Google’s recent effort to silence trolls with a new YouTube commenting policy might actually be a boon to brands.
YouTube in September began directing its users to open an account on Google+, the search giant’s social network, if they want to sound off on videos.
While there has been some user outcry, there are signs that YouTube is becoming a quieter place. In fact, one YouTube partner, vidIQ—after surveying 1,300 random channels—found that there were 40 percent fewer comments since the changes were implemented.
“We expect these numbers to rebound as the kinks get ironed out and brands take advantage of the beneficial new features,” a vidIQ spokesperson said.
Indeed, one hoped-for effect of the policy change is that the typically nasty comment threads attached to videos would become more civil if people have to open Google+ accounts, potentially tying the online personas to the real world.
YouTube, which declined comment, is measurably among the most negative social media landscapes online, ahead of blogs but behind sites like Tumblr when it comes to civility, according to a recent social media report from Adobe.
YouTube trolls have terrorized some marketing campaigns on the site, scaring brands that have tried to embrace the promotional platform. Going forward, industry insiders who work with brands on YouTube said the commenting changes would instill needed confidence in marketers to engage on the video-sharing site.
“YouTube is putting so much more emphasis on making it a friendly place for brands,” said Robert Sandie, co-founder of vidIQ, which helps brands navigate YouTube, including eBay and Warner Bros. That emphasis is clear—witness last week’s $100 million YouTube-heavy upfront deal between Google and Publicis shops DigitasLBi and Razorfish.
And to get the most of YouTube, brands need to engage with commenters; ignoring them can kill a campaign. One media insider recalled a top publisher’s YouTube effort to launch a video series that was cut short after a negative commenter assaulted the first video post. The chorus stole the show, overpowering the message the company was promoting, the insider said, and the brand ultimately killed the series.
YouTube publishers always have the option to bar commenting on individual posts, but that’s a dilemma for marketers who know that comments increase engagement, according to Sandie.
“Not every brand thinks of YouTube as a social network,” Sandie said. “They think of it as a place to dump videos and hope engagement occurs. They need to be actively participating and commenting to get the full benefit.”