in the past week or so, youtube annotations have gone more wild than a catholic schoolgirl at a fraternity party. annotations in youtube have been around for a while. this month, however, youtube released a new feature set for partners that allows external annotation. That is, clicking a cute blouse or a gold-plated ipad in a video can now transport viewers directly to a page where they can buy the product.
links to external sites have been allowed in the description area below videos in the past. and participants in youtube’s non-profit partners program have enjoyed limited external annotation since 2009. but other youtube users have been restricted to adding labels (a la vh-1 pop-up videos) and linking within youtube to their channel or another video. external annotation is huge news for organizations that might not qualify for the nonprofit program, and of course for businesses that have been clamoring for the feature. here are details on the three types of links available:
here’s the money shot for retailers on youtube. using spotlight annotations, users can create clickable links directly from products in the video to a page where viewers can buy the product. at this time, merchandising links are available for just a few approved retailers, including google play (naturally), itunes and some other smaller ecommerce sites like shopify and cafepress (full list below). I expect getting on the list will involve a vetting process and some fees, but hopefully it will happen soon. here’s an example of merchandising annotations in a video from juicy couture:
here is the full list of approved retailers as the new feature launches (Dec 2012):
- Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Karmin_Hello?id=B2sxx5lpivzzj26sep377vxe6pa
- iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/album/brokenhearted/id517705569
- Spreadshirt: http://thefinebros.spreadshirt.com/
- District Lines: http://www.districtlines.com/meekakitty
- Topspin: http://okgo.spinshop.com/
- Cafepress: http://www.cafepress.com/geekandsundry
- Jinx: http://www.jinx.com/shop/partner/geek_sundry/
- Shopify: http://epicmealtime.myshopify.com
- Songkick: http://www.songkick.com/artists/4743863-karmin
verified youtube partners can now create in-video links to their websites. when qualifying users create a new annotation and tick off the link box, new options appear on the list. just enter the url for the site and you’re good to go! this will help viewers who come to a video from an unrelated site to learn more about the creator without having to search the description for a link. youtube surfers are not a patient people!
a related feature (not sure how new it is) in this vein is “in-video programming,” which allows channel owners to reinforce channel branding with a special annotation, as well as promote a particular video in all other videos.
linking to fundraising sites using annotations
this annotation type has been around for several years for youtube nonprofit partners. the program requirements, however, most notably 501(c)(3) certification, made it difficult for small or informal organizations to access this killer fundraising feature. it looks like youtube is offloading abuse risks by only allowing fundraising annotations to link to a short list of approved platforms like kickstarter and crowdrise. this gets youtube out of the business of vetting causes.
this is a great option for participants in fundraising events. most organizations now provide participants with a robust fundraising platform with webpage and email features, but a compelling video on youtube with a direct link to a donation page could expand the pool of donors and amplify results at no cost to the participant or the organization. I’m talking to you, blackbaud.
michael hoffman from see3 communications described the nonprofit program in 2009
michael was absolutely correct in saying what a powerful tool this is for nonprofit groups. and now it’s even better.
the list of approved providers for fundraising annotations
there are a few important things to point out before jumping into the new external annotation features.
- the new features are for approved youtube partners only. that is not as scary as it sounds. qualifying as a partner is easy – as far as I can tell, all it takes is saying you agree to have ads show up with your videos. however, I saw in the youtube forums that associated website and merch annotations are being rollout out gradually, so don’t expect the new options to show up immediately.
- youtube is careful to warn users that clicking on annotation stops the video, continuing “this can impact your watch time metrics.” this means than driving viewers away too soon will hurt the video’s ranking in search results, since google values watch time highly.
- DON’T POST NON-STOP CALLS TO ACTION. look at the juicy video above. they jam products in like there’s no tomorrow, but the video still tells a story. ideally viewers will be entertained enough by the storyline that they willingly play the video again to click through. boring is still bad, and conversion will still suck on a video that does nothing but shout “click here.”