YouTube Annotations – Social Media Secret Sauce

YouTube Annotations – Social Media Secret Sauce


One of the cooler features of YouTube, sometimes done well, oft-times not, is annotations.

Annotations are links on videos that allow the user to go to a video, a YouTube channel, or an associated website, in order to boost engagement and give more information.

The main stipulation – and potential limitation – of annotations, is that associated websites must be sites controlled by the YouTube publisher, as dictated and defined through Google’s Webmaster Tools.

This is fine for links to websites you control, or your Google+ pages. But what about social media sites like Facebook Pages and Twitter Profiles? These sites cannot be claimed by mere mortals – and yet, you’ve probably seen dozens of links to Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes on videos from other YouTube publishers.

How did they do that?

I won’t bury the lede; here’s how it’s done.

In order to create an associated website link on YouTube that will send users to your social media landing sites, you need to know about HTTP 301 Redirects.

A 301 Redirect is a code that tells a web browser that a page or site’s location has permanently been changed to a new location. Redirects can exist at the domain or site level, or at individual page levels.

We’ve established that you can’t associate or verify a site you don’t own in Google Webmaster Tools. But, you can verify a page you do own, one that redirects to one of your various social media pages. That’s the secret sauce.

In my case, I wanted to redirect a link to one of my Twitter accounts (@300Word2Minutes). I really only needed to redirect a single page to this account, so I decided to simply script a landing page, to issue a 301 Redirect to my Twitter Profile for 300 Words, 2 Minutes. Here’s what it looks like in PHP:

Header( "HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently" );
Header( "Location:" );

verified the link to this new page through Google Webmaster Tools, and voila! I now had a site that I could associate with a YouTube Annotation.

You can associate more than one site with a YouTube account. I won’t replicate those instructions here, but you can follow the directions from YouTube support to see how to do this. Suffice it to say, once you Associate a single site on YouTube, you can actually use any Google Webmaster Tools verified site as additional associated websites.

And that’s pretty much it. Except, this:

Associated website links can be very prickly under YouTube.

Even though you may properly verify a site using Google Webmaster Tools, sometimes YouTube simply refuses to recognize them. You may have to do the virtual equivalent of “jiggling the wires” to sometimes get your links working. You can try one (or more) of the following, to get your links recognized by YouTube:

  • Clear your browser cache
  • Exit and Restart your browser
  • Remove the current associated website from YouTube Channel settings, and replace with another verified site; replace again with the link you want to use.

In short, you may have to play around this a bit. I wish this worked better.

Let me know your experiences working with Annotations, and social media sites. I would love to hear your work arounds to this very cool feature.

Chromecast – Initial Thoughts

Chromecast – Initial Thoughts

My initial impressions / thoughts on the Chromecast:

  • My two televisions HDMI ports aren’t powered, so that means I need to use the Chromecast’s USB power cord. I’m out of luck on my downstairs TV (I’m out of outlets). So far, this has been the case (needing external power) of many of the reviewers I’ve seen the past few days. Perhaps I should use this as an excuse to upgrade to a better (bigger) TV set.
  • Setup was straightforward, once I got past the power issue.
  • Upon startup, the Chromecast broadcasts a WiFi SID, where you pair up with a code on the screen. You basically give your Chromecast your WiFi router’s password, and go on from there. But beyond that, I don’t see a way that you explicitly set a password on the device itself (pretty much, once you’re connected on the same subnet, you can access the device). This has potentially bad consequences for anyone wishing to use it in a public setting, because if anyone can get on your local subnet (via password or if the device is on an open network), then they can access the device. I fully understand I may have just missed something – someone please correct me if I have missed where to password protect the Chromecast itself.
  • WPA2 Enterprise / RADIUS is not currently supported.
  • Netflix and YouTube “casting” worked great. I couldn’t get Chrome on my iPad to recognize the device. Casting from Chrome on my MacBook Pro worked fine, though it was very jerky. Also, I expected moving from tab to tab to be more fluid – you have to explicitly tell the device to cast the tab each time you navigate to it. Otherwise, this worked fine.

So on balance, my summary is this: for the price, it’s a no-brainer. But, if you already have Apple TV, it already has superior mirroring options from what Chromecast offers (which is basically, just from a Chrome tab). If you have to support iOS, PC, OSX, and Android, then Chromecast is worth a look. Security-wise, I would be reticent about sticking these in an enterprise setting. I suspect these little bad boys might even be an exploitable security hole, if someone can root it, and thus gain access to your local subnet.

Anyway, that’s my initial take. I apologize in advance for any blatant overlooking of capabilities – corrections and “gentle” chiding is actually much appreciated.

And as always, I would love to hear feedback on your experience and findings with the Chromecast.