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Downloads Or Subscribers? Evaluating YouTube's Place In Viewer Conversion Funnel

Is amassing a large YouTube subscriber list the beginning or the end of your video content strategy?

If you answered the latter, it may be time to reevaluate your approach. The goal of any branded YouTube channel should not be to simply generate a large subscriber count. Those are vanity metrics that look good on paper but carry less meaning to your bottom line.

Instead of congratulating yourself on the growth of your YouTube subscriber count, you should be asking yourself what you want to do with all these subscribers now that you have them. Taking into account a typical customer conversion funnel, YouTube subscribers would represent the second tier. The first tier would be YouTube views -- that’s the first stage of awareness. The next tier, as mentioned, is your YouTube subscriber count -- that’s the first stage of connection. The third tier, then, is converting those subscribers into your mobile app -- that’s the first stage of engagement, and leads to the final tier of monetization.

YouTube channels are great. In fact, they’re necessary to find new viewers, because by and large that’s where video viewers live. So you need to find them where they are. But once you’ve found them, you don’t need to stop there. Mobile video apps create a closer connection to your fans/viewers, allow you greater control for how those viewers are monetized, and gives you a longer-lasting brand presence on users' devices.

Yes, you can generate revenue on YouTube. Videos can be monetized in various forms (pre-roll, banner, etc.). But YouTube only shares about 45% of the revenue earned, and has no internal ad team in place to help you create customized campaigns. It relies on the Google ad team, which exists in a completely different department that doesn’t distinguish much between YouTube ads, Web ads and so on.(See this fascinating video of  Jason Calacanis having a roundtable discussion with others on this point).

With a mobile and/or tablet app, you have more control and a greater cut of the revenue. Maybe it’s a video ad strategy. Maybe it’s in-app purchases. It’s completely your choice.

But the power of mobile apps goes beyond mere money. It’s about engagement. On YouTube, you may have a branded channel; but whether or not you “own” that viewer is debatable. Do you own the viewer, or does YouTube? A viewer who  downloads your mobile app is a much stronger connection. You now have a content relationship with a viewer directly. You control the user interface, the experience. And you now own (in a sense) a part of that viewer’s screen. The app icon is like a billboard, a branding presence on the most personal screen that user has - explained in more detail in this  LinkedIn post, “The Most Valuable Real Estate in the World.”

Here’s a key excerpt: "This space often commands valuations of $1b per 1/4 square inch or more, and there is scarcity because only about 24 of them available. They are the mobile application launch buttons on your iOS or Android home screen.The correlation between a business being able to 'own' a scarce spot on your home screen, and become a highly valued business, is extremely high."

The potential for direct engagement with viewers is incredibly high as a result.  For instance, apps deliver more direct notifications to users when content is updated, messaging them right on their home screen (if the user has opted in) with a note directing them to the video app. That’s far more powerful and effective than what YouTube subscribers receive.

Again, this is in no way a criticism of YouTube. YouTube subscribers are important, and the number of them you collect are helpful to feed the top of the conversion funnel. What’s more, YouTube has great features, annotations in particular, that will help you use YouTube to draw attention to your mobile app and other properties.

1 comment about "Downloads Or Subscribers? Evaluating YouTube's Place In Viewer Conversion Funnel".
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  1. Sam Simon from Cygnus Business Media, July 8, 2013 at 1:31 p.m.

    One of the better articles I've read about the value of having a video app. That should be the vision of anyone with a brand and video - have that little button that sits on the home screen of their target audience's phones/tablets.

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