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7. Making YouTube Videos Interactive

Back in the day when YouTube was invented, movies could only play straight through without providing the user with any interactive capabilities. Starting in 2008, annotations let the user begin adding links that the user could trigger in the midst of watching a video. Then in 2015, YouTube created Cards, which pop up in an interactive window when the user activates them by choosing a small “I” icon in the upper-right corner of the video. As you will see from the descriptions below, annotations and cards are basically static in the sense that you cannot put logic into them. Perhaps someday, YouTube will create mechanisms for users to choose links that can branch on condition based on what the user has done thus far in the video.

Creating Annotations

Annotations let you layer text, links, and hotspots over your video. Annotations can also link to your own channel and Google+ profiles and pages. You can create fundraising annotations, merch (i.e., merchandise) annotations, or link to your website from your videos. To learn how to do so, follow this link to YouTube Annotations and see especially the Advanced Tips for Annotations Usage.

Adding Cards to Videos

Cards are a gamechanger because they let you add interactive elements to a video that would otherwise be something you view straight through, rather than interact with. Currently you can add up to 5 cards to one video. By following this link to adding cards, you can learn how to create (1) channel cards that link to a channel to which you would like to refer viewers, (2) donation cards to raise funds for a U.S. nonprofit organization, (3) fan-funding cards that let your fans show appreciation by donating money to you, (4) link cards that go to associated websites or to crowdfunding or merchandising sites, (5) poll cards that let users vote on different options, and (6) video or playlist cards that link to another YouTube video or playlist, or to a specific time in a video. To see data on the use of your cards, you can use the cards report in YouTube Analytics.

Third Party Frameworks that Work with YouTube

As noted above, annotations and cards are somewhat limited because they do not contain logic whereby you can program them to make real-time decisions about what the user should be offered next. Happily there are some frameworks you can use to make YouTube videos more highly interactive. Follow these links to explore what these third-party frameworks enable you to do: