How many of you remember Choose Your Own Adventure children's books? These books allowed readers to make critical decisions at various twists in the plot: "Turn to page XX if you want to climb the stairs or page YY if you want to open the door." Depending on your choice, you were possibly crowned the hero of the tale or, perhaps, reached an impasse and the story was over. How many remember loving these Choose Your Own Adventure Books? Their beauty, of course, was that although there were only a finite number of options and choices available, their format allowed readers some level of control and self-determination of the content. The novelty and control promoted a high level of engagement (and affinity) between the user and the content.
Skip forward to the online content of today. Wherein the holy grail of social media marketing is finding ways to promote, encourage, and maintain user engagement. The introduction of Google's Moderator Tool in YouTube at the end of May 2010 has just created a new opportunity for promoting audience interaction through choice. The YouTube Moderator can be easily added to any YouTube Channel in order to create a collaborative polling environment. Essentially, the tool allows Channel owners to ask their audiences to choose their own adventures. With the tool, viewers watch a video clip and then can offer suggestions about the content or vote on pre-populated choices the Channel owner provides. The point is that users can weigh in on videos' progression over time with the most-voted-for suggestions / ideas rising to the top of the suggestion stream.
"Sounds fun," you think, "but what does that have to do with social media marketing and my company's YouTube Channel?" Have you ever wondered what aspects of your video content were most appealing to your audience? What kinds of video content they wanted more of? What questions they had about your products or service offerings? What new features they wish you would add? These are just some of the questions you could answer through promoting user engagement via the Moderator Tool. On the B2C side, for example, perhaps you would like to have a contest to name your new product. You could upload an entertaining video featuring the product to your company YouTube channel and with the Moderator Tool, viewers could submit and vote on their favorite product names. The originator of the winning name could receive a prize and you could promote the contest through all of your various social media marketing channels – for a potentially viral effort. For B2B companies, the Moderator Tool could be used to garner industry thought-leadership kudos. You could post videos of one of your experts discussing your industry and invite users to submit and vote on the questions they're most interested in learning more about. You could then film future videos answering the most-voted-for questions; and you could promote the Q&A on your website and other online properties and social media channels. [Incidentally, this Moderator-Tool Q&A format was utilized in early 2010 by YouTube for a live stream Q&A with President Barack Obama. Though live streaming via YouTube is not presently available to the masses, it is a "one-to-look-out-for" feature that will likely be available in the future.] As with much in the social media marketing landscape, the possibilities for both B2C and B2B uses of the Moderator Tool are limited only by your marketing creativity and the content you are able to generate and publish.
The choices you offer your viewers empower them to take personal ownership of your corporate content, thus further entrenching them in the culture and zeitgeist of your brand. This relationship between the viewer and the content does not necessarily occur through the more impersonal "commenting" feature available in YouTube and most other online content-sharing platforms. While it can get heated and intense, commenting is, by its very nature, passive to the content. It is an external, aloof critique. On the other hand, the Moderator Tool is interactive and personal because it allows viewers to shape the growth of your business's online content. Strategic use of the Tool, with engaging base content and thought-provoking questions surrounding it, invites viewers to be part of the brand and have a "say" in its evolution. Thus holding the potential for creating repeat Channel views, increased subscribership, more referral traffic to the site, and, ultimately, higher revenue through increased user engagement and brand loyalty.