YouTube is bringing the ability to live stream to the masses – or at least to the masses with more than 100 subscribers. Google announced multiple YouTube updates that will make videos easier to market and let users better connect with their audiences.

First and foremost, YouTube is opening up live streaming to anyone with 100 subscribers. TechCrunch reported that this is a decrease from YouTube’s original limit of 1,000 subscribers. Users must be in good standing with YouTube (meaning no strikes) in order to start live streaming.

Next, YouTube is giving the gift of custom thumbnails to users. Rather than choosing from a few randomly selected images that YouTube creates, users can now create icons to represent their videos. This is great for marketers who want to use their branding on a video or have a particular image on a series. Which brings us to their next update…

Users can now group videos into a series that will tell YouTube what video to play after the one that you’re watching finishes. This keeps readers from bouncing off of your account and watching videos by your competitors.

Finally, YouTube is letting users promote their merchandise and products with annotations that link externally, driving traffic and conversions to your site.

So what? How does this help your brand?

Learn about your audience

At the very least, live streaming content or an announcement is a quick way to gauge how active your audience is. How many people watch the live stream versus how many people watch the video over the span of a week?

Accurately measure conversions

Marketers can finally see how much revenue they’re making because of YouTube videos. What percentage of viewers converted from the YouTube video to the website? What percentage went on to purchase merchandise or sign-up to receive emails? Use these updates to learn more about how your audience reacts to your content.

Emphasis on Community

The adoption of live streaming for users with only 100 subscribers brings small niche communities to YouTube. It’s not about people stumbling upon videos as they search, it’s about a group of loyal viewers that tune into announcements or live videos or webinars.

Treat YouTube like your blog

Marketers have started treating YouTube like more of a CMS than a social network. Brands want users to go to directly to their live streams, videos, news, etc. They want to develop communities of regular viewers that check back often and sign-up for updates. They want conversions.

While YouTube is known for clips of kittens and amateur videos of people embarrassing themselves, it is becoming a haven for marketers and bloggers. All of these updates will boost a company’s branding, audience, views and conversions. Viral content is fun, and seeing a spike in traffic looks cool in Google Analytics, but building up a regular audience in the long run that will convert and stay brand-loyal will lead to real success for companies and users.