YouTube Marketing Gets Serious: Buddy Media Lets Brands Customize Channels With Apps

One-hundred million views, 100 thousand subscribers, and many of the world’s biggest brands still don’t have a suite of tools for customizing their YouTube channels. That changes today as social marketing platform Buddy Media begins letting its big brand clients deck out their YouTube channels with stylized video players and interactive apps. Twitter feeds, e-commerce storefronts, quizzes, linked banners, photo galleries and more can all be hosted on a channel.

The same way brands doubled down on Facebook Page marketing once they could host apps, I think we’re about to see a major uptick in the time and money they spend manicuring their YouTube channels. Too many captive eyeballs are going to waste.

[Update:  Several other social marketing platforms also have YouTube customization capabilities. thismoment provides media galleries, flash, conversation display, user generated content uploads, commerce, language localization, and a full-blown API layer. Meanwhile, Wildfire last week began to offer custom contests. While Buddy Media is not the first to enter the space, its massive client base and funding make it a trendsetter. Its heavier YouTube integrations alongside those of other platforms will spur more brands to prioritize YouTube marketing.]

The recent increase in marketing platform interest in YouTube comes from the video site’s astounding growth in popularity. As of January it powered 4 billion video views a day, up from 3 billion per day in May 2011. Highly desired younger demographics are frequent viewers, wider broadband access is making online video easier to consume, and time that used to be spent watching television commercials is moving online. Brands must be spending at least $50,000 on YouTube advertising to add a customizable tab to their channels (or sometimes as much as $250,000 or even $400,000 for advanced functionality). And Smart brands don’t want to just have a YouTube channel, they want the best one.

Buddy Media aims to give it to them. It already handles marketing on Facebook and other platforms for 600 of the world’s biggest brands, and now is building out its YouTube integration. Previously, clients could publish and manage videos and playlists, but until now their YouTube channels couldn’t host apps.

Now they can pimp out their video player with custom wrappers, buttons, and carousels of videos to play next. They can display RSS feeds of Twitter or other content, show product galleries that populate offsite shopping carts, and let users vote and see the results instantly. Eventually I expect full-fledged branded games to appear on YouTube channels, and Buddy Media to offer contests like its competitors.

Brands still need their in-house teams or agencies to create custom backgrounds for their channels. I think Buddy Media would be wise to add drag-and-drop background templates to its suite of services. Buddy Media may be the one of the first to offer a suite of YouTube channel apps beyond contests, but I bet competitors will quickly move deeper into the space. Meanwhile, Twitter and Google+ pages still don’t support apps, and are going to start looking static to compared to those on YouTube and Facebook.

By allowing brands more customization flexibility, YouTube will encourage those brands to advertise for and send traffic to their channels. This meshes well with yesterday’s news that YouTube is now letting brands sponsor entire channels with display, overlay, and pre-roll ads. Brand marketing’s not about broadcasting a message anymore, it’s about engagement, and YouTube’s about to get a lot more engaging.