Marketing the YouTube way
Island businesses say the online sensation is cost-effective and works
By Gene Park
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 21, 2010
About two years ago a local woman did a YouTube search for “Hawaiian,” as she was curious about what would pop up.
She ended up watching a video tour from Big Island Realtor Howard Dinits on a property he was selling at Hawaiian Shores in Pahoa. She grabbed her husband and went to see the house.
“Without ever calling me,” Dinits said, recalling the sale. “It was the only house they looked at, and they eventually got it. That’s what opened my eyes.”
It’s not like Dinits isn’t Internet-savvy. Earlier in his life he sold glass art through his Web site. He was just surprised at how a random search for something unrelated led to business for him.
Local businesses large and small are betting on YouTube’s purveyance, as well as the permanence of its presence, to strengthen their marketing arm.
It’s a cheap bet, since the outlet is free. Its cost-effectiveness is one reason why the Hawaii Medical Service Association canceled its “HMSA Now” channel on digital cable last year.
“But not everybody has digital cable; it’s not available in all areas,” said HMSA spokeswoman Laura Lott. “Then we thought, Where do we go? When we want to look something up or have a health question, we go to the Web.”
The channel offers health advice and information on insurance policies, as well as archived commercial spots. Lott said turnaround for producing videos has become easier since the company is able to upload on its own time.
“It’s a simpler, shorter work flow and more cost-effective,” she said.
For Dinits it was a small investment that has gone a long way. He’s bought a camera that can shoot in high definition, with solar-charged batteries. “What’s that investment there? Like $200?”
Dinits’ video channel features footage of him giving virtual tours of properties he sells. Sometimes the channel more closely resembles a vlog, or video blog, with many personal asides, or footage of musicians he enjoys. Most times he visits the neighborhood of the property he is selling, visiting nearby shopping centers and attractions.
“They get to know me, they get to know the real estate, they get to know the area,” Dinits said. “It’s a way of people to get to know who they’re doing business with.”
Dinits said he no longer advertises in traditional media, outside of one local real estate guide.
“With the old way of giving information, you made the consumer call you, and that’s how you got your lead,” Dinits said. “I say give them everything. Give them all the information, show them the map, show them the Google locations. They’ll call you because you’re the one who gave them all that information.”
Luxury real estate company Kahala Associates launched its YouTube channel earlier this month. The channel is regularly updated within a day or two of a new listing. The videos are also tagged with keywords so they would show up on search engines.
“It’s pushed distribution of our listings in a huge, powerful way,” said Chuck Garrett, Kahala Associates’ business development director.
The firm hired a video vendor in Wisconsin to put together presentations for online. That way Kahala’s 25 associates didn’t need to waste time training to develop voice acting or film skills.
“We haven’t had to become experts in how to make YouTube videos, because we’re busy selling houses,” he said. “We don’t have to write the script, we don’t have to buy a video camera.”
The only initial hiccup of the outsourcing was mispronunciations of certain properties. But that problem was solved by using Forvo.com, an audio pronunciation guide to which people can contribute clips.
“‘Kaaawa’ was a tough one for them,” Garrett said.
The firm still does print ads, trying to be “much leaner and smarter” in its advertising costs.
Farmers Insurance Hawaii, formerly AIG, still saturates traditional media with advertising with its popular commercials. The ads’ popularity was part of the reason why the insurer started its own YouTube channel in 2007.
“Especially the one with the mailbox, and the argument, and the grandparents, some of the older ones,” said Farmers e-marketing manager John Tapper. “People still talk about them, and asked to be able to see them.”
Although the insurer started a new channel under its changed name, it decided to keep its AIG YouTube account active as an archive for its older commercial spots. Both channels have grown to highlight its community service work, including food drives, and the firm’s TV spots for traffic safety.
“We’re able to improve engagement and build trust,” Tapper said. “It’s an easy medium for people to look at that’s nonthreatening, and be able to say we’re part of the community.”
Farmers spokeswoman Wenli Lin said the channel only informs the company’s larger social media platform, being able to refer to videos on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.
“And it’s the way things are going to be,” she said.