How To Use YouTube Annotations To Drive Actions From Videos

So you’ve got a great new video that showcases your impact and mission and you want to get it online to spread it far and wide. Did you know that simply uploading it to YouTube is only the first of many steps you can take? Using YouTube Annotations can make your videos interactive and help keep viewers more engaged with your organization. And they’re also free. Here are a few great examples:

YouTube Annotation Example 1: Love Language by Project Jubilee

00:02 – Note thanking viewers for the success of their fundraising campaign.

00:05 – Note for subscription. Opens a new tab. A popup appears to confirm subscription. Upon confirmation, user is taken to Project Jubilee’s YouTube Channel.

0:07 – Note “please subscribe for more videos”.

1:00 – Featured Channel Watermark (via InVideo Programming) – Their YouTube Channel Avatar appears. Subscribe immediately by clicking the red button, without getting redirected elsewhere.

1:46 – Speech Bubble asking viewers to give a thumbs up if they’ve felt the same way as the character in the video does. Does not link anywhere.

4:47 – Note/Label with social media and website information.

4:49 – Note “thumbs up to help this cause”.

4:52 – Note “Subscribe to watch more videos coming soon”

5:05 – Note “Watch the new music video” – clicking it takes viewers to another video on YouTube featuring the film’s soundtrack.

5:05 – Spotlight (around embedded video) – clicking it opens another tab and asks viewers to confirm subscription to the band’s YouTube channel.

5:16 – Speech Bubble – “What is the Jubilee Project? Click to Learn”. Clicking takes viewers to another YouTube video that introduces JP’s story.

5:17 – Note – “please subscribe to our channel”

5:21 – Video ends with the option to subscribe.

Beautiful, heartwarming story aside, I do think that having 13 annotations in a 5 minute video is too much, especially when they are all essentially asking for the user to take the same action. But it does get the point across about how annotations can be used.

YouTube Annotation Example 2: MovieClips.com

Designed to look like a DVD menu, MovieClips found a creative way to help guide users through all the videos in their channel based. You can choose to sort their videos based on genre, actors, themes, producers, cinematographers and more. They also do a great job of adding similar menus at the end of their videos to entice you with related content that they’ve produced. Sure, YouTube has a ‘related videos’ feature in general, but why let YouTube decide a random selection of videos to suggest to your viewers, when you can be the one making the recommendations? Here’s how they do it below (skip to 00:38 to see just how they use YouTube Annotations):

YouTube Annotations Example 3: Haircut


Neil creatively used YouTube Annotations to create a “choose your own adventure” game using a collection of videos. (Skip to 00:42 to see how he used Annotations.) Neil also uses the Featured Channel Watermark throughout the entire video for viewers to subscribe easily.

Setting up YouTube Annotations

Apart from encouraging subscriptions to your YouTube Channel, another thing that’s key for non-profits and social entrepreneurs to do is drive traffic from the video back to your website.

If you’re a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, just get enrolled in the Google for Nonprofits program, and you’ll have the privilege of including links to most external sites on your videos via Annotations. If you’re not a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, fret not. There are still a few external sites you’ll be able to link to.

Before we dive into all the advanced ways to use YouTube Annotations, let’s first walk through how to get to the basic Annotations settings menu.

Basic YouTube Annotations Settings

1. Login to your YouTube account.

2. In the top righthand corner, click the dropdown arrow next to your profile picture. Click on “Video Manager”.

Getting to Video Manager on YouTube

3. Choose the video you wish to add YouTube Annotations to, click on the dropdown arrow next to the “edit” button, and select “Annotations”.

Getting to YouTube Annotations Settings Menu

4. Then you’ll be taken to a page where your chosen video will begin to play. Move the playhead to the spot at which you’d like for the Annotation to appear. Then click on “Add Annotation”.

YouTube Annotations Settings Page

5. Once clicked, you’ll have multiple types of Annotations to choose from, and fields to fill out. You’ll be able to set the text you’d like displayed, what color and font size it’ll be in, the duration of the annotation, and whether you’d like it to be a clickable link.

YouTube Annotation menu items

6. The initial options for where you’re allowed to link to will be limited mostly to actions within YouTube itself. It’ll take a few more extra steps to enable linking to your organization’s website. I’ll describe the various link types you can enable below.

Fundraising Site Annotations

Popular crowdfunding and fundraising platforms, including Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Causes and DonorsChoose, are among the list of supported fundraising sites that YouTube allows you to link to. See full list of platforms here.

1. Follow the above instructions to get to the YouTube Annotations Settings menu.

2. Check the “Link” box.

3. Select “Fundraising Project” from the dropdown menu

4. Enter the full URL for your fundraising project page.

5. Save and publish.

Associated Website Annotations

1. Verify your YouTube account, ensure it is in good standing

2. Add your website as an “Associated Website” in Google Webmaster Tools, and verify it, to confirm that you own the site.

3. Add your website as an “Associated Website” in your YouTube Account, under your Advanced Channel Settings.

 advanced channel settings associated website YouTube

4. Once verified, follow the instructions above to get to the YouTube Annotations menu. “Associated Website” should appear as one of your options in the dropdown menu after you click the “link” checkbox.

Cause Annotations

When there’s a global cause or natural crisis that could use help fast, such as the earthquake in Haiti, or the tsunami in Japan, YouTube Cause Annotations can be a great way to spread the word and raise awareness very quickly. When the cause is happening, all videos that have Cause Annotations enabled will display a message from YouTube and Google Crisis Response. The message will contain useful information on how your viewers can help. This feature is only available when there is an ongoing cause.

InVideo Programming

Like how some videos have a little icon/avatar showing up in the corner, where moving your cursor over the icon opens up a “subscribe” button conveniently for your viewers to click? Here’s how you can enable the Featured Channel Watermark for your videos too.

1. Click on the little arrow next to your profile picture in the top right corner. Then select “My Channel”.

Getting to the YouTube Channel menu

2. Hover your cursor over your Channel banner. When you see the little pencil icon, click it to access your channel settings.

YouTube Channel Settings

3. On the left navigation menu, click “InVideo Programming”. Then click on the blue button that says “Add a Watermark”.

4. Upload the the picture you’d like to have appear. Ideally it’d be a square image.

5. Choose if you’d like it to appear at the end of your video, throughout the entire video, or set a custom time for it to display, and its display duration.

6. Click “Update” and you’re set!

Go forth and Annotate!

I hope you found this guide great in helping you use YouTube Annotations to drive more actions from your videos. Have you seen any other great examples of how it’s been used? I’d love to hear about your experience! Share your story in the comments section below.

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