YouTube has social media features in development

youtube square 300wYouTube is exploring the addition of some social features which could help music owners get more value from the video platform. The feature set currently in development is known as Backstage. According to VentureBeat, Backstage could bring polls, photos, links, text, and videos to the communication options between users and their audience. It’s a move to be more competitive with the likes of Facebook or Snapchat, but the music industry should also keep tabs on what the plan says about YouTube’s next directions.

The layer of social features would be a marked change in the available ways to communicate with other viewers. YouTube does allow comments on videos, but that feature is known as a source of toxic language and isn’t the most surefire way to have a positive interaction. The platform also has some integration with Google+, the oft-maligned social netwok from its parent company. Beyond those tools, YouTube has little in the way of community-buiding and, more critically, engagement.

Especially as YouTube pushes for more adoption of its Red subscription, the company needs to introduce more features like Backstage to make the platform a place where people want to spend time. Smart implementation of Backstage whenever it might go live would be a help, as would a more user-friendly redesign to the site. Keeping viewers on YouTube territory, rather than losing them to other social platforms to share and discuss the content they’ve seen, would open up more options for how it can monetize those eyeballs.

And on the subject of money, YouTube also needs to make a pitch to the rest of the music industry. Artists and labels still argue that YouTube pays too little into the ecosystem given the large audience it commands. Adding more value into the YouTube platform could keep viewers around more and expand YouTube’s revenue stream options. It could also be a way for performers to interact with their fans, both reinforcing that fandom or potentially driving sales of concert tickets or merchandise.

Anna Washenko