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Note: Since the YouTube platform is always evolving, so are our best practices for using it. We welcome feedback and suggestions to keep processes current and up-to-date. For more information, read our social media policy.

What is YouTube and Why Should I Use It?

YouTube is a video platform that allows users to publish and share videos for both public and private consumption with no hosting cost. Visitors to the site watch over 2 billion videos per day, much of which is discovered through searches and through related content of interest. This vast user base provides a great opportunity to expand the reach of our video content while also achieving the compliance standards set forth for content distributed by the federal government.

In-depth analytics and flexible closed captioning options give us the flexibility to not only produce accessible content but also obtain a better understanding of how our videos are being located, viewed and shared, allowing us to continuously optimize our methods of production and distribution.


All online video content produced by Department of Energy program offices will be distributed through a single YouTube channel ( This consolidated presence will provide visitors with a one stop shop for credible video content from the department and in turn provides every video we post an increased level of exposure.

Program offices who wish to contribute their videos to the Department of Energy account will be assigned a dedicated playlist for their content and will have to designate a video point person. That point of contact will work closely with the Multimedia Producer within the Office of Digital Strategy and Communications (Digital Office) to maintain their playlist and ensure that their content meets the specifications set forth in this document. The Digital Office will actively review, approve and upload each video.

Intellectual Property and YouTube

Any content published to YouTube should be in full compliance with the copyright standards set forth in the Department of Energy social media guidance.

All videos published to the Department of Energy YouTube account will be classified as Public Domain unless there is some aspect of the video where the Department has not secured the rights. It is the responsibility of the person producing the video to determine if it is public domain and/or to secure all related rights for the use of material not owned or created solely by the Department, such as:

  • Personal releases for image and likeness (with the exception of public events)
  • Music
  • Prominently featured architecture, sculpture or illustration
  • Reuse of existing video, music, photographs, animations, illustrations, etc.
  • Images created as part of a contractual agreement with a third party.

Important Concepts

  • Channel: This is the main public page of a YouTube account. We have designed our page to show selected featured videos and allow the user to search and explore individual playlists.
  • Playlists: A group of videos organized for viewers by similar content. Each Headquarters office will have its own playlist.
  • Resolution: All Videos should be finished in High Definition, preferably 1280x720 or 1920x1080. Sometimes you will receive footage in Standard Definition, a legacy format, and you will have to treat it graphically to fit the high definition frame.
  • Compression Code: Digital formats that reduce the file size of a video without reducing the quality of the image/audio. Our preferred standard is H.264 (with the .MOV or .MP4 file extension).
  • Metadata (Title, Description, Tags, etc): Loosely defined as data about data. Metadata provides context for people and optimizes machine-readable search. For YouTube videos this includes data like tags, titles, descriptions, copyright, credit, tags, dates (created/posted), and map info.
  • Closed Captions: A transcription that plays in synchronization with a video, allowing viewers to see the spoken words as text in accordance with the standards put forth by Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act.
  • Lower 3rd: A graphic element that sometimes appears in the lower horizontal 3rd of the video frame to convey information such as a person's name and title, or a location. Contact the Digital Office's Multimedia Producer to get the lower third assets.
  • Bumper: A graphic element that appears at the end of a video that supplies viewer information on the maker or sponsor of the video. For nearly all Department of Energy videos, this will take the form of a web URL where viewers can learn more about a subject. Contact the Digital Office's Multimedia Producer to get the bumper assets.
  • Thumbnail: The still image that appears in the player, usually with a play icon over it, before you click to play. Thumbnails work like album artwork and they are meant to entice people to watch the video. The still image should honestly reflect the content of the video (for example: if the video is of a speech, use an image from the same speech) and should ideally be a photograph from the event/shoot rather than a frame pulled from the video footage.
  • Length: The general rule of thumb with online video is the shorter, the better. The longer your video is, the less likely a viewer will be to click and commit to watching it. Whenever possible produced videos should clock in at less than five minutes. The only exceptions are speeches or similar long form events that primarily serve an archival function.

Tech Specs

All videos uploaded to YouTube should be mastered to the following specifications prior to uploading:

Video: 1280x720
Audio: Mono, 44.1 or 48 mhz, 96-128kbps
File Format: .MOV or .MP4 (Also know as Mpeg4 or H.264)
Compression Method: H.264
Compression Bit Rate: Between 2000-3000 kbps

Submitting Videos

  • Once you have finished editing the video and received signoff from the appropriate internal stakeholders, export it according to the specs above.
  • Deliver the exported video to the Digital Office with your intended title, description and metadata.
  • The video will take some time to upload and process. Depending on the length of the video and it's file size, this could take anywhere from a few minutes to a several hours. Because of these factors and the staff time required to prep and upload the file, please attempt to budget at least 24 hours for the video to go live after you deliver it.
  • Once your video is processed you can check your assigned playlist and then either link or embed the video.

