June 27, 2011
Updated January 2, 2018
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Recently my place of employment started using YouTube for videos they were putting on our public website. I thought it might be useful to write a little about using YouTube at your church.
There are other sites for posting videos as well, but YouTube is very well-known and used by so many people I thought it would be good to talk about it, and others can tell us about their experience with different sites. Also, the concepts for any video-sharing site are similar so I hope that all or most of this information will be helpful, whether you use YouTube or another site.
Why, you may ask, would your church use YouTube? One reason could be the same as why your church would use a photo sharing site—it provides a centralized storage area for your video files, giving you the ability to link or embed them on your church website or anywhere else.
Another reason would be for more public exposure. If you have a video you wish to get out to the public, YouTube is a site viewed by millions of people; it’s definitely a good site to put your church out into the world. That huge potential audience might be a reason to use YouTube rather than your photo sharing site, even if that site allows videos as well. It depends on the amount of exposure you are trying to get, and how easy to find you wish your videos to be.
Setting up an Account
YouTube, as you probably know, was purchased by Google some time ago. Recently Google made some changes to unify the various applications they provide, and this included merging YouTube and Google more closely. Now when you create an account in YouTube you are asked to either use your already existing Google account if you have one, or to create a Google/YouTube account, which will give you access to both.
To sign up, just go to www.youtube.com and look for the “Sign in” or “Create Account” links at the top of the page. If you are creating a new account you’ll need to see if the email you wish to use is available. There’s a “Check Availability” link in the email name section so you can see whether the email name you want is available and, if not, some suggestions.
Once the account is set up, you’re ready to go.
YouTube works a lot like a photo sharing site. You upload videos and allow others to view them. I won’t go into detail here about how to upload videos since there are good instructions on YouTube (even, not surprisingly, a bunch of instructive videos—search for “YouTube 101”).
I will just note that uploading has gotten easier and easier, with more and more formats allowed, as well as different formats. There’s even a link on the upload page to “Record from webcam,” which lets you upload right as you record your video using the webcam on your computer.
Your videos are limited to 15 minutes in length. That number, too, has gotten bigger over time and almost certainly will continue to grow. The length and size of your video will affect the length of time it takes to upload. Your Internet connection speed has a big effect on that as well.
Because video files tend to be fairly large, you (and others on your network, especially at home) may feel a slowdown in your internet speed as the videos are uploading. Often when I upload videos at home, my son will notice -- and not be happy about it. I try to upload when others are not on the web, or at least warn them that I’ll be slowing things down for the next little while.
Public, Private or Unlisted
One of the important things to know about using YouTube for your church is the ability to mark videos as public vs. private vs. unlisted.
Public means that anyone can view your video without having to log in or have a link. Public videos can be found from searches people make, without having a link or anything about the video’s existence. Businesses use this type of setting most, since they’re all about being found.
Unlisted means that the video can only be viewed by people who have a link. The video will not appear in lists on YouTube, nor in searches. This view is often used for internal videos. At my place of employment, for example, we use the same YouTube account for public videos posted on our marketing website, and unlisted ones for our employees’ viewing, for which we provide a link.
Private is the most “locked down” setting. With this setting, anyone who wants to view the video must sign in with a Google/YouTube account, there is a limit of no more than 50 people who may be allowed to view it, and you list the allowed visitors yourself.
Your church will probably want to use the same logic as businesses do, and set videos that you post to your website for “marketing” purposes as public, while using unlisted for videos you wish to share only with your own members. You could go with a kind of middle road setting by setting some videos you post to your website as unlisted so they do not show up in searches or lists, but anyone who visits your site can view them.
There are other settings for your YouTube videos. Of course there are basic descriptive fields such as title, description and category. In addition, there is a new setting to either upload under the standard YouTube video license or a Creative Commons license (to which I refer in the article “Creative Commons - Images”).
YouTube has a lot of copyright checking going on in the site. If you upload a video that violates YouTube’s terms or contains copyrighted materials, your video could be completely rejected or you may find that it has been matched by their “Content ID” tool and now contains links to information about the copyrighted material. If you upload a video with a song recorded in it, for example, the video may get a little banner with a note about and link to a site to purchase the song.
There are settings, too, for how you wish to handle comments on your video. By default, anyone who views your video is are able to leave comments about it in YouTube. You can change that setting, though, to require the comments to be approved by you before they are posted or not allow comments at all.
You can also determine if you wish viewers to be able to rate your video, put it on other websites or allow it to be available on mobile devices or t.v..
Sharing Your Videos
Finally, sharing your videos—that’s what YouTube is all about. Again, sharing using YouTube is very similar to sharing photos on a photo sharing site. YouTube gives your video a url address and code for embedding the video. YouTube also has connections to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social networking apps.
In YouTube, your account is a “channel.” People can subscribe to your channel and receive notices about your video uploads. Or they may make your channel a favorite that they revisit regularly. As you build up your library of videos, when someone comes to your channel they’ll see all the various videos. They can sort them by time uploaded or most viewed, top rated or most popular. You could provide a link to your channel from your church website.
Beyond the Basics
This article truly is just some basic information about YouTube. Like those obnoxious commercials, “but wait, there’s more!” To mention a few, YouTube now gives you the ability to edit your videos online using some third party tools they give you links to, you can use “Insight” to see statistics about the viewings of your videos, you can add “overlays” and custom links to your videos, and more. YouTube also has special features available for nonprofits but it's unclear whether churches are included in that category. There is a page to apply for nonprofit status, and read more information.
If you want to learn more, sign up for an account and start trying things out. There are links to the YouTube help, blog, FAQs and much more on YouTube itself.
I hope this article helps you at least to understand a little more about how to use YouTube or other video sharing sites for your church. YouTube is another avenue with which you and your church can spread the good news to the world.
Please share your experiences with YouTube or other video sharing sites and your church. Sharing our knowledge is what we are all about.
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