It's Time To Start Leveraging Mutual Fund, ETF YouTube Channels

For a while now, I’ve felt that YouTube may be the most under-leveraged social media site for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) companies. This is a shame considering the opportunity—and the significant internal discussion and review that precedes an asset manager’s establishment of a YouTube channel and the effort invested in producing video content.

When was the last time you checked in on asset managers on YouTube? The following are a few notes from the time I spent over the last week. At the end of this post, you’ll find links to all the channels that I’m aware of. Subscribing to them is an easy way to keep up with the evolving state of the art. (If I’ve missed your company, please let me know and I’ll update the list.)

A Few Fresh, Lively, Natural Presentations

Money management firms are uploading videos that run the gamut from commercials to portfolio manager interviews/updates and recorded Webinars. Much of it follows the sort of stilted style that we’re all familiar with but there are some stand-out video treatments.

The examples I show below reflect a bias—I think that a communication ought to take advantage of its medium. Why go to the trouble to create video if there's no motion?

That’s not the case in the first example, which is a whiteboard presentation from iShares.

Animation, wildly popular in the last few years, is not common in this space. Below is an example from OppenheimerFunds' globalize your thinking series.

The third video is an obviously hand-held view of mining operations in Brazil. Sure, we could listen to somebody back home all cleaned up describing what he saw. But in this case, the money manager employs the video camera onsite to show us what he saw. This 2009 video is one of US Funds’ most watched videos despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any sound. Maybe narration would have gotten in the way.

Benchmarking Data Available

YouTube is the quintessential big tent, the home of Lady Gaga impersonations, Will It Blend? demonstrations and all manner of cat fancies. So, it's fair to ask: Um, is anybody finding their way to mutual fund and ETF videos?

By default (you can opt out of sharing), YouTube accounts offer statistics and data that can be viewed to get an idea of how a channel is performing. Across the board, YouTube-reported data on viewership of asset manager videos appears to be much, much lower than it should be for an industry that manages $13 trillion of investors' assets.

Here's some data I came across on the channel pages the last week:

  • Number of videos and recent postings: Some firms appear to be going for it, based on the number of videos uploaded and the recency of their postings. Putnam has uploaded the most videos (180), more than twice the number uploaded by most of the other firms. Almost half of the firms uploaded videos in the last week. Others, though, seem to have lost interest. A handful of firms haven’t uploaded a video in two months or more which, as we know, is an eternity on a social site.
  • Subscribers: Only Vanguard and Fidelity (whose Be The Green Line account was created for a 2010 marketing campaign) have attracted more than 100 subscribers. Vanguard had 353 and Fidelity 109 at this writing. Some channels don’t show their subscriber counts.
  • Video views recorded by a single video: Uploaded videos are doing well to attract more than 100 views. Five Russell Investments videos have attracted more than 10,000 views (helped along by followers of the popular film-maker of Russsell's Conversations series). Some of Vanguard's videos have been viewed by thousands but more have failed to break the 1,000 mark. Individual Fidelity, Franklin Templeton and JP Morgan Funds videos have drawn more than 3,000 views. In the case of Franklin Templeton, Putnam and T. Rowe Price, the most viewed video was a commercial. Nothing wrong with that.

There's additional data provided on individual video pages about where traffic comes from, what YouTube calls "significant discovery events." Clicking on the icon shown in the right-hand corner will expand to show data if it's available. Here's a look at the traffic to the top-viewed Russell Investments video.


Give Those Videos A Little Help

YouTube is second only to Google as a search engine, and Google of course owns YouTube. Lots of searchers prefer to click on videos as search results. That’s good because there’s the potential to create awareness and meet more people than you might be attracting on your own Website.

But, the volume of content on YouTube poses a significant challenge for those seeking to be found—and it's only getting more competitive. Last month, YouTube announced that more than 48 hours (two days worth) of video are uploaded to the site every minute, a 37% increase over the last six months and 100% over last year.

YouTube doesn’t make it easy for asset managers, starting with its video categories. When the closest choices are Education, News & Politics and People & Blogs, it starts to feel as if maybe this isn’t the right place to be after all. One would also expect YouTube’s search filters to be better. Search for "investment" videos or even investment channels and you’ll see that an array of investment-ish videos swamp the results. Mutual fund and ETF provider channels are there (Russell and Putnam ranked highest in my searches) but you have to look to find them.

Asset managers determined to benefit from their presence on YouTube need to take matters into their own hands.

For starters, much more can be done on firm Websites and in other marketing messages to promote and integrate YouTube channels, including announcing the availability of new videos. YouTube offers email updates to channel subscribers but the channel sponsors don’t have access to those email addresses.

On YouTube itself, at the very minimum, the video description fields must be completed. YouTube algorithms can’t watch videos, remember, but they can “read” HTML. Keyword-aware titles, tags and rich descriptions (including the firm name!) all help with discover-ability. Descriptions can include up to 5,000 characters, tags can be 120 characters. Use the space.


Also, Promoted Videos—which operate similarly to Google AdWords—are worth consideration. In the last week, I noticed promotions from Franklin Templeton and JP Morgan Funds.

These are early days for asset managers on social sites, that’s especially apparent on YouTube. What are your thoughts on the opportunity, the level of participation, the content being published and the challenges faced? Your comments are welcome below.

Asset Managers' YouTube Channels