatures at the time of this writing. Here’s the main text that the petition uses:
“Google is forcing us to make google+ accounts and invading our social life to comment on a youtube video and trying to take away our anonymous profile. They are also trying to censor us unless we share the same worldview as they do.”
That may seem a little extreme, but the hits just keep coming. My personal favorite comes from Jawed Karim, one of the original founders of YouTube. He said (quite eloquently) “Why the f*** do i need a google+ account to comment on a video?”
Ostensibly, Google and YouTube made the change to cut down on all of the terrible crap that gets said in a YouTube comment section. Surely that’s a noble goal, but it isn’t being perceived as a genuine one. To most people (as I said above) this feels more like a crass and blunt attempt to get more people involved with Google+, a social network they have already rejected time and time again.
Unfortunately for Google, this change could not have come at a worse time. The events surrounding Edward Snowden and the NSA are ongoing, and the privacy discussion in America has never been more active. Some are perceiving this as an attempt on Google’s part to circumvent the private lives and personalities that people have carefully cultivated on the net. Of course, Google will never back down from their “user experience” justification, so you’ll have to make up your own mind as to which reason is the true one.
So what about marketing?
As a YouTube user, you may not love the new commenting system, but as a business and channel owner, you need to like it at least a little. Gone are the spam comments, the hateful comments, and the downright racist and bizarre comments. Now, you have an opportunity to foster actual intelligent discussion. Sure it’s against the will of the userbase, but that isn’t your problem or your concern. All you need to focus on is building up your YouTube channel and your Google+ page. One way or another, this is all going to blow over (and if history has taught us anything, it’s that Google more than likely won’t back down) and you need to be in a position to reach your audience. A good backup plan? Strengthen your blog and embed all of your videos in posts, that gives people an alternative way to comment. Of course, this is all moot if you aren’t making interesting video content!