Linking Videos

To link to a video in an email or web page, simply navigate to the video, click on "Share,": and YouTube will provide you with a link that you can copy and paste.

Embedding Videos

To embed on a web page, click on "get embed code" underneath the video and paste that code into your page. You can adjust the width and height parameters in the HTML for a better fit.


After approximately 24 hours, YouTube will begin to provide detailed data about your video and its performance. The Digital Office, through your video point person, can provide metrics and context for your analytics that can help inform future efforts.

Best Practices


  • Have a strategy about what you are trying to communicate before making a video
  • Release videos in coordination with other communications, like a blog entry or public events
  • Make short videos


  • Violate intellectual property laws
  • Add credits of any sort on the video itself
  • Use video or images containing sensitive or classified information
  • Use images that reflect poor taste with regard to content or image quality

YouTube Metadata

Metadata is loosely defined as data about data. It has an extremely important function as it provides context for viewers, assists search efforts, and complies with Section 508. Metadata also plays a big role in YouTube's social currency; and as such needs to be accurate in order to avoid penalties that limit our ability to use the service effectively. For each YouTube video this will include the following information:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • Copyright
  • Credits
  • Captions
  • Thumbnails
  • Dates
  • Map Info
  • Tags


Titles are more art than science. Your title should briefly convey the who and what of the video, leaving other details for the description section. Keep in mind that titles factor heavily in Google and YouTube searches and should attempt to be unique, eye-catching and memorable, like headlines in a newspaper or blog article.

Some basic rules:

  • All words except articles (and, the, of) should be in caps
  • No quotes except in the rare instance that you are actually quoting someone in the title
  • No periods, exclamation points, or commas
  • For ongoing video series, the title should start with a series title, followed by a colon and then the brief subject of that specific episode
  • When a principal is in a video, especially a speech, their title should appear first, then last name, followed by the subject of the video Example: "Secretary Chu Speaks About Saving Energy and Money"


Descriptions are where you can add more detail about your video like how, where and why. It is also a great place to add other people featured in the video. As always, be brief by keeping it to two to three short sentences. The first sentence is the most prominent and should, like a headline, contain the most interesting information, or hook.

For videos, you would also designate the piece as public domain. Refer to the section public domain in videos to make a determination of whether or not the piece qualifies as public domain. If it is, then simply put "(Public Domain)" including the parenthesis, at the end of the description text.


Videos are inherently collaborative works and there is precious little room on YouTube to credit anyone. Therefore we will not be crediting anyone either on the video image itself, in the description, or in the title.


Section 508 requires that the Department, at a minimum, provide captions for hearing impaired individuals. Closed Captions generally appear as white text in a black box on the lower portion of the frame; and they can be turned on or off while viewing the video.

YouTube provides a machine caption feature, under the Captions and Subtitles tab, which will generate a caption file. The drawback is that this is never 100% accurate. However, if provided a text-based human transcription, YouTube will match that to it's own machine transcription, resulting in near 100% accuracy. Please provide a human transcription for each video.


The still image that appears in the player, usually with a play icon over it, before you click to play. Thumbnails work like album artwork and they are meant to entice people to watch the video. Remember that less is more and often a still image picture with no text is the best route. Whenever possible use a still photograph of your video subject rather than a frame pulled from the video. In every case the still image should honestly reflect the content of the video (for example If the video is of a speech, use an image from the same speech).


If the video was recorded entirely on one day, be sure to use that date. If it was recorded over several days, list the first day of recording. If it was recorded over a long period of time, use the date it was uploaded to YouTube.

Map Info

This should be only as specific as the city the video was recorded in. Please do not list specific addresses unless the video was recorded at a public venue. If the video was recorded in multiple locations, provide either the main location or Washington, DC.


Tags are words or phrases primarily used to assist in searches. Tags in YouTube are, as titles, more art than science. What is important to remember is that any tag must accurately reflect the content, or risk a penalty by YouTube. A comma should separate each word or a phrase. Always use "Energy" as your first tag and try variations on the subject matter for another five to 10 tags.