The Power of YouTube

In my elementary and middle school years, my friends and I would spend hours on end on YouTube watching video after video, jumping from singers to dance groups to entertainers like Jenna Marbles. We even claim to have discovered Justin Bieber because we would watch his initial performances and earliest videos that he posted on YouTube and then post them in our AIM buddy profiles. This may seem irrelevant, but I think it goes under the radar how influential YouTube really was in Justin Bieber’s rise to fame around 2008. Justin Bieber is only one extreme example of the many, many creators who have become famous thanks to YouTube, but his journey is telling of the power of YouTube as a social network and entity promoter.

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 4.50.59 PMLast month, YouTube was ranked 2nd globally, just behind Facebook, for number of active users among social networks with 1.5 billion users. While most people in the US probably think of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter as the major social network players, I would like to discuss how YouTube is an extremely effective social network for businesses in particular. The largest video-sharing network has come a long, long way since its first ever video, “Me at the zoo.” It became much more than just a platform for sharing silly, personal videos. It grew to become the go-to source of viral videos and the home of vlogs, tutorials, product reviews and an easy platform for showcasing talents and spreading ideas. Since its inception, YouTube has inadvertently helped businesses, big corporations and small mom and pop stores, find easy ways to market and brand. While there is a lot of emphasis for small businesses to capitalize on networks like Facebook and Instagram, I think people underestimate just how powerful YouTube’s network is, especially in collaboration with networks like Facebook and Instagram. YouTube videos, no matter the content, do not usually become viral or popular from the site itself, but through the ability to share the videos on other networks and through email or messaging. In 2015 and 2016 especially, there was about a 40% increase in views of product-related videos. YouTube recognized an opportunity in the gap between this increase in views of product-related videos and the actual purchasing of the products and decided to enter the e-commerce market. Businesses can leverage YouTube as an e-commerce social network in the following ways:

(1) YouTube Influencers

Even in its earliest days, people who posted to YouTube had a strong influence over creating social trends. Eventually businesses began to realize the value and opportunity in these “YouTube famous” content creators and there was born the idea of YouTube influencers. As YouTube states, “creators are more than a new generation of celebrity—they are writers, producers and distributors of content to a large and already engaged audience.” Businesses engage with influencers by sponsoring an influencer’s video, subtly plugging their product into an influencer’s video, or hiring an influencer to appear in the business’s video. A major reason influencers are effective is because consumers trust their favorite YouTube stars; they are people who they can relate to more than traditional celebrities or brands.

YouTube recognizes the value of influencers or “creators,” too. In the past few years, they have created pimped out spaces in major cities across the globe equipped with all the technology to easily make high quality videos where YouTube creators can go to create higher quality or more involved videos or collaborate with other creators in the YouTube community. YouTube wants to foster community and the creation of high quality content because the greater value that influencers are able to create, the greater value of YouTube as a social network.

(2) Small Business Opportunities

Last year, in an effort to encourage small businesses to take advantage of ecommerce on YouTube, they rolled out the “YouTube Director” app. This app has 130 ready-to-go templates, step-by-step instructions, and easy-to-use editing tools. YouTube created this free app for every type of business owner, from every level of experience and every demographic. The business owners can then post the video to YouTube and share it on their social media channels, or use it for paid advertising. Because Google acquired YouTube in 2006, all YouTube features can leverage Google tools like Google Small Business, Google Adwords, and Google Analytics. With the YouTube Director app, business owners can use all of these Google features in collaboration to create brand personality and market their business.

(3) Google Shopping Integration

In May of 2015, YouTube integrated Google shopping into their platform in an effort to close the gap between viewing product-related videos and actually purchasing the product. This new feature allows influencers and business owners to embed a pop up in their video that, when clicked, will lead the viewer directly to the website where the product can be purchased. As shown below, an information icon pops up in the right hand corner and when it is clicked, a scrolling panel of cards with information and pictures of the product shows up and can be clicked. This feature makes influencer product videos even more powerful and effective.


This feature has been popular for makeup businesses in particular. In the example below, Sephora hired celebrity tattoo artist, Kat Von D, to make a how-to video using their brand of eyeliner.

