We’ve all sat down to watch a YouTube video at one time or another and wondered about the strange little boxes of text that pop up at random points throughout the video; distracting us, making us read when all we wanted to do was mindlessly watch an Internet video. While, yes, these little boxes are nothing new and can be annoying and over used, they serve a greater purpose.

Annotations open up a world of interactivity, marketing, and encouragement that Internet videos wouldn’t be able to achieve without them. Whether linking to another YouTube video, calling for viewer action, or pausing a video for a certain period of time, each annotation can be used in a variety of ways to accomplish different goals.

All of the annotations are customizable. You can change the position within the video, duration (in and out points), the text that is displayed, the color of the text, and the color of the background.

The annotations also have properties that when changed, if clicked upon can lead a viewer to:

  • Any YouTube video (and start at any point of the video)
  • Any YouTube Channel
  • Any YouTube Playlist
  • A “Subscribe” button
  • A new message to compose
  • A place to post a video response
  • A YouTube Search Query

Each of these tools possess a certain benefit to a company and present an opportunity for marketers to get very creative with where they guide their viewers.

Annotating to Another Video

Being able to direct a viewer to a specific video is a crucial tool in keeping your viewer interacting with your brand’s YouTube channel. Even popular YouTube stars use this type of annotation to push to their other videos to drive up views on older and possibly lesser-­‐known videos. If you want to get creative you can include video clips of your other videos to annotate around and give the viewer a preview of what lies on the other end of the annotation to further entice them to click.

Annotating to a YouTube Channel

Your brand’s YouTube channel is your home base. It houses all of your videos, content, and, if you’re smart, a customized background with a personalized call to action. Giving a viewer the option to explore your brand more by visiting your channel, is like opening the door to a candy store. They’ve received the free sample, now invite them into the candy store.

Annotating to a YouTube Playlist

If you have a video that is part of a series and you want the viewer to navigate through the other related videos with ease, this annotation is for you. Clicking this annotation will deliver the viewer directly to a page that consists of nothing but the videos in the playlist for them to choose from. Of course your videos are already organized into a playlist with a relevant name, right? Of course they are. You’re brilliant.

Annotating to a Subscribe Button

This annotation is a bold one. When annotating here, you must be sure that all the content the viewer has interacted with thus far is enough to convince them to subscribe. This annotation leads to a blank page that asks them if they want to subscribe, so you better be sure they will; because if they don’t it’s very easy to lose the viewer and never see them again. With this type of annotation it is always best to be straightforward with a “click here and subscribe” so the viewer knows exactly what they are getting into and doesn’t feel misled. However, a well-­‐placed “subscribe” annotation can lead to a great increase in your viewer conversion rate.

The message composition, video response, and search query annotations are the least used of them all. Sure there are ways to be creative, but they don’t do anything to keep viewers going through your content. If anything, it ruins the momentum of them continuing down your rabbit hole of content.

Annotations are best used, and most acted upon, when in harmony with the video. Meaning you don’t want annotations popping up at random times, but rather timed with the edits of the video; or, if possible, over parts of the video designed to be annotated on much like the TapouTVTC logo or the end slates of the videos that display other videos on their channel.

Annotations for Beginners

New to YouTube annotations entirely? Here’s a look at what the annotations editor looks like behind the scenes. You can choose from five different types of annotations:

  • Speech bubble
  • Note
  • Spotlight
  • Title (No background, just text)
  • Pause (a “note” annotation that also pauses the video)