One of the darlings of social media, Google owned YouTube is allowing users to play around with some beta features that have been added to their experimental "TestTube" area. The features are designed to further engage users, which is sort of funny when you think about it. (YouTube already has an average visit length of 28 minutes.) The question becomes, how will creative marketers manage to use these new tools to further promote their brands?

YouTube's TestTube area offers up some interesting beta features. The two current options are a live chat option that allows people to talk about a video as they watch it and an audio feature called AudioSwap that gives users the ability to further customize their videos.

While the chat option seems interesting, it's obviously limited to the people that are watching the same video at the same time. That will work well for popular videos, but will be difficult to make use of for the majority of clips.

That's why it's AudioSwap that most interests me.

The idea here is that by providing users with the ability to make their videos even more engaging by adding free music, YouTube will attract more content and then more viewers. Since the use of pirated music in uploaded videos is one of the two biggest challenges facing YouTube's future (uploading 100% pirated video is the other), AudioSwap could be a good solution. That is, if YouTube can get enough quality music to keep the same song from showing up on every other uploaded video.

I've been playing with my own videos on YouTube for awhile now, so I figured I might as well take the new feature for a test drive to see how it works.

The process is pretty simple really...You visit the AudioSwap page of YouTube and click the "try AudioSwap" option.

So long as you are logged in to your user account, YouTube will then take you to a page where you can select which one of your videos you'd like to update.

Once you find the video you'd like to edit, you simply click "replace audio." YouTube then takes you to the audio selection panel.

You start by selecting the genre of music you'd like. Then YouTube gives you a list of approved artists. From there you can select the sound file.

While the service is a great idea, there are still some issues with it.

First, the music choices are obviously pretty limited. I was looking to add audio to a video clip from a Rodeo. Obviously country was going to be the first genre I'd look at. Unfortunately, YouTube only had one artist listed and that artist only had three songs.

The second issue is that when you select an audio file, your only option is to start the video and audio file at the same point in time. That means there's no skipping ahead to the "juicy" part of a song. If you've got a short video clip, you're only going to get the intro. There's also no looping of the audio, so if your video runs longer than the audio file, the last bit of it will play in silence.

That also means that you can't really time the music to go with your video. As you can see in the sample video I just created...a slight shift in when the music starts and stops would really help the impact of the video.

What would be nice to see is YouTube partnering with a program like Audacity to allow for some easy (and free) music editing that could then be uploaded and laid down alongside the video. This would give consumers even more power in creating engaging videos and would give YouTube even more original content that was free from copyright issues.

Still, it's nice to see YouTube making strides in offering users more control. The better quality content that users can create and upload, the better YouTube will do in the long run. These new features also give more flexibility to businesses that choose to creatively market through YouTube. After all, the easier it is to create and upload a video showing how you use a product, the more likely you are to do it, right?

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

April 2, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > YouTube Looks to Further Engage Users