With all of the tools mentioned above, YouTube is certainly an easy and cheap social network platform for business owners to take their marketing and brand awareness to the next level.


  1. Sheritta Coleburn · ·

    Great post. Youtube is a great platform and has helped many people become “Youtube Famous, ” but I do think some businesses are not aware of how Youtube could be a great fit in their marketing strategy. I have also mentioned Influencers in my blog post and how they are useful to businesses and ultimately helping to increase sales. I am sure we will see more businesses taking advantage of the Youtube platform just as Facebook and Instagram!

  2. alyssacasale4 · ·

    Nice post! It is so true that YouTube is often the social media platform that gets put aside next to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, even though it is extremely beneficial to businesses. From the readings, class videos, discussions and even Alex’s blog post this week, we have seen so many examples of how YouTube can benefit an organization, bringing in millions of views from consumers all over the world. I really like the concept of the “YouTube Director App” that you mentioned, as I think it makes what often seems like a very expensive and time consuming process (making videos/advertisements), relatively simple and quick. I think that the introduction of this app will give small businesses a competitive edge, as before this, many businesses may not have had the tools necessary to make engaging content. Since often successful, viral videos require a significant amount of research, time and money, this app gives small businesses a great way to advertise their products in order to compete with bigger companies that may have unlimited resources to spend on content. I definitely think YouTube is taking a step in the right direction by adding all of these new features for YouTubers!

  3. fernanfu89 · ·

    Really interesting post! I do feel that YouTube is an underrated social platform. In my case I do use it a lot because of all the content within the platform as well as the useful videos you can find within. Recently, as you have mentioned I have seen a lot of links on videos that takes you to other websites so you can buy the products. I feel that youtube is an excellent platform for selling products since through the video you can generate the buy in for selling the product.

  4. Hilary_Gould · ·

    Awesome post! I love YouTube. I definitely agree that it’s underrated in terms of social media sites. What amazes me is how many videos are played on other sites but powered through YouTube. What I love about this feature is that you can click “watch on YouTube” if you enjoyed the video and then you will be prompted with similar videos on the side. I have to wonder how much data YouTube has just because they power video playback across so many different sites. I also know they started a subscription version, but I don’t know anyone who has ever used it. I’m curious how much success they’re having with that.

  5. britt_hopkins4 · ·

    I never thought of YouTube as a social media platform until after your post! I too remember the days of Justin Bieber and spending endless amounts of hours going through videos. There are only so many ways to post videos, though. For example in a recent project, we made a video and put it in our PowerPoint, but Google Slides only allows videos through YouTube, so I had to upload 3 videos just for that. In a way, YouTube has a first mover’s advantage in a space that no one other than Vimeo has really attempted to move into. I would be interested to see how many of their users upload videos that actually get views. I assume I would be considered an active user since I recently uploaded, but I would never call myself a YouTube user anymore like I used to be. It makes me wonder what their numbers actually are for those like Jenna Marbles who are consistently uploading videos that people watch. There are a bunch of fine lines here! Well done post!

  6. In 2006, Time Magazine named “You” the person of the year, in no small part to Google’s $1.65bn purchase of YouTube. I never reflected that YouTube probably has had the most staying power of any platform, aside from FB.

  7. cgoettelman23 · ·

    This was a great post!! In two weeks, I’m doing my presentation about YouTube influencers in the beauty community. It’s interesting to me that people can make an entire career out of, essentially, a social media website. Advertisers have invested heavily in these influencers, and I think that they are beginning to change the world of marketing as we know it. It’ll be interesting to see how, and if, YouTube ever tries to compete with Facebook for the #1 slot–or, if they’re perfectly content being #2.

  8. Yvette Zhou · ·

    Nice post! YouTube, initially as a video service provider, was never thought being a successful social media at the first time. But the unique function of YouTube – video of contents has made it outstanding among thousands of social media. I totally agree that YouTube influences social trends and provide more opportunities to small business. Actually it made possible for small business owners break through to the market. And it provides a platform to social media fans expressing themselves. And I agree with @cgoettelman23 that YouTube begins to change the digital marketing because it shares more contents via video. Large companies can collaborate with these new media on YouTube to create more interesting ads, and even find new ways of marketing.

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