Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Oregon Legislators are on YouTube. Why aren’t you?

The first thing I thought when I heard that Oregon Legislators are putting clips on YouTube is: Has YouTube "Jumped the Shark"? Just kidding. Really I thought if the group of people who are historically the most behind in technology and the most afraid of new mediums are adopting YouTube as a communication strategy, what does that say about those businesses who are either ignoring the site or who have made strategic decisions to stay away.

In the past year or two, YouTube has had a meteoric rise from quirky video sharing site to Google owned media monolith. YouTube brings millions of eyes daily to their site and is no longer limited to videos of kids being hit in the family jewels with various objects or pirated video clips of movies and TV (although, these are still very popular on the site). YouTube now has everything from recent Super Bowl commercials and educational videos, to self produced music videos and VLOGS (Video Blogs). If the notoriously ill tempered and slothy movie and television industries are adopting the video-sharing site as a marketing tool there must be a reason.

The recent movie hit "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" was almost entirely driven by the buzz created by Borat clips on YouTube and their subsequent viral nature pushed by social networking sites such as Digg, thousands of blogs, and good old word of mouth. "Snakes on a Plane" is another example of a potentially bomb of a movie with huge buzz created through YouTube pre-promotion and YouTube clips placed in Blogs, message boards, and social sites.

Comedy Central was initially an unwilling star of YouTube with millions of views of their popular "Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" clips. Initially Comedy Central chose to send YouTube a cease and desist, causing the removal of most of their clips. That is until their talent, producers, fans, and the blogosphere erupted in outrage and bafflement. It seems everybody but the TV execs realized the amazing marketing opportunity YouTube was offering the shows, all with almost zero advertising investment. Now CBS and NBC are regularly posting clips to YouTube.

If you are in a business and ignore YouTube you are not only wasting a potentially powerful, mostly free, marketing medium but you are giving the power of identity to your competitors and customers. Just because you ignore this video phenomena does not mean it doesn't exist, will go away, or you are protected from its effects. If you aren't driving the bus you might very well have abdicated that responsibility to strangers.

Driving the bus is exactly what Oregon Representative Dennis Richardson who represents Oregon House District 4 (Jackson and Josephine Counties) has decided to do. Instead of allowing the lobby machine or the press to dictate the tone and facts of the discussion he has chosen to use YouTube to get his message out. Granted the 400+ views of his two videos may not cause a groundbreaking shift in the legislation, it has other powerful implications. In the local area, this story has gotten a full day of radio and TV coverage plus write ups in various newspapers and publications. Where previously Representative Richardson couldn't have hoped to get any coverage of his positions or invaluable face time on the news outlets; by posting a few 5-minute clips on YouTube, he has achieved both with minimal effort.

I never thought I would say this but more businesses need to be like the Oregon Legislature and pull their heads out of their ancient marketing strategies, take off the Internet blinders, and embrace the Web 2.0 market. If members of one of the nation's most dysfunctional governing bodies are adopting new marketing strategies and leaving your business with its substantial marketing budget in the dust you have more problems than they do. If that doesn't scare you then you are destined to continue to spend stupid amounts of money on ads in struggling newspapers or magazines while your competitors are getting that impact and more for pennies on the dollar.

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