Should You Respond to YouTube Reviews?

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The Internet is great. There’s no debating that. And thanks to the first amendment, anyone can say anything they want on here, meaning they can also discuss your brand and give their reviews on video, post it to YouTube and share it with, potentially, millions of people. See, the thing is, anyone can do it, but nothing helps these videos catch on like a super-charming personality. I’ve seen old ladies review Lean Cuisine dinners (really) and many other folks reviewing lots of other things. But nothing could have prepared me for seeing this last week:

Seeing it was nearly seven minutes, and just a video of a guy in his car reviewing Five Guys, the greasy burger joint, I doubted I’d make it to the minute mark before losing interest. Instead, I was riveted, and wound up watching a related video: a Gregory Brothers remix of it. They’re the guys who do those Auto-Tune the News series of videos, which runs tenderly edited news clips through music-studio wizardry to produce funky, catchy songs of real broadcasts. Anyway, take a look at this version of it:

Now, I’m not just writing about a couple of minutes I spent on the Internet here. Watching these videos, which, combined, have more than four million views, it got me wondering whether companies that are inadvertently or intentionally celebrated in online video ever reach out to those individuals -- or include them in their marketing plans. Or should they do anything at all?

“I think that when enthusiastic YouTubers generate free publicity for a
product, the business doesn't necessarily have a responsibility to reward
them,” said Collin Jarman of the North Carolina-based web design/Internet marketing company Click Optimize. “However, it certainly is a kind gesture. It shows that your business listens to, and will even reward, loyal customers.”

Jarman makes a good point, and also described a hypothetical situation in which a guy makes a great video about his Honda -- and the video was so good that the auto company decided to reward him with a new 2013 Civic. This would do a couple things: It would spread word to people who shared the original video, generate good will to company and also save you advertising dollars that would’ve been spent on more traditional channels.

A free car is a bit much, though. Sometimes a simple thank you is all that’s required, especially since Five Guys and also the creator of both videos are getting free publicity here in a post on NBC Chicago. The thanks can come via the company’s official Twitter or Facebook, or even in a comment on the video’s page. If it’s a negative review, Andrea Rodriguez of Flavor PR recommends leaving a comment on the YouTube channel apologizing for the experience or obtaining the reviewer’s contact information and reach out to them to “find some way to resolve the issue and regain their trust in your company.”

Okay, so all that makes sense. But how are you supposed to find out when people are talking about you? Google Alerts is one possibility. Sarah Jo Van Elzen of Laughlin Constable, a full-service Chicago advertising agency, says her company used social listening tools Radian and Sysomos as AOR -- agency of record, meaning they do everything for that particular client -- for Medela, a breast-pump manufacturer. Unfortunately, using these tactics backfired, as Van Elzen explained: “As a brand, a few times our presence on these channels was not well received and consumers would comment asking why as a brand we were engaging in the forum. It appeared that in some of these channels, customers wanted to own the conversation and they didn't find value in brand presence.”

So, yeah. Like I said, the Internet is a great place. Anyone can say anything. And that means sometimes maybe you should just say nothing. Imagine you’re at a party with your closest friends and someone makes a comment about Taco Bell. Suddenly, a Taco Bell marketing rep comes through the door and starts telling everyone about how much they love Taco Bell gorditas.

It’s creepy. So use your own judgment and think about how your actions will reflect your brand. Don’t just do something simply because you can.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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