The YouTube effect on online conversations

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One of the best things about the ability to self-publishing on the Internet is the fact that one can control their own message and how it’s shared. Video is becoming a more accessible means of communicating online every day. It’s hard to hide inflections, intention and body language with video. It allows you to make a compelling argument using images instead of hoping that the words used in the piece paint the appropriate picture in the reader’s head.

There are several online video resources on the web. Despite the ability to catch up on your favorite show on Hulu or the ability to share video on Vimeo, YouTube remains a popular choice, mainly due to its ownership by Google. It is fairly simple to set up an account and the ability to respond to videos with ones of your own makes it a natural platform for moving a conversation forward. It also gives you a chance to have that message found while someone’s randomly surfing the service, a benefit that should not be overlooked when using any form of social media. 

Enter Congress.

Taking a cue from President-elect Barack Obama’s YouTube channel’s success, The 111th Congress plans to take control of its own message even more than it already does by launching their own YouTube channels – one for the Senate and one for the House of Representatives.

Done on a local level, it could be just as powerful of a tool for city councils as they work to get their messages out there. A quick look at one of the YouTube channel created by my alma mater, you can say that many colleges and universities already find it useful. The American Red Cross uses their channel for information distribution and occasionally to showcase a feature that’s been created for them.

Many communities have used to cable access channels to broadcast their meetings and special events in recent years. The increased affordability associated wtih placing video on the Internet and the ability to receive feedback directly from viewers in not only written but visual form provides a great vehicle for cities allowing their message to be distributed unfiltered. Responses from the community will be unfiltered as well, something that must be considered.

One example of a city already taking advantage of this is Chicago, IL. They maintain three YouTube channels – one for their parks service, one for the city’s tourism office and one for their office of special events. They don’t have a lot of subscribers, but they’ve already established a presence and they’ve started to publicize it on their website. It would be interesting to see how they and others use it in the future, possibly announcing new programs or initiatives at the same time that the story is picked up by the mainstream media, providing them with the opportunity to get feedback on them immediately.

Do you know of any other cities or organizations using YouTube channels to their advantage to engage their communities? Is it effective?

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