YouTube Cards—The Future of Annotations

For years, video creators and online marketers have used annotations to provide additional information to and engage with their viewers. Despite the usefulness of annotations, though, the feature hasn’t been all good for video creators. There have been a number of complaints, most of which primarily have to do with the feature’s flexibility—or lack thereof—in terms of the information creators can provide via the annotations feature and the variety of screens where annotations can be made to work. As a video creator or online marketer, you’ll most likely appreciate the most recent news to hit the tech industry.

On March 16th of this year, YouTube launched a new product known as Cards. This product aims to bring annotations to a whole new level. In the past, annotations appeared on videos that are currently running. They typically ask viewers to click through to another video or subscribe to a channel. The new Cards feature is being presented as the “evolution” of the traditional annotations. Just like annotations, cards inform viewers about playlists, related videos, websites, etc. The difference, according to YouTube, is that cards are as beautiful as the videos themselves and they’re available at any point in the video.

However, perhaps what really sets cards apart is the fact that they actually work on mobile. This is one limitation of annotations that has troubled online marketers in the past. With the introduction of cards, this limitation is no more. You can now inform your viewers of related videos, websites, playlists, and more regardless of whether they are viewing your videos on desktop or mobile gadgets. Considering the growing importance of mobile marketing, this is indeed a timely development and will surely be received as welcome news by online marketers the world over.

Here’s another thing you may find interesting about Cards and something many are likely to appreciate: They do not automatically pop up at some point while the video is running. Rather, a viewer will only see the cards’ contents if he clicks on the “info” icon that appears every time he places his cursor over the video when using a desktop computer or when player controls are visible when using a mobile gadget. This means the cards won’t distract you from whatever it is you are viewing and will add to, rather than take something away from, your overall viewing experience.

There are currently six categories of cards you can use for your videos:

1. Associated Website

Similar to Associated Website annotations, this type of card allows you to link directly from your video to any of your associated websites. If you aren’t familiar with Associated Website annotations, note that you’ll have to agree to the Terms & Conditions presented at set-up to be able to use this type of card. You should also make sure your YouTube account is verified and in good standing so you can use this card category.

Verifying Your YouTube Account

Make sure your YouTube account is verified and in good standing so you can use the Associated Website card.

If your account fulfills all requirements, you can go to Webmaster Tools and add your website as an associated site to confirm that you own it and so you can link it to your YouTube account. You may then go to the Advanced Channel Settings of your YouTube account and add the website as an associated site. To enable the Associated Website card, go to your video manager, click the down arrow beside the Edit button, and then click on Cards. Click on Add Card, select the Link checkbox, and then click on the Associated Website category.

2. Fan Funding

Your fans can now show how much they appreciate your videos by making financial contributions via the Fan Funding card category. To enable the Fan Funding feature, you need to go to channel’s Status and Features page and then click on the Enable button right beside the Fan Funding option. If there isn’t an Enable button, it means your channel unfortunately failed to meet the requirements for the Fan Funding feature. If it is indicated that you need to sign an agreement, you need to go to the Owner Features page, click on the Enable button, and then sign the agreement.

You will then need to provide your contact information on the Terms page and then agree to the terms, after which a Fan Funding option will appear on the left side of the screen, under the Community section. You may then go to your channel’s Fan Funding settings page so you can link your YouTube channel to a Google Wallet Merchant account where you can manage all the funding you receive. You may also use the feature to greet your supporters and thank them for their contributions.

3. Fund-Raising

Similar to the old Fundraising annotations, this card can link your viewers directly to specific projects on fundraising sites, provided those sites are white-listed. Click on the Cards tab in your video manager and then add a card. Click on the Link box and then select Fundraising Project. Provide the URL of your chosen project from a supported site and then click Publish. You may choose from several approved URLs and your card will show a top-level URL.

4. Merchandise

Similar to merch annotations, this card allows you to promote any of your licensed merchandise direct from your video. If you’ve never used merch annotations, note that you’ll have to accept the Terms & Conditions at set-up to be able to create this type of cards. You should also make sure your account is verified and in good standing so you can take advantage of the Merchandise Card. Furthermore, you need to enable external annotation links so you can use this card.

Click on the new Cards tab in your video manager and then click the Add Card button. Click on the Link checkbox and then choose the Merchandise category from the dropdown menu. You can link the video to your online storefront or to a particular product on your website. Note that you need to format the URL you enter into the editor correctly so it can link properly. You may choose from several approved URLs and your card will show a top-level URL.

5. Playlist/Video

This card allows you to link your video to another public video or playlist hosted on YouTube. This can be very useful for introducing viewers to others videos or playlists they may also be interested in watching. Note that when you link to a particular video that’s part of a playlist, any viewer who clicks on the link in the card will be brought to the playlist itself. This can be an excellent way of showing viewers that you have a lot of interesting videos and playlists to offer.

Setting Up YouTube Cards

You may already have an idea on how to set up YouTube Cards from the category descriptions above. But to make things even easier for you, here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Go to your YouTube Video Manager.
  2. Select the video you want to add cards to and then click on Edit.
  3. Click on the Cards tab from the top bar or the dropdown menu.
  4. When you get to the Editor page, click on Add Card.
  5. Click on Create so you can open the creation dialog for whichever type of card you choose. If you want to create an Associated Website or Merchandise card and you’ve never used these categories of annotations before, click on Enable so you can agree to the Terms & Conditions and then move on to the creation dialog.
  6. Provide a URL that’s supported for the type of card you chose. This will automatically populate your dialog boxes and serves as the destination URL for the calls-to-action you include in the card.
  7. Select one of the suggested images or upload your own. Note that images should be in .gif, .jpg, or .png format and only up to 5MB in size. Note as well that the image you choose will be cropped into a square shape.
  8. Provide a title of not more than 50 characters and a call-to-action of not more than 30 characters. Note that your call-to-action text will also serve as the card’s teaser text unless you specify otherwise.
  9. Review your card and if everything’s in order, click on Create Card.
  10. If necessary, adjust the card teaser’s start time in the timeline.

Note that you are allowed to add a maximum of five cards per video and you may edit these cards anytime, simply by clicking on the Edit icon that appears right next to the card under the Cards tab.

At present, Cards have not completely replaced Annotations, but YouTube says that’s the goal of this new feature. The team is expected to keep tweaking Cards until it is able to offer everything Annotations currently offers and more. That’s the time you’ll most probably see Cards completely taking the place of Annotations. For now, you may want to give Cards a try and tell YouTube if there’s anything else you want the feature to offer.

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