Used to be when people met friends at work, at school or at the bar, they’d share jokes. “What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?” someone might ask, and everyone would scratch their heads and try to guess the answer.
Today, it’s not jokes that circulate so much as videos posted to the Web. Some are slicker and more entertaining than others, some are just plain dumb, but sharing interesting, often arresting videos is taking place at an unheard of scale and speed. Think millions of impressions per day. Indeed, it’s almost too easy, now, to email a link or post it to your Facebook page and like that, share that wacky video you just watched with 150 of your closest friends – each of whom may, in turn, pass it on to all of their pals, and so on.
It’s this fast-exploding tree of pass-alongs that can make video, done properly, a powerful element of almost any social media-based campaign.
Just ask Old Spice, which saw a YouTube video it posted last year rack up 20 million views in just three days. Which, in turn, triggered a series of follow-on videos that together massively reinvigorated this sagging brand of cologne and aftershave. Its main audience – our grandparents, essentially – had been shrinking for years. But the videos drew an entirely new, much younger audience and in the next three months, Old Spice saw sales spike by 55%!
That’s not something any old blog scribblings, Facebook page, or Twitter account is going to accomplish, for darn sure.
“Video is turning out to be a key element of every successful social media commerce campaign,” advises Larry Chase, editor of the Web Digest for Marketers. In addition to Old Spice’s genre-busting campaign, he points to a trio of quirky “V-Dub in the Haus” commercials posted by VW in 2006 to promote its GTI sports coupe.
Clearly, not everyone has the marketing budget of an Old Spice or VW, but those firms’ success with the medium offers key lessons for every would-be video marketing maven. First, and most obvious: To grab attention and give your blog or Facebook page a large helping of “link juice,” Chase says, a video must deliver something of value. Otherwise, it will be lost in the clutter.
This value may be simply a quick jolt of irresistible entertainment, as with Old Spice’s commercial, or it may be an informative demo of your product, or a look at the back story of your company or its people or its manufacturing process. Whatever it shows, the video must make your audience feel it was worth their time to have watched it.
This leads to the second lesson which is, to coin a phrase, Make it short and sweet. Shorter means easier to watch, of course, but that, in turn, demands more precise production. So, don’t futz around, get to the point and drive it home. The good news is that great video doesn’t necessarily require a great big budget. The key ingredients are simply creativity and sincerity. Indeed, feature movies – and many of YouTube’s greatest hits – have been shot on common cellphones. Shaky, low-res images have established their own aesthetic – though even that should be used sparingly, of course.
As with other content, keywords matter. Any video you post should be accompanied by a well-thought out collection of tags chosen to help your potential audience find your clip. Even in the world of moving images, SEO rules!
Finally, be ready for success. This means understanding that on YouTube, the bigger your audience, the more likely it is that 1) you’ll see lots of comments posted about your video and 2) you’ll see new videos created by others in response to yours. In fact, some of these responses may be remixes of your footage, though that can be discouraged with certain settings available on the YouTube site.
In the case of Old Spice, WDFM’s Chase points out, the firm’s ad agency kept its exploding audience engaged with more than 100 follow-on videos largely based on viewers’ input. “All this was planned for months in advance,” Chase says, with the main actor and studio time all booked and ready to go. “They didn’t know exactly what the new videos would say, but they were ready to move when the time came.”
And now, as your prize for reading this far, the answer to that riddle we posed up top: The Zen Buddhist said, “Make me one with everything.”