Despite YouTube’s undeniable popularity among consumers, marketers seem to be less familiar with the platform. Market-research firm eMarketer expects that just two in five U.S. companies, or 40.5 percent, will use YouTube for marketing purposes in 2014. The brands that are participating on the platform are giving cat videos a run for their money. Indeed, in 2013, three branded videos cracked YouTube’s top 10 most watched videos of the year for the first time.

Still, for more than half of the companies in the U.S. to not leverage the world’s largest video platform as a marketing opportunity is inexcusable, especially now that more digital media is consumed than TV.  And YouTube is no small potato.

With more than six billion hours of video consumed each month -- almost an hour for every person on Earth -- its viewership continues to skyrocket. It’s also not just a video hosting platform -- it’s the most popular search engine after Google, ahead of both Bing and Yahoo, according to an infographic by Mushroom Networks.

Here are three reasons why marketing on YouTube should be a top priority:

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1. Ability to generate sales (not just awareness or leads). The top goals for social media marketing campaigns are to drive web traffic, to generate leads for future sales and to speak to brand fans, according to Chief Marketer’s 2013 Social Marketing Survey of U.S. marketers and agencies. Notice anything missing from that list? How about to sell something? YouTube is not only a social platform for engagement but a powerful tool for sales conversion that allows you track the consumer path to purchase from viewer to customer.

At Orabrush, we’ve been able to sell millions of tongue cleaners for humans and dogs and build a global brand using YouTube, proof that you can reach consumers for just about any product on the platform. That said, YouTube, like other social media channels, does require a company to create engaging, entertaining content that captures consumers’ short online attention spans.

2. Provides the best bang for your marketing bucks. YouTube builds brands effectively and cost-effectively. In my opinion, while cost per 1,000 impressions (CPMs) varies for traditional and digital advertising, YouTube carries more value than any other impression. Instead of a hopeful glance at a static display ad, a YouTube impression on an in-stream ad is 5 to 29 seconds of someone viewing your ad. At 30 seconds, it becomes a view. That’s real ROI for awareness and brand building. If you don’t put content on YouTube, you are foregoing significant opportunities to create organic awareness on your brand.

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3. It’s where your target audience is. With more than one billion unique monthly users, YouTube’s audience encompasses practically every demographic your brand wants to reach. According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18-34 than any cable network. In addition to that crowd, brands that want to reach a younger or older crowd can easily cater to those consumers as well.

I’ve made it this far without a single mention of going viral, and that is intentional. Exclusively pursuing a viral video strategy is misguided -- creating sustained engagement to retain viewers and building a dedicated, loyal following should take priority. That being said, if a branded video is making the rounds on social media, don’t be shy to promote it to accelerate viewership and conversion.

When I parted ways with Procter & Gamble, after more than two decades with the company, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on advertising. Now, everything I learned at P&G, I do in reverse. Instead of building a traditional marketing and media campaign first and leaving digital as an afterthought, I start with digital at the center of the plan and then expand to traditional. It is much more efficient and effective.

More marketers looking to build brands can experience a similar awakening to mine and stop underrating YouTube. It’s every marketer’s dream, so wake up.

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