IN SEPTEMBER 2009, A GROUP of communications students at the
University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) worked on a fun project as part
of orientation week. All 172 of them played a role in a lip-synch video
shot in just one take (known as a “lipdub”), which was
produced by seniors Luc-Olivier Cloutier and Marie-Eve Hebert. In the
four-minute video, students lip-synch to the Black Eyed Peas’ tune
“I Gotta Feeling” while touring campus facilities. A couple of
weeks after it was shot in Montreal and then uploaded to YouTube, the
video was picked up by CNN and some excerpts were played on the air. At
that point, it turned viral and reached a million views in about a week,
less than a month after it was first uploaded.
This unscripted success story is a dream come true for the
French-speaking institution, highlighting the quality and creativity of
its students to the Montreal community, but also to the world. It also
demonstrates how powerful YouTube videos can be when it comes to
promoting your institution to web users, traditional media or even the
Online video has become a great way to reach wide audiences at a
minimal cost–or even at no cost. The reason is very simple: lots of
people watch videos on YouTube.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American
Life Project in April 2009, 62 percent of adult internet users have
watched videos online, compared to 33 percent in December 2006. The vote
of confidence is even stronger with internet users aged 18 to 29, with
89 percent of them saying they watch content on video-sharing sites,
with 36 percent doing so on a typical day. In August 2009, comScore
Video Metrix, which measures online video activity, recorded the largest
U.S. audience ever for online videos, with 161 million internet users
and a total of 25 billion views during that month. Close to 40 percent
of these views were logged on YouTube by more than 120 million people in
the United States.
While there is no recipe for creating and producing a YouTube
success story similar to the lipdub video from the UQAM students, you
can do a few things to increase the chances of having your
institution’s YouTube videos be found, liked, and shared as widely
1. Get listed on YouTube EDU.
If your YouTube channel isn’t listed yet on the portal
dedicated to channels from colleges and universities around the world,
just fill out the online application form and get this item off your
to-do list right away. While the rules to become an educational partner
at YouTube were not clearly spelled out before the launch of YouTube EDU
in March 2009, they are now very simple and easy: The program is open to
qualifying two- and four-year degree-granting public and private
colleges and universities.
Your university channel needs to be set up first and should include
educational, not just promotional, videos before you apply to YouTube
EDU. Once your channel is added, it will stand a better chance of being
found within the directory, and the institution’s productions will
have a shot at being featured on the EDU homepage as a most viewed video
for the current month–or even on YouTube’s all-time honors’
roll–and get even more traffic as a direct result.
2. Make videos that are easy to share.
Leave “embedding” turned on for your videos so external
sites may embed them. YouTube blockbusters get watched within the
website itself, but they don’t get all their eyeballs from there.
Most of the time, a successful video is going to start (or continue) its
road to success on blogs that invite their readers to watch the video
In a recent HigherEd Experts webinar about the topic, Elizabeth
Giorgi, web communications manager for the University of Minnesota News
Service, explained that she pitched “The Science of Watchmen”
to blogs as soon as it was posted on YouTube. The six-minute
video–featuring Jim Kakalios, consultant for Watchmen and professor at
the University of Minnesota, explaining the science used in the
movie–got 1.5 million views between February and April 2009.
3. Choose keyword-rich titles, descriptions, and tags for the
Like the web itself, YouTube is a world based on searching,
sharing, and a bit of serendipity. Only a small set of viewers will come
right to your channel to check out your latest videos. Even fewer will
subscribe to receive notifications of your latest productions. But the
majority of prospective viewers will either watch videos recommended by
their friends (or by YouTube in the “related videos” box) or
listed in the search results for keywords of interest. That’s the
reason why it’s important to put some thought into the writing of
video titles, descriptions, and tags.
Try to place yourself in the shoes of your targeted viewers: What
would they search for to find this type of video? What is the most
compelling piece of content in each one? Be sure to select a catchy,
keyword-rich title to optimize your chances of being found. Don’t
just use the name of the person on camera as a video title unless she is
well-known beyond the walls of your institution or you want the video to
be seen mainly by an internal audience.
4. Produce context-rich videos.
Unless your videos include the entire context necessary to
understand and enjoy them, they won’t be shared or embedded by
viewers. It is crucial to keep in mind that these videos should (and
will) have a life of their own outside of your own YouTube channel. They
can appear in search results on YouTube or Google. They can also be
embedded in blogs or other websites. As a result, they should contain at
least some element of branding, as well as the name of your institution
and a link to your website in the end credits. Duke University News
Service has done a great job at branding its online videos with
consistent intro/end credit screens and audio announcements, making it
easy to recognize any of its productions on YouTube or elsewhere.
One caution: Avoid uploading bits and pieces of video
work-in-progress projects to YouTube without changing the privacy
settings to “private.” If it’s not meant for
everybody’s eyes yet, it shouldn’t be accessible to all on
5. Don’t ignore your most fervent video fans–and critics.
Most higher ed institutions use YouTube as a media repository or a
showcase for their online videos. They rarely interact with the viewers
who leave comments about their videos–even when they include direct
questions, praise, criticism, or suggestions. Even though YouTube is
home to some wild crowds and the kingdom of quasi-anonymous users, it
doesn’t mean that all should be ignored–especially not the most
engaged users who rate and comment on the videos they watch.
If you decide to leave the comments open (this is the default
setting), be cautious in your replies, as you would on blogs or Facebook
pages. Just don’t ignore the feedback from your community. Correct
facts, be helpful, and don’t antagonize viewers with your own
comments. Also, be sure that comment voting is enabled, so the community
can police itself by voting down the worst (and in favor of the best)
6. Add closed-captioning.
Closed-captioning is the right thing to do. By offering synched
transcripts of video dialogs or voice-over comments, you make your
YouTube videos accessible to viewers with hearing disabilities. This
also provides convenience to people who need to turn off the audio on
their computers or who aren’t totally fluent in English. Last, it
can increase the findability of your videos by attaching a keyword-rich
text to them.
Depending on the topics of your videos and your strategic goals,
you might have your captions translated into different languages to give
even more international mileage to the institution’s YouTube
videos. Captioning YouTube videos is easy and free to do with
CaptionTube. Other software or services can also be used. There is
really no reason for any institution to bypass closed-captioning.
Higher Ed TV (reviews, tips, and more about online videos),
“The Science of Watchmen” video,
UQAM lipdub video, http://tinyurl.com/qo9clr YouTube,
YouTube Duke News channel
http://youtube.com/user/dukeuniversitynews YouTube EDU,
YouTube EDU most-viewed videos, http://tinyurl.com/ygez6hx
Karine Joly is the web editor behind .collegewebeditor.com, a blog
about web marketing public relations, and technologies. She is
also the founder of the professional development online community