Rabushka's Rules: YouTube Etiquette

Online videos have completely transformed the way brands engage. Chances are you’ve heard Nebo talk a lot about the importance of storytelling. Well, YouTube is brand storytelling heaven. Companies have the ability to build and share powerful narratives in the form of videos to reach a desired business goal or benefit causes they’re passionate about. Video enables brands to reach users on a level deeper than any other platform allows.

Because video content tends to have a greater emotional impact than the written word, or even photos and infographics, brands have a unique opportunity to use YouTube to quickly build awareness and connect users with purpose and passion. Videos can inspire a community to take action against a conflict in the market. Videos can build engagement and provoke change faster and wider than any other social platform. Videos generate loyalty and lifelong fans of everything you share and everything you represent.

Additionally, YouTube gives brands unlimited creative freedom. They can create content users will choose to watch versus content they’re forced to consume.

YouTube demands that companies prioritize user experience over product pushes in order to be successful. If they can do this effectively, they can grow their brand, turn ideas into movements and truly make a difference. But who are the influencers on YouTube?

Generation C


Google Insights defines Generation C as “a powerful new force in consumer culture [and] people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection and community.” It’s an attitude and mindset, not an age group (although mostly comprised of Millenials). Some key characteristics that Google uses to define these mystery people are as follows:

  • They strive for expression
  • They are the taste-makers
  • They define the social network
  • YouTube is their habitat for entertainment
  • They’re constantly connected
  • They connect to YouTube on all screens
  • They value relevance and originality

These people rely on peer approvals for buying decisions. They are critics. They define themselves by what they share on social. They eat, sleep and breathe the Internet across devices. Most importantly, they are proud to give back. - “A YouTube Generation

Social Etiquette Best Practices


Now that we better understand who the brand influencers are and what makes them want to share certain content, we can better define etiquette best practices that will help brands achieve their online goals, without upsetting people through abusive and lazy ad tactics.

Build trust by respecting the user

Trust is essential. Users are already jaded by digital ads and branded video content. Most assume brands are trying to sell or reach irrelevant metric goals. In fact, newspaper ads are still the most trusted form of paid media in North America, according to a recent Nielsen survey. What does that say about our consumer culture? Therefore, why push content that blatantly promotes a product, or push a call to action simply to boost traffic with generic ad placements, or include an unnecessary amount of annotations in your 15 second ad? Those aren’t meeting your audience’s needs, and they are one-dimensional goals. It’s not good enough to create cause-worthy videos and upload to your YouTube channel, or direct users to relevant landing pages hoping they’ll convert. Those strategies are lazy and selfish, and it tells users you aren't considering them or their motivations for engaging on the platform. They will immediately write you off and all content that comes from you after trust has been broken. Make your first goal to build loyalty and respect through content that your users want engage with.

“Generation C is two times more likely to agree that the only ads they like to watch are ads that they have a choice to skip.”

Connect deeply and authentically

You have limited time and chances to engage your audience. Make sure you tell an authentic story that inspires people. That makes them believe in your cause or passion. That moves them enough to share it themselves and tell all their friends. According to Google Think Insights, “70 percent of Generation C says content gives them and their friends things to get together and talk about.” Users only share videos they love. Use videos to tell great stories and make a purpose-driven impact. Add a little creative spark, and you’ll see how quickly good video campaigns can build positive conversations. YouTube gives brands the ability to connect with their audiences on a deeper more emotional level that's greater than any other platform's capabilities. Take advantage of that potential.

“One out of every two individuals agree they buy from brands that support causes they believe in.”

Take creative risks

It’s hard to create inspiring campaigns and content unless you have a creative component to your videos that catches people’s attention. You can have a good message that’s advocating an honorable cause, but if you can’t execute, then it’ll go nowhere. This requires a deep understanding of what interests and motivates your audience. However, beyond knowing why and how your audience consumes content, execution is key to successful campaigns. Brands are finding increasingly better ways to engage through video content, and they are becoming more and more creative in executing their campaigns and encouraging participation.

“68 percent of YouTube users say YouTube is the place to celebrate creativity.”

Campaigns Doing it Right


Below are examples of brands who have recently built strong connections using etiquette tips, like trust, authenticity and creative expression, that make users choose to watch and engage with them.

“Three out of every four YouTube users agree that if there is a brand they love, they tend to tell everyone about it.”

Baby & Me – The New Evian Film

This clip uses humor and fun to create an original and entertaining narrative. It shows grown adults who see their "baby selves" every time they look at their reflections in mirrors or store windows. Then they dance. They’re calling it “Dancing with my baby-me.” Evian’s message encourages us to “Live Young.” The message alone is creative enough to appeal to their audience without overly selling a specific competitive advantage or using product placesments in the campaign at all.

Heineken – Carol Karaoke

Heineken suggests a scenario in which different groups of friends who are singing holiday carols at Karaoke Bars are being secretly recorded. Shortly after, the groups are informed that they’ve been recorded and they have the choice to broadcast their sing-a-longs across large public gatherings (at a major sporting event or even in the middle of Times Square in New York). The ad suggests that when people drink Heineken, they’re brave and confident enough to, say,  sing for all of New York City. It not only associates admirable qualities with the brand, but also uses a holiday tradition like caroling to add relevancy, timeliness and connection to a holiday-inspired campaign.

Child of the 90s – Internet explorer

IE debuted this video almost a year ago to reveal the new IE 10 browser. The slogan was, “You grew up. So did we. Reconnect with the new Internet explorer.” The video highlights all the things 90s America loved from that decade. What makes it shareable is its ability to connect – transferring positive feelings about the decade in order to change old perceptions about Internet Explorer. Because we got good vibes from the campaign, we were more accepting of what it was suggesting – that IE might actually be redeemable. Visit the campaign’s website, Browser You Loved to Hate, to learn more.

Girls Don’t Poop – PooPourri.com

Enough said.

Video has the unique ability to reach users on a very intimate level in a short period of time. It can inform and inspire. When at its best, when brands master video creation, community, connection and curation, video can influence people to do something amazing. To share your content. To fall in love with your brand. Or even to participate in your story.


Written by Laura Rabushka on January 21, 2014


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Written by
Laura Rabushka