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Instead of videos of dancing cats, engineering and construction firms are posting project portfolios.
Instead of videos of dancing cats, engineering and construction firms are posting project portfolios.
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If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to add video to your Website—complete with analytics on who is viewing your production— YouTube has an enticing offer: It will do it for free.

In a move to become the de facto platform for video on the Web, the company has rolled out a series of free tools that essentially enables any firm to edit, post and analyze viewership of a promotional video at absolutely no cost.

The timing is good. In December 2007, 141 million U.S. viewers watched more than 10 billion videos, according to Web research firm Comscore. Equally persuasive is data from Web research firm eMarketer that suggests by 2012, 88% of all U.S. Internet users will be watching video online.

A number of engineering firms have already taken YouTube up on its offer. China Architectural Engineering, based in Guangdong, and Toro Engineeringand Construction Co. , Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., have slickly produced promotional videos posted on YouTube. A number of engineering educational institutions, including Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, Calif., and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering, have recruiting videos up on the service.

Even some of the biggest guns in the industry, including Bechtel Group and Louis Berger Group, are taking a close look.

“We would consider using the service in the future for greater exposure,” says Daniel D. Ramage, multimedia services manager for Louis Berger, Washington, D.C. Berger has been using video and animations on its Website since 2002 and does videos for third parties, including transportation departments in China, Japan and the U.S., Ramage says.

Bechtel ’s site has featured video for nearly as long. The San Francisco-based firm recently expanded its use into online recruiting. “We have a kind of accidental presence on YouTube,” says Karen Taylor, a Bechtel communications manager. “Someone loaded our history video on our behalf about a year ago. We don’t use YouTube’s company video service at this point, but we wouldn’t rule it out in the future. We prefer to stream our videos on our own servers for now.”

While YouTube has been promoting its free tools for a while, it is the most recent introduction of free analytics tools, dubbed “Insight ,” that is turning heads in the business community.

“Uploaders can see how often their videos are viewed in different geographic regions, as well as how popular they are relative to all videos in the market over a given period of time,” says Tracy Chan, YouTube’s product manager.

“You can also delve deeper into the life cycle of your videos, like how long it takes for a video to become popular and what happens to video views as popularity peaks,” Chan adds.

Whether you are experimenting with Web video for the first time or you are an experienced user looking to cut costs while increasing the sophistication of your Web video promotions, YouTube’s free solution is difficult to beat.

YouTube’s onsite toolbox offers helpful editing tips on how to get the lighting, transitions and sound just right.

There also is specific detail on how to upload a video from a cell phone or other mobile device, as well as a forum to ask other users for help.

Once you’ve posted a completed video, cut-and-paste a snippet of code that will enable you to create a YouTube player on your Web site in seconds. The player, which is also free, can be quickly dropped into your corporate blog, onto a company social network or in virtually any other Web-based environment.

You can post the YouTube player “as is,” with its familiar chrome border and YouTube logo, or have your Web designer customize it with your company logo. The player creation tool also enables you to optimize your video for search engines by allowing you to include titles, descriptions, ratings and viewer comments associated with your video.

The technology enables you to display your company’s videos on your own site, while shifting the hosting and transmission costs associated with viewing that video to YouTube. Every time someone views the video, YouTube’s servers are actually transmitting video—not your company’s Web servers. The solution is ideal for small businesses.

Once your video and player are in place, you’ll also be able to use YouTube’s free video analytics service to glean deep insight into the popularity of your video, who’s viewing the video and where those people are located.