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Why Brands Should Skip the "Conversation" on YouTube

My job is all about conversation.  Having one with clients and peers, and helping them have one with their customers.  To a degree, my own book is about conversations so this may seem like a strange observation coming from me … but I don’t see any point in publishing a video on YouTube and allowing comments. 

In every other medium, from blogs to microsites to forums, comments are great.  They invite conversation and offer a chance for dialogue.  As a result, comments that are not relevant can usually be ignored and or caught by spam filters.  Look at most blogs, and the comments will likely add to the dialogue.  That’s not the case on YouTube, and I think we are all noticing it.  For example, watch this promotional video recently release by Google on YouTube:

Now click the link to go directly to YouTube and read some of the comments.  There are people posting racist views about kids, using swear words and having all kinds of useless, mean and idiotic "conversations."  Most other videos on YouTube generate similar comments that people would never say out loud.  The problem with YouTube is that it has become increasingly common for hundreds of these comments to come on just about every video.  I dare you to find any video with at least 25 comments that doesn’t have a significant number of these types of comments.  These are not just isolated dumb comments or spam … this is a plague that seems to affecting YouTube disproportionately.  For some reason, commenting on videos encourages stupidity.

Am I saying people shouldn’t be allowed to discuss videos that are posted on YouTube?  No.  But I think a far better solution right now is to either moderate comments on YouTube (which surprisingly few brands adding videos to YouTube seem to choose), or embed a video that is posted on YouTube on your blog and encourage comments there.  Comments on YouTube videos today are just a forum for people to share moronic comments anonymously.  Comments on YouTube should certainly not be any part of metrics to measure.  Having hundreds of comments on a video is meaningless.  For any brand putting videos on YouTube, if you are looking for conversation – my advice is to embed the video elsewhere and choose to moderate or remove comments on YouTube altogether.

5 thoughts on “Why Brands Should Skip the "Conversation" on YouTube”

  1. Rohit — Maybe “skip” is the wrong word, but certainly moderation is appropriate. I take this same approach with all of my videos. I am not sure people look at the settings when they upload a video to limit or expand the conversation on YouTube. Embedding on your site is a great way around this, but moderation of comments, video replies and further syndication is something everybody should pay attention to.

  2. This definitely makes sense.
    If you owned an art gallery and visitors were being rude, you would politely ask them to leave and view the paintings from the glass windows outside if they so wish. That’s just common courtesy.

    But with videos being hosted in SUCH a public place, moderation can be quite justified.

  3. Perhaps YouTube suffers from the same problem that the Xbox Live service does. Anonymous commenting tends to bring out the worst in people since there is no social backlash online.

    There was recently a big discussion in the gaming community about a video from user handle “xxxGayBoyxxx” who was harassed online by anonymous gamers.

    The issue is becoming more common in all public forums. I think the only solution to commenting online is moderating for good comments and banning users that don’t add to the discussion and/or implementing some sort of system like digg where comments are voted up or down (a sort of user self-moderation).

  4. Have you read the comments section of your average daily newspaper? Is it any wonder that most newspaper’s hide these sections? Or read through the comment book in an art gallery or museum? My god people say the most ridiculous things. You’ll completely lose faith in your fellow humans. I think in this regard YouTube is just so big, with such a general audience that they end up with that kind of comment section. They should allow individuals to turn comments off for their video posts.

  5. I am getting to this late but definitely agree with this sentiment. I have been fascinated with this phenomenon on YouTube as well, both with my personal use for content as well as observing attempts by companies to use YouTube for awareness.

    My first question was what your thoughts were on the reason for this? Inaudible Nonsense’s point that the audience is so big as to attract attention from parties not interested in your topic is an interesting one.

    It is clear that YouTube is aware of this given that they now have recommendation capabilities on individual posts as well as the ability to control comments on each video rather than have it be an on/off switch across the site.

    The second question is whether you feel that this is partly the culture that is (accidentally) promoted by the way that YouTube is set up. The other possibility that occurred to me is that the medium (video) attracts a less articulate audience than blogs might, resulting in a commenting culture and subject matter that would be unusual on a blog for example.


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#1 WSJ & USA Today Bestselling Author

Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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