The Vodafone YouTube channel is now six years old, but what's changed in that time? Here's the journey from Lo-fi production to well-oiled video making machine...

youtube channel

Last month marked the sixth anniversary of the Vodafone YouTube channel – your source for news, help and tutorial videos from our experts in the Vodafone Tech Team since 2008. A lot can change in six years, so we’ve been speaking to the man who was there right at the start to find out just how far things have come.

 

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Vodafone’s Gareth Cooper has seen the channel go from industrious side project to a fully-fledged arm of our UK business, so we thought we’d ask him how things got started, how our video-making skills have sharpened, and what’s coming next…

Humble beginnings

“Back in January 2008 we’d just launched the Vodafone eForum,” Gareth tells us, “and we were starting to look at alternative forms of customer service that we could use and build on. What we noticed at the time was that, while YouTube was really taking off, it wasn’t really being used by other mobile companies or corporations.

“YouTube was more popular with bedroom phone enthusiasts who’d do phone reviews and unboxings in their spare time, and we realised that meant there was a space there for us. So we started to look at the common themes and questions from our call centres first – things like setting up a phone. Something like that would take an advisor five or ten minutes to explain on the phone, but we knew that if we could capture that journey on video then that would give people the option to play it back and see it all at their own speeds.”

 

 

These help videos are a huge part of what we do now, but in 2008 this was experimental ground for us. And as Gareth explains, our YouTube channel got off to a rather humble start, with some pretty lo-fi equipment:

“We decided to throw ourselves in the deep end,” he says. “We focussed on the BlackBerry Storm, which was our flagship phone at the time, bought ourselves a camcorder and Blu-Tacked the phone to a desk. And then we just started to capture what we thought were common parts of setting it up. To begin with the production quality wasn’t perfect – we were using free editing software and a cheap, standard definition camera.” Still, those simple, short but helpful videos proved immensely popular:

“The ten videos we shot on the BlackBerry Storm brought in half a million views…”

“I think a big thing we had going for us was that we used our own advisors and experts, and that was a benefit because those guys knew the products inside out. As a result, the ten videos we shot on the BlackBerry Storm brought in half a million views in the space of about a month. Getting so many views built the business case to go out and build the team up.

“We had the option to go and look for talent who were qualified to make films, and we actually uncovered a guy working in Vodafone’s customer service team who had a degree in filmmaking. Likewise, we were able to buy better equipment and software, and move to full HD as soon as YouTube did.”

Six years later…

Fast forward to 2014, and the Vodafone YouTube channel is a well-oiled machine, capable of lovingly creating a much larger number of videos each month, all to infinitely better standards than in our early days.

“We now do a ‘help and support’ video shoot every month, where we take the top three to five devices for that month and capture the five most requested customer journeys – stuff like inserting a SIM card, setting up email and navigating around the operating system.”

There’s lots to shoot, but thankfully the video view count shows it’s all been worth the work:

“Since we started out we’ve generated over 1000 videos,” Gareth says, “which have generated about 20 million views in total. We’ve got 16,000 subscribers on YouTube, but you don’t have to subscribe to view our videos – they’re all publicly available.”

 

 

“I think YouTube is one of the major social media touch points along with Facebook and Twitter,” he adds, explaining why it’s so important to have a presence on the video streaming site. “But the main thing is that we can create a video that answers customer questions without them having to make a call. It’s about self-service – the basic fact that it’s video makes things easier for people.”

That visual journey is a big part of how we’re going to expand the channel in the months to come, too: “At the minute we focus a lot on mobile phones and devices,” Gareth says in closing. “But we want to start looking more into screen capture on the computer, to try and walk people through the journey on some of our self-service tools. We’ve already started to do that, with our video on the Vodafone Network Status checker.

“With screen capture on the Vodafone website people can see how that works step-by-step, and that’ll be really useful.”

Are you watching closely? You can dive straight in to the Vodafone YouTube Channel here. After a more bitesized look? You can see some of June’s most popular videos here. Stay tuned to Vodafone Social for more behind the scenes stories; we’ll be speaking to the Tech Team’s presenters and crew soon.